Sunday, July 31, 2011

A conversation with a new friend, a Muslim (part 2)

My previous post was about a conversation with a new friend I made at Panera in Seven Hills.

My old friend, Wray, wrote the following email to let me know what happened after our friend left Panera.

***

Rick, our friend followed me to the park and we talked for almost another hour.  

I mentioned the story of the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip to him as I was about to leave, he insisted that I sit down with him at a nearby park table before I left.  

He indicated that he was a former advisor to the Moroccan royal family but he lost his position when his father died.  

He told me that he had a dream the other night that two men would share some important information with him that would impact 16 other men. He then asked me to read any chapter 16 in the bible to him, I read him all of John 16 emphasizing the last verse.  

He said that he thought that we were the two guys from his dream.  

I then read Romans 10:8-12 to him and gave him my business card.  Before I left, I gave him the small bible that I have carried in my back pocket for some 20 years, and prayed with him.

***

Please join us in prayer for this wonderful new friend.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A conversation with my new friend, a Muslim

Below is an email to a new friend I just made this morning at Panera in Seven Hills. As I was leaving a breakfast meeting with an old friend, we were asked directions to a park. We pointed the man needing directions to the Brecksville reservation. We asked what he was doing in the area. He was originally from Morocco and most recently from Pittsburg. He is in our area selling lamps at the Seven Hills home days. Then I asked him if he would like to summarize how he saw the story of the Bible in one minute. He shared basically that the Bible tells us to be good. I then asked if I could share in one minute what I thought the story line of the Bible was. He agreed. That led to a wonderful, energizing conversation that went on for 15 minutes or so. We laughed and enjoyed one another. I really like this man.

So, here's my follow-up email to him. Would you pray for him? His name is Mustafa.

***

It was a real pleasure to meet you at Panera in Seven Hills and to speak with you about spiritual things. You are a very nice man. I hope you had a great time in the Brecksville Park. And I hope you make a profit selling lamps this weekend. 

I will be in prayer for you to build your relationship with God. 

Thanks for sharing what you understand to be the story line of the Bile. And thanks for letting me tell my one minute version of the story of the Bible: 

Creation. (God made everything good. Our relationships with God, one another and the world were perfect.)

Fall. (All mankind has rebelled against God and are separated from God resulting in the pain and suffering that we see throughout the world. We now have hatred, prejudice, war, divorce, sexual slavery, oppression, injustice, We've tried to fix the world and ourselves through self-effort, religion, education, politics, government, business. We can't. Nothing works. And I realize that I, too, am part of the problem. In fact, because of my own sin, I am my biggest problem.)

Rescue. (God does for us what we can't do for ourselves by sending the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, Jesus, into the world to live the perfect life we never could live. He loved others perfectly. Then, He died on the cross in our place to pay for our sin and rose again. He ascended into heaven. All those who trust in Him and seek to follow Him are forgiven and declared righteous in His sight. He then sends His Holy Spirit to live in us and empower us to love God, one another, and the world.)

Restoration. (We now can put our faith in Jesus alone for our salvation. We seek to follow Jesus and join Jesus in His mission to restore all things. He is our Lord and Savior. We seek to fight against injustice and oppression wherever we see it. We seek to love. We seek to serve those who are hurting and needy and lonely. We seek to help others know and follow Jesus, too. And we wait for the day when Jesus returns to judge the world and to restore all things fully and finally as He creates a new heaven and a new earth.)

That's it. That's the story of the Bible in a minute. (OK... 2 minutes!)

As I encouraged you in our conversation, ask yourself, "Why did I just happen to ask for directions from those two peculiar men? Maybe God wanted me to talk to some Christians because He wants ma deeper relationship with me. Maybe it was a divine appointment. What if what they are telling me about Jesus is true? What if He really did die for our sins and rise again? What if He really is the One and only Savior of the world?"

I am copying my friend on this email so you can access to him, too.

I truly do not think it was an accident that we met this morning. 

If you have more questions you would like to ask about Christianity, please do not hesitate to ask. On behalf of all Christ followers, I apologize for the times when you have not been loved or respected by Christians in the past, particularly the clergy.

My cell number is ________________ or we can correspond through email. I certainly do not have all the answers. I am a fellow-traveler in this world with you. I am a fallen man. But I will try my best to answer with respect and honesty.

May God bless you, your engagement to your fiancĂ©, and your business. It was a pleasure meeting a man from Morocco. 

Your new friend, 

Rick Duncan

Friday, July 29, 2011

An Outpouring of Blessing

In the OT book of Joe, we see an “Outpour” of blessing.

We see what God did for these people then. Joel 2:18-27 are promises to a specific group of people at a specific point in time.

We don’t know what God will do for us. We can’t act like these are “can’t-fail/can’t-miss” promises for us. But we can see the nature and character of God here. And we can say, “Lord, You did for them then. Based on who You are and how You deal with Your people, will You do this for me – for us – now?”

Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.   Joel 2:18

The Lord is jealous. When we think of jealousy, we think of something that’s bad. But jealousy isn’t bad when another man is hitting on your wife! God’s jealousy is like that. God has a deep devotion to His people. It’s why He intervenes. He responds with zeal and compassion – a zealous compassion. God is passionate about His people. We don't serve a half-hearted God. He has a passionate loyalty for what's His. He says, “You are my people and I want you back.”

The LORD answered and said to his people, "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.   Joel 2:19

Earlier in Joel, the grain and wine and oil were taken away and now He gives it back. There’s more. Outsiders won’t look at the people of Israel and laugh at their hard times.

What we are seeing are foretastes of a greater restoration that is coming. Just as there are little “d” days of judgment from the Lord that are foretastes of the big “D” day of judgment, there are little “d” days of restoration that are foretastes of the big “D” day of restoration.

God restores His people. What might His restoration look like for you?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hope in Spite of Lost Opportunities

Sometimes we take a hard look at our lives and it makes us sad. We think about lost opportunities. We think about what could have been, what should have been. We know there are way too many wasted moments, hours, days, weeks, months, even years.

If we are not careful, we can lose hope. We can be discouraged, depressed, and defeated because of our previous poor choices.

What have you lost that you wish you could regain? Maybe it’s your financial security. Or your time with your kids. Maybe you wish you could get back your educational opportunities. Or a career opportunity. What have you lost that you wish you could regain?

I was talking to a friend this week about his lifestyle in the construction business. He said that in the trades, the topic of conversation often revolves around this: “What watering hole are we going to today after work?” My friend said that through this Outpour series in Joel, God has his attention. He’s wondering, “How much time and how much money have I wasted sitting for hours and hours in some bar drinking cold ones after work? I could have spent that time with my family. I could have spent that time bettering my life. I could have spent that time helping somebody else.” Drinking the cold ones is not really the problem. He has real regrets about wasted time and money.

What have you lost that you wish you could regain?

In His time and in His way, the Lord makes things better than ever.

In the OT book of Joel we see that God’s people have been rebellious. The Lord was not OK with that because He wants a connection, a closeness with His people. So, He sent “the day of the Lord.”

The day of the Lord in Joel is mainly a day of discipline and judgment. God sent a locust invasion. God took away their grain, their grapes, their olives. He wanted to get their attention. God corrected them to connect them to Him. God said, "Repent. Tear up your heart. Alter your course.”

God says, “If you alter your course, you can experience My favor and blessing. But if you choose to stay on your own course, you’re going to run aground and get smashed on the rocks.”

So, the people repent. They see that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. And what does God do?

It’s good news, even great news. God restores. It’s a very specific restoration. It’s a restoration of what God took as a result of His disciplining His people.

If He did it for them. He can do it for you.

CVC, WCRF, Cleveland Clinic, and Red Cross blood drive - Summer 2011

The official results are in regarding the blood drive yesterday.  We collected 328 units of blood!  Of the 328 units, 262 whole blood pints were collected and 33 Double Reds (they are considered two units). 

There were 356people who came to donate and of those 356 presenting donors, 50 donated for the first time!  That is incredible!

Gretchen Kresge from the Red Cross writes, "Please accept our appreciation for all you have done in volunteering your valuable time and energy to coordinate this blood drive.  A considerable amount of work goes into every blood drive and precious lives have been saved or sustained as a direct result of the dedicated support from CVC and WCRF. On behalf of the patients whose lives you have touched, as well as their loved ones, we offer heartfelt gratitude. Thank you again and congratulations on such a successful drive!"

A special thanks to Jane Rutti, Candi Connelly, and Gregg Jacobsen for coordinating this effort for CVC. Jane writes, "And as always, I really can’t thank Mark Zimmerman of WCRF and our CVC Blood Drive team enough:  In addition to myself, staffers on this team were were Gregg and Candi; but this could not happen at all without Bev Boucher, Allison Delfeld, and new to this year’s team:  Doug Delfeld!  Again this year, they were just phenomenal in working with the CVC volunteers and interacting with our guests, including Red Cross staff."

Way to go CVC! That's missional living. Now, let's pray that some of the relationships developed with donors and workers will bear some eternal fruit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fuel for your praying...

It is good to join others in prayer. It's how we are encouraged to pray. It's how we learn to pray. It's how we are reminded of things to pray for that we might ordinarily forget to pray for.

Here are some prayers from the Wednesday 6AM prayer session at CVC on 7/27/2011. Pray through this with us, please!

***

Lord God Almighty, You bring daylight to NE Ohio today. You are the awesome God of all creation. We are here to worship You. We cannot understand Your power and majesty. We praise You that Jesus is wholly and completely God, yet 100% man. We trust You to hear our prayers this morning. 

Forgive us for dreading to read the gospel because we fall so short. It reminds us of our humanity and our need for You. Thank You for loving us and forgiving us. Thank You for our jrustification, making us righteous in Your sight and just  as if we had never sinned.

We confess that we are salt that lost its saltiness. We don't hunger and thirst for righteousness. We are not on fire like You want. We need to get on fire. It's not anything we can do to make us who You want us to be, but we cry out. We need revival in our hearts. We need to be pulled to You. Help us draw close. Help us do that. 

You desire great things to happen here at CVC. May Your Spirit be free to move through all the believers You have here. Cause us to desire more of You. 

Cause those of us who are not yet Yours to know that there is a God in heaven. May today be the day that Your Holy Spirit breaks through. May they give themselves to You.

We come and gather because we love You and trust You. You are all we really have. We can't do it without You. We try and we fail. In our thoughts we commit murder and adultery. Help us ponder Your forgiveness all day long. Work can be one emergency after another. Help us experience You even in the midst of a busy work week.

May the people who came to the blood drive yesterday who don't know You be moved to come back and visit and become believers. May the Red Cross workers be moved by the warmth and hospitality of CVC to know there is a God. 

Help the children's sports camp be successful. May the kids be reached. May the parents hear the good news. Populate heaven through our efforts.

You want us to be poor in spirit, mourning over our sin, and meek. Forgive us for when we are not. Help us be humble. Humility is pleasing to You.

Thank You that the righteousness of Christ is ours inspire of our sin. Help us believe the gospel. 

Thank You for helping us on our journey, to open our faith and forgive us. We value the relationships and community of believers here at CVC. 

We pray for all those prodigals, all those adult children who were raised in the church who nRow say they are atheists. Work to show Your reality. Bring them to their knees. May the family circles be unbroken before You.

May the men of CVC invest in their wives, sons, and daughters. Help our men's ministry. Help us to trust and obey. Help us bridge the gap between the older guys and the young men of 707. May the older men be examples to the younger men. Give us a spiritual discernment. May we have a couple of dozen men to be mentors. May they help out and mentor younger men. May the young men ask for help. Match man to man for Your purposes and Your glory, Lord. May You change lots of lives. 

May the people who came up for special prayer at CVC on Sunday and Saturday experience Your restoration. You know every longing and every need for restoration. Answer those prayers. May we hear of stories of Your restoring power unleashed in life after life and family after family. 

Help our families, Lord. May there be a flurry of answered prayers. We pray that You would rend the heavens and come down.

Help in Somalia. There is evidence of darkness and evil and murder and brutality and rape. We pray for all of the missionaries laboring in Your name, who are responding to Your call to love others in Your name. Feed and clothe the suffering. Bring an end to the violence. 

Work to bless the prayer effort on August 6 in Texas. And help believers love the enemies of prayer and the gospel. Revive and awaken our nation. 

Pour out Your Spirit on young and old alike, on men and women alike. May we see many cal upon the name of the Lord and be saved.

Let us walk in Your Spirit, filled with Your Spirit. Let us, today, pray without ceasing and abide in Christ. Fill us with Your presence and let us be a blessing  to You and to others today.

Amen. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Alan C Duncan - lyrics - Repaid (Joel 2:25)

When did my mourning start? I’ve got a mourning heart.
When is morning coming? For I’m scorned. I’ve been torn apart.

God help me! The only thing I could say.
The vicious locusts are approaching won't you keep ‘em away?
I’m getting weaker today with my knees giving way.
The only thing that I can do is weep, and seek Him and pray.

So I did and asked God for the strength to live.
And could He please help the kid forgive.

And give back my joy
Cuz these attacks deployed... against me

Simply made my passion pour from my eyes
As I cry in my ride, my only place to hide
So I up and dry my eyes

And drive to Bible study with a mind that’s muddy
Feeling I can’t lead nobody.

Nobody can know the pain I’m bearin'
Like a weight I’m wearin'.

I’m hearing Jason Upton feeling
Like I’m chasing something.
Struggle in this race I’m running.
Jesus wasn’t slain for nothing.


***

I’ll repay you. I’ll repay you.
I’ll repay. I’ll repay. I’ll repay you for what the locust have stolen away.

***

I’m hurting more than I could possibly say
Upon an album. I pray
That ya’ll could hear me though my rapping is vague
About the pain... that I be in in the present

Cuz I’m in need of a blessing.
I cannot tell you why I feel like a mess in my life. It’s confidential.

I can’t speak openly of my grief.
I can’t tell you why I’m feeling so weak.

I hope that you could understand I really wish that I could
Spill my guts and you could listen like good listeners should.

But listen this is probably all for the best.
I get this off of my chest
But not specifically so ya’ll could inject

Your own pain into the lyrics I write.
You’re eyes are tearing at night
But you don’t think that He’s been hearing you cry. But He does.

***

I’ll repay you. I’ll repay you.
I’ll repay. I’ll repay. I’ll repay you for what the locust have stolen away.

He’ll repay. He’ll repay. He’ll repay. He’ll repay.

***

You told me you would give me back what locusts had stolen
But God I want You to know
That it’s hard to give You control.

It’s hard for me to believe
And hard for me to concede
That You could ever actually be
Healing all of my grief.
But I’m a fall at your feet
Cuz I acknowledge I’m weak
And I acknowledge that your knowledge is too far to be reached.

But Jesus, now you’ve got to harness us.
Trusting You is hard for us.
Only You could see the picture fully like an artist does.
Yeah, You’re marvelous.
You’re healing every part of us.
You healed us when You yielded to the Father.
You were marred for us.

Now to Your promises I’m clinging ‘till my knuckles white.
I know I’m in my toughest fight
Trusting You to crush the night.
Mustn’t hide.
Trust and fight.
Trusting that You love us Christ.
Bust inside my busted life,
And dust it off and make it right.

You’re bringing good from what they meant for evil.
You’re the real life Christ. Not Jim Caviezel.

Plus, You’re the God who’s making all things new
For your kids so I’m a turn to You and turn from my sins.

***

I’ll repay you. I’ll repay you.
I’ll repay. I’ll repay. I’ll repay you for what the locust have stolen away.

I’ll repay you. I’ll repay you.
I’ll repay. I’ll repay. I’ll repay you for what the locust have stolen away.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Restoring the years the locusts have eaten

I am concerned that we often misapply scripture. Then when God doesn't do what we think He should do, we get disappointed with God or down on ourselves.

Interpreting Joel 2:18-27 is a case in point. These are promises of restoration. For example, God restores to us the years the locusts have eaten.

Just what does that mean? How does it apply to me? And you?

Recently, I talked to our church about 5 reasons problems come.

1) To inspect us.
2) To perfect us.
3) To direct us.
4) To connect us.
5) To correct us.

The book of Joel is mainly about correction, the 5th reason. God corrects us to connect us to Him. It's why He sent the locusts. Chapters 1 and 2 say that God sent the locusts for the purpose of disciplining His people.

Then the book of Joel talks about God's restoration of His people in Joel 2:18-27. It's not just any kind of restoration. The restoration in Joel is a restoration of the losses the people experienced as a result of the discipline of God.

The promise isn’t “I’m going to restore what you lost for My inspection, perfection, direction, or connection purposes.”

The promise is “I’m going to restore what you lost for My correction purposes.”

Don't make a passage say more (or less) than God intended.

Never, ever use my death for anything but motivation for everything

Some of us have lost children, husbands, wives, moms and dads to death. When we lose loved ones, how do we make sense of that? How can we heal? How can we not fall into a pit of doubt, depression, and despair?

This week, I heard the former OSU and Detroit Lions linebacker, Chris Spielman, talk about his wife, Stephanie. Cancer took her away in 2009.

But she believed that that somehow, someway her husband and her children’s lives could be strong in spite of what they lost.

In a video she made for their 4 children, Stephanie Spielman said, “Never, ever use my death for anything but motivation for everything.”

This family will never get their wife and mom back – at least not on this side of heaven. But we can’t discount heaven.

In the meantime, Stephanie Spielman has taught her family to use her death (and life) as inspiration and motivation to be better and do better.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Life change

I am always grateful and humbled at what God does to change lives though our church.


One young OSU grad who has been attending CVC has had some serious recent challenges. He’s been living with shame, guilt, depression, and legal challenges. This week, he sent our office a letter explaining how God is working. Here are some excerpts from the letter:

“On the night of July 12, I began watching the sermon on ‘Who Can Endure?’ [from Joel 2:1-11] through the CVC website, as I was unable to attend the services that prior weekend. I barely made it to the end of the service before my emotions overcame me.

“I found myself sitting in my desk chair sobbing and apologizing to God for falling short of the person He created me to be and for the sins in my life. During this time, I remember taking the deepest breath I have ever taken. In the moment of exhale, I felt a sweeping calm come over me. That night I surrendered myself to Him, and my life has not been the same since.

“I can honestly say that I have never been on such a straight road, with such a clear map, in my entire life. I cannot thank you enough. [CVC and the Outpour messages] have been instrumental in changing my life and setting me on the road that I now walk with Christ.”

To God alone be the glory!
We hope to see you this weekend for message 5 in the Outpour series from Joel 2:18-27.

God restores His people. Good news.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A top ten "worst city" gets a reprieve

Loving God Journal

7/16/2011

Learn

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"
Jonah 4:11

Observe

This is a source of great encouragement to me. Jonah was unhappy that God relented of His promised disaster to Nineveh.

Nineveh was truly an evil city. They were an aggressive and violent people of bloodshed and injustice. They were enemies of Israel. Jonah wanted them to go down.

But God saw their repentance and heard their cries for mercy. And true to His nature, He did not bring the judgment at that time. Why not? Jonah described God with the following words. He was frustrated with God's mercy. "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster"(Jonah 4:2).

These are the exact words used to describe God in Joel 2. 

Would the Lord be gracious even to me, to my family, to CVC, to NE Ohio? Yes! Merciful? Yes! Slow to anger? Yes! Abounding in steadfast love? Yes! Relenting from disaster? Yes?

There is no doubt that I deserve God's judgment. So does my family, my church, and my city. But God is who He is. A gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. And we can pray for a display of His pity. And we can eagerly watch.

Value

Ask God for a display of His pity to us like He gave to Nineveh.

Express

You, Lord, are worthy to be praised. You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. I know I don't deserve any of this. But I cry out to You, Lord. I repent. Display Your pity toward me and toward those I love and lead. Bring a blessing. I am Yours. I wait on You. For Jesus' sake, Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Repaid - Alan C. Duncan at 707 - Joel 2:25

Repaid (Live at Sevenoseven) from Alan C. Duncan on Vimeo.

Thinking about what it means to be a grandfather

I have been a grandfather for 6 1/2 months. It's a joy. And it's a sobering responsiblity.

I can have a positive influence on my adult son, Alan, and on my grandson, Ethan, if I will be willing to pray, encourage, support, coach, and invest. I don't want to be so focused on my own comforts that I neglect to spend the time and neglect to make the effort to reach out. As a grandfather I want to make it my goal to reinforce the teaching and values that Ethan is giong to get from Alan and his mother, Joanna.

So, I spent some time today thinking and praying about what it means to be a grandad.

The best place to begin is in the word of God. Below are just a few verses I found that apply.

***

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers. Proverbs 17:6

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children. Deuteronomy 4:9

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children. Proverbs 13:22a

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”  Isaiah 59:21

One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4 

The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children. Psalm 103:17

***

Lord, I praise You because my children and now my grandchild are gifts from You. Thank You for Ethan.

You know I need Your help to be a positive role model for Ethan.

Help me be faithful to pray for him and for his mom and dad. Give Alan and Joanna great wisdom in raising this little boy to be a great man of God. Help me be a great husband for his grandmother, Maryanne, so she can sow lovingly into his life, too. Bless Joanna's mom and dad as grandparents, too. May his aunt and uncles be a force for good in his life. May his cousin bless him, too.

May Ethan's righteousness, faithfulness, and fruitfulness exceed us all. Enable Ethan to declare Your mighty acts. May Your word be firmly planted in his heart and soul. May all four of his grandparents invest in him to give him an inheritance spiritually, relationally, emotionally, intellectually, physically, vocationally, and financially.

Help me, Lord, remember the greatest lessons You have taught to me so that I can share them with him in clear, practical, revelant ways.

Thank You for one of the greatest crowning accomplishments of my life, my grandson, Ethan.

Save him at an early age. I know You will give him every relationship, practice, and experience he needs in order to be great for Your glory.

In Jesus name, Amen. 

Who knows? God may relent.

Loving God Journal

7/15/2011

But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish." When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
Jonah 3:8-10

Observe

Jonah goes to Ninevah and preaches that judgment is coming. He doesn't really want them to repent. But they believe the prophet and do repent. The king issues a decree for everyone to repent. 

Just the chance that God might stay His hand of judgment is reason enough to repent. The king says the same thing as the prophet Joel. Who knows? God may "change His mind" and not bring judgment.

The "who knows" factor occurs in other places. When David was praying for his sick child, he said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, 'Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?'" (II Samuel 12:22).

In this case, God still took the child to glory. But just the chance that God might stay His hand of judgment is reason enough to repent. 

Value

Are hard times headed your way? Are you living under the chastening of the Lord? Repent! God may relent!

Express

Lord, why would You relent of the planned disaster to discipline or judge? You are gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. You pity Your people. Help me, Father, learn to repent - to tear my heart and not my garments. Show mercy and compassion. Come, O Lord. Relent over the deserved disaster that You could justly bring to me, to my family, to my church, to my city. Bring a blessing to us. For Jesus' sake, Amen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jump start your prayer life

Sometimes, it's helpful to see how others are praying to jump start our own prayer lives. Below are notes from our 7/13/2011 Wednesday 6 AM prayer session. Maybe it will encourage you to join us in prayer.

What are you praying about today?

***

Help us not run from You, but to You. We are sometimes too ashamed of our lives to run to You. Though You needed to use a storm to get Jonah's attention, no doubt He was ultimately thankful for the storm. You are a loving God to allow storms in our lives to call us to You. 

When You feel far away from us, we know  it's because We are going the wrong direction. We need to be broken. Help us not just say the words, but to cry out with our hearts. 

Help our men in their struggle to live godly lives. Help them run to You. May You increase and may we decrease. May there be more of You and less of Us. May We commit every area of our lives to You. 

We confess running many times from You. How many times have You swallowed us up and brought us back and said, "Let's try this again"? You have not given up on us. You have good purposes for us. 

You have moved in our hearts to take us past doubt. Your miracles are so beyond us. You have caused us to believe. Even our faith is a gift from You.

Thank You that when we rebel, our faith brings us back to a loving God. Thank You for Your faithfulness to us when we aren't faithful to You. Without Your faithfulness, we would be drowned in a fish. You are slow to anger and quick to forgive.

We believe. Help our unbelief. Help us when our unbelief is greater than our belief. We seem to not live in faith. You call out to us and want to be in fellowship with us. We always forget about communicating to You and we forge into things apart from You. Help us to walk by faith and not be sight. We depend on ourselves. But anything we do does not amount to much. 

Today, we gather to seek a closer walk with You. We want to see a greater move of Your Holy Spirit. We want to see more saved. We want to see more believers walk more closely to You. 

So many of our 20 somethings have a passion for You. It was so evident on our Friday night prayer. Help them to draw closer to You, to yield their hearts more and more to You. 

We struggle to be obedient to You. Help us say yes to You and no to anything else. 

We pray against the atheism that has begun in the lives of the children of some of our families. Forgive us for not helping our kids be equipped to give an answer for the hope that is in us. May we equip our kids better. Help Rick Eimers, Joe Valenti, Dean Siley, Amber Holmes, and Bryan Karas as they invest in our youth and young adults. May we be salt and light and may our children be attracted to Who we have in You. Give us our children. May family circles be unbroken.

Help us see the spiritual warfare that is going on. Give us the ability to discern when You are teaching us and guiding us. Show us Your favor. May we learn to be content in our circumstances. 

May we have contentment in our jobs. May we know when the sales aren't so hot, You will provide.

We have more than we need to help people in need. Help our people with jobs to have skill, productive, and prosperity. Help our people without work to get work. Make us prosper so we can be more generous.

We pray for Southern Sudan. May they learn to live with their hateful neighbor to the north. May they be able to grow food and feed children. May the oppression of women cease in this land. Bring healing to them. Cause the world to see that Christians can make a difference in a land.

Driving in this morning, we learned what our state was considering regarding abortion. Millions unborn have been slaughtered in the womb. Our nation is stained. We pray for men and women in Columbus who are seeking to know how to exercise righteousness. We have done a bad job protecting the innocent. Forgive us and heal our land. 

Make Your calling clear. Revive our hearts, O God. Help us fast and pray. Help us to feed on You instead of feeding on things of this world. Thank You for the advice to listen to an old sermon or sing an old song to help us return to You. You are making a difference in our lives. 

We pray for our mission work this summer, for our trips that are upcoming. Use our short-term missionaries in Ukraine, Ghana, El Salvador, and Indonesia. 

We pray that You would remind others to pray for us. Help us remember to pray for one another.

This is the day You have made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. May we be filled with Your Spirit today. May we abide in Christ today. May we pray without ceasing today and rejoice always and be thankful in all things.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When you are tempted to gloat

Loving God Journal

7/12/2011

Learn

Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. 
Obadiah 1:13 (ESV)

Observe

We have this thing in us - a fallen, depraved thing - that wants to justify our lives and choices in light of the calamity that others go through. We think that if our lives work out well and their lives don't, then that must mean that God loves us more than He loves them. This is particularly true if things aren't working out so well with someone we've had conflict with.

In Obadiah, God warns Edom, a neighboring nation, not to gloat over Judah's trouble. The ESV Study Bible says, "These verses spell out Edom's deeds of violence: gloating over Judah's demise, looting, capturing fleeing fugitives, and delivering them up to the slave trade. The Edomites took advantage of Judah's plight during the Babylonian crisis (Ps. 137:7; Lam. 4:21–22; Ezek. 25:12–14; 35:1–36:7). Edom should cease its anti-Judahite hostilities before it is too late. Reconciliation was still available to Edom (see Genesis 33)."

Instead of gloating over or taking advantage of someone's trouble, we should weep with those who weep. Why? We, too, should be or could be facing trouble as a righteous judgment of God. 

If we think we have the high ground, we can be brought down by God Himself. "Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the LORD" (Obadiah 1:4).

Value

Never gloat over another's trouble. Weep. And realize that you, too, can face trouble from God in a moment.

Express

You, Lord, bring blessing and calamity. You are sovereign Lord of all. Cleanse me of judging anyone who may be experiencing trouble. Cleanse me of a smug, spiritual superiority when I compare myself to others. You set up kings and bring them down. If that is true for kings, how much more for me? Please, Lord, grant success and favor to all Your people. And when we go through trouble, please let us bear it patiently. And prepare us for the day when all troubles and trials are over in Your presence evermore. Amen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

When God restores your fortunes...

Loving God Journal

July 11, 2011

Learn

14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. 
15 I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them," says the LORD your God. 
Amos 9:14-15 (ESV)

Observe

The message of Amos is a message of judgment for Israel and the surrounding nations. God will not be mocked, ignored, forsaken, disobeyed. He will come in judgment of rebellious, sinful people.

Amos 9:4 quotes the Lord saying about His sinful people, "And I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” The ESV Study Bible notes say, "This is a terrifying statement, showing that there is no escape anywhere in the entire creation, but it was what God had promised long before (Deut. 28:64–68) if the people were unfaithful."

Yet the opportunity for repentance and restoration always remains. When we return to Him, He blesses. 

The ESV Study Bible says about Amos 9:13, "The abundant productivity of the restored land, under the blessing of God, will be so amazing that the land does not need to lie fallow for a moment, but as soon as the reaper has harvested one crop, the plowman comes right behind planting another one, and as soon as someone sows the seed, the grapes grow so rapidly that the treader of grapes comes to pick the ripe grapes and gather them for the winepress. This is a beautiful poetic image of a land like the garden of Eden—with productivity that is free from the curse (Gen. 3:17–19; cf. Amos 4:6–10) and with greater abundance than anything currently known."

Value

Return to the Lord. Do what you used to do when you were closest to Him. Read the same books. Listen to the same songs. Go to the same places to meditate and pray. Study the same Bible passages. Review the same memory verses. Go on the same mission trip. Hang out with the same sold out saints. 

Return to the Lord. He restores our fortunes (v. 14a). He rebuilds our cities (v. 14b). He revives our gardens (v. 14c). He replants  us in the land (v. 15).

Express

Lord, You are not to be trifled with. You are God and You want all my heart all the time. Forgive my wandering. I return. Why would I do anything else? You are gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Please reverse the curse. Come with Your blessing, O Lord. Restore. Rebuild. Revive. Replant. And do it all so I will worship and enjoy Your presence. To You be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Are you on mission to NE Ohio and to America?

CVC supports a church planting organization called NEO360. We are seeking to establish a church planting movement in NE Ohio by restoring communities through collaborative church planting with other like-minded people, churches, and organizations.

One of the churches NEO360 is planting is Forest City, a new ministry in the Shaker Heights area led by Dee Coker and Matt Jones. CVC is giving some direct support to Forest City.

Recently, a mission team came from Dayton, Ohio to help with a mission project for Forest City.

The leader of the group from Farmersville Baptist Church outside of Dayton wrote, "Going on a mission trip to Cleveland to assist with the Forest City team was a great experience for me.

"I was shocked to learn how far from Jesus our U.S. cities are. The task seems overwhelming to reclaim our cities unless people like me 'wake up.'

"I am frustrated by life on a daily basis when my focus is not on Jesus.

"Mission trips should not only be seen as productive, but imperative. No matter where you go, serving others and sharing the gospel should be at the forefront of your mind.

"Getting outside your own little world can be beneficial for several reasons: it's educational, encouraging, eye-opening and enjoyable. (That list is not exhaustive.)

"I am truly thankful for the opportunity that God presented to me."

One of NEO360's Board members saw that quote and wrote, "We have been taught since childhood that we are ok here stateside.Just send people overseas or the outer most parts of the earth. Ironically, the mission field has been right here in our backyard. At least it was addressed by some visionaries and now we see progress being made. Educating the public and prayer goes a long way. May God continue to lead us all in the direction that ultimately fulfills the great commission wherever that may be."
 
I am glad to be a part of an organization like NEO360 that sees itself as a missionary to NE Ohio, America, and the world. Progress is being made.
 
So, where and how will you be going on mission this summer? You can go on mission right in your own backyard.
 
If you go, as our friend above said, you will find it to be...
 
1) Educational. You'll become more and more equipped to reach the least and the lost.
2) Encouraging. You'll grow in your faith, knowledge, and love for Jesus. Missions is one way discipleship happens.
3) Eye-opening. You'll learn just how lost America really is.
4) Enjoyable. Although serving Jesus means you'll pay a price and carry a cross, it ultimately brings the joy of knowing you are pleasing the Lord.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Pray for praying politicians... and citizens

Ever wonder how a man of God should be and act in the political arena?

On this fourth of July, it would be wise to consider Daniel.

In Daniel 6, he one of 4 leading figures in all of Persia, second only to King Darius himself. The king suffered no loss under his leadership. He was distinguished above all others and the king was ready to set Daniel over the whole kingdom.

Others who were jealous of Daniel's influence could find no fault in him because he was faithful to his king and his responsibilities. So, they set up a scenario to "catch" Daniel making a petition to someone other than the king. They knew he would pray to the Lord, be found guilty of an inappropriate petition, and be sentenced to death.

Little did they know, though, that this would only illustrate why Daniel was a leader worth following.

"When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously" (Daniel 6:10).

The man prayed!

Note the insights about his prayer life:

Pray intentionally. When Daniel knew that the document had been signed...

Pray individually. ...he went to his house...

Pray openly. ...where he had windows in his upper chamber open...

Pray expectantly. ...toward Jerusalem (expecting the Jews to return there one day)..

Pray humbly. ...He got down on his knees...

Pray routinely. ...three times a day...

Pray gratefully. ...and prayed and gave thanks before his God...

Pray habitually. ...as he had done previosuly.

Wow. What a man of prayer. And note that this is not a pastor praying. It is a politician praying.

Read the rest of Daniel 6 to see how God rescued and honored Daniel. Even the secular leaders had to give it up in praise of Daniel's God.

The King said, "I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:26-27). "So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian" (Daniel 6:28).

O that God would give us both pastors and politicians (and citizens, too) who pray like this! What might happen in our nation if this were true?

Let's thank God for the USA this fourth of July. And then let's ask Him for men and women who will pray like Daniel.

Perfect Courtesy to All on Independence Day

On this 4th of July, it's good to remember that good Christian citizens – patriots, biblical patriots - speak in love.

Earlier this year, in a series called “Stories” we were reminded that we should be more known for what we are for rather than what we are against. Unfortunately, the church has a reputation for being judgmental.

And I think it’s not because of what we believe as much as because of how we behave. Now, I know that some of us just cave in when it’s time to take a stand on an issue. We just blend in with the world. But others of us can be mean and caustic and nasty when we talk about people and issues. And it’s, frankly, unchristian.

From Titus 3:2, here are some 4 commands for good Christian citizens. "To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people" (Titus 3:2, ESV).

1) Speak evil of no one. This means that the left doesn’t speak evil of the right and the right doesn’t speak evil of the left. Don’t say about other people what you would not like other people to say about you.
2) Avoid quarreling. The Greek word means not a fighter, not a brawler.
3) Be gentle. Sometimes the word is translated “patient,” “moderate,” “fair.”
4) Show perfect courtesy to all people. Sometimes, this is translated “meekness.” It’s a bridled strength, a strength under control.

Think about that: Perfect courtesy to all people.

Showing imperfect courtesy toward some people might not be so difficult. A tllit harder might be showing perfect courtesy to some people or imperfect courtesy to all people. But to show perfect courtesy to all people, even leaders and authorities who are rude and unjust is an assignment impossible to fulfill without special grace from God.

Is that you? The Bible is full of commands like these.

"Speak…the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15, ESV).

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31, ESV).

"Correct… opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 2:25, ESV).

I have some friends who lean left politically. And right now, the attacking seems to be toward the Tea Party crowd – not with gentleness, but with some very imperfect courtesy. Here's a question for you. How do you talk about former President Bush or about someone like Sarah Palin? With perfect courtesy?

Lots of believers who lean way right badmouth our current President, “He’s a Muslim" or "He’s going to ruin our nation.” Church people who lean to the right feel it’s somehow OK to trash talk almost anyone who leans to the left. How do you talk about our current President Obama? With perfect courtesy?

We all ought to be tired of getting emails and reading facebook posts from people on the left bashing people on the right and from people on the right bashing people on the left. When we get the attacking emails, maybe we ought to just go to an electronic version of Titus 3:2, cut, paste, and send it to all the email bashers – both on the left and on the right.

What about you… and me? We all probably see some sins in the lives of others that might make us want to condemn them. But think about it. If someone is far from God, why should we expect them to live like someone who is not? Our faith sometimes seems too focused on other people’s faults.

We have to become aware that often the non-Christian world turns us off and tunes us out when we are not civil. In the book "Unchristian," the authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons tell us what the unchurched 18-29 think about the church. "What they react negatively to is our 'swagger,' how we go about things and the sense of self-importance we project. Outsiders say that Christians possess bark - and bite. One outsider put it this way, 'Most people I meet assume that Christian means... entrenched in their thinking..., angry, violent, illogical..., and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn't believe what they believe. Christians are primarily perceived for what they stand against. We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for" (p. 26).

We must make sure our conversations about issues and people are civil.

We must give support to and participate with people who are committed to bring Biblical principles to influence public policy. At the same time, we must not forget that our primary goal as believers is not to exert political clout or to legislate morality. Our primary calling according the the Great Commission given by Jesus is to stand for the truth of God while demonstrating the love of God in order to introduce those around us to the grace of God - a grace the saves us from our sins, trains us to be holy, and works in us to make us like our Lord Jesus Christ. We will do this most effectively when we relate to others with humility, love and respect rather than with sarcasm, slander, ridicule, or attacks.

Do you speak in love? Let's make sure we eat our hotdogs and watch our fireworks today while speaking in love.

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