Friday, September 30, 2011

Missio Dei - Reaping and Sowing (Week 2, Day 5)

... Galatians 6:7-9 ...

It is foolish to think that if you were to plant orange trees, you would harvest corn! It is ridiculous to even consider, right? Nature bears witness that what a person sows is what will be reaped. For some reason, it seems to be an obvious and ridiculous metaphor when talking about fruits or vegetables, but we forget the truth that it entails when we begin to talk about our walk as Christ-followers.

As ridiculous as it would be to think of a grape vine producing cantaloupe, it is just as absurd to think that a Christ follower would produce envy, bitterness, anger, jealousy, or the other similar outcomes (Galatians 5:19-21). If the Spirit of Christ is in you, the resulting fruit will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). If you discipline yourself spiritually, you will grow spiritually and experience the fruit that the Spirit freely gives. This kind of living will make us more attractive to those who don’t yet know Christ. The legacy of such a life will be seen in the influence one has in the lives of others.

One way to sow in the Spirit is to be doing good deeds (v. 9). As we live missional lives, doing practical deeds of kindness for the purpose of ultimately sharing the gospel, we can grow weary. But we must never give up. The Lord has promised us that if we keep sowing gospel seeds, we will reap a harvest of souls for Jesus.

***
  • How are you tempted to sow in the flesh? How does sowing in the flesh impact your witness negatively?
  • When and how have you grown weary in doing good, in doing practical deeds of kindness in order to share the gospel?
  • What specific missional good deed might the Spirit be prompting you to do so that you can experience the joy of reaping?
Prayer...
Dear God, You are the Author of the law of the harvest. We reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow. I confess, God, that I often sow seeds to satisfy my flesh. Thank You for Your grace that covers those sins. Please continue to root out that sin in my life so I can be more fully used by You. Help me sow seeds of practical deeds of kindness in order to win others. May I be part of reaping a harvest of souls for You.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Missio Dei - Labor-Intensive Joy (Week 2, Day 4)

... Psalm 126:5, 6 ...

Labor: the word itself can give a sense of intense weariness, so much so that oftentimes the idea of labor is not naturally embraced. Yet the better part of our lives find us working at jobs, at school, and within our families and relationships. However, when we are confident our work is purposeful and the investment made will more than make up for the effort given, our perspective toward labor differs. The anticipated return for purposeful work can produce an energy, a joy, a fulfillment that makes the drudgery experienced during the task fade by comparison.

When we work as missionaries in God’s harvest field, it can certainly be intense. Sowing the seeds of the gospel is hard work. And since we care about people without Christ and without hope, it is also emotional. We sow in tears.

The labor God desires from us in our lives may have to be done amidst difficult circumstances. The Bible reminds us about the vast amount of work to do in and for God’s Kingdom. Our part in the labor can seem insignificant. Yet this passage assures us that people who persevere in the labor of God experience fulfillment—the joy—that only God-purposed work can give. We sow in tears and reap with joy. God’s Kingdom is expanded and He receives more of the glory He demands and deserves. God’s expectation of us toward His work is an invitation for us to join Him, promising a joy that only He can provide.

***
  • What might sowing the seeds of the gospel look like for you?
  • What keeps you from sowing with tears—from being emotional about the plight of those without Christ and without hope?
  • Keeping in mind the eternal ramifications, is your labor for God done with the same fervor as your earthly work that provides for your daily needs?
Prayer...
Father in Heaven, in Your desire that none would perish You provide us circumstances and opportunities to sow the seeds of the gospel so Your work of salvation can take root in hearts. Forgive me when I have found the sowing too tiring, difficult, or bothersome to follow through. Instead, help me to understand the eternal impact of Your invitation for me to sow and to reap. Give me the strength, wisdom and perseverance to see my labor for You through to completion. Show me someone to labor for today. Fill me with the joy of reaping a harvest of souls for Your glory.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Missio Dei - The Time is Now (Week 2, Day 3)

... John 4:34-38 ...

These words of Jesus speak of the spiritual nourishment, the food, that comes from doing and accomplishing the work of the Father. We are all called to worship God through Bible reading, praying, and singing. But spiritual nourishment also comes from sharing the gospel with those who need to hear. We are called to help bring Jesus’ work of salvation to completion. Our relationship with Jesus is not just to take in, but also to give out.

Yet so often we find excuses not to share about Jesus’ work on the cross with our family, friends, co-workers or others that we encounter along the way. Jesus tells us not to wait, but to look around. People are waiting and ready to hear the good news.

Jesus says that the wage we receive from sharing our faith is the joy of working with Him and seeing others put their trust and hope into Jesus. We are able to see a harvest of believers gain eternal life.

The sower is the one who plants the seeds by sharing the message of salvation with others. The reaper is the one who is able to experience and see a person come to confess that Jesus is their Savior. Both the sower and the reaper can rejoice seeing a person put their faith into Jesus. Jesus labors for us and others labored in our lives so that we could come to a saving faith. Others did the work so we could receive the benefit.

Jesus noted the fields are white for harvest. Farmers know when wheat is white, it is overripe and in danger of being irretrievably lost. The harvest is ready. The time is now.
 
***
  • Who were the sowers and reapers who labored for you in your life? How did that happen?
  • How have you been spiritually nourished in the past by sharing the story of salvation with others?
  • For whom have you been waiting to tell of the story of Jesus?
  • What fields of the harvest are “white” and waiting for you?
Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I praise You for laboring on the cross and in my life. Thank you for sending your workers into my life.. Forgive me for putting off until tomorrow what should be done today to reap Your harvest. May I find spiritual nourishment and joy in sharing the gospel. May I see how ready the harvest is all around me. Give me a boldness to live on mission in Your harvest field.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Missio Dei - Motivated by Compassion (Week 2, Day 2)

... Matthew 9:35-38 ...

Imagine driving down the road, turning a corner and seeing dozens of cars pulled over with the drivers stranded. Imagine coming up on the scene and seeing many in need. Would you debate whether you have time to stop or whether someone else will do it? At that moment you may feel a tug of compassion. You may feel responsible to do something. From the messy blur you notice specific people....A young mom holding an infant, an elderly man who can barely walk, a well-dressed businessman with a lost expression looking under his hood, a teenage girl crying by her car. Motivated by compassion you would not only want to pull over and help, but you would hope numerous other drivers would take notice and pull over to join the effort as well.

This passage records a similar, but more desperate scene. As Jesus was traveling to cities and villages around the Sea of Galilee, He saw the great need of the people and was overcome by compassion. He not only “pulled over” to help, but also pointed out to His disciples the need for others to pull over and join the effort. Jesus saw a field of people ripe and ready for spiritual harvesting but lacking laborers willing to take on the task. Today’s harvest field is just as ripe. People are without Christ and hurting; many of them are looking for answers and direction. The demand for workers to harvest spiritual fruit from the field of humanity is still a great need.

***
  • Are you helping with the harvest? Are you an answer to His prayer? Are you praying what He commanded?
  • What did Jesus see that moved His heart so deeply?
  • What needs do you see around you that stir a similar compassion within your spirit?
  • Are you a “worker” who is helping bring in the harvest? Where and how are you currently serving so that you are active in bringing in spiritual fruit?
Prayer:
God, I give You praise for being the Lord of the harvest. Forgive me for failing to see that people are harassed, helpless, and without a shepherd. Cleanse me from a lack of compassion. You know, O Lord, that the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. Help me to know it, too. Send laborers into the harvest here in Northeast Ohio and beyond. And yes, Lord, send me.

Missio Dei - Sent Ahead Two by Two (Week 2, Day 1)

...Luke 10:1-2...

2000 years later, Jesus is still visiting people. Jesus is still on mission. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is seeking to help and heal people in your world. So, today He is “about to go” to people in your circle of influence.

Jesus sends us ahead to people to whom He Himself is “about to go.” We are His advance men and women. We love and serve people. We speak good words about Christ. We prepare the way.

Remember: Jesus will do the saving if we will simply agree serve as laborers in His harvest. Knowing this takes the pressure off.

More people are ready to be harvested than the harvesters who are delivering the Good News. We must pray for more people to be called to be laborers in their neighborhoods and marketplaces. This prayer for workers is the only specific prayer request Jesus gave His disciples.

“Being on mission means having open eyes that are looking for the hurting—the married couple living next door struggling with fertility, the frat boy who disguises his alcoholism with the statement, ‘Hey, this is what college is all about,’ the single mother who waits on you at the restaurant even though she has no idea how she and her child will eat tomorrow after her tips buy food tonight.” (Darrin Patrick, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission).
 
***
  • Why do you think Jesus sent His missionaries out 2 by 2? Who might be your partner?
  • How is a person on mission like a laborer in a harvest field?
  • Sometime today, call or visit a friend and pray together that Jesus would send forth laborers, including you, into His harvest.
Prayer:
Jesus, you are the Lord of the Harvest.  People all around me are ripe, ready for You to change their lives. Too often I have been unwilling to go where You long to send me. And I have not prayed fervently for laborers in Your harvest. Help me pray more passionately and go more faithfully. I am Yours to use in Your harvest field.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Missio Dei - Never Disqualified (Week 1, Day 5)

... John 21:15-23 ...

Hopefully, growing up you had fantastic parents and an amazing family. Like most children and nearly all teenagers maybe you disappointed them at times—times when you let the family down. However, you were likely never disqualified from being a part of the family. You were always accepted and the invitation to participate in the life of the family was never removed.

It is the same with our Father in Heaven. Imagine the shame that Peter must have felt after his denial of Christ in John 18. Now here in chapter 21, we see Peter restored in his relationship with Jesus.

However, he is not only restored to relationship. More importantly, he is restored to mission. Jesus, in His commissioning Peter to feed His sheep reminds the disciple that not only has his sin not disqualified him from God’s love it has also not removed Peter’s calling. “You are still invited to live the life I have for you, Peter. Live on mission. Follow Me.”

Christ calls us to live out the adventure of laying down our lives passionately for the sake of His Kingdom.
Our mistakes, our shame, our sin—nothing can separate us from God’s love—and nothing can separate us from God’s invitation to live with passion and joy the life we were created to live.

***
  • Remember a time you have felt justifiably ashamed over your own actions. What emotions or thoughts were primarily taking place for you?
  • Dream of what specific purposes God may have for your life. In what ways have you allowed shame or fear to rob you from that experience?
  • In what ways is God reminding you that you are, in Christ, still being forgiven, qualified and eternally invited to follow Jesus and live on mission for Him?
Prayer:
God, I praise You for both your perfect forgiveness and Your ongoing invitation for me to live as a part of Your family. Forgive me for believing the lies of my guilt and my shame. Forgive me for allowing the enemy to ensnare me in traps that keep me from living to advance Your Kingdom. Set me free and remind me that I am welcome to share Your story of redemption. I am seeking to follow You with my life, my time, my passion, my energy, my dreams. Use me as Your missionary to a world in great need.

Missio Dei - Fishers of Men (Week 1, Day 4)

... Matthew 4:18-22 ...

Jesus called the fishermen (Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John) to leave their profession behind and to immediately begin following Him. He would take them from fishing for fish and make them fishers of men. The calling carried with it a cost, for it involved not only leaving their profession, but also their family responsibilities.

The imagery of these men fishing with “nets” is significant in that Jesus was not calling them to fish like a person fishing with a line and pole, just to catch a single fish. Rather, Jesus was calling them to cast nets widely and to gather many to Him, so many could hear the Good News and be saved. Also, the imagery of sitting on the shore under a tree and lazily “hooking” a fish is quite different from the imagery of these men
casting nets. Fishing with nets can involve long hours of dedicated and strenuous work, often with mixed results.

Jesus may not call all of us to leave our professions and families, but He does call all of us to spread the Good News within our “nets of influence”. Our sphere of influence may be with family, friends, at the workplace, at school, or a place we shop. He may also call us to cast our net of influence into areas outside our comfort zone which makes us rely more on Jesus and less on our own abilities. Jesus is still calling us today and inviting us to join Him in His missionary work. It’s a radical call for dedicated and strenuous effort to catch men, women, youth, and children for Jesus.

***
  • How are you being intentional in seeking to use your “nets of influence” as a missionary to spread the Good News?
  • How will you become more dedicated and strenuous in your efforts to catch fish for Jesus?
  • How has the Lord Jesus been calling you lately? Has He put someone on your heart to fish for? Who is it? Have you responded?
Prayer:
Jesus, I praise You for calling me to fish for You. Forgive me for failing to impact my sphere of influence for You. Help me to use my gifts to draw those within my net of influence to You. Help me to step out of my comfort zone so that I might be an effective fisher of men.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why are missionaries necessary?

9/22/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
Romans 3:23-25a

Observe

This is motivation for us to be on mission - to do good deeds to create good will so we can share the good news.

How so?

We were created in God's image to give Him glory. But we all have sinned and failed to give Him glory. We do not love God. We fail to love people. We are all part of the problem on the planet. We are sinners.

As a result of our sin, we all deserve the wrath (3:5) and the judgment (3:6) of God. We are accountable to Him (3:19). 

Yet God is a generous, gracious God. He gifts His people with forgiveness. How? Through the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross where He shed His blood. He died in the place of sinners as a sacrifice for sin. On the cross, as an act of grace, Jesus took upon Himself the wrath and judgment of God against sin. The wrath of God was poured out onto Jesus instead of sinners. That's propitiation. And that is good news! See, sinners are not saved by good works, but by faith in the work of Christ. This is the way sinners get great good and God gets great glory.

Now, how does this motivate missions? The benefits of all this gracious work of God are received not by works but by faith. And faith comes only when people hear this message, this word of God (Romans 10:17).

Now think! How shall sinners hear this good news unless someone tells this good news?

Everyone we know is a sinner. Some have put faith in Jesus. Many have not. If we do not want to see them suffer the wrath of God, we must be missionaries who tell this good news - that forgiveness comes by grace through faith in the propitiationary sacrifice of Jesus when He shed His blood for our sins on the cross. Then we must call them to put their faith in Christ.

Value

We must be on a mission to share the good news so people will put their faith in Jesus and be saved. 

Express

Jesus, I praise You for being the propitiationary sacrifice for my sins. You died in my place. You took the nails and the crown of thorns and the spear in the side that I should have taken. I praise and adore You. I owe You everything. You are gracious and merciful. How can I ever say thank You enough? Cleanse me for failing, Lord, to appreciate what You have done for me. And help me to share this great gift with those that have not yet put their faith and trust in Your redeeming work on the cross. Make me a missionary who willingly, gladly, freely shares Your good news. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Prayer for CVC Leadership Team Planning

Our staff team started our 2012 planning meeting in prayer today. Below are notes from our prayer time. Would you use these notes and join us?

***

We look to You. Meld us into one. Give us the unity of the Spirit. We need You, Lord. We love You, Lord. We want You, Lord.

Impress on our hearts and mind Your will. When the things of the flesh begin to rise up, bring them down. May we be full of the Spirit, full of the fruit of the Spirit. May this not be a business meeting. May we unite as friends above the business of the church. Show us where we want to go.

Purify out hearts. Take away selfish desires that are here. Jesus, intercede for us as a church. Give us Your passion for Your church. We what to see You do more.

We think about last Sunday and our devotionals and recognize that we have a natural desire for comfort and security. Jesus, You are a threat to our comfort and security. Expose the areas where we are not on mission. Break what needs to be broken. Restore what needs to be restored. Help us protect nothing.

We seek to glorify You in our thoughts and actions. Direct our steps. May we see You working in our circumstances. Direct our steps as a church. Prune what needs to be pruned. We surrender and seek Your wisdom and guidance. We want our ministries to be glorifying to You. We want to be a light. Give us urgency and intentionality. Use us mightily as individuals and a church that loves You.

You are a God of grace. You don't value us based on performance. You are the ultimate Planner and the chief executive of the universe. There is a discomfort in being in Your hand. You say things that rattle us. You have disrupted our plans and taken away our self-righteousness. We want courage to say what needs to be said. May this be both a safe and terrifying meeting. Your Amen is what counts. You are capable of doing anything.

Help our families while we are apart from them. Take care of our ministries while we are away. You love our people more than we do. Take care of the sick among us.

Thanks for the privilege of being leaders at CVC. Help us do whatever it takes to advance the gospel.

We pray against the demons who want to tempt us and distract us. May Your authority prevail. We pray against the frustration that might come as someone speaks of things that challenge our plans. We want Your plan. We need great clarity. We need the unity that can come from Your Spirit.

Our lives are like a morning fog, a sigh, a vapor. Teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. May 2012 count for You.

Before Your crucifixion, You prayed for future believers that we would be one. We confess pride, personal agendas, and sin that cause disunity. May we be unified as one as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one. May Your Holy Spirit move in this room as never before.

It's hard for us to believe that it was a year ago, that we planned for 2011. Thanks for what You've done. May we be able to celebrate next year what You will do in 2012.

We pray for the communities we all live in. May our neighbors be won. May our Missio Dei be activated in our own hearts as we live in our own neighborhoods.

Pray with our CVC Leadership Team as we plan for 2012

Here are notes from CVC's Leadership Team as we spent time in prayer at our 2012 planning retreat. Would you pray with us?

***

We look to You. Meld us into one. Give us the unity of the Spirit. We need Yoy, Lord. We love You, Lord. We want You, Lord.

Impress on our hearts and mind your will. When the things of the flesh begin to rise up, bring them down. May we be full of the Spirit, full of the fruit of the Spirit. May this not be a business meeting.  May we unite as friends above the business of the church. Show us where we want to go.

Purify out hearts. Take away selfish desires that are here. Jesus, intercede for us as a church. Give us Your passion for Your church. We what to see You do more. 

We think about last Sunday and our devotionals and recognize that we have a natural desire for comfort and security. Jesus, You are a threat to our comfort and security. Expose the ares where we are not on mission. Break what needs to broken. Restore what needs to be restored. Help us protect nothing. 

We seek to glorify You in our thoughts and actions. Direct our steps. May we see You working in our circumstances. Direct out steps as a church. Prune what needs to be pruned. We surrender and seek Your wisdom and guidance. We want our ministries to be glorifying to You. We want to be a light. Give us urgency and intentionality. Use us mightily as individuals and a church that loves You.

You are a God of grace. You don't value us based on performance. You are the ultimate Planner and the chief executive of the universe. There is a discomfort in being in Your hand. You say things that rattle us. You have disrupted our plans and taken away our self-righteousness. We want courage to say what needs to be said. May this be both a safe and terrifying meeting. Your Amen is what counts. You are capable of doing anything.

Help our families while we are apart from them. Take care of our ministries while we are away. You love our people more than we do. Take care of the sick among us. 

Thanks for the privilege of being leaders at CVC. Help us do whatever it takes to advance the gospel.

We pray against the demons who want to tempt us and distract us. May Your authority prevail. We pray against the frustration that might come as someone speaks of things that challenge our plans. We want Your plan. We need great clarity. We need the unity that can come from Your Spirit.

Our lives are like a morning fog, a sigh, a vapor. Teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. May 2012 count for You.

Before Your crucifixion, You prayed for future believers that we would be one. We confess pride, personal agendas, and sin that cause disunity. May we be unified as one as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one. May Your Holy Spirit move in this room as never before. 

It's hard for us to believe that it was a year ago, that we planned for 2011. Thanks for what You've done. May we be able to celebrate next year what You will do in 2012.

We pray for the communities we all live in. May our neighbors be won. May our Missio Dei be activated in our own hearts as we live in our own neighborhoods. 

Wednesday Morning Prayer at CVC - September 21, 2011

(We read Romans 2 and Missio Dei Week 1 Day 3)

Where else can we go? You have the gift of eternal life. We lift You up and bless Your name. We magnify You. We will never be disappointed in You. We love You so much.

We come to You, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, we ourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We are grateful that You exercise a kindness that leads us to repentance. Your grace and mercy have been poured down on our lives. You are so concerned about our hearts and not our outward activities.

Stir within us all a desire to be a part of where You are already at work. May we go out into our worlds so that we would be an extension of where He is and what He does. May we count the cost but not let that cause us to be frozen into inactivity. Show us where we need to be challenged and convicted.

Let us be light to those around us for Your glory.

Lord, You are the author and giver of life. We are blessed that we can bring our petitions to You. We need to use what we have to survive. All the rest is for You. Let us initiate conversations with others. Let us do this ultimately to tell them the good news.

In Your grace and kindness and forbearance and mercy would You show up in ways that we have not seen before? Give us repentance.

We pray for our children and youth and 707. May there be a true spirit of discipleship in their lives. Bless the work of Denise, Raquel, Amber, Meri, Diane, Rick, Joe, Dean, and Bryan.

May the Breath of God come from the four winds and blow across our dead bones so that there are sinews, flesh, and life. May we be a mighty army for You, Lord! Fulfill Ezekiel 37 in our day here in NE Ohio at CVC, in our church plants, and in our sister churches.

Missio Dei - Strong Towers (Week 1, Day 3)

Today's devotional is based on Luke 14:25-33...

At times, we enthusiastically pursue a passion and do not count the cost. Life closes in. Schedules book up. Money is spent elsewhere. Well-intended commitments are pushed to the back burner. It’s going to be difficult. The decisions we make in life don’t come without physical, financial, or relational difficulties.

Consider the tower mentioned in verse twenty-eight. A tower makes a major statement to any landscape. It sends messages of security and watchfulness. A partially constructed tower says much more—out of resources, thieves welcome, or abandoned property. People who quietly disregard the cost of discipleship say more than they know.

Let’s not forget, there is an adventure to the cost of discipleship. Do not be overwhelmed by the high demands of following Christ, but encouraged that we are not left alone to fulfill them. God desires to extend our schedules, money, and relationships to His glory. Many missional people seem unaware of the sacrifices they have made throughout the years. Series of decisions culminate into a life of missional moxie, missional nerve.

“Our service does not have to be an amazing venture that the grateful locals are still going to be talking about decades later. But as we go with a servant’s heart, the Lord will bring people and opportunities across our paths in order to train and direct us… This will then build momentum, bear fruit, and genuinely begin to change that mission context in tangible ways.” (Mike Breen & Alex Absalom, Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide)

Sit down and count the cost, bear your cross, and truly consider the weight of discipleship. Jesus and His mission must be more important than any relationship (v. 26), than any agenda (v. 27), and than any possession (v. 33).

***
  • What are my unfinished towers?
  • How have I disregarded the cost of discipleship?
  • How can I honor God more with my schedule, finances, and relationships?
Prayer:
Lord, You are faithful despite my failings. Open my eyes to the unfinished towers in my life. Grant me a teachable spirit and willingness to embrace the adventure of discipleship. Stir within me a desire to be a part of where You are already at work so that I can glorify you with my whole life. Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Missio Dei - Death to Self (Week 1, Day 2)

The young mom was face to face with her infant son. For weeks now he attempted to move from his baby babbling to an actual word. She could tell this was the moment. He was trying so hard to form a word and he was starting with the “M” sound. Was he trying to say “Mama”? She tried to help him, “Ma-ma… you can say it baby boy… ma-ma!” He pressed his lips together and out it came…“mu… mu…ma… mine!”

It seems from our infancy the number one person we live to please is self. It is natural that we use all our relationships, pursuits and experiences to feed our own sense of worth and importance. That is why it makes perfect sense that Jesus tackles the need to deny ourselves and to sacrifice our own wants and desires to follow Him faithfully.

The theme through Luke 9:23-27 is to die to self in order to follow Christ. Following Christ means laying down our own desires and living a life of daily self-sacrifice (v. 23). Following Christ means not clinging to our life and what we want out of it, but to live for what Christ wants (v. 24). Even if we were successful in achieving worldly success and giving self all that it desired, but did so at the expense of losing our very own soul, how foolish would that be? (v. 25).

When we deny ourselves and follow Him, it means that we won’t be ashamed of Jesus and His words (v.26). Following Jesus means joining Jesus in His mission. Denying ourselves means that we will actively engage in what Christ came to do.

***
  • As you reflect back on your decision to follow Christ, in what ways have you denied yourself and what sacrifices have you made to be faithful to Jesus over your own desires? List any specific examples that come to mind.
  • In what ways have you failed to deny yourself in order to follow Jesus and join Him on His mission?
  • Is there anyone or anything in your life that you are still clinging to that prevents you from following Christ as wholeheartedly as He has challenged us?
Prayer:
Jesus, You are truly worth following. You are perfect in all Your ways. Thank you, Father, for helping us sacrifice personal ambitions, possessions, relationship and the things that would detract us from living for Jesus instead of ourselves. Help us examine our lives for whatever remains in our grasp that prevents us from living a life of selfless devotion to Jesus. Give me the grace to say “No” to myself and “Yes” to You.

Missio Dei - Radical Followers (Week 1, Day 1)

We are excited to begin our first week of the Missio Dei series at CVC. 

Here is a devotional, questions for thought, and a prayer for Day 1 based on Luke 9:57-62...

In these verses, we see scenarios of three people who talk of following Jesus. In each case, Jesus sets the bar higher. Jesus seems to be seeking to talk them out of following Him. “Follow Me even if it means becoming homeless, even if it means missing out on a family funeral, and even if it means not saying “Goodbye” to the people you love the most.” That is radical, not tame.

Too often, we are tempted to give Jesus superficial devotion. As David Platt in Radical says, “(We) take the Jesus of the Bible and begin twisting Him into a version of Jesus that we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle class, American Jesus… A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes… A Jesus who is fine with a devotion from us that does not infringe on our comforts…”

The Jesus of the Bible, though, is worthy of supreme devotion. Jesus looks for followers who will not settle for casual, comfortable, complacent Christianity. Jesus looks for radical followers who forsake worldly priorities so their lives count for the good of others and for the glory of God. That radical commitment calls for loving one’s neighbors enough to influence them into a willing radical submission to Jesus as well. A radical follower of Jesus will personally take on God’s mission of seeking and saving the lost.
 
***
  • What about Jesus makes Him worthy of your supreme devotion?
  • Given Jesus’ replies to the three would-be followers, what do you suppose their conflicting loyalties were?
  • What competing loyalty is keeping you from being a truly radical follower of Jesus and what would repenting of that competing loyalty look like for you?
  • What is keeping you from a radical commitment to engage in the mission of God?
Prayer:
Jesus, You are worthy of my supreme devotion. For too long I have pursued the fleeting things of this world. Give me the grace to follow You however and wherever You lead. I want the world to see in me what You can do in, through, with, and for someone who is determined to be a radical, passionate follower of Christ. Lead me to be a radical witness for You wherever I go.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A missionary cleverly disguised as a prisoner

9/19/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
Acts 28:23 (ESV)

Observe

In Acts 28, Paul is in Rome as a prisoner. He is awaiting a trial before Caesar. The officials allowed him to stay in his own lodgings at his own expense. So, people could come and visit him. 

What will Paul do? Work on his defense? Despair over his plight? Complain about being unjustly treated? 

No! Paul expounds, testifies, and tries to convince the Jews in Rome that Jesus is the Christ. He uses the Bible - the law and the prophets - to point people to Jesus. Paul knew the Word - that Jesus was in the Old Testament on page after page starting with Genesis 3:15.

He was a missionary. He leveraged his environment as a prisoner to tell the good news of Jesus. 

Value

How will I leverage my circumstances (especially if painful) as a missionary to talk to others about the kingdom and Jesus today?

Express

Lord God, You allow circumstances in our lives that we might see as limiting. Yet, You want us to use these circumstances as stepping stones, not road blocks. Cleanse me from all my whining about what You have sovereignly allowed. Help me be like Paul, leveraging all my circumstances as ways to live on mission and proclaim the gospel. Today, I am Yours, O Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thank a first responder

My friend, Barbara, was actually listening to the encouragement from the message last weekend. I mentioned that we should be sure to thank a first responder.

Here's how that played out in her life.

***

Hi Rick,

Funny story. I was sitting on my front porch tonight. (I live in Brecksville.)

A police officer was parked on my front lawn with radar watching for speeders.

I remembered last Sunday, you encouraged us to thank a first responder, and God prompted me to do so!

Between passing out his tickets, I walked up to his car, and gave him a note I wrote thanking him, which included a Bible verse and some homemade chocolate chip cookies.

The look on his face was priceless! He was shocked and speechless.

He thanked me and I think the next speeder only got a warning!

Grace passed on!


Thanks for all YOU do!

Barbara

***

How great is that! Thanks, Barabara!





Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why and how a clear conscience is necessary for missional living

9/15/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
Acts 24:16

Observe

Paul is standing before the governor after hearing his accusers. In his own legal defense, he claims a clear conscience. As he does this, we get a picture of how a missionary lives out his mission.

A missionary knows it is not possible to please everyone. Some will reject the message. Some will oppose the message. Some will persecute the messenger. Approaching ministry as a people-pleaser is not possible - not if you want to be an effective missionary.

Because there will be a resurrection (and a subsequent judgment) for both the just and the unjust (v. 15), Paul wants a clear conscience. He wants to be able to stand before God on the day and hear "Well done." A clear conscience is necessary.

According to Acts 24:16, keeping a clear conscience...

... is a personal endeavor. "I." No one can keep your conscience clear but you.
... is a persistent endeavor. "Always." We can afford no days off.
... is a disciplined endeavor. "Take pains." The Greek word is askeo - to exert oneself, to adorn, to beautify.
... is a spiritual endeavor. "Toward God." We must focus on God first.
... is a relational endeavor. "Toward man."

Missionaries who serve with clear consciences must remember, "If you please God, it doesn't matter who you displease. If you displease God, it doesn't matter who you please." 

Worrying about your reputation is not a path to effective missionary service. Reputation-guarding, people-pleasing approaches to ministry will keep us from saying the hard things that need to be said. 

Seeking to keep a clear conscience is necessary for effective service. It will help us guard our integrity which is necessary for our credibility.

Am I always taking pains to have a clear conscience before God and man?

Value

Ask God for the grace to keep a clear conscience.

Express

Lord Jesus, You perfectly kept a clear conscience. I have not. I have sinned against You and others. Thank You for the forgiveness Jesus purchased on the cross. And thank You for His imputed righteousness. Today, let me live in light of Your pardon according to Your pattern by Your power. Give me the grace to pursue a clear conscience and to forsake the empty pursuit of reputation-guarding and people-pleasing. Help me have a missionary mindset like Paul. Use me in ever-increasing ways. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who is headed to hell?

My friend, Al Baker, writes sobering words about professing Christians who have no grounds for assurance of salvation. Instead, the evidence produced by their lifestyle indicates they are headed to hell. Please take the time to read Al's words and the scriptures he references. It is possible to profess and not possess.

***

You Will Go to Hell
 
A professing Christian husband and father leaves his wife of thirty years for a young woman the age of his daughter. A Sunday School teacher is obsessed with his favorite sports team, going into short term debt to make trips all over the country to watch his team play. A college student heavily involved with the local collegiate ministry regularly has sexual intercourse with his girlfriend. A young man attends church regularly but frequents gay bars, looking for gay men, and goes home with them. A seeming loving and well adjusted lesbian couple, who know the Bible well, claim to love Jesus. An elder in a church regularly cheats on his income tax and steals money from his company. A young mother who teaches children’s church constantly badgers her husband for a bigger house, a nicer car, better clothing and runs up huge credit card bills trying to satiate her covetous and idolatrous lifestyle. A pastor preaches fine sermons but drinks himself drunk every night. The point man for your church plant becomes dissatisfied with the pastor’s performance and slanders him, sowing seeds of discord among the brethren, finally splitting the church and driving the pastor out of town. And the biggest giver to your church, a man well respected for his work as a financial planner is convicted of a ponzi scheme which cheated people out of millions of dollars.
 
What do these professing Christians have in common? They are all going to hell! “Wait a second Al. Aren’t you going too far? Don’t we all struggle with sin, perhaps even the ones you mention here? What about ‘once saved, always saved?’ What about passages like, ‘And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish,’ (John 10:28). ‘There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,’ (Romans 8:1). ‘Nothing shall separate us from the love of God,’” (Romans 8:38-39). I know. They are wonderful, aren’t they? But then what about, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral, or impure person, or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God,” (Ephesians 5:5). “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries, (Hebrews 10:26-27). “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you were saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Yes the sovereignty of God in eternal salvation is a glorious truth, but you must always keep this in tension with man’s responsibility.[2]In other words, a professing Christian who lives unrepentantly in sexual immorality, impurity, or covetousness will go to hell. Any professing believer who goes on sinning willfully, blatantly, brazenly, without remorse, failing to bring forth fruits of genuine repentance (Matthew 3:8) will go to hell.
 
Paul is not saying that if anyone has ever committed adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, etc. then he is hopeless and will go to hell. Not at all! Praise God. Hallelujah! What a Savior! He goes on to say that such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (! Corinthians 6:11). God has saved and transformed many such people over the years. Maybe you are one of those who have been washed, justified, and sanctified. But the apostles, the prophets, and the Lord Jesus Himself all say that a professing believer who lives in unrepentant sin is lost and on the road to perdition, (Isaiah 5:14, Ezekiel 32:21, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 11:23).
 
Surely this evokes fear and concern for all who read these words! If not, then you are really in trouble. If so, then there is hope for you. But if you are calling yourself a Christian and sin consciously, willfully, brazenly, and unrepentantly, and if you persist to live  this way, then you will go to hell! Your profession of faith means nothing. You are deceiving yourself. A true believer will make progress in gospel holiness.  
 
What then must you, as a professing believer, do to keep yourself from hell? The writer to the Hebrews says, “Let us encourage[3] one another day after day, as long as it is still called today, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,” (Hebrews 3:13). Indwelling sin and the temptation of the world, the flesh, and the devil are constantly at work in us, causing us to believe that repentance is easy, that God is all grace and mercy, that God is never angry with His children, that a decision for Jesus is all that matters, that working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling is not in the Bible, that one can sing about Jesus and talk about Jesus while living in abject rebellion against His law and still go to heaven. Not going to happen! You need someone in your life who will ask you the hard questions, who will “get in your face”, who will not let you get away with anything. And you need this person every day. Not once a week. Not once a month, but every day you live. Why? You have an amazing ability to deceive yourself, to convince yourself that you are above the Law of God, that you ought to have that other woman because your wife is not “meeting your needs,” that you can steal from your company because it is not paying you what you are worth, that your absentee father drove you to drunkenness and that you cannot help it. It you do not have that person who, like Nehemiah, will pronounce curses upon you, who will pull your hair out, who will pummel you (Nehemiah 13:25) when you fall into the folly of sin (Psalm 85:8, Proverbs 5:23) then you could be lost forever (Hebrews 6:4-8, 10:26-39). In other words, you need someone in your life who will practically work in you the fear of God, someone who will say, “What are doing? Have you lost your mind? Do you understand what this relationship with the other woman will do to your wife, your children, and your eternal destiny?” Do you have someone like this in your life? If not, then get one quickly! Men, this is particularly necessary for you. Women tend to have women in their lives, but men tend not to have men in theirs.
 
And what if you presently are living in unrepentant sin? You must repent now! Repentance is not merely saying you are sorry for your “mistake.” True Biblical repentance means grief and sorrow for sin against a holy God. It means confession, contrition, and restitution. A man who lives with his adulteress and continues to go to church gives no evidence of true faith. He will leave the woman and go back to his wife (if she has not already divorced him) or he will go to hell when he dies. “Be sober minded as you ought and stop sinning for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame,” (1 Corinthians 15:34).

God is Felt in the Midst of this Fiery Trial

I received this very encouraging email from a member of our congregation about how they have turned and trusted in God every step of the way during a recent fiery trial.  I pray that it also encourages you:

Dear Rick,

At the start of your message today on fiery trials I looked at my husband and the tears were just flowing down my cheeks. I said to him, “I’m not sure I can listen to this.”

Your message today was spot on and, while painful at first to reflect on, was a salve to our very raw and tender hearts. This medical crisis of my husband's health has been the toughest trial we have ever faced in 29 years of marriage.

When my dad was sick and dying, I spent a lot of time wrestling with God in prayer asking him “Why?” My dad was such a wonderful father and a faithful Christian. I was angry with God for allowing my dad to suffer so much. It took me a long time to understand that God is no less who He says He is just because He didn’t heal my dad in this life. I know now that the ultimate healing comes from being released into God’s eternal rest. And I am grateful that I know where my dad is and that I will one day be reunited with him. I learned through that trial that God never promised me that the people I love would not become sick or die.

I am grateful for the lessons I learned during THAT time because they prepared me for this current season of illness. This fiery trial is so hard and so painful that without knowing God’s promises I’m not sure I would have been able to survive this mentally and emotionally.

It is so important to actually know what God promises versus what He doesn’t. There were several times that I just repeated to myself over and over that God promised me that I would never have to walk through trials alone, that His grace is sufficient for all of my needs and He would never give me more than I could bear.

So many times I hear people mistakenly attribute to God what they think He should be or what He should do. And it makes me sad for them because they miss out on the joy of knowing that God is sovereign and capable of getting us through the hard times in our lives. God is who He is. And because He is a holy and just God He always fulfills His promises to us. He cannot do otherwise.

With every fiber of my being I have clutched and clung to His promises which have been an anchor for me, securing my soul from crashing onto the rocks of bitterness and disappointment. In the midst of this storm I have cried out to Him asking for Him to help me see Him and He has done exactly that. Every time I needed Him to show Himself He made His presence known, reassuring me through His word and His people that I am not alone.

I truly loved that you reminded us that God is our Emmanuel. That perfectly sums up God’s presence in the midst of this fiery trial. It is exactly what He is and what He has promised us that He will be - God with us, God for us and God before us.

Thank you so much for sharing this message which I sincerely hope touched many lives with its truth. Both my husband & I came away this morning with renewed hope of God’s assurances during this season in our lives. We are blessed and grateful that God’s mercies are indeed fresh & new every morning.

Held tightly in His grip...

Early Morning Time Before God

Read below what our early morning prayer warriors brought before the Lord this morning:

We are created in Your image. So, we are something like You. But You are so much more. We rested last night. But You kept the galaxies in order. It is by Your mercy that we sit in faith, knowing You and trusting You.

You are holy and pure, full of mercy and compassion. We want to give back to You this day. We want our desires and hopes to be funneled by Your purposes.

We see in Acts 23 that Paul was passionate about You and Your purposes, even willing to be bound for You or die for You. Forgive us for pursuing comfort and peace rather than Your purposes.

When Adam and Eve were in the garden, they labored, but with joy. We, however, because of the fall labor with sweat and toil. Give us grace to do the work You set before us.

Draw someone to us or us to someone who needs a word from You. And give us this word.

We want to see a moving of the Holy Spirit within our individual lives and in our church. For those who hear the message, may You soon move in their lives so that today they see their need for salvation.

We pray for other churches in NE Ohio. You never sleep. May Your Holy Spirit be free to move throughout this world. Move in hearts, Lord. No one comes unless You draw them. May many come to You.

May we reach more and more people with the gospel of Jesus. We pray for our church planters: Dan, Andy, Oleh, Tom, Joe, Whitt, Matt, Dee, Greg, Jeff. Revive them.

We pray for Joe, Rick, Denise, and others like Krista who are working with our children, our youth as they face teachings at school that contradict the word of God. We pray for our college students.

We pray for prodigals. Marcus, Mark, Mark, Mark, Steve, Drew, David and David, Eddie. Sean, Max, and others. They are alive physically, but not spiritually. Bring them out of addictions and unbelief and into the light of truth and love. May they be able to live lives as You have intended life. May they live to reflect You. May they live with a sure hope. We pray for all their parents and brothers and sisters who yearn for a sweet fellowship with their family. Save these young men form themselves pull them out form the mess the are in.

We pray for the son of Tim Brooks' friend.

We praise You for our work here, Father. Touch lives, Father. Help those who are lost to see the futility of resisting.

We want to be ready for the day. We want to spend eternity with You.

We pray for those serving in disaster relief. Help them help others. May the gospel shine through them.

We pray for Paul Hasman and Charlie Coffinbarger who are sent out to serve overseas.

We pray for the CGs and the new people who are now connected in groups.

Help us this day to abide in Christ and be filled with the Spirit. Lift up Your countenance on us. Make Your face shine on us. Bless us. May Your favor rest on us. And may we be a blessing to others today.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The mindset of a missionary

9/12/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

We and the people there urged [Paul] not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Acts 21:12a-13 (ESV)

Observe

This is the mindset of a missionary. 

It was prophesied about Paul that he would be arrested and bound in Jerusalem. The people closest to him wanted him to change his plans and not go to Jerusalem. Their concern for him moved him deeply. But his desire to follow what he believed was God's plan for his life moved him more. 

The scriptures clearly show that Paul was being guided by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem (see Acts 19:21; 20:22–24; 21:14). So, like Jesus, Paul "set his face like a flint" to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

Paul, as a disciple of Jesus, is willing to follow in Jesus’ steps. "For you have been called to this purpose that you may follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). Paul was willing to die in Jerusalem as Jesus did.

Yes, Paul was arrested. And he spent the next years in jail. Yet that was where he was able to write some of the letters we now have in sacred scripture. God used him even in jail to write His word. What if Paul had run? He may have missed the opportunity for long-term fruitfulness.

Here are a few questions to ask ourselves: For the sake of the gospel, how willing am I to suffer? How willing am I to be thrown into jail? How willing am I to die for the cause of Christ? How willing am I to trust that God's plan may include a suffering that will result in an even greater fruitfulness?

Value

True missionaries are willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. Is that me?

Express

Lord God Almighty, thank You for giving us the example of Paul. No human prophesy and no human reasoning could persuade him away from Your plan for his life. He did not love his life even unto death. He loved doing Your will more. And You used him in great ways to write Your Word even after his arrest. Help me be like Jesus as Paul was like Jesus. Cleanse me of my strong desire for comfort and security. Help me be willing to suffer the loss of comfort, freedom, and even life for the sake of the name of Jesus. Give me the mindset of a missionary. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Prayer Gathering on 9/7/11 of Wednesday Morning Prayer Warriors

9/7/2011 Wednesday AM prayer

Reading: Acts 13

It's difficult to grasp Your love and forgiveness. The world says it is far-fetched. But what we read is real, written down. It's not a fairy tale. We can read and reread and wonder about it all. Thank You for Your word.

We believe that You are sovereign, holy, righteous, and pure. Direct us as we pray. Direct us according to Your purposes.

We are grateful for the recording of historical events. Paul and Barnabus knew they would be persecuted for telling the story of Jesus. But they told the story anyway. Forgive us for not telling the story because we want to fit in and not offend. Help us to go to the places and people that need to hear the gospel. Some may be cruel in their response. But give us the courage to tell. Forgive us for forgetting what You brought us from. Give us a fire to tell.

We walk by faith and not by sight. We want to go where we can see. Help us to walk by faith, not sight.

David was a man after God's own heart. Yet we know he was a sinner. So, there is hope for us. May we be called, in spite of our sin, people who are after Your own heart. Like him, may we repent when confronted and may we pour out our hearts to You like he did in the Psalms.

You poured out Your Spirit in the book of Acts over and over. This is what we need. May we empty ourselves of self. May we say, "I am unworthy to receive You, but only say the word..." May we receive You.

Fill us with the Holy Spirit. Bring to us those who need to hear the Word. May we be Your ambassadors who are filled with the Holy Spirit.

We see the rich history of Your people, Israel. May we learn from history. May we be obedient to You. To obey is better than sacrifice. Thank You for the trials in our lives, to purify us. May the devil not have a foothold in our lives. May we bring down strongholds. May we pray unceasingly.

Thank You for the Spirit in our lives. May Group Connect this weekend be used by You to help people connect.

May we tell our story and Your Story as we live on mission. May the Missio Dei series be more than a series. May the scriptures come alive. May we be changed.

May the Breath of God come and bring to life those who are dead and what is dead among us and cause us to live and to be a mighty army.

As 9/11 approaches, may we have a gentleness and a sensitivity to those who are hurting still, to those who are serving or have loved ones who are serving because of what happened on 9/11. May we not divide over these things politically or ethnically.

We pray for the "Beast Roast" that men will be drawn out of isolation. May the men's retreat be successful. May Chad and Guy be used greatly. May men be changed by You for Your glory. May mentoring take place well as older men pour themselves into the younger men. Work at the retreat to bring change. Thank You for the leadership of Dave Joyce.

We pray for marriages in our church. May we live out Ephesians 5:21-33. May men lead with tenderness. May women yield with passion. May marriages at CVC truly reflect the relationship between Christ and the church.

We pray for John and Terry Bean in our church as they lead divorce care at CVC. Use these two to speak the truth in love, to expose the lies that our culture lives by. Heal those who are hurt by divorce.

We give You thanks for the weekend services this past weekend. Use the words that Chad preached. May we all see that we all have a role, a responsibility, and a resource to help the next generations. Help us fulfill Your word.

May those who have threatened to commit suicide, find hope in You.

We pray for those You know who have left rehab. Unlock the hold that heroin and other addictions have on the mind and body. May the words that those in rehab heard and the story that they know about You impact their lives. Work in their families to bring hope. Set free!

Be on mission in our midst. Do today what You did long ago. God anointed You, Jesus, with the Holy Spirit and with power. You went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with You. Do this again today, Lord Jesus.

We give You glory for our personal, spiritual growth. We thank You for victories in our lives.

Help us to one day we be privileged to give $1,000,000 to missions in a calendar year. May one day we play a part in sponsoring newly planted churches on every continent of the world. Help us identify an unreached people group for our next focus after Ghana. Is it the Sasak on Lombok, a Muslim people group? Help our church planters grow their churches. May we be a part of planting 100s of churches in NE Ohio over the next 20 years.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. Do it all for Your glory, Lord.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Power, purpose, and presence

Loving God Journal - 9/6/2011

Learn

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Acts 10:38

Observe

Note the characteristics of Jesus, our example.

1) He was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power.
2) He went about doing good and healing those who were oppressed by the devil.
3) He experienced the presence of God.

Truly, there are characteristics of the greatest Missionary who ever lived.

We see in the life of Jesus the power of God (v. 38a), the purpose of God (v. 38b), and the Presence of God (v. 38c).

No wonder He defeats the devil. No wonder He sets free the oppressed. No wonder we call Him Savior!  No wonder He was qualified to die for our sins (Acts 10:39) and the was raised to life (Acts 10: 40). His name is above every name.

And He is our example.

Value

Ask the Father to make you like the Son - anointed with God's power, serving for God's purpose, and living in God's presence.

Express

Lord Jesus, You are worthy of my highest praise. You have sown up in my life, in my family's lives, and in my friends' lives with power. You have done good for me - for us. You have healed us from the oppression of the devil. Cleanse us from those times when we go willingly back into being oppressed once again by our own choice. Give us grace to live in the power, purpose, and presence of the Father, just like You did on this earth. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Save the called and call some more!

9/2/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
Acts 2:39

Observe

This is a source of great encouragement for us. There are global and particular aspects to the promise of God that He will pour out the presence and power of His Spirit.

First, let's consider the global aspect. Peter, on Pentecost, is saying that the promise of the Holy Spirit is available for us, for our families, and for people who are far from God. The Spirit is not just for the Jews.

In his first sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes from Joel 2. "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17).

Note that he says, "I will pour out my Spirit all flesh." The presence and power of the Holy Spirit is for all the world, all nations, all peoples. Muslims. Jews. Hindus. Buddhists. Christians. Atheists. Agnostics. Secularists. Materialists. Asians. Africans. Europeans. North and South Americans. Australians. Antarctic-ans! In fact, Peter goes on  to quote Joel 2 and says, "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). Anyone and everyone can come. That's the global aspect of the promise.

Now, back to Acts 2:39 for a look at the particular aspect of the promise. This promise is for "everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself."

Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Question: Who will call upon the name of the Lord? Answer: Those whom the Lord calls to Himself. 

Theologians talk about the general call of God and the effectual call of God. 

Martin Lloyd Jones in his book, Great Doctrines of the Bible, writes, "There is the truth of the gospel, and we have seen already that it is a part of the work of the Holy Spirit to see that that truth is proclaimed to all and sundry. That is what we called the general call — a kind of universal offer of the gospel. Then we saw that though the external or general call comes to all, to those who will remain unsaved as well as to those who are saved, obviously some new distinction comes in, because some are saved by it. So the question we must now consider is: What is it that establishes the difference between the two groups? And the way to answer that question, it seems to me, is to say that the call of the gospel, which has been given to all, is effectual only in some."

Lloyd Jones goes on, "Romans 8:28–39, is a great statement of this very thing. ‘We know,’ says Paul, ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God … ’ Not to everybody but ‘ to them that love God ’. Who are they? ‘To them who are called according to his purpose,’ and Paul goes on: ‘For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’ The saved are described as those who are called . And they have been called in a way that the others have not. That is, therefore, a scriptural statement of this effectual call."

So, this promise of the Spirit is global. It's for anyone and everyone. That means that we should sow the seed of the gospel widely while knowing that not everyone will respond. And this promise of the Spirit is particular. It's for those the Lord is effectually calling. That means that we can sow the seed of the gospel confidently knowing that some indeed will respond. 

Value

Sow the seed of the gospel widely and confidently. In our humanity and in our inability to look into the hearts of people, we just don't know who has been effectually called by God to Himself. So, just share the good news widely, confidently knowing that some will indeed respond. 

Express

Lord, You are the One who calls people in all nations, tribes, and tongues to Yourself. Our response to the gospel totally depends on You. Thank You for calling me and calling my family. Help me to continue to respond to Your call, Lord. Please call my grandson, Ethan, to You. Pour out Your Spirit on me, on my family, and on all flesh. Save the called and then call some more! Please use me to be a servant through whom You call people to Yourself. Let me share the gospel with someone You have called even today so that I might see them call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday Morning Prayer Warriors - 8/31/11

At this week's gathering for Six A.M. Prayer on Wednesday, August 31, the following praises and petitions were brought to the Lord . . . if you have the opportunity, please join us on any Wednesday morning in the CVC Prayer Room.

***
We give You praise that You are working still in this world. His-story is still being written. We praise You for answered prayer - that Tim Brooks grandson, Gavin, is out of the hospital and back home, that Jack Smith is back home and back in school, that Jim Sutton was able to share the gospel with his Jewish friend during a 3 hour conversation, that Tim Brooks' friend, Tom, who is a heroin addict is now in a Christian safehouse.

We come and give You thanks for the opportunity to live for You today. Guide us this day to live for Your eternal purposes. Use us to reach out to others.

You keep nudging us, getting us up to pray on these Wednesdays. It's important to come to You in the early morning.

In John 21 we read that Peter spoke of John and said, "What about him?" Help us not worry about how You treat others. Help us to just be obedient.

Lynn's family - Gary and Sherri - are in trouble. The bank is foreclosing on their house. They have no jobs. They are irreligious. They won't come to 707. Soften their hearts. Use this situation to break through to them. May Your Holy Spirit will give Lynn the words. Flood her mind with the words she needs to say. Save them.

In scripture, we are taught that You are our Protector, a strong tower, a shield.

May Tom, the former heroin addict, one day stand in front of a crowd and say, " Jesus set me free. He can set you free, too."

We can do nothing without You. We turn our needs over to You. You are sovereign. You guide everything that happens here. We want to do Your work, not our work. Put Your Spirit in us so we can impact the world around us that is far from You.

We want relief from suffering. But You say, "Rejoice in sufferings." May the believers on the northeast coast who have suffered from floods, winds, and hurricane damage be used by You as examples and lights to others.

You are perfect in Your wisdom, power, and love. You dispense just what is needed to everyone to accomplish Your purposes in our lives. Forgive us for grumbling and mistrusting.

We pray for our kids back in school. We pray that Your children would see the lie. We pray for Clay Myatt and others that have gone off believing to college. May their faith be strengthened and protected from the skeptics' attacks.

We lift up Mark, Sean, Max and others who have wandered and even run from You. Demonstrate Your reality to them. You turned atheists like C. S. Lewis and A. N. Wilson into believers. Do it for them, Lord.

We pray for the Men's Ministry. May the men in our church grow spiritually. May the beast roast and the retreat be used by You to change men's lives for Your glory.

Protect the believers in a village in Nigeria who are being persecuted while soldiers stand and watch. Be merciful and change hearts.

Work among the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Draw them to Your Son. Show us if we are to invest in the 3.2 million Sasak people on Lombok in Indonesia. Bless Jeff Roe and his work on that island.

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