Saturday, December 31, 2011

12 questions to make 2012 New Year's resolutions

We all need to make changes if we are going to experience deeper foundations in 2012. We all need to stop doing some things that limit our passion and to start doing some things that will enhance the possibility of God deepening our lives. We must clearly answer the “who, what, why, when, where, and how” questions when it comes to making changes.

Look at your calendar and schedule an hour to put your plan together. Make an appointment for yourself to be alone with God, maybe in the morning or in the evening.

Spend an hour reflecting and praying. It may be helpful for you to think in these five categories: spiritual, relational, intellectual, emotional, and physical. Do an honest self-assessment. Ask God to reveal the answer to this question: What changes do I most need to make in order to experience a life of passion?

12 for 2012: 12 Spiritual growth plan questions for 2012

1. What do you most regret about last year and what will you do to change things this year?

2. What is the biggest time-waster in your life and what will you do about it this year?

3. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say and what will you do about it?

4. What will you read and memorize in scripture this year?

5. What books, CDs, and podcasts will you learn from this year?

6. What promises (see Isaiah 40-66) do you need to claim/blessings do you need to seek from God in prayer this year? (What is the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?)

7. How will you deepen your prayer life this year – crying out for personal, corporate, and community revival?

8. Who most needs your encouragement/mentoring this year and how will you go about doing this for them?

9. What are some changes you will make to improve the quality of your family life this year?

10. How will you live out “Missio Dei”, joining God in His mission to bless the broken and heal the hurting so that others will come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord? (For example, implement the “One Year, One Person, One Soul” prayer and outreach strategy.)

11. How will you grow in your generosity to your church and other ministries this year? (Think priority giving – Matthew 6:33; percentage giving – Malachi 3:8-10; and progressive giving – II Peter 3:18).

12. Who will hold you accountable to implement your spiritual growth plan?

Write down your plan. Call them goals. Call them “foundational practices for a passionate life.” Call them whatever you want; but be realistic. Don’t set the bar so high that you end up discouraged if you should fail.

Once you come up with your plan, write it down. Keep it visible.

Share your plan with your family and with your Community Group. Find an accountability partner. Then beg God to build your foundations deeper in 2012.

CVC's 2012 Bible Reading Plan:

Welcome to a journey, a trip through the most famous and well-read book of all – the Bible. For 2012 CVC has selected a condensed chronological Bible reading plan for our time together in God's Word.

Today's typical Bible is actually in "canonical" order, grouped together based on the literary style of the book, such as law, history, poetry and prophecy.

But by following a chronological plan, we read through Scripture following a thread closer to the actual order of events and content. For example, you might find yourself reading about King David in 1 Samuel followed by one or two Psalms that he wrote during that timeline.

This is also a condensed Bible reading plan, meaning not every Bible verse will be read. Portions of scripture that cover great detail such as genealogies, temple measurements, or repeat accounts are not included. Of course, you are welcome to read those passages, but these were omitted to keep the plan on a one year track.

Finally, this is also a 6 day reading plan, so each week has one free or catch up day provided. You can get your hands on the plan at the church info center or online. We trust that you will be blessed by the richness of consistently reading through God’s Word! Don't forget to include times of unhurried prayer and journaling as you spend time with the Lord.

Just to get you started, below is January's reading. You can pick up the full year's plan at CVC this weekend.

January 1 Genesis 1:1-2:4

January 2 Genesis 2:5-3:24

January 3 Genesis 4:1- 5:3

January 4 Genesis 6, 7

January 5 Genesis 8, 9

January 6 Genesis 11, 12

January 7 Free/Catch Up Day

January 8 Genesis 13, 14

January 9 Genesis 15:1-17:14

January 10 Genesis 17:15–18:33

January 11 Genesis 19, 20

January 12 Genesis 21

January 13 Genesis 22, 23

January 14 Free/Catch Up Day

January 15 Genesis 24

January 16 Genesis 25

January 17 Genesis 27, 28

January 18 Genesis 29, 30

January 19 Genesis 31, 32

January 20 Genesis 33, 34

January 21 Free/Catch Up Day

January 22 Genesis 35

January 23 Genesis 37, 38

January 24 Genesis 39, 40

January 25 Genesis 41, 42

January 26 Genesis 43, 44

January 27 Genesis 45, 46

January 28 Free/Catch Up Day

January 29 Genesis 47, 48

January 30 Genesis 49

January 31 Genesis 50

Should Christians make New Year's Resolutions?

Over the years, I have met Christians who don't believe in making resolutions. In fact, I have met believers who say they don't believe in planning. They say it "quenches the Spirit." They want to be free, to be free to flow, to be free to respond. They often see themselves as the super spiritual ones. They say that the most spiritual approach to life is to simply seek to keep in step with the Spirit. 

These very people often love to quote God's promise in Jeremiah. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). They reason this way: "Since God has good plans for me, then I will just trust Him and His plan. I don't need to plan. I will wait and watch His plan unfold." 

These people are often highly critical of other believers who plan. They say, "Human planning is a big part of our problem. We have planned the Holy Spirit right out of our lives, our churches, our worship services, and our ministries." They often bounce from churches and ministries that seek structure and order.

But I say, "Believers, read your Bibles a bit more carefully!" God's word commends planning. Here are a few verses that promote planning.

1. Plan from the heart. "May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans" (Psalm 20:6)!

2. Plan in community with wise counsel from others. "Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22).

3. Plan prayerfully. "Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established" (Proverbs 16:3).

4. Plan strategically to win. "Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war" (Proverbs 20:18).

5. Plan and then work hard. "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5).

It's very true that when we plan, we must remember that God reserves the right to overrule our plans. "The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples" (Psalm 33:10). It's when we are moving that God can steer us in the direction He chooses to be best for our lives.

Ultimately, it is God's plan that matters, not ours. "The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11). "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9). "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21). When God leads us in a path not of our own choosing, we must embrace it submissively. Father knows best.

But don't forget that God Himself is a planner. Planning is part of who He is. Remember Jeremiah 29:11. Isaiah prays, "O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure (Isaiah 25:1). Since we are created in God's image and are to seek to be godly, then we should be planners, too. 

Planning is supremely spiritual, even God-like, contrary to what some super-spiritualists might want us to believe. 

How do we plan in ways that are different from the world's way of planning? In II Corinthians Paul asks a rhetorical question, "Do I make my plans according to the flesh" (II Corinthians 1:17b)? The answer is "no." Paul plans. But he does so according to the Spirit. God best works out His plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) when we plan with Him, in Him, and for Him. 

Make plans, people! But make plans by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

So, should Christians make New Year's resolutions? Yes. Call them resolutions. Call them goals. Call them intentions. Call them aims. Call them plans. But make them - by the Spirit and not by the flesh. 

And make them, not only on the New Year. But every day, every week, every month, and every year. 

"He who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands" (Isaiah 32:8).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The top three posts for December 2011

I didn't do much blogging in December, but it's always interesting to me to see what readers find interesting. Here are the top 3 posts on my blog for December.

1. Jesus, Tim Tebow, and Saturday Night Live

2. Getting salvation for Christmas

3. Dangerous leaders


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

7 - no, make that 8 - ways to help reach every tribe and language and people and nation

Notice what (rather, who) is on the heart of Christ. Why did He come to die and shed His blood? Hint: Look carefully at the word "every" in these passages from the book of Revelation.

[Jesus], You were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
Revelation 5:9b-10

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelations 7:9-10

Jesus came from heaven to earth and died on the cross to save some from every tribe and language and people and nation. This was and is His aim. This was and is the result of His sacrifice.

How then can I not be fully committed to the same mission? How can I not care about world mission since Jesus cares about reaching some in every culture? How can I stay lukewarm and uninformed about reaching the unevangelized, unreached people groups (UUPGs) of the world since Jesus bled and died for them? Since Jesus sacrificed His blood for people in every tribe, how can I be non-sacrificial and uninvolved in seeking to reach the world for Christ? 

The Joshua Project reports, "The great emphasis in many parts of the world, especially during the last 20 years, on reaching the unreached has led church leaders in many continents to believe that great progress has been made. Yes, some progress has been made. Yet, 25-28% of the world still has little access to the Gospel. Christians still give only about 1% of our money to Christian causes. Of this money given to Christian causes, 95% is spent on the Church. Less than 1% is used to reach 28% of the world. Only 2-4% of Christian cross-cultural witnesses serve this 28%."

We can do better than this. I can do better than this. And by God's grace, I will. Will you?

What can we do? Here are 7 suggestions for reaching every tribe and language and people and nation.

1. Pray for the gospel to penetrate every people group.
2. Become informed by regularly visiting world mission websites.
3. Encourage your church to adopt an UUPG.
4. As an individual or as a family, adopt an UUPG yourself.
5. Pray for specific needs God lays on your heart.
6. If possible, go on a short term mission trip to the UUPG.
7. Ask God if He wants you to become a career missionary.
8. To reach UUPGs right where you live and to gain cross cultural experience, serve in a local ministry that is seeking to reach international students.

My friend, Tom Wright of NE Ohio's International Friends, writes, "When we think of missions, we tend to think 'over there' - over the horizon on other continents. But those 'over there' have come 'over here.' There are more than 80 countries represented on the campuses of Cleveland's colleges and universities... They need friends. They are away from the influence of culture and family and more open to exploring spiritually. We don't have to get a passport, a plane ticket or malaria shots. When someone thinks that he may be called to missions, this is a great way to clarify that call. It is also a great way to get training, experience, and confidence in cross-cultural ministry. We provide all of that at no cost."

It has been said that the Great Commission has been turned into the Great Suggestion. May it never be!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus has all authority over all disciples to reach all nations to teach them all He has commanded. So, let's get busy. He will be with us always.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting salvation for Christmas

On that first Christmas, the shepherds came to Christ to get. And so can we. We can come to Christ to get.

The best way to get from Christ is through prayer. We come to Him and ask for what we need. Why not try this prayer this Christmas? "This Christmas, Lord, I am coming to You to get. Please give me more salvation." This prayer comes from the Christmas story found in Luke 2:11.

I once asked a rather sophisticated lady in Brecksville, “Are you sure that you are saved?” Her body language made it obvious that she didn’t like the question. She assumed a kind of cocky posture and asked, “Saved from what?” Maybe it was her apparent worldly success that cultivated pride. It wasn’t even on her radar screen that she needed to be saved.

It must have been on the shepherds' radar screen, though. Remember what the angel said to the shepherds?

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11, ESV).

A Savior. We need to be saved. If we didn't need to be saved, God woulkd not have sent a Savior.

I’ve found that people who are uncomfortable with a question like, “Are you saved?” usually are not saved. We live in a world that mostly tells us that we should not feel guilt. The world says, “However you want to live is OK as long as you don’t hurt anybody.” Many people don’t understand the need to be saved.

But I think the question from that lady in Brecksville (“Saved from what?”) is really a pretty good question. And Christmas answers that question.

Salvation is precisely why Jesus came into this world. Joseph’s fiancĂ©, Mary, became pregnant. She said that she was still a virgin. And Joseph didn’t buy it. So, God sent an angel to encourage Joseph to go through with his marriage to Mary, Jesus’ mother. Here’s what the angel said to him. Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has been faithful to you. This is a miraculous birth.

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

He came to save us. Save us from what? Look at the verse. From sins.

Theologians sometimes talk about the tenses of salvation. Salvation can be past, present, and future.

The past tense of salvation.

We have been saved from the penalty of sin. The Bible word for this is justification.

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 (Romans 3:23-24, ESV).

Think about the name of that little baby on that first Christmas. His name is Jesus. The Hebrew version is “Yeshua.” It literally means “the LORD saves.” Christmas is all about salvation.

This is good news. Why? Because everyone in this room sins. We break God’s law. And since He’s a just judge, He must judge all who sin.

The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The Bible says, “The wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6).

All this means that means we need a Savior.

Some of us have done things we don’t want anyone to know about. The past is dark and ugly. Maybe that’s you. You’re weighed down with guilt. You need to come to Christ to get.

You have been saved from the penalty of sin and that frees you from guilt. That’s the past tense of salvation.

And there’s the present tense of salvation.

We have not only been saved from the penalty of sin, we are being saved from the power of sin. The Bible word for this is sanctification.

For by a single offering [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14, ESV).

To be sanctified is to be made holy. Over time, Jesus saves us increasingly from the power of sin. Now, we often look in the mirror and we don’t like what we see. And we are filled with shame. But the present tense of salvation – sanctification – means that over time we sin less and less. The irritable person becomes more patient. The harsh person becomes more gentle. The greedy person becomes more generous. The selfish person becomes more of a servant. We become more and more holy.

He saves us from the power of sin. Although we will struggle with sin until the day we die, He saves us from selfishness, materialism, and worldliness. He saves us from anger and jealousy. He saves us from addictions to work and food and pornography and sex and drugs and alcohol. He saves us from the power of sin.

Some of us look in the mirror everyday and we don’t like what we see. We don’t like who we’ve become. We don’t like our looks. We’re embarrassed about our jobs, our families, our failures. Maybe that’s you. You’re living with constant shame. You need to come to Christ to get.

You are being saved from the power of sin and that frees you from shame. That’s the present tense of salvation.

And there’s the future tense of salvation.

We have not only been saved from the penalty of sin and we are not only being saved from the power of sin. We will be saved from the presence of sin. The Bible word for this is glorification.

We suffer with [Jesus] in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:17b-18, ESV).

We may be suffering, but glory is coming! Glorification is the final step in our salvation. When we die or when Christ returns, we will be changed. There will be no more pain, sorrow, suffering, or sin. We’ll be changed. We’ll be like Christ.

One day, when we see Him face to face, we’ll be free from the fight against temptation. In heaven, we’ll be finally and fully free from the things about us that we hate so much here.

Some of us are facing life-threatening illness. Some of us have buried people we love recently. We wonder, “What really happens after we die?” Maybe that’s you. You’re living with a fear of the future. You need to come to Christ to get.

We’ll be saved from the very presence of sin in heaven forever. And that frees us from fear. That’s the future tense of salvation.

Come to Christ to get. To get what? Salvation. in all its tenses. Pray. Start today. Say, "This Christmas, Lord, I am coming to You to get. Please give me more salvation. Save me from the penalty, the power, and the presence of sin. I am coming to You to get!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Turning Christmas Upside Down

What if we turned Christmas “upside down” so we can celebrate it “right side up?”

We know Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and that He’s the point of Christmas. But we also know He gets covered up with shopping and wrapping and food and parties. All the clutter of Christmas covers up Christ.

Let's turn Christmas upside down so that Jesus is not only prominent, but preeminent.

Usually when we go to church during this time of the year, we learn that Christmas is about giving, not getting. Kids are going to go back to school after the holidays and the big question will be, “What did you get for Christmas?” A better question is, “What did you give for Christmas?”

We look in Matthew 2 at the story of the wisemen. They gave Jesus the gift of worship. A great question for us is to ask Christ at Christmas, “Jesus, what do You want from me for Your birthday?”

To turn Christmas upside down, it’s giving over getting. Right? How are you doing with that?

But let's keep on turning Christmas “upside down” so we can live it “right side up.” And this time, think about how important it is not to focus on giving over getting, but to focus on getting over giving. Confused?

Think of it this way: We have to come to Christ to get things money can’t buy and death can’t take away. It's actually the foundation for giving over getting.

And you can see this in Luke 2, the story about the shepherds and the birth of Jesus.

I love the fact that the shepherds got the first birth announcement. This tells us something about the heart of God for the last, the least, and the lost. The shepherds weren’t powerful or influential. In fact, they were looked down on by the religious leaders. It was hard for the shepherds to keep up with the Jewish ritual washings and all the ceremonial rules. Taking care of the sheep meant they were dirty and smelly. The birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord, was announced first to common, simple, hard-working people. I love that.

And when they heard about the birth of Jesus, they decided to come to Christ to get.

On one level, the shepherds, like the wisemen went to give – to give worship. But on another level, the shepherds went to get – to get something from God that only He could give them. They came to Christ to get. And they found something they didn’t have. They found something for their guilt, shame, fear, sorrow, and worry.

And we need to come to get, too. See, when it comes to our relationship with God, we have to remember that He is a Giver – the ultimate Giver. For God so loved the world that He gave… For unto us a Son is given… Every perfect gift comes from above… God is a Giver.

That means we are getters. We have to be. Even when we give we have to remember that we can only give because God first gave to us.

So, when the angels appeared to the shepherds on that first Christmas, they were inviting the shepherds to come to Christ to get.

When we come to God we must come thirsty. The Bible teaches us that we must come to Christ to get. "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:2a, ESV). "O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You" (Psalm 63:1a, ESV). "Jesus... cried out, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink'" (John 7:37b, ESV).

Our problem is that we don’t come to God to get enough. We aren’t thirsty enough for God. So, we fill up our lives with things food and drink and news and clutter and sex and drugs and recreation and entertainment and work and technology and noise and music that don’t satisfy.

We need to come to Christ to get, not give. This Christmas, will you come thirsty? Will you come to Christ to get?

See, it's when we get not give that we have divine resources to give not get.

Related posts:

Remaining centered this Christmas

Christmas and spiritual warfare

Christmas and justice

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jesus, Tim Tebow, and Saturday Night Live

Be praying, not pouting about the firestorm surrounding Tim Tebow. And don't start hating on the Tebow-haters out there.

Yesterday, I saw the skit Saturday Night Live did about Tim Tebow.

The Chicago Tribune reported, "The skit, which has racked up millions of online views since it aired on NBC Saturday night, depicts Jesus, in sweat socks, appearing inside the Denver Broncos' locker room via a cloud and a heavenly shaft of light. His message to Tebow? Ease up on all the Jesus stuff."

In the skit, Tebow is being encouraged to "lighten up" when it comes to Jesus. And Jesus is presented as less than an awe-inspiring, holy God.

So, how should believers' respond? Personally, I am not worried about the reputation of Tim Tebow. He seems to be the kind of person who is not particularly bothered by criticism, who doesn't take himself too seriously, and who has an ability to laugh at himself. I am even less worried about the reputation of Jesus Christ.

Tim Tebow's reputation in the eyes of the world is in good hands. The scripture says, "No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17, ESV). God Himself will vindicate Tebow.

It's true that SNL gave viewers a depreciating depiction of Jesus in His humanity. But we need not be particularly bothered by that. Again, the reputation of Jesus is in good hands. The scripture says, "God has highly exalted [Jesus] and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11, ESV). The very people who minimize the reverence due to Jesus will one day bow down to Him and call Him Lord.

Why does the Father exalt Jesus and defend His reputation in this way? The scripture says, "Though [Jesus] was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8, ESV). The One who died to save us from our sins deserves our highest praise. And He will indeed get the highest praise from God the Father and from everyone else.

So, what should be our response to SNL's skit about Jesus and Tim Tebow?

Pray.

My encouragement is for us to pray for Tim Tebow. He is truly a target for the enemies of our faith. When He is mocked and ridiculed, so, in a sense, are all believers. We share in one another's victories and sufferings. We "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15, ESV).

Tebow's simple, straightforward approach to faith and football inspires me. His hard work on and off the field and his hope in the Lord on and off the field are worthy of our respect and imitation. Tebow is leveraging his influence for Jesus and is doing lots of charitable work, including supporting his dad's evangelistic association and building a hospital for children in the Philippines. Let's pray that he maintains his testimony and missional living.

And let's pray for Tim Tebow detractors, too. Railing against Tebow's critics is not helpful. We can't win the people that we repel with our words. As we live on mission in our world, we should never be surprised at the subtle and the not-so-subtle forms that persecution takes.

We should not be surprised when the world takes shots at Jesus and His followers. Jesus predicted what is happening to Tebow, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (John 15:18-21, ESV).

We should pray for all people - even Tebow-bashers - everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Why? God Himself wants all people - even the SNL producers, writers, actors, and fans - to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4). Their eyes are now veiled to the truth.

But I truly believe that one day some of the Jesus-mockers and Tebow-detractors will see the beauty and glory of Jesus. "When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed... And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (II Corinthians 3:16, 18, ESV).

Be praying, not pouting about the firestorm surrounding Tebow.

And if you want to see a great video about the real Tim Tebow on game day, check him out with an on-field microphone against the Bears.



Related posts:

Tim Tebow's Superbowl ad

Honoring Jesus Christ: Tim Tebow's Heisman Award

Monday, December 12, 2011

Three graces from God for leaders

Often in scripture, we see a description of the blessing of God in the lives of leaders described this way: "The hand of the Lord was on him."

Every leader should want to experience the hand of God on his or her life. It means that God is doing for that leader what cannot be explained in human terms. Something supernatural is happening.

I want that for me. And for you.

One place we see this phrase is in Ezekiel 37.

"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones" (Ezekiel 37:1, ESV).

In fact, in this verse, we see three graces from God for leaders. What every spiritual leader should want are these three gifts of God.

1. I want God's hand on me to bless. (The hand of the Lord was upon me, 37:1a.)

2. I want God's Spirit in me to fill. (He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, 37:1b.)

3. I want God's place for me to serve. (He brought me out... and set me down in the middle of the valley, 37:1c.)

Here are some probing questions observations:

Is God's hand upon me to bless? In Ezra's life, the good hand of God was upon him. Why? Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord (investigation), to practice it (application), to teach it to others in Israel (explanation) (Ezra7:9-10). This is the way to experience the hand of God's blessing in your life and ministry.

Is God's Spirit within me in control? In Ephesians 5 we learn to not get drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Spirit. In Galatians we learn not to walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. We are not to grieve the Spirit. We are not to quench the Spirit.

Am I serving in the place God has sovereignly designed for me? Success in ministry is often tied to being a good fit for the ministry context.

All these things were true for Ezekiel and God was able to use him in a profound way to bring about revival for his people.

As leaders, we must never fail to seek God - to seek His hand for blessing, His Spirit for filling, and His place for serving.

Perhaps the folowing prayer expresses the desire of your heart. If so, pray it!
"Lord, You are absolutely the only Source for successful ministry. I seek repentance for all the times when I have sought to minister apart from Your hand of blessing, apart from Your Spirit filling me, and apart from a specific assignment from You. Give me grace to seek You, Lord, for all this. And as I do so, may You bring life to the dead bones in me and around me. Bring a revival in me and to Your people through me. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Related posts:

Lifting the leadership lid

Do more. Slow down.

Try easier.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pitfalls of being a senior pastor

Ron Edmondson posted what follows on his blog. If you want to know what some unique issues might be for your senior pastor so that you might pray for him more effectively, then read on. As a man who has been a senior pastor for over 25 years, I know that I have experienced many of these pressures. Please pray for me and for your senior pastor.

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Here are 10 “secrets” about many senior pastors:

Leading from this position is overwhelming at times. We know Christ is ultimately in charge, but we also know it often seems everyone looks to us to have all the answers.

People tell the senior pastor all kinds of things about what is happening in their life or in the lives of others…many we would rather not know sometimes… and sometimes the weight of others problems we carry is enormous.

Most pastors walk with a degree of uncertainty, which keeps us in prayer, but also makes us question our abilities at times. It makes depression common for many senior pastors. (Need a Biblical example? See 1 Kings 19)

Many senior pastors fear the possibility of failing in their role, so they thrive on the encouragement and prayers of others.

Sometimes we allow insecurity to cause us to become overprotective of our reputation and our position.

We face the same temptations and occasional spiritual dryness as everyone else. This means we need accountability, but are often afraid to seek it.

Our spouse is sometimes the loneliest person in the church and often feels extreme pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Loneliness can exist for all leaders and many pastors suffer from it.

We seldom know who we can trust, which is why we become guarded and appear hard to get to know. Most senior pastors have been burned by someone they once trusted.

We suspect the staff, church leaders and congregation sometimes talks about us behind our back.

Granted, not every pastor faces each of these, (that’s why I said “many”) and I happen to be in an extremely healthy church, but even still, some of these are real for me at times. Other pastors, for reasons on this post, will not want you assuming these things about them. In talking with dozens of senior pastors each year, I know this is a representative list for “many”.

Senior pastors find joy in our work and, thankfully, most of us know we are in the center of God’s will vocationally. I don’t intend to take anything away from that in this post. We serve in a called position, so we are doing what we have been asked of God to do. When I share any post like this, however, I have come to expect a lecture on the need to depend on Christ for these issues, which only further demonstrates my points further.

Senior pastors are to fully rely on Christ’s strength, as is every other believer. This is just a reminder that we happen to also be like Elijah… ”a man just like us” (James 5:17).

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Related posts:

Praying for your pastor

Leadership Lessons: Avoiding Burnout

Questions for spiritual leaders

Friday, December 09, 2011

Dangerous leaders

Dangerous Leaders

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:42-45

I have often observed that people lose discernment around gifted leaders, even (and especially) around Christian leaders. They get caught up in the leader's vision, giftedness, passion, and apparent authenticity. They will, many times, ignore the creeping, advancing signs of manipulation and selfishness. 

I see an illustration of this in the classic novel Moby Dick. 

In this novel, we meet Captain Ahab, a man obsessed with killing the white sperm whale, Moby Dick, that once took off his leg. Ahab's obsession makes him a dangerous leader.

In one of the later chapters, the Pequod, Ahab's whaling ship is on the open sea and is on the hunt for the great while whale. The Pequod meets another ship, the Rachel. The Rachel’s captain explains that three of his boats were hunting a group of whales when Moby Dick was sighted. They lowered their spare boat, which set off in pursuit of Moby Dick.

When the other boats went to look for the spare boat, it was nowhere to be seen. The men of the Rachel found white water, suggesting that the whaling boat crew had harpooned Moby Dick, but he dragged them rapidly away. The ship has been on the lookout for its missing boat ever since.

The captain of the Rachel asks Ahab if the Pequod will help search for the missing men. It's an unusual request. The men of the Pequod guess that there was something or someone especially valuable on board that missing boat.

The Rachel’s captain admits that his own son is on the missing boat and begs Ahab to help, even just for a day. He offers to charter the ship and pay for their help. He appeals to Ahab based on his knowledge that Ahab himself has a son. He begs, "Please do for me what I know you would want someone to do for you! Help me find my son!"

But Ahab refuses to help because  he doesn’t want to lose any time in hunting Moby Dick. Ahab goes back into his cabin while the other captain Gardiner returns silently to his ship. As the ship sails away, the men on the Pequod can see the Rachel moving slowly back and forth along the water in the distance, searching for the missing boat and the captain's lost son.

How sad. How selfish. How foreboding of worse things to come. And how dangerous for the crew.

A dangerous leader often fails to show passion for anything other than his own mission. He shows compassion, but it's often directed to others if they can help the leader fulfill his cause. A dangerous leader is a servant leader as long as those he is serving are serving him. Ultimately, the leader is serving himself. His passion for his mission is so self-focused that compassion is sadly absent for those who are not able to advance the mission.

If you find even a hint that a leader whose normal, human compassion is missing,  then run. Run away from that leader as fast as you can! Ask God to save you from a leader with baggage from the past that will show up in destructive ways in the future. And ask God to help you follow a leader who seeks to be slave of all - who seeks not to be serve, but to serve. 

CVC's Wednesday 6:00 AM prayer 12/7/2011

CVC 6:00 AM Wednesday Prayer 12/7/2011

Scripture reading: I Peter 1

We rejoice that people who die in the Lord are really passing from life to life. We can't comprehend You. You see the other side of the galaxy and the last star. You know the course of our lives. You know our next breath and next step. We live in the knowledge of the truth that You have made known to us. 

We are seeking Your guidance on our lives. May we be used by You.

We say we want to take as many people with us to heaven as we can. One day, we will be there in heaven with You. May we be ready for that day. May we live in such a way that there really isn't that much difference between our last breath here and our first breath there. 

Thank You for this church. It has touched 1,000s of lives over the years. We thank You for the 40 plus people who came to Christ at the women's meeting this past weekend.

You are who You say You are. We never come to the end of You. We can press into You. How wonderful and precious You are to us, Lord. We can dive in and keep going. You are amazing. You are so big and mighty; yet You are so gentle and tender at the same time. You are a God that proves faithful in the circumstances of life. 

We do pray that we would be effective witnesses. We praise You. We want our hearts to meet heart to heart with You. Your word is sure as the dawn. Help us love You more fully and more deeply. We want our hope to be fixed on You. 

At the moment we need You, there You are. You are loving and caring, faithful and strong. As we absorb Your word and we hold it tightly, there is a spiritual battle. As we go through our day, the battle belongs to You. We will be tempted to not live for Your glory. We don't want to bring shame to the name of Jesus. We don't have to rely on ourselves, but You.

We do so want to glorify You. At this time of year, it's supposed to be about You, not stuff. The gifts don't satisfy. You satisfy. Prepare us for this season. give us grace so that we may be diligent to pray and read. We want to represent You. Christmas is meaningful and precious because of You. Help us to live for You in the right way, Lord. It is amazing the You would call us friends. 

We pray for the healing of a woman with a broken leg. May this injury be used to bring her closer to You. 

May the suffering we face bring us closer to You. Only You are the way, the truth, and the life. Let us be salt and light to a broken world. We are needy. Fill us with the good news. 

Lift up the light of Your countenance on us. Make Your face to shine on us. Show Your favor to us. 

May we take advantage of opportunities to share the word this Christmas time. May we love You and serve You and love others and serve others so that others will want to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

We praise You for 25 years of faithful ministry and leaders. May CVC stay faithful to You and Your word.

We praise You for Cheryl Barr and her leadership. We hold up John Campbell and his leadership. Bless our men and women's ministries.

We pray for the lost - for Terry, Jim, Dorsey, and Gregg. May these and others be low-hanging, ripe fruit. We are looking forward to sharing success stories of salvations. We pray for our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist friends that they would see the beauty and meaning of Jesus.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

CVC's Wednesday 6:00 AM Prayer

CVC Wednesday AM Prayer 11/30/2011

The reading: Hebrews 12

We are attempting to give You the worship You deserve. We come to the One who is going to shake all things up one day in a huge display of Your power. You are awesome indeed, a consuming fire. How can we, a fallen people, worship such a great God? Yet we do worship You. We want to be changed by You and be used by You. We start this day with praise and worship. 

Lord, we are those who have sins that so easily trip us up. Remind us that those are the sins You died for. You could have said, "I will go somewhere else and start over," but You didn't. We pray that Your Holy Spirit would convict each of us when we do come up short. Make us holy. Help us in our fight against the sins that so easily trip us up.

We pray for a nephew, Andrew, who is struggling with addiction. Help his family love him well. Set him free.

We are thankful for a God who forgives forever. 

May Your Holy Spirit be free to move among each one of us. Help us to put more of this world behind us. For those who need salvation, may there be somebody somewhere who will share with them. Draw people to Yourself. May people who attend CVC want to come back here because they feel a difference here. Lead, guide, and encourage our staff and elders.

Thank You for Your discipline. You love us. Thank You for Your promise to remove a heart of stone and put in us a heart of flesh. Thank You that we can work out our salvation with fear and trembling. 

Thank You for being a promise-keeping God. 

We pray for marriages. Turn the hearts of husbands toward wives and wives toward husbands. Give us wisdom to know how to strengthen marriages.

Help us to strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Help us to see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

We pray for a little girl, Grace, who is fighting cancer. Bring healing. We pray for others fighting cancer. Give them special healing. Help them be testimonies and examples. May they glorify You.

We pray for the transition at CVC. Bless Chad and his family. Give him wisdom and power to lead CVC well. Bless the Allens as they adopt a little girl with minor correctible issues.

May there be a revival among the women that come to the women's event at CVC. Bless them. May the pre-Christians who come come to faith. 

We want a continual reminder to put You first. 

May we reach out to people who need You this Christmas. May the internationals among us understand the real message and meaning of Christmas.

May there be a revival among us, in our hearts, in our homes, in the lives of prodigals, and even in America.

May depression and suicide be defeated during this Christmas season. May we begin to experience joy and salvation and peace that Jesus came to give. 

We pray for Dave and Pam Joyce. We pray for protection. Use them in a big way out in Phoenix. Use them to be mentors in the lives of others. 

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