Monday, October 31, 2011

Coaching a church planter (1)

Here are some (edited) thoughts I shared with one of the church planters we support. I visited his church plant on Sunday. Maybe you'll find some help for your church plant, too.

***

Thanks, brother, for the work that you are doing at your church plant. It is a true privilege to partner with you.

The warm greeting that I received was very much appreciated. The passion, energy, and enthusiasm in your church is remarkable. The keyboardist and the drummer were excellent. The worship was engaging. Your preaching about the connection between joy and peace was clear and powerful. Some of the things you said in the message today were straight from the heart of God for me personally. I have been seeking some of my
peace in some wrong places. It was evident to me that God used you in my life and in the lives of many others. I am glad I was able to visit with you and worship with you today.

There are some observations that I would like to share with you. I realize that I am a washed-up minor league ballplayer from the sticks of Tennessee who now lives and pastors in the Brecksville/Broadview Heights area.

Therefore, some of what I have to say may not apply to your cultural environment. You are the one who has to exegete your cultural context. You are the missionary to your city and the surrounding communities, not me.

Therefore, I share some of my thoughts with the deepest respect for you and your leadership. But I also recognize that God has graciously given me insights as an experienced church planter and pastor who has had opportunity for 25 years to do some coaching and training for church planters.

Do you have a coach who can help you keep looking forward and who might help you revisit some of the church planter training and information on assimilation and community engagement?

I would encourage you as a church planter to keep thinking like a missionary. In other words, the question to ask is this: "How can we conduct church in a way that worships God, equips believers, and is culturally relevant to the lost people we are trying to reach?" The worship service, of course, is for God first and then for believers. But we must be sensitive to the guests, the non-Christians, who might show up. (It's kind of like having someone over to eat at your house. You're going to serve your family a family meal. But you set out some extra special dishes because you have the guests in mind as well.)

I'm sure that you usually start on time. There were probably some technical difficulties that hindered things today. I am sure you know it is important to start on time. Promptness says that you value the time of people. Promptness is really a function of love.

I would encourage you to consider using some type of attendance card or registration card. This is a way for you to know who the guests are and how to contact them later. It would also give you an opportunity to allow people to let you know of prayer requests. They could also share with you any decisions or commitments that they may be making. You could even have a place for people could indicate that they have prayed to receive Christ or are looking for some other type of ministry from Alive needing follow up.

I like the prayer time in the service (especially that your leader prayed for me). I did think that the list was very lengthy. After a while, my guess is that minds begin to wander. You even made reference to that in your
comments after the prayer time. I think you instinctively know that people can only engage with a limited number of prayer requests. My encouragement would be for you to have a special prayer time prior to the service where your core team lifts up all those concerns. You can do that with your most committed people. And then during the service, you might want to limit your public prayer to the top 3 to 5 request for each week. In that way, you would praying for fresh requests each week.

Regarding the offering time, it is important to let the people know how the money that they give is resulting in changed lives. Before the offering, you could tell a 30 second story about a life that has been changed and then say, "Thanks for giving. Your gifts are resulting in changed lives."

I think it's always a good idea at a church service to invite people to the next thing. You might want to invite people to the next service by letting them know what you were talking about the following weekend. You
also might want to invite them to a fellowship opportunity or a service opportunity. Give them a reason to come back and to invite a friend.

It is important that a church service not be seen as an end in itself. The church service is a worshipping and an equipping time. We come together to be sent out on mission. I would encourage you to include the sending idea at the end of each service. Challenge the people to go and be missionaries. For instance, today you talked about peace. You could have said, "Now that you have learned to gain peace from God you can go out and live a life of peace and invite others into that peace with you. So, today I am sending you out as missionaries into a world filled with trouble. You can bring the peace of God into your home and into your
workplace as missionaries. Tell people where this peace you have has come from. Speak a good word about Jesus. Speak a good word about your church. And come back next Sunday and bring somebody with you."

Be very specific at the end about what you want the people to do. People are asking two questions: 1) What does the pastor want me to know and why does he want me to know it? 2) What does the pastor want me to do and why does he want me to do it? In a message, you are standing as a spokesman for God. So, ultimately, what they want to know is this: "What does God want me to know and do?" You can send the people away with one or two very specific action points so that they more easily become doers of the word
and not hearers only.

I encourage you to keep casting vision for the unique contribution that your church is making to the kingdom of God in Northeast Ohio. Let people know what it is that you are doing that is different and fresher than any other church. It doesn't mean that you're doing things better than anybody else. It's just that you are doing something different. And that is a good thing. A very good thing. It should be celebrated.

You have an attractive, winsome way about you. That is a gift from God. You and your beautiful wife make a great team. Keep smiling! You preach powerfully. I praise God for you and I look forward to the great things God is going to do it through, with, in, and for you in the future. I am very excited about the future for your church and the good I believe God has in store.

Let's get together soon to talk about how we can serve you more.

When the people we love are on a destructive path

Sometimes, the people we love are engaging in self-destructive behavior. Recently, I was asked what we should do when someone we love who is not a Christian is sinning.

***

Hey Pastor Rick,

I need you or someone to explain something to me that I may be missing. I understand, totally that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I know I was forgiven when I came to Christ for my outrageous behavior. If someone doesn't have remorse or repent for their sins, how then does God feel about that? Does He wait for them to feel guilt or remorse? Or does He intervene at some point?

There are two reasons I ask this, but the one will wait till another day. [I know someone who] is boldly, blatantly, having an affair… I am not liking her much these days, but I love her. How can I support her, when she is hurting [so many others]?

Where does God fit into this picture… ? I had to have crushed my "Abba Father's" heart with all the bad things I did and yet He forgave me. So? Am I to forgive [my friend]?

Please tell me what I am missing here. My mind, heart, and soul want to protect [people from her destructive behavior]. What Would Jesus Do?

I am open for any and all help.

***

Hi. Thanks for your note.

You asked if someone doesn't have remorse or repent for their sins, how does God feel about that?

I'm sure that God feels sad about that. He is waiting on them to turn to Him and to repent. Yes, God does wait for people to feel guilt and remorse. But even that is a gift from Him. So whenever we turn to him it is always because of His intervention. Therefore, it is your responsibility to continue to pray faithfully for [your friend].

I'm sorry that she texts and talks on the phone in front of her husband. That’s terrible. And flagrant. She is setting herself up for a major fall. We reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow. This can work for us or against us. In her case, it will work against her.

When she falls, she will need love, mercy, and compassion – not an “I told you so.” Maybe then she will turn to the One who is full of mercy and grace.

I would encourage [her husband] to consider protecting himself and the children from such behavior. The Bible gives people the option of divorce when someone is blatantly unfaithful faithful and committing adultery. The behavior in front of the kids is damaging. I am not saying he should divorce, but he could divorce.

Meanwhile, wait and pray. That is a hard place to be – in God’s waiting room. We are starting a new series on the Promises of Hope. Please come to this series each week. We’ll learn how to access the promises of God in Isaiah 40-66. This will give you hope as you wait on God to work in your behalf.

Hope this helps some,

Rick

Missio Dei - Open Eyes, Open Heart, Open Hands (Week 7, Day 1)

... Luke 10:25-37 ...

The story begins with a lawyer asking Jesus a question, “How do I inherit eternal life?” Jesus invites the lawyer to answer the question himself. The lawyer summarizes the Old Testament Law, “Love God and love your neighbor.” Jesus says, “Good. Now go do it.” The lawyer looks for a loophole, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus is not teaching here that we are saved by keeping the law. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, faith without works is dead (James 2:14-17). Our faith is the root of our salvation, but our good works (loving God and our neighbors) is the fruit of our salvation and demonstrates our faith.

Jesus then tells a story to illustrate what a truly saved person will do when confronted with an opportunity to help someone in need. They are all around us—bruised, broken, battered people. Some are hurting physically. Most are in pain emotionally and spiritually. They are in our offices, our neighborhoods, our restaurants, our schools, our churches and our families. Do we see them? Do we help?

We have many reasons why we tend to avoid people in need. We say things like, “Someone else will do it.” “Things have a way of working themselves out.” “I’m just too busy right now.” “I believe that charity begins at home.” “I ‘got burned’ last time I tried to help.” “Hey! You brought this onto yourself!”

In the story, two busy religious leaders pass by the man in need. However, when confronted with the half dead Jew, the Good Samaritan opened his eyes, (v. 33a), opened his heart (v. 33b), and opened his hands(vv. 34-35). It is clear. Our mission is to see genuine need and to come alongside that person in need so we can be “Jesus with skin on” to him or her.

***
  • When was a time in your past when you “walked by” someone in need? How did you feel about “walking by” them? Who do you need to make time for this week?
  • What are some excuses you tend to use to keep yourself insulated and isolated from need, from bruised, broken, battered people? How will you seek to eliminate those excuses in the future?
  • When you think of living with open eyes, open heart, and open hands, who is a person in need who comes to mind? What will you do for him or her starting today?
Prayer...
Lord Jesus, You are the Ultimate One with open eyes, open heart, and open hands. You saw me helplessly broken by my own sin. You stopped for me. You saved me. And I worship You. I have not followed Your example. I am not enough like You. Change me. Point me today to someone in need, and help me help them.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Missio Dei - Three Missions (Week 6, Day 5)

... John 17:24-26 ...

In these final few verses of John 17, Jesus talks to His Father and points to His desire for us. His desire is that we “may be with (Him) where (He is).” Jesus desires to see us, His disciples, completed—to be in heaven with Him—for His sake and for ours. Throughout these verses Jesus’ desire is to point to His Father’s glory, and God’s desire is that His glory may be seen through His Son.

Everything that Jesus did on earth pointed to His Father’s glory. He says, “I made known to them Your Name.” The perpetual mission of Jesus is to make God known to man. So we see three missions in these verses. 1) The mission of God is to be glorified. 2) The mission of Jesus is to make God’s glory known. 3) Our mission is to know Jesus and make Him known to others so that all people might be reconciled to God.

As we go on mission and seek to make Jesus known, we can have confidence that some people will respond. It’s not our clever explanations, marketing, or missional living that wins people over. It’s the work of the Father and the Son.

Notice that verse 24 indicates that the Father has given people to Jesus. Those who are saved—who are in heaven and seeing the glory of Jesus—are gifts from the Father to the Son. When we live missionally and share the gospel, we are participating in divine gift-giving within the Trinity. The Father gives the Son His people.

Notice that verse 26 indicates that the Son makes known to people the Father’s name. Those who are saved—who for all eternity will experience the same love that the Father has for the Son—come to know the Father through the work of the Son. When we live missionally and share the gospel, we are participating in what the Son does to introduce people to the Father.

The pressure is off. We simply live missionally. We simply tell His story. And we watch the Father give people to the Son and we watch the Son introduce people to the Father.
 
***
  • How does knowing that the Father gives people to the Son take the pressure off you when it comes to missional living and witnessing?
  • How does knowing that it’s really the Son who makes the Father known to the people encourage you in evangelism?
  • How will you actively complete your mission (to know Jesus and to make Him known to others) today?
Prayer...
Father, I want Your glory to be known. As I look around this beautiful creation I am in awe of You, the Creator. You have given me the mission of pointing to this glory so that others may know You. As I live my life, may I always be on mission to know You and make You known. Fill me with Your power to boldly proclaim the glory that is due You.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missio Dei - Dependent in all Things (Week 6, Day 4)

... John 15:16 ...

God has chosen us. Many people are caught up in the false idea that we choose God. Scripture is clear again and again that He is the one that chooses us (See Ephesians 1:4). In spite of our completely sinful nature God has chosen us to be separate, to be holy. He has appointed us to bear spiritual fruit; that is, we have works to do and people to bring to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. However, we have no power in and of ourselves to make this happen. The Spirit who enables us and lives in us gives us all we need to engage in this mission.

Our fruit should abide. The fruit that Jesus bears through us will remain. It is God who brings all who have been called to His son all the way to glory (Romans 8:30). God is the one who accomplishes His mission through us.

Why then do we need to worry? We have been given a command and we have an opportunity to be a part of what He is doing. He does not need us, but He allows us to engage in His mission. We willingly do what Jesus says because our hearts are humbled, grateful, and awestruck at a Savior who would not only lay down His life, but give us everything that we need to carry out His mission.

Go on this mission—the mission of God. Fight for the souls of your family, friends, and others. Breathe in deeply the truth that the burden for growing, keeping, and seeing that fruit into eternity is in the hands of Jesus. Take a moment and meditate on the fact that God has chosen you. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you have had grace and mercy unjustly bestowed on you. This is a stunning thought that ought to motivate us to live more and more missionally.

***
  • What changes need to take place in your life for you to bear fruit? To bear more fruit?
  • The fruit you bear will remain. The people Jesus reaches through you will stay reached. How does knowing this affect your enthusiasm for being on mission?
Prayer...
Lord, I know that I am dependent on You for all things. Thank You for choosing me. Thank You for Your promise that You will bear fruit through me. Embolden me and empower me through Your Holy Spirit to go on this mission with You. I believe that there is more fruit yet to come in the lives of my family and friends. We trust You with those who we love so dearly who are not abiding. I lay my life at Your feet that You might use me for Your great Name.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Morning Prayer at CVC - 10/26/11

Christ Jesus, we praise You, who, though You were in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Yourself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, You humbled Yourself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God the Father has highly exalted You and bestowed on You the name that is above every name, so that at Your name, Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that You, Jesus Christ are Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We are grateful that we have the breath of life in our lungs. Guide us this day and use us for Your purposes on mission. Use us this day for Your great kingdom.

Thank You for this time, for this building to gather. Make our church a lighthouse.

How can You be fully God and man? This is key to our faith. You are God above all gods and King above all kings. Help us explain how You rescued us better.

Thank You for all the people who serve, give, and forgive at CVC. Remind us that we are the church scattered today. Help us have eyes to see, hearts to feel, and hands to do what we need to see, feel, and do today. Use us to bless the broken and heal the hurting.

We hold up the aged, the ones in worn out bodies, as they live out their days. May they have a huge hope for their eternal joy. As they face death, may they know their hope of heaven.

We pray for courage to share Your word with those who don't have a glimmer of belief.

We pray for Community Groups. Help us learn to pray together. Help us use the tools provided by our church to deepen our relationship with You.

We pray for prodigals like Tom, a life spared from overdosing. May the rehab he is doing work and may he find courage to give up whatever that keeps him enslaved. We also pray for Zach, Matt, Mark, David, Eddie, and Paul. May these young men turn away from addictions and rebellion. May they find truth. Please reveal Your truth to these young men. May the tears shed in prayer for them be seeds sown that will result in joyful reaping of a harvest for Your glory.

We pray for Brandon, Perry, and TJ, guys who have turned away from alcohol and turned to Christ. May they be used by You, too, to encourage others.

We pray for firemen, Don, Dante, and Josh. Help them live for You in dark environments.

We pray for Anthony, Eric, and Ryan, guys who need the Robert Lewis material so they can be better men, husbands, and fathers.

We pray against the evil of Halloween. Protect Your children from the darkness of devil worship and demonic influence. May people be protected from darkness and ghoulishness and gore and violence.

In a world where "entertainment" uses blood for profit, we thank You for the shed blood of Christ that saves us. Give us all skill and love when we talk about Christ's shed blood.

Present us today with the opportunity to share our faith. We pray for John Campbell and Men's Ministry and the plan for sharing the Share Your Faith material. May we not only share the gospel, but live it out.

Send a revival to us. Cleanse us from our complacency, lukewarmness, selfishness, materialism, and greed. Give us holiness, righteousness, and fruitfulness.

Missio Dei - The Good Shepherd (Week 6, Day 3)

... John 10:14-16 ...

Jesus is referred to as a shepherd throughout scripture (Micah 5:4, Hebrews 13:20). By definition, a shepherd is one who herds, tends, guards, protects, guides, and watches over sheep. Jesus is not just a shepherd, but the good Shepherd. Those of us who have turned from our sin and believed and trusted in Christ belong to Him. We are under His care. He knows us, and we know Him. The relationship is to be close and intimate, just as it is between Him and His Father.

This Shepherd is like none other, as He “…lays down His life for the sheep” (v. 15b). Matthew Henry insightfully comments, “Thousands of sheep had been offered in sacrifice for their shepherds, as sin-offerings, but here, by a surprising reverse, the shepherd is sacrificed for the sheep.” Jesus obediently submitted to death on a cruel cross out of obedience to His Father, and out of great love for us to free us from sin and restore us to God. By the sacrifice of this Shepherd, we have been forgiven.

However, we are also reminded of “other sheep” who are not yet with us (v. 16). His sacrifice has purchased them as well, and they have not yet come into the fold. As the good Shepherd, Jesus is determined that the ones the Father has chosen from eternity would also hear His distinct voice, respond, and come in. We sense here the resolution of Jesus to bring this to pass, as He says “I must bring them also…” (v. 16b). This outcome will be a reality in some way. This Shepherd will bring in all that the Father has given Him.

With more sheep yet to be reached, will you be a willing and an available vessel to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth? Although He is not in need of us, He chooses and delights to use us. At the end of the day, His desire is to bring all kinds of people all together into one flock over which He will be the Shepherd for all of eternity. Let us follow His lead.

***
  • How does knowing Jesus as the good Shepherd motivate you to be on mission to help others come into His flock?
  • How could you be more surrendered and available to the good Shepherd for His use?
  • Make a list of 5 people you know who may be “other sheep” who have not yet come into relationship with the good Shepherd. Faithfully pray for them.
Prayer...
Dear God, thank You that You have pursued me and brought me into Your fold by Your great mercy, grace, and love. You are a good Shepherd. Please guide me and direct me, according to Your will. Stir me up to move out of my comfort zones, that many others would come to know You and be known by You. I yield myself to You today. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Missio Dei - Not Needed, But Wanted (Week 6, Day 2)

... John 6:44-46 ...

A dad asked a young son if he would like to mow the lawn with him. The son enthusiastically said, “Yes.” As they started prepping the mower and getting ready, the son became a little quiet and withdrawn. When asked what was wrong the son said that he thought the dad wanted him to mow the lawn for him. Obviously, that idea was overwhelming for a 9 year old. Poor Kid! It must have been daunting for him as he thought about trying to operate the mower, push it uphill, and take this responsibility as his own. Prepping the mower, buying the gas and pushing that contraption around the yard is the dad’s responsibility. The dad just wanted to invite his son to be with him as he did the job. He did not need him to mow the lawn. The dad could accomplish the task without the son but wanted to include him. When the dad explained that he invited his son to mow the lawn with him, he cheerfully re-engaged.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the daunting task of reaching out to the lost? Have you ever thought that if you mess up your testimony when sharing Christ it could cost them eternity? When you have missed opportunities to share Christ have you ever felt like that was their shot and now it is too late?

We cannot forget it is God who does the work. We do not save souls, He does. We see in today's passage that it is the Father who draws people to Himself (v. 44). We are not responsible or even capable of drawing the heart of people to God. Even though we can share our story and provide biblical instruction, all the information and teaching ultimately comes from God (v. 45). God does not need us to reach the lost, he can accomplish it without us, but he does include us in the mission.

Jesus is restoring lost people to Himself and He invites us to be part of it. We can rest in knowing God is sovereign and that He reigns over the process and the outcome. Understanding this motivates us to be faithful and to fully engage in living on mission for Christ.

***
  • How did God draw you into a relationship with Himself?
  • How have you seen and heard of Him drawing others?
  • How can you explain your understanding that it is God who ultimately draws and instructs people but yet we still are invited and commanded to be part of reaching the unchurched?
Prayer ...
I praise You, Lord, for drawing me to Yourself and instructing me. I thank You for being Sovereign over all things. Please help me to be an active and obedient participant in reaching the others for Christ. (Name three people by name who need the Lord.) Please work through Your Spirit to draw these dear ones to Yourself as You send me and other believers to interact and work with them.

Missio Dei - The Father's Gracious Will (Week 6, Day 1)

... Luke 10:21-24 ...

The ones who have been sent out on mission by Jesus return with joy. The followers of Jesus have been used by the Father to serve the least and the lost. The enemy has been defeated. Victories have been won. The trajectories and destinies of lives have been changed. So, Jesus expresses His gratitude to God, His Father.

Any positive responses to our missional efforts originate in God. The Father often hides spiritual truths from the proud and the powerful (v. 21a). However, He delights in revealing spiritual truths to followers whom the world would say are “weak” (1 Cor 1:26-31). This is why we focus our missional efforts on people with hurts, on people the world has marginalized (v. 21b).

When we engage in missional living, we are participating in the inscrutable relationship between the Father and the Son. Jesus and his Father (along with the Holy Spirit) are sovereign in our salvation. So, when anyone comes to salvation through our serving, it is because Jesus, the Son, has chosen to reveal the Father to them and because the Father has drawn them to the Son (John 6:37-40, 44).

Rather than discouraging our missional efforts, these truths encourage us. We know some of the least and the lost people we serve will respond. Jesus will reveal Himself and His Father to them. We do not have to do a “sales job” on anyone. We do not have to be expert evangelists. We simply serve the people, share the good news, and watch God work to draw men, women, boys, and girls to Himself. And, since we do not know who will or will not respond, we seek to serve as many people as we can while trusting that God will indeed save some.
 
***  
  • Why do you think God delights in revealing spiritual truths to those who are childlike, to people the world has marginalized?
  • How will you reach out today to someone who comes to mind when you think of the terms “child-like,” “weak,” “hurting,” and “marginalized?”

Prayer ...
Our Father in heaven, I give You praise for Your sovereignty in my salvation. Thank You for choosing to reveal Yourself to me. At times, I can be cynical and disbelieving about Your work in the world. So, I sometimes choose not to serve. Today, Lord, I ask You to help me trust that You are drawing Your children to Yourself and that You want to work through me. I will do the serving because I know You will do the choosing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Missio Dei - Being a Conqueror (Week 5, Day 5)

... Revelation 12:7-11 ...

Admittedly, this is a difficult passage to interpret. Does it describe the original casting of Satan and his demons out of heaven (See Revelation 12:4 and Isaiah 14:12-15)? Does it describe the triumph of the cross of Christ (See Colossians 2:15)? Does it describe the defeat of the devil after intensified demonic activity on earth during the last days? Commentators are divided.

What is certain, though, is that the power of God and the authority of Christ over Satan means that the great dragon is doomed. God’s people who cooperate with Him in His mission can participate in Christ’s conquest over the enemy.

In Luke 10:17, the disciples were amazed. They had seen the authority Jesus had, but now they realized that they too were empowered. As the first gospel carriers they met up with the great serpent and his angels. The disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit and authorized by Jesus Christ, conquered their foes. They acted in faith to overcome Satan and his demons.

This cosmic battle continues in our generation. As we carry the gospel of Jesus Christ and push back the enemy’s ground, we will be confronted. The forces of darkness will oppose the Kingdom of light, but ours is the victory in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. We conquer because He conquered. We walk in His authority and can pull down the strongholds of our enemy.
 
You can expect a backlash for every victory. Our enemy is relentless. But remember that he is defeated. As we join Jesus in His mission, we are joining the One whose victory is certain.

 
***
  • How are you experiencing the push back in the spiritual war for the souls of men, women, boys, and girls?
  • Where do you need to use the authority of the blood of the Lamb? Where are you to share the word of your testimony?
  • How does seeing Satan as a defeated foe give you greater confidence to live missionally?
Prayer ...
Father, praise You for the victory of Jesus Christ and the power and authority I can have in His name. Forgive me for the times when I live like a missionary who is defeated. Help me to understand this position that I have as Your child and Your ambassador. As I live on mission, teach me to wield Your authority, victoriously bringing You all the glory.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Missio Dei - Satan Disarmed (Week 5, Day 4)

... Colossians 2:13-15 ...

Most of us have experienced the loss of loved ones. We feel helpless. The dead are obviously unable to help themselves through any power of their own. Likewise, apart from Christ we are spiritually dead and have no power until God makes us alive in Christ.

Through Christ we are forgiven (v. 13). And this is because of the resurrection of Christ, as well as His death; for, “as He died for our sins, so he rose again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Whatever was in force against us is removed. He has obtained for us a legal discharge from the debt we owed which was against us (v. 14). He has obtained victory for us over the powers of darkness (v. 15).

The devil and all the powers of hell were conquered and disarmed by the dying Redeemer. The first promise pointed at this: the bruising of the heel of Christ in his sufferings was the breaking of the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). As we live in Christ, we share in this victory and must live as though it is true for us, because it is. Satan has lost his power and death has lost its sting. We can move forward in faith with confidence that our Lord has secured our eternal future.

We must not keep this to ourselves; we must share this with others today. Our mission field is right in front of us. It may be an adult child who says, “I do not believe in God.” It may be a coworker who says, “I believe in God but I don’t know what that is.” It could even be a passerby looking for hope in a hopeless situation. We only need to stop and engage, take the time to listen to their story and then share ours … today.

***
  • Where do you find yourself feeling legally responsible for a spiritual debt that has already been paid?
  • How will you choose to start living victoriously in your walk with Christ in the places you feel defeated, knowing that He goes before you and behind you with His hand of blessing upon you?
  • How will you share this freedom with others today?
Prayer ...
Father, You have set me free through the death and resurrection of Your Son. I know my days are numbered here Lord Jesus but my eternity with You is without number. Give me the grace to live out my faith daily so that others will see You in me. Give me the courage to speak boldly of Your love for them. May You use me as Your missionary to give life, forgiveness, and victory to people who do not yet know You.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Christians, Lawsuits, and Forgiveness

Recently, a member of CVC who is leading a business with her husband asked me to give her some biblical advice. It seems that a former non-Christian employee has stolen information from their business, has violated a no compete clause, and now has joined another company to help launch a similar business. My friend from CVC quoted Romans 12:19 where the Bible says for believers to not avenge themselves, but to leave the vengeance to God. She was wondering if, in light of that passage, it was still possible for her company to use legal means to pursue justice.

I mentioned to her that obedience to the Romans 12 passage is always applicable even in her situation. It's always applicable to every Christian in every situation no matter what injustice we may have suffered. But I also mentioned to her that the Romans 12 passage is followed, of course, by Romans 13.

Now, Romans 13 is where the Bible teaches us that God has given us authorities whose job it is to promote good and restrain evil. "Every person is [to] be subject to governing authorities" (Romans 13:1, ESV). The implication is that God has given us governing leaders to promote a just society. Therefore, it certainly seems legitimate for believers to use the legal, governmental systems to pursue justice. We sure don't take matters into our own hands to "make them pay." But it is permissible for us to use the judicial system to pursue justice according to the laws of our land.
Having said that, we must remember that the Bible clearly teaches that it is never appropriate for one believer to sue another believer. That is spelled out in I Corinthians 6:1-8. It is shameful when brothers and sisters in Christ cannot work through their differences with the help of the church and church leaders. When the world sees believer suing believer, then it discredits the gospel in their eyes.

But it is possible for a believer to sue a non-believer to pursue justice. It's not mandatory, of course. But it's optional.

In fact, it is noteworthy that God is a God of justice. Psalm 9:7 says, "The LORD sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice" (ESV). The desire that we have for justice is at least part of what it means for us to be created in the image of God. Therefore, it is very God-like for us to want to pursue justice.

The all-important question for us to keep in mind as we pursue justice is this: "What is the state of my heart?" We are always called to have a spirit of forgiveness. We repay no one evil for evil. We feed our enemies. We are not overcome by evil. We overcome evil with good. (See Romans 12:14-21). We are always called to be free from from bitterness. The desire for payback cannot be part of who we are and what we do. We leave the justice and a vengeance in the hands of God.

So, I encouraged my friend to ask God if He wants her pursue justice through the legal system while at the same time asking Him for grace to guard her heart from a spirit of unforgiveness, bitterness, and revenge. As always, the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. God says, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23, ESV).

Before she takes this non-Christian to court, a wonderful tool that I encouraged her to read, process, and apply is the book Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

So, can a believer sue a non-believer to pursue justice? Yes. But a believer must be careful to guard his or her heart in the process!

And even if justice prevails and a believer wins in court, "Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34) is our Master's Way. And it must be our way, too.

CVC Wednesday Morning Prayer - October 19, 2011

We bless You today for blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. You chose us, adopted us, redeemed us, forgave us, and sealed us. What an awesome, sovereign God You are!

Holy, holy, holy are You, Lord God. You made everything without any building team or supplies. We stand in awe of that. You go beyond Your creation. You know our next thought. We are humbled. The adjectives we use to describe You fall woefully short. You are worthy of all praise and worship.

We praise You for the words that describe You in Ephesians 1. When we forget how to praise You, we can turn there.

The harvest is great, the laborers are few. Use us to do Your work where we go.

Thank You for joining us this morning. We are not worthy for You to be with us and joining us. Help us set our affections on You today. Help us to go through this day looking to You.

Thank You for our salvation, for saving people during turbulent times in our country. Now is another turbulent time. Save people today.

The locusts have eaten. But You are the restorer. Restore the years the locusts have eaten as we return to the Lord our God for You are gracious and merciful.

We pray for prodigal sons - for Eddie, Zach, Matt, Matt, David, Mark, Drew, Craig, and Max. Help them to return to You, Lord, for You are gracious and merciful. We pray for prodigal daughters - Melissa, Joanna. Help them to return to You, Lord, for You are gracious and merciful.

We pray for Christians who are battle-weary. May we know that we battle not only for victory, but from victory. Give us a fresh filling of Your Spirit. We battle from the stance of victory. May we have a joyful heart and a demeanor that attracts people. May Your kingdom grow.

Help us recognize our love for You and help us love You more.

Help us reflect Your love. Use the information many learned in the Share Your Faith seminar to move us to witness.

If You are for us, who can be against us? Cause us to experience revival in our city and country. Take this country back. May You take this country back.

You have given us authority to do Your will. How can we fail, for You are with us? Our broken vessels need to be filled every day. Fill us today.

We pray for comfort for Louise and Joan as they grieve the loss of their mothers. We pray for aging mothers. Be merciful and gentle. May they have a peace and even an eagerness for their eternal home.

We pray for suffering people around the world. We ask that You would stop such violence. We pray that Your will would be done. We pray for the body of Christ in North Korea and the Sudan.

We pray for Jeremy Ousley and his wife as they contemplate foreign mission service as a vocation.

We pray for Jeff Pelezzari. Cancer has returned. Heal! Give him an extra measure of courage. Rid his body of this. Let Your light shine through him to technicians and nurses and doctors.

May we grab hold of Ken Silva's tools. Guide the Men's Ministry as we consider using EE training with our men. Help the people who were trained in EE n Saturday to actually share their faith by using the hand illustration with someone this week.

May our people see ripe fruit around them at work. May our co-workers be eager and open to receive Your love.

Repair and restore broken marriages here at CVC. Turn the hearts of the husbands and wives toward each other. Defeat Satan who wants to steal, kill, and destroy homes.

We thank You for the wisdom in the heart of Dale Piscura as he teaches prayer. Grow our faith in prayer. Continue to use him in a mighty way to challenge us and teach us. Thank You for the Blackaby book that challenges us not so much with "What Would Jesus Do?" but "What Did Jesus Do?"

Lift up the light of Your face on us. Make Your face to shine on us. Hold us in Your righteous right hand close to Your heart as a shepherd holds his lambs. Bless us indeed. Extend our influence for You. Keep us from harm. Fill us with Your Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit in us and through us. Help us abide in Christ today. May we pray without ceasing, rejoice always, and be thankful in all things.

In Jesus's name, Amen!

Missio Dei - Jesus Sends Help (Week 5, Day 3)

... John 16:7-11 ...

Sometimes, the mission Jesus gave us to share our faith and testify about Him can feel like an insurmountable task. Remember Jesus and His ministry? The world did not want to hear what He had to say. They did not want to believe. They hated Him. They ended up hating Him so much they killed Him. He warned us about them when He said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

So what are we to do? Do we shrink back? Do we go back to bed and pull the covers over our head? Do we keep our mouths shut? Of course not!. Jesus knew the problem. Like always, He had a plan. He sent us a Helper. And oh, what a Helper!

It would seem if Jesus did not have to leave, everything would be fine. If He were here to stand by our side (or we could stand behind Him), then everything would be great. However, while His leaving us might seem like a bad idea at first, He actually went away for our good. Unless He died and went away, the Counselor, the Helper, the Holy Spirit could not come to be with us. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to accomplish our task. We need Him to empower us to testify. We don’t bring conviction. He does (vv. 8-10). We don’t defeat Satan, the ruler of this world. He does (v. 11).

Just as Jesus instructed the early disciples not to leave Jerusalem without the Helper, the gift the Father promised (Acts 1:4), so we too should not go out without the Holy Spirit. However, with the Spirit’s help, we are more than ready. We are more than conquerors. We are unstoppable. And the insurmountable task becomes not only doable, but joyful too!

***
  • How can you actively seek the Holy Spirit to have more control over your life and witness?
  • Since it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict others of sin and to judge the ruler of this world, how will that affect your boldness as a missionary today?
  • What will you do today to glorify and praise God for the Spirit’s work through you?
Prayer ...
I praise You, Father, Son, and Spirit as the one true God. Thank You, Jesus, for knowing my needs and giving me Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for generously calling me to Your work here on earth. Forgive me for not always responding to Your call to action. Fill me and anoint me with the Spirit. Let me see Your Spirit convict others of their need for Christ. Let me see Your Spirit judge the ruler of this world. With Your help I will obediently go where You call, boldly tell the world of You, and give You all the glory.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Missio Dei - Plan Thwarted (Week 5, Day 2)

... Hebrews 2:14-15 ...

It was a classic movie plot. The bad guy comes up with a devious plan to harm lots of people. The bad guy includes a bomb in that plan. The bad guy strategically places bomb in hopes that his evil plan is carried out. The good guy finds bomb and deactivates it just in time (complete with suspenseful music in the background). The bad guy’s plan is thwarted. The bad guy is captured by the good guy and is defeated. Hundreds of movies have been made with some variation of that same plot, but they all seem to be entertaining.

That same plot has also been carried out in the spiritual realm. Satan (the bad guy), comes up with a devious plan to deceive mankind in the Garden of Eden resulting in physical death (Genesis 3). And, if he is not already proud of that accomplishment enough, he then thinks he accomplished killing off the Savior (John 19:30), but his plan is thwarted! Christ rises from the grave and “deactivates” the bomb of death that the devil thinks he has planted (Romans 6:4-11). Here in Hebrews 2 we see the language very clearly. Jesus rendered the devil powerless (v. 14) and delivered us from the fear of death (v. 1).

Knowing all this victory leads us to be on mission for Christ without fear! We know that we have an adversary, we know that he will try to oppose the work of the Lord, but we also know who has won the war and that we do not fight for victory, but that we fight from victory.

***
  • How does knowing that Jesus not only has overcome death, but also the fear of death strengthen and lead you in everyday life?
  • How does the overcoming work of Christ play a factor in how you live on mission and how you share your faith?
  • If the fear of death has been conquered and all other fears pale in comparison to the fear of death, then what is preventing you from living a passionate life on mission in Christ?
Prayer...
I praise You, Jesus, for cconquering death and the fear of death for us. Forgive me for the fear that keeps me from living as Your missionary in this world. Thank You for the power and victory You provided for us. I ask you to help me overcome other fears that may be preventing me from living a life fully devoted to your mission to reach the people around me who need Jesus.

Before Going to Sleep

Below are edited thoughts from Henry Scudder, "Directions on How to End the Day with God," from his book, "The Christian's Daily Walk."

As you take off your clothes to prepare for sleep, remember that you brought nothing into this world and can take nothing from this world. This will bring comfort and perspective to you no matter how much you may lack or how much you may have. This will also give you a contentment in what you now have and kept even if it be little or in what you have had and lost even if it be a lot.

As you lie down, you may want to think about what it might be like to be reclining one day on a death bed. This will promote a sober mind that is focused on preparing for your death day. It will be a reminder that it ought to be the business of every day to prepare for the last day. Who knows when he goes to sleep whether he will wake up again to this life?

It is sinful to let the sun go down on your anger because if you do, it gives the devil special opportunity to gain a foothold in your life. Therefore, do not go to bed angry with a friend or family member. In addition, it is exceedingly wise to deal with all known sin in our lives so as to not allow the devil any other unchecked advantages in seeking to destroy our sanctification.

Remember that if you know Christ and, therefore, pursue holiness out of a sincere faith and if you go to sleep and do not awake on this earth, then you will awake in heaven and will enjoy the treasure you have stored up there. Imagine waking up to see the Savior face to face. What a day that will be!

Fall asleep meditating on heavenly things - on scripture. This will make your sleep more sweet and secure. Your bad dreams will be less and fewer while your good dreams will be more and greater. Your mind will be renewed since you will have been dwelling on what is good and godly. Your heart will be in a better frame when you awake, whether it be in the night or in the morning.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Missio Dei - Satan Falls (Week 5, Day 1)

... Luke 10: 17-20 ...

Whenever we turn our heads, hearts, and hands inside out to care for the least and the lost, we find ourselves engaged in spiritual warfare. We will face demonic and Satanic opposition. The enemy will not easily give up the people held captive through poverty, abuse, lack of education, injustice, or family dysfunctions. The difficulty of the inevitable conflict must not discourage us, though. We go out on mission in Jesus’ name, following His call and operating in His power. In Jesus, people under demonic oppression will be set free. And, this deliverance is always a source of great joy (v. 17a).

When we are sent out by Jesus on mission, we will see Satan’s power over people broken suddenly and decisively (vv. 17b-18). Even though we will face physical and spiritual opposition, we can have the confidence in the authority and the safety that come through Jesus (v. 19a). Nothing can harm us without first going through our loving, wise, and powerful Father’s filter (v. 19b).

Victory in spiritual warfare as we are used by God on mission is truly a source of great joy. However, we should always rejoice more in what God has done for us in our salvation than through us in our ministry (v. 20). We must never forget that we were sinners who deserved the wrath of God. However, God so loved us He sent Jesus to rescue us when He died for our sins and rose for our justification. The grace of God – unmerited favor – must be the source of our greatest joy. That same grace fuels our motivation for mission. What we have received, we freely give.

***
  • Where and how have you seen spiritual opposition take place as you have sought to be more and more missional?
  • When you think about the inevitability of spiritual warfare, what are some things that give you strength, comfort, and hope?
  • How can the fact that Jesus has worked for you in salvation fuel your faith that He will work through you on mission?
Prayer ...
You, Lord Jesus, have already disarmed our spiritual enemies through Your death and resurrection. I know You are victorious, but too often, I have lived like You are losing. I have shirked my responsibility to wage spiritual war by refusing to engage in activities that will set captives free. I ask You to enable me to care for the least and the lost in ways that result in my seeing Satan fall like lightning. So, Jesus, I am Yours. Wage Your spiritual war through me.

Missio Dei - Just Like Jesus (Week 4, Day 5)

... John 12:48-50 ...

Rejection does not feel good. It is especially difficult when we are offering good news to others. Our initial response might be to lash out in anger and hurt, or, perhaps, we attempt to force-feed the truth. Maybe our sadness overwhelms us and causes us to avoid the future possibility of rejection by remaining tight-lipped.

We need to remember that Jesus, Himself, was rejected. Not only can we find comfort in the fact that Jesus understands what we are facing, but we can also see a clear example of His response. Jesus’ mission on earth was not to judge. It was to save (v. 47). Those people who reject Jesus and the gospel will be judged one day (v. 48), but our concern should be the same as Jesus’ concern… speaking exactly what God the Father has commanded us to say and speak (v. 49).

Oh, what joy it is to bring the gospel to one who does accept it! For that soul, it is eternal life (v. 50). To bring good news was Jesus’ mission, and it should be ours as well. The absolute delight of bringing the good news to those whose hearts are ready and willing to hear it is the motivation that brings us to share God’s word with the next person we meet, even after we have been rejected. When we keep our focus on delivering God’s message to a world without hope, we can handle rejection just like Jesus.
 
***
  • When people reject the gospel, how might it help you as a missionary to remember that they are not rejecting you, but are rejecting Jesus? When have you been tempted to judge someone who rejected the gospel? How can it change your perspective to remember that God is the judge?
  • Jesus came to save the world, and He stayed on mission by being obedient to God, His Father. What are some areas of disobedience in your life that are keeping you from living missionally? What are some new ways you can be obedient to God as you reach out to a world without hope?
Prayer ...
Father God, You are holy and worthy to be the final and righteous Judge. Forgive me for the times when I have tried to play the role of judge. Forgive me for the times when I have disregarded Your plan and have chosen to do things my own way. Please show me exactly what to say and speak. Help me to obey You even when facing rejection. I want to be just like Jesus. Let me respond with patience and be motivated by love.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Missio Dei - Rewards and Rejection (Week 4, Day 4)

... Matthew 10:40-41 ...

As missionaries we should be filled with a burning desire to share the good news of salvation with others. We have responded to God’s call. Our desire is to bring as many as we can to receive Christ as Savior. We expect God will honor and bless our work. And He does honor and bless our work according to His promise.

The verses for today, however, also have a sobering flip side. While the verses indicate that people who welcome and respond to the messenger’s message will receive the Kingdom, they also imply some will not welcome the messenger nor respond to the message.

A high school student was horrified to learn of the staggering number of abortions that take place in the U.S. each day. She decided to participate in a church-sponsored national protest called the “Day of Silence for the Unborn”. Participants went to school that day wearing a white shirt and red tape over their mouths. They did not speak to anyone as a symbol of the absence of a voice for the unborn child in the “choice” to end a pregnancy. Her expectation was that everyone would see and understand. Surely God would bless everything she did that day. Some people did see and understand and offered sympathy for the cause. Many others, however, greeted her with total indifference and some with outright disdain and mockery.

So, did God not honor and bless her work? Of course, He did. Some, in fact, were changed by the message that day. And, only God knows the seeds that were planted that day that He will use to accomplish His purposes in someone who heard and rejected the message initially.

What we must remember is that even Jesus Himself was rejected—by His family, His home town, and even His closest friends (John 15:18-21). God expects His people to be prepared to tell others of the hope that is within them (1 Peter 3:15), to understand the cost of following Him (Luke 9:57-62) and faithfully move forward. He will do the rest and, in the process, great blessing comes to the messenger and those who truly hear the message.

***
  • What are two or three things you see as an injustice that would move you to step out for your faith.
  • What risks will you take today to be blessed by God as His messenger?
Prayer ...
Father in heaven, I know that You are in control of all things. Sometimes I am reluctant to do Your will because the cost seems too high for me. Lord, help me today to see that it is more costly not to follow Your will for me. Help me to know that when I follow Your plan You will find a way to use me to advance Your Kingdom and pour out Your blessing upon me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Morning Prayer at CVC - 10/12/11

You are worthy of worship and undivided attention. We are a sinful lot, yet You love us anyway. How could we not worship? You are holy, holy, holy. We cannot make any sense of our creation apart from You. It is beautiful. The baby in our arms are beautiful. We cannot comprehend who You are. You have changed our hearts and told us that You are God. We rest in the truth that the god we worship is alive and perfect, right, and just. You are all we need forever

We are jars of clay. Yet You fill us with treasure. We are chosen ones. That is an incredible thing. Help us move further away from being fans and closer to be more and more passionate followers of You. Give us more ability. Somehow, break down in us what holds us back. Let there be more of You and less of me. May You increase and may we decrease.

Let us be concerned about the destiny of the people we see today. Send us on a mission.

Help us share the lessons, the learning of scripture. We struggle with being open. We struggle with sharing the mission of Jesus and the church. Help me to reach out to others - to people like Jamie, to Colin. To an aunt with cancer.

We pray for the unemployed who need work.

We are weak and fragile and damaged. But pour out the blessing You have placed in us to others. Thank You for the work that needs to be done.

We are frail and weak and unable to do anything apart from You. But You are strong and powerful and able to do anything You wish through us. Be glorified through me to reach others. Help us to proselytize. Help us tell my story and Yours. Thank You for You Holy Spirit's power.

Some have no hope. Bring encouragement. Some haven't heard from You in a long time. Let them hear today.

Bring the children back to You who have wondered from the faith. Bring back the prodigals - the Marks and the Drews of our church. Answer the prayers of Your people, their parents. We pray for the success of campus ministries. May they see changed lives. We pray for administrations

Bring us a person of peace. Let us say a good word for Jesus. People in our church have lost loved ones and are enduring pain and medical procedures. But even in the pain, let them find the persons of peace. We pray against the enemy that keeps us from sharing. Use your Spirit to empower us to bring someone closer to Jesus.

Thank You for the church. Thank you for our leaders. Strengthen. May You always be first. May they always preach and teach the Word. Don't let us be lukewarm.

As grace extends to more and more people may it increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. Do this in NE Ohio at Grace, Christ Community Chapel, Providence E Free, Mt Sinai Baptist, Parma Baptist, Parma Heights Baptist, Gospel House, CVC, Bay Pres, Fellowship Bible, Scranton Road, and others. Send a revival and an awakening to N E Ohio.

Bless the efforts here at CVC to fulfill Your purposes in this generation at this time.

Missio Dei - Occupied (Week 4, Day 3)

... Acts 18:5-11 ...

The Apostle Paul was said to be “…occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.” Paul was following Jesus and teaching others to do the same. However, it was also clear that some people were just not ready to hear what God had to say through Paul. In this situation in Acts, the group was identified as Paul’s own people (the Jews). They opposed him and reviled him.

So, Paul radically shifted his ministry directions in his efforts to connect with other people who would be more receptive. He changed from reaching out to people who were like him, to reaching for people who were repugnant to his people—the Gentiles.

Sometimes, God calls us to follow in unexpected directions. He leads us in ways that are radically different from what we would naturally think. How do we know when He wants us to keep at it with people who are not listening (like the Old Testament prophets)? Or how do we know when should we change our focus, maybe to more receptive people? We must serve both groups. We are to be radically available and bold to do what is pleasing to God no matter what.

One thing is for sure, God has a people and He wants to use us to reach them. Therefore, we must not be afraid. We must not be silent. God is with us. He will protect us. He longs to use us to reach the many in the city who are His people.

***
  • Why do you think God spoke to Paul’s fear in this passage (v. 9)? What are the fears you face when you think about reaching people and living on mission?
  • How can you remind yourself more and more of God’s presence and protection as you purpose to live missionally for Him? What can keep you from seeing that there are many in the city who will respond to the gospel?
Prayer...
Lord, I praise You for being the God who is with me and who will protect me as I live on mission for You. Cleanse me from the fears that keep me sidelined from service and that shut my mouth as a witness. Show me who the responsive people are in my sphere of influence. Give me the grace to persevere in my mission for You. It is your Word that compels me to trust you and move forward.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Missio Dei - Shake It Off (Week 4, Day 2)

... Acts 13:48-52 ...

"What you are teaching will not work here." This response was not quite what the short-term missionary to Bangalore, India was anticipating. The missionary was part of a team of 12 who were seeking to train 30 church leaders on how to start an evangelism-training ministry. This comment was from a man who over time proved to be highly critical. The missionary started to feel discouraged. The next day the missionary found himself at a park with this man and another team member discussing religion with a young Hindu college student. She seemed very intrigued as they shared the gospel and how forgiveness of her sin could only be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. After sharing the gospel, she enthusiastically prayed to receive Christ as her Savior and said, "Thank you so much for coming all the way to India to share such good news with me!" Afterwards, the man who had been critical not only apologized for his attitude, but became one of the most positive and involved participants of the course.

As we live on mission for Christ, moments will come when we experience discouragement, opposition and even persecution. In those moments we just have to shake off the dust and keep pressing on. That action is exactly what we see in today’s reading in Acts 13. As Paul shared the good news of Christ, it had a mixed impact. Some received it and joyfully believed (v. 48), and others were agitated and stirred up opposition (v. 50). However, Paul & Barnabas shook off the dust and pressed on (v. 51), and because they persisted, the Holy Spirit filled them with joy (.v. 52).

***
  • What experiences have you had with discouragement and opposition as you have tried to live and share your faith?
  • In difficult moments when have you abandoned the mission out of discouragement?When have you shaken off the dust and pressed on?
  • At what point should a person shake off the dust from his/her feet and move on?
  • How do you see God supplying you with perseverance and joy as you live on mission for Him?
Prayer...
Father, thank You that the power of the gospel overrides any opposition I encounter or any discouragement that I experience. I acknowledge that I am facing some difficulties in witnessing. Give to me a will to persist and wisdom to know when to "shake the dust off" and move to witness to others. Grant me the joy of seeing others come to accept Christ as Lord through my testimony as I seek to share in His mission.

Missio Dei - It's Not About Us (Week 4, Day 1)

... Luke 10:10-16 ...

When we go on mission, it is our hope that everyone will respond positively to our acts of kindness and to the message of Christ. However, Jesus Himself tells us not everyone will receive us kindly. History confirms it.

Jesus mentions five Jewish communities where opportunities for repentance were presented, but where no repentance occurred. The kingdom of God came near and the King was rejected. Where no repentance occurs, people always perish (Luke 13:3) and judgment always comes. And, that fact should always break our hearts.

When people do not respond well to our acts of kindness and conversations about Jesus, it will hurt. However, we should seek not to take it personally. We must consider they are really rejecting Jesus, not us.

So, what do we do in the face of rejection? We process the hurt with Christ and in community. And then, we simply move on. We keep looking for others—for responsive, repentant people, for the man or woman of peace (Luke 10:6).

Do not miss the promise in this passage. When we do deeds of compassion, some people will want to hear us gladly (v. 16a). And when they hear us, they will actually be hearing Jesus.

***
  • Can you think of a time when someone rejected your efforts to love them and point them to Jesus? How did that make you feel?
  • How did you handle being rejected? What would you do differently?
  • Jesus said, “The one who hears you hears me” (v. 16a). If we are spokespersons for Jesus, how does that influence the ways that we relate and the things that we say?
Prayer...
Truly, Lord, You are a God to be feared. You are a just Judge and we will all stand before You one day and give an account of our lives. Cleanse me for all the times when I have rejected You and have not heard You gladly. As I live my life on mission for You, I ask You to help me handle any rejection with graciousness. Help me be a loving and accurate representative of Jesus so that the ones who hear me hear Him.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Missio Dei - Power to Go From Here to There (Week 3, Day 5)

... Acts 1:6-8 ...

After three years of orientation, training, seeing amazing miracles and now having the opportunity to walk and talk with Jesus, His disciples still did not understand a central theme of Jesus’ teaching. They did not understand His teaching about the kingdom of God—God’s rule. They continued to think of a kingdom that would overthrow the Romans and re-establish the prestige Israel enjoyed under David and Solomon.

Just before ascending, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would empower His disciples to begin as witnesses in Jerusalem outward to the end of the earth. The word, “witnesses” here comes from the word which is brought into English as “martyr.” They were to testify/witness to this kingdom with power in a way that the kingdom of God would be established from Spain, across north Africa, around the northern Mediterranean, and all the way to India in their generation. The influence of this band of unknown, ordinary men and women changed their world.

The empowering Spirit given to this small band is available for us as well. The Spirit’s principal ministry is to testify to Jesus as the Chosen One to establish the kingdom of God. As the early disciples, we are in a similar way called to begin at home in our own Jerusalem and Judea and then to move out to change the world for Christ in our generation. If we will step out in faith, we can help Him change the world.

***
  • What will it take for you to access the power Jesus makes available for His missionaries?
  • What changes need to take place in your life for you to be a witness?
  • What is your Jerusalem? What is your Judea? What is something tangible for you to do to be a witness in your Jerusalem and in your Judea?
Prayer ...
Father, I praise You that You empowered the early disciples to change their world so that I now have received the good news of Your salvation. I acknowledge my reluctance to allow Your power to flow through me to influence others to come into Your Kingdom. Help me to change my mind and commitment to allow You to work in and through me I ask for You to demonstrate Your power through Your Spirit in me as I give myself to You to employ in Your service.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Missio Dei - Go and Make Disciples (Week 3, Day 4)

... Matthew 28:18-20 ....

In the supreme authority given to Jesus by the Father, He sends us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This command is not just an order to preach the gospel; it is a clear directive to make disciples. A disciple of Jesus is simply a follower of Jesus. We are to teach others how to follow Jesus and obey Him in everything He commanded. We all know lots of people who are not following Jesus. Our mission is to win them to Him. Telling is not enough—we must demonstrate how.

Being baptized into the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a symbol of dying to ourselves and being made alive in Christ. Every disciple is called to lay down his/her life, take up her/his cross and follow Jesus. Following Jesus simply means following His example and living like He would. He was obedient to the Father and submissive to the Father’s will, even unto death. In the same way we are called to be obedient followers of Jesus Christ.

The word “go” in Matthew 28:19 might best be translated as a participle, “as you are going.” The implication is that anywhere we go we are to see ourselves as disciple-makers. It is our constant calling. It is to be our lifestyle.

Jesus gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to go before us, counsel us, remind us and empower us to fulfill these commands. With these verses in mind we can no longer use our weaknesses as an excuse for not making disciples of Jesus. We have the presence, power and authority of God Himself to do this mission. Jesus promised—“I am with you always, to the end of the age”.

***
  • What difference does it make for you to know that the Lord Himself has given you the authority to make disciples?
  • What are the excuses you most often use to keep you from making disciples of Jesus?
  • What would you say to a person who claims that this mission of God to make disciples is optional?
Prayer...
Lord, Jesus, I praise You for having all the authority in heaven and on earth. Lord, forgive me for looking at myself and my own weaknesses instead of Your power and Your promise to be with me always. I want You to use me to make more and better disciples for You! Please help me make Your commission my life’s mission.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Missio Dei - Humbled, Appointed, and Sent (Week 3, Day 3)

... Acts 26:16-18 ...

We are often filled with pride that keeps us from seeing the harmful effects of our wrongdoing. Our pride powerfully blinds us no matter what our age, gender, career, friendships, or situation. Like Paul in Acts 26, we desperately need God to intervene and set us straight. It really is better to be humbled before we try to help others see the light.

In the passage from Acts noted above, the biblical author is Luke. About 2,000 years ago, he was historically reporting on the Apostle Paul’s trial for treason with great detail. Luke recounts Paul’s courtroom drama. The most dramatic scene involves Paul’s testimony of meeting Jesus face to face. Simply stated, Paul was humbled. Then he was commissioned to be a missionary. His eyes were opened and he was then appointed to tell people about having their eyes opened too through faith in Christ. Jesus alone can forgive sins and save from the power of Satan.

In spite of Paul’s being humbled, he was unashamed of the calling he received. We, too, are to rise and stand. We, too, are to be servants and witnesses. We, too, are being sent by Jesus to open eyes so that people in our sphere of influence may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins (v. 18).

***
  • How might you need to be humbled by God? What would the bottom line evidence be that God has opened your eyes?
  • Before meeting Christ, Paul worked hard at persecuting Christians. How has God changed the focus of your life’s direction? Who will benefit from your calling?
  • Who do you know whose eyes are currently closed and what kind act might you perform for them while asking God to open their eyes?
Prayer:
Lord, I praise You because You are the One who opens the eyes of the heart. Cleanse me of my pride that keeps me from participating in Your mission in this world. Help me to see Jesus and humbly receive the message that He would speak to and through me. Burden my heart for those around me who are blind to the truth about You. By your strength, help me see others turn from darkness to light and receive forgiveness of their sins.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Planning a loving funeral

Our staff has put together a wonderful resource for funeral planning. To see the entire booklet, click here: http://cvconline.org/images/uploads/funeralplanning.pdf

15 things to pray for your church to be effective


Perry Noble is a pastor in South Carolina. A few years ago, he wrote a blog post entitled "15 signs that a church is in trouble." You can read it here. I have adpated his article and created a list of things for us to pray about at CVC (or your church).

***

May we not make excuses about the way things are. Instead, may we embrace a willingness to roll up our sleeves and fix the problem.


May our church not become content with merely receiving people that come. May we actually go out and find them. May we not lose our passion for evangelism!

May our focus not be to build a great church for our own glory. Instead, may we focus on building the Kingdom of God.

May we never begin to settle for the natural rather than rely on the supernatural.

May we not view success or failure in regards to how we are viewed in the church world. May we be focused on actually fulfilling the Great Commission.

May the leaders within the church always be coachable.

May we not lose a sense of urgency! (Help us see that hell is hot, sin is wrong, the cross is necessary, and Jesus is the only way.)

May the Word of God and prayer be central in every decision that is made.
Help us be proactive rather than reactive.

May we never lose sight of the next generation. May we never refuse to fund ministry simply because we don’t value children, youth, and young adults.

May our goal not ever be to simply maintain the way things are. May we be willing to rock the boat.

May we always be willing to take steps of faith - to take risks for the sake of the gospel.

May we always care about the obvious and immediate needs that exist in the community around us. May we always be living out our lives on mission.

May we never depend on one man to minister to everyone. Rather, may everyone embrace their role in the body and equip/enable the body to care for itself.

May the leaders and staff never refuse to go the extra mile in leading and serving. May the leaders and staff be willing to do what's “inconvenient” to nuture and grow the body of Christ.

***

Would you join me in praying this (and more) for CVC? What would you add to these prayers?

Missio Dei - Living it out - Weeks 1-3

I am encouraged that many CVCers are seeking to apply what we are learning each weekend in our Missio Dei series. Below are weeks 1-3 suggested "Living it out" activities. Why not try one or more of these activities? Let's be doers of the word and not hearers only.

***

Week 1

Have a cross-cultural experience—eat at an ethnic restaurant, go to a secular lecture, attend a different kind of church, participate in a festival, etc.


Come up with a creative way to meet some of your neighbors you have not met yet.

Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know—at the grocery store, church, coffee shop, etc. (It’s not as scary as it seems.)

If you do not know your local barista, bank teller, or waitress, start frequenting the same businesses and employees with the intention of building relationships.
 
Week 2
 
Set an alarm for 10:02 every day to remind you to pray according to Luke 10:2.


Partner up with friends to prayer walk your neighborhood, a mall, or a park. Ask God to show you the needs in your community. How might God want to use you to meet those needs?

If one thing could be done in your neighborhood to let people know you care for them what would it be? Do that one thing this week.

Who is hurting that God has put on your heart? Who is far from God that God has put on your heart? Pray for them every day during the Missio Dei series.
 
Week 3
 
What is an interest or a hobby you’ve always wanted to pursue? Get started. In the process, start building relationships with some of the new people you meet.


Strike up a conversation with a stranger—talk about family, the weather, gas prices, etc.

Who are the people of peace in your sphere of influence? Find a way to bless 3 of them this week.

Begin planning a party for week 5. This party/event should be a connection point for family members and friends who are in need of the gospel.

Missio Dei - Announcing the Mission (Week 3, Day 2)

... Luke 4:16-19 ...

Do you remember the feeling of making that big announcement? I got the job! We are getting married! We are having a baby! I was accepted to that college! I am buying a house! Whenever we share great news, we like the element of surprise and love the congratulations from people we know and love.

Jesus was making His big announcement. It is one of the most subtle, yet significant scenes in the pages of the Bible. All eyes are fixed on Jesus. He is in the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth. The unsuspecting people see Him merely as the son of a local carpenter. They witness Him read from the beginning of Isaiah 61 about the ministry of the future Messiah. He then sits down and claims to be the fulfillment of that prophecy and in doing so communicates that He is the long awaited Savior of the world.

You could probably hear a fly buzzing on a camel outside! No standing ovation or high fives… just astonishment and eventually anger. However, it did not faze Jesus. He was on a mission to fulfill His purpose. He has a special mission to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed (v.18). And, what is exciting for us is we get to join Him on that mission!
 
***
  • What are some things that keep the Holy Spirit from empowering you to live on mission like Jesus?
  • When you think of serving the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed in your community or city, what specific activities come to mind?
  • What excites you and/or terrifies you about verbally proclaiming the good news to those who haven’t yet embraced Christ as Savior and Lord?
Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I praise You that the Spirit of God was so obviously upon You. Your ministry of this earth clearly impacted the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Forgive me for quenching and grieving Your Spirit and, as a result, not caring for those who are in need. May the Holy Spirit’s power work in me and through me as I live on mission. Today, I purpose to join You in Your mission. Help me proclaim the good news and point others to the freedom and healing found in Christ.

Missio Dei - Persons of Peace (Week 3, Day 1)

... Luke 10:3-9 ...

Jesus gave His followers specific instructions for their initial mission trip. While some of the specific instructions will differ for us, the same principles apply to us today.

When we join Jesus in His mission, we can count on some of the people in our circle of influence to be antagonistic. We are, after all, “lambs among wolves” (v. 3), but we must never forget that we will also find “persons of peace” (v. 6).

How do we find the persons of peace? We do deeds of compassion. We care for the sick and bring the justice, mercy, and hope of the Kingdom wherever and however needed (v. 9).

A person of peace can be from any walk of life. He or she will be someone who will want to enter into authentic relationship with us. As we seek for ways to befriend and serve the person of peace, he or she will welcome us, listen to us, help us, and even, perhaps, support us in some way.

Once we find a person of peace, we can begin to focus our deeds of kindness for him or her. We act with no strings attached, of course. However our ultimate aim is to help that person enter into a personal relationship with Jesus. When the person of peace comes to faith in Christ, we may even see this person influence his or her entire family and the community for Jesus’ sake.

***
  • How can we as “lambs in the midst of wolves” find protection when we encounter opposition?
  • What are some signs that someone you know might be a person of peace? Write down the names of 2-3 people you know who might be persons of peace.
  • What deeds of compassion will you do for one or two of these people?
Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are a missionary God, the One who sends us out as lambs among wolves. At times, I have been unwilling to be sent because I have focused on my own comforts and security. Please grant to me the obedience to do deeds of compassion so that I might find persons of peace. Help me to win them to You and watch You transform families and communities. Today, Lord, I am Yours.

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