Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why should churches plant churches? 

Yesterday and today, I was on a panel discussing church planting at a leadership meeting in Indianapolis for churches in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

So, why should churches plant churches? Here are some of the answers of the men on my panel.

1. Not all people want to worship the way you worship. So, you must start other churches with different worship styles to reach different kinds of people.

2. If your church has had a history of church planting, you must seek to preserve the heritage of your church.

3. If you study the NT (particularly the book of Acts), you will discover that NT churches sent out missionaries and that those missionaries proclaimed the gospel that resulted in starting churches. You must plant churches to be a true NT church.

4. We reproduce what we are. Church planters should reproduce themselves by investing in other church planters.

5. Church planting has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to reach more new people for Christ. It's been said that it takes 42 members of an existing church to reach 1new person for Christ. It takes 8 members of a church plant to reach 1 new person for Christ.

6. If you have been personally impacted and grown by church planting ministry, you should want to provide the same growth experiences for others.

7. If you have a heart for cultural diversity, you must seek to plant culturally diverse churches.

Care to guess which is my answer?

Related posts:

The urgent need for North American church planting

How not to be a church planting pirate

Churches must plant churches

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

8 ways to encourage church planters

Have you ever been to a meeting where you were a presenter and you realized that you needed to learn much, much more than anyone else in the room? That happened to me today.

I was on a panel in Indianapolis to talk about issues related to being a sponsoring church for church plants. One of the questions was, "How do you encourage church planters?" I had a couple of lame things to say. But the other guys on the panel had some great things to say. I took notes. And in my heart I prayed, "Jesus, help me to be more encouraging to our church planters. I repent!"

Here are 8 great ideas for sponsoring churches.

1. Establish regular coaching/mentoring/encouraging meetings for coffee, breakfast, or lunch.

2. Remember significant dates like birthdays for the planter and his spouse and their anniversaries.

3. Keep an ongoing prayer list for the planter and pray regularly for the planter; then share with the planter, "I prayed for you about... How is that going?"

4. Include your church planter in something special that your church offers such as a special event or a concert.

5. Invite the planter to church staff meetings.

6. Invite the church planter to preach at your church.

7. Establish a missional champion in your church who will directly relate to the church planter.

8. Make visits to the planter's weekend worship service a regular part of your connection process.

Care to add to this list?

Related posts:

Training church planters

Church planting centers

Joining a church planting team

Encouragement to pray

Chad Allen led our staff in a time of extended prayer yesterday. We split up into 8 groups and travled throughout our building with various prayer topics to lift up in various places. It was a special time. Before we split up, Chad led us in a devotional. Here are a few notes. May his words encourage you to pray today.

***

We want to make prayer something that's normal, not formal.

We want to make sure that what's in our hearts gets to our lips. 

We want to help you take the next step in your prayer life. 

James 1:6 says we are to ask in faith, without any doubting. If we doubt, we are like the waves. So, pray confidently, expectantly, boldly. 

I John 5:14-15 says that we can have confidence if we pray in accordance with God's will. If we pray according to God's will, He will answer. He hears us. He's listening. So, remember, God is willing to respond. 

Mark 11:22 says, "And Jesus answered them, 'Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be taken up and thrown into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.'" Don't tell God how big your mountain is, but tell your mountain how big God is. So, pray in faith. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Decision making, the will of God, and trust

Gary Friesen, Professor of the Bible at Multnomah Bible College, wrote a book called Decision-Making and the Will of God. I am grateful for Dr. Friesen’s study of the scriptures.

Last week, we looked at 3 principles for decision-making that’s will help us live in God's will. #1. Obedience. #2. Freedom. #3. Wisdom. Here is the 4th principle.

4. TRUST: We trust our sovereign Lord to work the details together for good.

God is actively involved in our decision making - even in the area of freedom.

When you read the Bible, we see God's will defined as His moral will/revealed will/desired will. The Bible also speaks of God’s will in another way. It speaks of God’s determined will/sovereign will. "[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11, ESV).

God has a plan for our lives that doesn’t violate our freedom but that determines all that happens in our lives (and in history). The Bible says that all of God’s purposes and plans will be accomplished. The classice verse on this is Romans 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

God sovereignly directs all things (including our freely chosen decisions) so that they work together for good. Don’t be concerned that your decisions will somehow derail God's sovereign will for your life. He will work through your decisions to accomplish what He purposes. Trust Him!

I sometimes counsel people who are having problems in marriage and who say, “I must have married the wrong person.” I ask, “Why do you say that?” “Well, if I was in the center of God’s will, I wouldn’t be having these troubles.”

A common myth many people believe is this: “Being in God’s will shields us from problems. When I am in God’s will life… just… works. My problems must mean I am out of God’s will.”

Think! Who was most perfectly in God’s will? Jesus! Did He have problems? Yes! He was despised and rejected by men. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He ended up being executed on a cross.

Being in God’s will doesn’t mean a problem-free life. God uses problems when we are in His will to accomplish His purposes in our lives.

When I was in my last year of college, I was wondering who my future wife might be. I knew a couple of Christian girls at Vanderbilt. One was named Bitsy. Another was named Joanne. And then there was this girl I met from the University of Alabama named Maryanne.

At that time, I saw three doors/three options/three possibilities. And there were possibly others. All the doors were in the circle (and the tree), within the moral/desired/revealed will of God. I had the freedom to go to any of those doors, knock, and see who might say “Hello.”

When I am on the decision side of the 3 doors, I have freedom to choose based on wisdom from God. But when I went through the Maryanne door and look back, I only see one door!

Why? God led me in making the choice/the decision to marry Maryanne. It was His sovereign plan for my life. So, when we run into problems (not “if” but “when”) we can never say, “I must have married the wrong person. I missed God’s will for my life.” The sovereign plan of God – the determined will of God – is that I spend my life with Maryanne and that we work through any issues that come up. Working through the problems is part of His will for my life, too!

God has a sovereign plan for your life. But He doesn’t show us the details of the plan before it unfolds. He will give you grace to deal with the details one at a time.

This frees us from the worry and fear that so many of us have when we are faced with making decisions. If you know that God is working all things for your good then there is a sense in which the pressure’s off. Stay in the right circle. Be in the right tree. Knock on the right doors. Then, make your decision. God will be sovereignly guiding you. Your good future is not based on your ability to make a flawless choice. You can trust God to guide you.

Principle #1: The principle of obedience. Principle #2: The principle of freedom. Principle #3: The principle of wisdom. Principle #4: The principle of trust.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

12 questions to ask yourself when you need guidance

Here are 12 questions that can serve as a guide for you when you are faced with decisions in life. It's a short summary of CVC's January 2012 series, Guidance: discerning and doing the will of God.

1. Am I presenting my body as a living sacrifice? (Romans 12:1)
2. Am I countering my culture, not being conformed to the world? (Romans 12:2)
3. Am I renewing my mind and being transformed? (Romans 12:2)

Then, you will discern what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).

4. Am I trusting in the Lord? (Proverbs 3:5-6)
5. Am I not leaning on my own understanding? (Proverbs 3:5-6)
6. Am I acknowledging the Lord? (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Then, God will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6). 

7. Am I being obedient to the scripture; am I saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, saying thanks, and suffering? 
8. Am I trusting God to put His desires in my heart? (Psalm 34:7)
9. Am I trusting that God is working out His sovereign plan for my life? (Romans 8:28)

Then, you will hear God say, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). 

10. Am I asking God for wisdom? (James 1:5) 
11. Am I praying, "Based on my past experiences, my present circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, Lord, what is the wise thing to do?" (James 1:5)
12. Am I asking in faith? (James 1:6)

Then, God will give you wisdom (James 1:5). 

In faith, go, act, love, live, do! You will discern what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2). God will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6). You will hear God say, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). God will give you wisdom (James 1:5). 

Wisdom works. Download daily. So, for the next 30 days, as soon as you awake, before your feet hit the floor, pray for wisdom. And see what God does.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Decision-making, the will of God, and wisdom

It's been said that we make decisions and then the decisions make us. So, how do we make the best decisions possible?

Gary Friesen is a Professor of the Bible at Multnomah Bible College. Over 20 years ago, I read his book Decision-Making and the Will of God. What I have been sharing this week has been shaped by Dr. Friesen’s study of the scriptures.

This week, we've been looking at 4 principles in God's Word regarding decision-making. #1. Obedience. #2. Freedom.

#3. WISDOM: Where there is no direct or specific command of God or a guiding principle from scripture, God gives us wisdom to choose.

With freedom comes responsibility. If God is not going to dictate every single choice we make, then we are not only free to choose, we are required to choose. So, when we have freedom, on what basis do we choose? Wisdom. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (James 1:5, ESV).

We pray, “Lord what’s the wise thing to do? Lord, guide me. Give me wisdom.” We trust that through our heart’s desires, our past experiences, our present circumstances, our future hopes and dreams, our research, and the counsel of other believers, God will give us what we ask for. He will give us wisdom. (We are going to talk much, much more about this next weekend.)

We need wisdom. We need our minds and hearts to be illuminated by the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Wisdom comes when we pray and listen, when we meditate on the Word of God, and when we associate with wise people and seek their counsel.

Think about the decision-making of the leaders in the New Testament. A church was started in a city called Thessalonica. The leaders had to leave town because of persecution. When they were safely in Athens, they knew the church in Thessalonica needed support and help. So, what did they do? "We were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy… to establish and exhort you in your faith" (I Thessalonians 3:1-2, ESV).

How was their decision made? “We were willing…” One version says, “We thought it best.”

Where there was no direct command of God, the leaders of the early church felt the freedom to make decisions based on wise choices. Look at the language that describes the decision-making.

I have thought it necessary… Philippians 2:25 (ESV)
If it seems advisable… I Corinthians 16:4 (ESV)
I have decided… Titus 3:12 (ESV)

The decisions are not made based their own understanding, but on wisdom received from God. God promises to give us wisdom to recognize if one option is better than another option. Don’t look for some mystical, detailed plan for your life. Seek wisdom. Apply the scriptures as the Holy Spirit gives you wisdom in making your decisions.

When I was in my last year of college, I was wondering who my future wife might be. I knew a couple of Christian girls at Vanderbilt. One was named Bitsy. Another was named Joann. And then there was this girl I met from the University of Alabama named Maryanne.

At that time, I saw three doors/three options/three possibilities. And there were possibly others. All the doors were in the circle, within the moral/desired/revealed will of God. I had the freedom to go to any of those doors, knock, and see who might say “Hello.”

So, what was the wise thing to do? What did my heart say to do? Well, I was willing – I thought it best, necessary, advisable – to knock on door number 3. And the University of Alabama girl – Roll Tide! – said, “Hello!” And later she said, “I do!” I am glad I knocked on door number 3!

Ask God for wisdom. Through a variety of sources, you can trust Him to give it. He will be leading you and saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Principle #1: The principle of obedience. Principle #2: The principle of freedom. Principle #3: The principle of wisdom.

Related posts:

Decision-making, the will of God, and obedience

Decision-making, the will of God, and freedom

Should I or shouldn't I?

Notes from a recent 6:00 AM prayer meeting at CVC

Please consider joining us this coming Wednesday. And if it would help you, please use these prayers to "jump start" your own personal prayer life. Have a great day!

***

We pray that You would lead us to someone to who is far from God. This year, Lord, may each of the people at CVC pray the 1YPS prayer. This year, Lord, in 2012, please let me build a relationship with one person so that I can lead that person to faith in Jesus. One year, one person, one soul won to You is my prayer, Lord. 

Help us to find the ripe fruit so that we can pick it. Sooner rather than later. We need to do Your will. 

You show Your love individually to those created in Your image. We want to pray and give honor and glory to Your name. Once we have settled and reviewed that You deserve praise, we want to do what is pleasing to You. We ask for guidance for this day. We want to honor You with actions and words and thoughts. 

You are all-knowing. Thank You for Your guidance. We pray for a young man, Bill, who has opened the door to You slightly. We pray for Jamie, a young woman who is in need. We pray for people on mission at CVC.

A man of faith, Abraham, fell twice and lied about his wife claiming that she was his sister to save himself. Yet You still saw Him as righteous. Thanks for reminding us that our righteousness is based on Your grace and not our deeds.

We read Old Testament stories and we are shocked. Yet we know we do things that are shocking, too. Remind us of the times we miss the mark. We have logs in our own eyes.

We look at our lives and see that we don't do certain sins, but help us to see that we have sinned in many, many ways that dishonor You. We are not better than the "colorful" characters in the Old Testament.

You are seated on the throne, high and lifted up. We pray for the recognition of Your holiness. We try to do things on our own. Forgive us. We want to depend on You. 

Thank You for the separation You went through, Jesus, so that we could be brought close.

Thank You for the encounters we will have today. Use us to love and serve.

We pray for aging parents. May the glory of Your heavenly home be something they long for. May they rest and be able to smile as they anticipate heaven.

Thank You for forgiving us. It is overwhelming to think about who You are and who we are in light of our sin. We thank You for the grace of Christ.

Overflow and splash out on everyone we meet. We want to be used by You to change destinies and populate heaven. May Your light, love, mercy, and holiness be seen in us today. It is by Your Spirit that we can surrender our lives to You. May we be burdened for what You are burdened for today. Guide us in our work, even the mundane paper work we may be doing.

We pray for our kids in school. Help the teachers teach well. May teachers teach Your ways. We pray for our kids who question the faith of their moms and dads. Give them hearts that are teachable. And help us teach them.

We thank You for the people who re-engaged in men's and women's ministry on Monday and Tuesday nights. We pray, Lord, that many who come here will find not only relief from the messes we are in, but marriages would be saved and mended. May people find Christ in the process.

Have mercy on us all. Build up Your Kingdom. May You get glory for all the good we do.

We claim Your power over the children, youth, and young adults. We proclaim the power of the blood of Jesus over their lives. You are a compassionate God who loves relentlessly. May Your Spirit surround and remind them of Your grace. May You surround them today, Lord.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Don't let your regrets hinder your hope

If you are like me, you are living with regrets. Many regrets. You wish you had free "do overs."

One problem with regret is that it hinders hope. It seems as though regret and hope are mutually exclusive terms.

But is there a way to handle our regrets that won't hinder our hope? I think so.

Several days ago, we took a look at 3 principles for handling regrets. 1. Mourn. 2. Confess. 3. Repent. Then, we looked at 3 more principles. 4. Receive. 5. Preach. 6. Listen.

Finally, here are 3 more principles.

7. Dream.

“I will restore to you the years that the… locusts have eaten… I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh… your old men shall dream dreams… I will pour out My Spirit” (Joel 2:25, 28). Don't forget that God has a plan for your future. If you let them, regrets can steal your hopes and dreams. They can immobilize you. But don’t let that happen. An old Yiddish Proverb says, “A man is not old until his regrets take the place of his dreams.” Don't let past failures steal your future hopes. Fulton Oursler said, “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.” God is not done with you yet. Remember that Moses was at his most productive for God during the last 1/3 of his life. Every follower of Christ ought to be more fruitful as we age since we ought to know more about abiding in Christ as we live out this life in Christ. Please don’t give up. Ask God for many more years of fruit-bearing!

8. Claim.

“All the promises of God find their yes in [Jesus]” (II Corinthians 1:20). Find some promises in God’s word that excite you about the future. When we go to God, we are wise to claim the promises this way, "Lord God, I know You gave this promise to Israel. But I also know that this promise tells me something about how You relate to Your people. It shows Your character and nature. Therefore, I am asking you to fulfill for me and for those I love what You promised to Israel. So, right now I am claiming this promise. It's up to You when and how You will fulfill this promise. But I am going to be bold enough to ask. I am asking You and I am trusting You."

9. Watch.

Our regrets can sometimes cause us to believe that God is through with us - that God will no longer work in our behalf. But no matter what has or has not happened in our past, we can still live with expectation and hope. "At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly" (Psalm 5:3, HCSB). Another version says, "O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee and will look up." When we claim God's promises in prayer, we wait on God with an expectation that He will fulfill His promises. We watch God work to fulfill His promises in His way and in His time. We hope. We watch God work. He waits on us to wait on Him to work in our behalf (Isaiah 30:18).

So, here are 9 practices for handling regrets. 1. Mourn. 2. Confess. 3. Repent. 4. Receive. 5. Preach. 6. Listen. 7. Dream. 8. Claim. 9. Watch.

In which of these 9 practices do you need to grow the most?

Related posts:

Dealing with your regrets

When regrets immobilize you

"Repaid" by Alan C. Duncan

Decision making, the will of God, and freedom

Gary Friesen is a Professor of the Bible at Multnomah Bible College. Over 20 years ago, I read his book Decision-Making and the Will of God. What I believe about discerning and doing the will of God has been shaped by Dr. Friesen’s study.

Dr. Friesen gives us 4 principles in diserning God's will for our lives.

Yesterday, we saw that principle #1 for making decisions in the will of God is the principle of obedience. Principle #2 is the principle of FREEDOM: Where there is no specific commandpr guiding principle, God gives us the freedom (and the responsibility) to choose.

God's moral/desired/revealed will does not specifically address every decision we have to make. Which house to buy or apartment to rent, what clothes to wear, what school to attend are obviously not specifically covered in the Bible.

Think of God's moral will as a circle. Whatever is commanded by God is in the circle. Whatever is forbidden by God is outside the circle. But inside the circle of God's moral will are areas of freedom where God has given no specific command or principle.

It's true that God cares about every aspect of your life. (See Matthew 6:25-34 and I Peter 5:7). But God doesn’t dictate every single decision you make. God can be equally pleased with two, three, four, or more options that are inside His moral will, inside the circle.

If you are presenting your body, countering your culture, renewing your mind (Romans 12:1-2), trusting in the Lord, leaning not on your own understanding, acknowledging Him (Proverbs 3:5-6) – if you are saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, saying thanks, and suffering, then do whatever you please!

Maybe God’s will is just that simple. Some of you are thinking, “This sounds non-spiritual!” But consider Pslam 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."

Being saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, sanctified, saying thanks, and suffering. Doesn’t that sound like the lifestyle of a person who is delighting themselves in the Lord? And if you are delighting yourself in the Lord, who is in charge of the desires of your heart? Delight yourself in the Lord and He will put in your heart His desires. He will lead you!

So, consider your own desires. If the Bible is silent about your decision, and if one choice is not clearly wiser than the other, then do what you want. You have freedom. God will sovereignly work out His plan for your life through your desires (Philippians 2:13).

Some of us have this view that there’s only one option when it comes to the will of God. Think of a tree. We have to go for the high point – to reach God’s highest and best for our lives. Woe to you if you make a wrong decision and you get out on some branch. You’ll never fulfill your destiny.

No. It’s better to view God’s will this way: Make sure the tree is in the circle. If it’s in the circle, then you have freedom to choose which branch to take. See it as a fruit tree. There’s fruit at the top. There’s fruit to the right. There’s fruit to the left.

If you are saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, sanctified, saying thanks, and suffering, then you have freedom do whatever you please because God will be putting His desires in your heart. When we exercise our freedom to decide, God will lead us to decide based on a love for God and a love for others. God will be leading you and saying, “This is the way. Walk in it (Isaiah 30:21).”

Principle #1: The principle of obedience. Principle #2: The principle of freedom.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Decision-making, the will of God, and Obedience

I sometimes tell my sons, “Success in life is discerning the will of God for your life and then doing it!” We make decisions and then our decisions make us. That leads us to an obvious question: Just how do we best discern God’s will?

Gary Friesen is a Professor of the Bible at Multnomah Bible College. Over 20 years ago, I read his book Decision-Making and the Will of God. I have been greatly helped over the years by Dr. Friesen’s insights into the scriptures.

In making decisions that are pleasing to God, Dr. Friesen gives us 4 principles for decision-making. Today, we’ll look at the first principle.

1. OBEDIENCE: Where God commands, we obey.

Theologians talk about the "moral" will of God, the “desired” will of God, and the “revealed” will of God. The Bible is full of commands and principles to teach us how we ought to believe and live.
 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. II Timothy 3:16-17
II Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
Discerning the will of God starts first with the Bible. If you want to know God’s will, know God’s word! Read the Bible to learn what God’s will is. And then just do it!

If you think of God’s moral/desired/revealed will as a circle, then it’s easy for us to visualize whether we are in the will of God or not. What are some things the Bible says are out of God’s will? What are some things in God’s will?

The Bible is full of positive and negative commands. For example, it’s God’s will that we present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, that we counter our culture, and that we renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2). It’s God’s will that we trust in the Lord, lean not on our own understanding, and acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Many years ago, I remember John MacArthur teaching that there are several NT passages that point-blank tell us what the will of God is.
 It is the will of God…
 … that we are saved

The Lord is… longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
II Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

… that we are Spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:17-18).

Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:17-18 (ESV)

Cross references:
… that we are sanctified (I Thessalonians 4:3).
 This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.
I Thessalonians 4:3

… that we are saying thanks (I Thessalonians 5:15-18).

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)

… that we are suffering (I Peter 4:18).

Let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
I Peter 4:18 (ESV)

presenting your body as a living sacrifice to God? Are you countering your culture Are you renewing your mind (Romans 12:1-2)? Are you trusting in the Lord, leaning not on your own understanding, and acknowledging Him (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Are you saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, saying thanks, and suffering?

If you have questions about God’s will for your life, start here. Start with obedience.

If we want to be in God’s will, we need to do what God says. To do God’s word you have to know God’s word. Many of our questions about God’s will would be settled if we would just know and obey the word of God in the Bible.

Our biggest need is to become more familiar with and sensitive to the word of God. (It’s why we encourage CVCers to use our 2012 Bible reading plan. Pick one up in the foyer use it!) Look in the Book. Put His truths in your heart so when you are making a decision, God can bring them to your mind and say to you, “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Principle #1: The principle of obedience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Decision Making

In my 20s, I remember picking up a copy of a book written by a pastor in Texas. The name of the book was Right Man, Right Woman. The point of the book was that there was one right man for every woman and, of course, one right woman for every man. If you married the wrong person, then your life would be a mess.
Here’s a quote:

Whenever a man or woman gets married to the wrong person, they are going to perpetuate suffering throughout their life time.

The pressure is on then, to find the right one! You better not mess up because you will perpetuate misery for yourself, for the girl you marry, for the girl you were supposed to marry, for the guy who married the girl you were supposed to marry, for the guy who was supposed to marry the girl you married…

I worried that I was going to miss the will of God for my life, make a mistake, and ruin lots of people’s lives.
 
Is that the right way to view the will of God – that if we miss God’s will, we won’t be able to achieve the ultimate destiny for our lives? Lots of us get stuck because we feel we don’t know the will of God about some decision. We don’t want to miss God’s highest and best for our lives. We become inactive and passive.

Everyone wants to make decisions that turn out well. We make decisions and then decisions make us. So, how do we make good and godly decisions? How do we discern and do the will of God?

In Isaiah 30, God’s people had been disobedient. And the Lord was waiting, giving them time to turn to Him. God’s judgment was delayed because God wanted to be gracious. He was waiting on His people to come to Him, to wait before Him. He said, “When you learn to live in My presence, I will answer your prayers. I use adversity in your life so you will seek Me and see Me as your Teacher.” And in verse 21, He says…

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.   Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

In ancient days, teachers would stand behind their students to guide and instruct. It’s like a coach standing behind a player or a team during practice saying, “That’s the way I want it done!”

Isaiah isn’t describing a literal voice. Poetically, he says the voice comes from “behind you.” It’s from someone you can’t see, but who sees you. He’s talking about the Holy Spirit who lives in us, who reveals the word of God to us, who guides us into all the truth (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:25–27; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16, 18, 25; John 16:13).

He sees when you are about to step out-of-bounds. You’re tempted to get off the straight and narrow road. You are tempted to sin to the right or to the left. But if you will listen to the secret whispers of God and obey, you will stay on the highway of holiness.

But, practically speaking how does this work? How do we make decisions based on hearing the word of God? Starting tomorrow, we’ll explore 4 principles for hearing that “voice behind you.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When regrets immobilize you...

I certainly have more than a few regrets.

How about you?

Could've, should've, would've at times weigh heavily on me. I wish I had thousands of "do overs."

So, what do we do with regrets? Yesterday, we took a look at 3 principle for handling regrets. 1. Mourn. 2. Confess. 3. Repent. Today, we will look at 3 more.

4. Receive.

"If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins" ( I John 2:1b-2a). Jesus is our advocate, our defense attorney before the Father. The enemy accuses us. We accuse ourselves. Regrets weigh us down. But in heaven, Jesus is telling the Father, "I died on the cross to pay for that sin. All those regrets? Cleansed by My blood. I took the wrath that he/she should have taken." We must receive - appropriate, accept, take - the forgiveness that Jesus purchased to cleanse us from guilt.

5. Preach.

And by this, I mean preach the truth, not condemnation, to yourself. How? We say to our regrets, our accuser, "Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication" (Micah7:8-9). We have to learn to talk truth to ourselves, to talk ourselves out of self-loathing and self-condemnation.

6. Listen.

Hear what God says about you. Recite what He says over and over. "You are the apple of My eye" (Psalm 17:8). "I will never forget you" (Isaiah 49:15). "You are engraved on the palms of My hands" (Isaiah 49:16). "I know the plans I have for you to restore your fortunes, to prosper you, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11-14). "I rejoice over you; I am glad about you; I sing over you" (Zephaniah 3:17). Let God speak to you. God is the giver of consolations. Pay attention to God’s voice. He convicts in order to comfort. Instead of trying to pump yourself up through positive self-talk, listen to God speak to you about you.

Related posts:

Dealing with your regrets

When God restores your fortunes

Who knows? God may relent

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dealing with your regrets

We all have regrets. Some people say they "wouldn't change a thing" about their  past. But I don't believe them. Even Sinatra sang, "Regrets? I've had a few." My guess is that he had more than a few.

I certainly have more than a few regrets. Certainly, I regret the overt sinning I've done. But many of my regrets aren't connected to sins of commission as much as they are connected with sins of omission.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 5:17 (ESV)

Could've, should've, would've at times weigh heavily on me. I could've stayed in touch better with my friends. I should've fasted and prayed more as a pastor. I wish I would've been a better judge of character of people. No matter what area of my life I consider - student, athlete, musician, child of God, husband, dad, pastor, missionary, steward, friend - I have regrets. I wish I had thousands of "do overs."

So, what do we do with regrets?

1. Mourn.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). The world will say to quickly move beyond regret - that it does no good to beat yourself up over the past. But God's word says, "Put on sackcloth and roll in ashes" (Jeremiah 6:26). Until we meditate deeply on how much pain and loss we have caused for ourselves, our families, and our churches we will never come hard after Christ for the cure.

2. Confess.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). It does no good to pretend that the regrets are "too few to mention." Confess means "to agree with." We agree with God about our sins - even the sins of omission. They must be named one-by-one. In prayer. To God.

3. Repent.

"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). Notice that the confession of what causes regret must be accompanied by the forsaking of what causes regret. Do you regret not staying in better touch with old friends? Call one! Today! Do you regret a lack of prayer? Pray. Today! With Christ Jesus as your pattern and your power for living, start living the life you wish you had lived.

Tomorrow, we'll look at 3 more principles to apply when you are facing regrets.

Related posts:

Spirit led self-examination

Search me, O God

The heart of the problem

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Are you afraid of God's will?

Over the years, I have known many followers of Christ who struggle with surrendering to the will of God. They think God's will means that they will have to do things that will make them miserable. They say, “If I surrender to God’s will for my life, He might lead me to be a missionary or something crazy." Or they think, "If I follow God's will for my life, He may never let me get married or go on a nice vacation.”

I love the fact that Romans 12:2 reminds us that God’s will is "good, acceptable, and perfect."

But God’s will for your life is good. He’s not trying to make you miserable. He’s seeking to increase your joy. He knows what He made you for. When we read Romans 12:1 we see that the whole motivation behind presenting our bodies and pursuing God’s will is His mercy. God has been merciful to you. He’s not giving you what you deserve. If you are a follower of Jesus, judgment and hell are no longer in your future. God is merciful. Why wouldn’t you want to give up the control of your future to a merciful God?

For us to think that God’s will might make us miserable is to think unworthy thoughts about God.

God’s will is good for me. God’s will is acceptable to me. God’s will is perfect for me. That's what Romans 12:2 is saying. Do you believe it?

I'm pretty sure that most people reading this aren't really too sure about that. So, why not read these next three lines out loud.

God’s will is good for me.
God’s will is acceptable to me.
God’s will is perfect for me.

Now, ask God to help you believe it. Ask Him to help you have a heart's desire to discern and do His will. Ask Him to give you the grace to live out His will.

Don’t be afraid of God’s will for your life. It’s good, acceptable, and perfect.

Related posts:

Trusting God for your future

How to discern the will of God. Presenting your body...

How to discern the will of God. Countering your culture...

How to discern the will of God. Renewing your mind...

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Missio Dei story from Jeanette

I love to hear how God is changing lives at CVC and using our people as missionaries cleverly disguised...

Below is the latest Missio Dei story. Enjoy!

***

I am a somewhat newer Christian at CVC. I have learned so much of what is really important. 

The first is that I am supposed to be doing something with the talents that God gave me. The second is that I have had a lot of suffering in my childhood and early adult life and that God can use what I have learned through my suffering to help others in their suffering. 

I heard Pastor Rick say to "never let your suffering go in vain." I took this to heart and focused my efforts on inner city children with Village Grace Mission Center. 

I met a child there that had cerebral palsy. He is 6 and was not in a wheelchair, but in an old broken umbrella stroller. His knees were bruised. His hands and feet were dirty. This child touched my heart because I also have a special needs child.

I was able to meet his mother and found out her husband had recently been incarcerated and left her alone to raise 6 children. I could see in her eyes that depression was beginning to set in. She said, "It was always just us two... me and him." I said, "No. It was you three - your husband, you, and Jesus right by your side."

I immediately asked his mother if I could bring the little boy a jogging stroller I no longer needed. I also noticed they did not have carpet in the home they were renting. Carpet is safer for a boy with cerebral palsy. 

I thought, "There has to be a way the system can provide for this child. So I tried to get aid for the family, but the under-funded system does not always reach those in need.

So, I started to tell his story to co-workers, business owners, friends, and family. I never realized how many people that I come in contact with daily. People reached out in ways that I thought would be unimaginable. Even my children went door-to-door selling angel ornaments for donations. 

We were able to provide the family with over $3,000 in donations! They now have pillows, blankets, rugs, special needs equipment, a bike, clothes, and food. 

I had everyone who donated put their hand prints on a canvas to make up angel wings. I then painted an angel and wrote, "Millers Angels - 2011- Jesus' helping hands - providing God's promises."

We dropped off all of the presents on Christmas morning. My children were so excited. I think this family and experience has not only changed me, but it forever changed the way we will celebrate Jesus’s birthday. 

When we were driving home on I-77 after delivering the gifts, there was a Christmas morning rainbow right over the highway. I couldn’t believe it. It was God's Promise...

Sunday, January 08, 2012

A 20 minute Bulgarian Training Bag routine

I have been using the Bulgarian Training Bag (BTB) since Christmas.

As a gift, my son, Alan, purchased what I needed to make one. We made it together the day after Christmas. Mine weighs about 25-30 pounds. You can make a BTB for $10-$15.

I have been looking at BTB videos and have developed a routine that makes sense for me. So far, I've been working out for 20 minutes - 20 sets with 30 seconds of exercise and 30 seconds of rest.

Here are my names for the exercises:

1. Curls
2. Overhead triceps extensions
3. BTB-on-the-shoulders squats
4. BTB-on-the-shoulders tri-lunges
5. Low-to-high swings to the right
6. Low-to-high swings to the left
7. High (overhead) to low (between the legs) swings
8. BTB-on-the-shoulders jump squats
9. Left-side-back/low-to-front/high swings
10. Right-side-back/low-to-front/high swings
11. High-to-low-woodchoppers-to-the-right
12. High-to-low-woodchoppers-to-the-left
13. BTB-on-the-shoulders back extensions
14. Bent-over rows
15. Overhead circle swings to the right
16. Overhead circle swings to the left
17. Double grip high-to-low-between-the-legs with a squat
18. BTB-on-the-shoulders toe raises
19. High-to-high/side-to-side swings
20. Low-to-cradle-in-the-arms swing with a squat

With each set, do as many as you can in 30 seconds. Then rest for thirty before going to the next set.

This is a sure-fire way to get your heart rate up rather quickly. As always, make sure your physician gives you the go-ahead before undertaking a new exercise regimen.

The video below gives even more exercises.



Want to join me?

Related post:

The Body Weight Fitness Matrix

Saturday, January 07, 2012

How to discern the will of God. Renew your mind...

Haddon Robinson once said, "We want to make right decisions, for we realize that the decisions we make turn around and make us." How true.

So, how do we learn to make right decisions? We learn to make decisions based on the will of God. And how do we discern the will of God? According to Romans 12:1-2, we present our bodies, counter our culture, and renew our minds.

We must learn how to constantly remind ourselves of the truths in God's Word so that we begin to think biblically. That's when we are transformed so that our desires will reflect God's desires.

... be transformed by the renewal of your mind...
Romans 12:2b (ESV)

We don't just hear God's Word once and figure we've got it down. We continually review the truth in the Word.

And when our minds are renewed, we’re transformed.

I love the word “transformed” in these verses. In the original it’s metamorphoo. We learned the word in grade school. Metamorphosis. A caterpillar morphs into a butterfly.

That’s what God intends for us.

We are to change, to morph, to grow! Staying the same isn’t an option. Don’t you want your life to be different at the end of 2012 than it is today? An angry mom becomes more patient. A lazy student becomes more disciplined. A sour dad becomes more joyful. An impatient single person becomes more at peace.

Being transformed is the process of actually becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. Sometimes it’s called sanctification in the Bible. It’s “morphing” to be all you can be for the glory of God!

Question… Am I actually becoming more loving, more joyful, more at peace, more patient, more kind, more like Jesus or not?

To move this out of the realm of theory and into reality, think about one thing that you’d like to see changed in your life over the course of this year. Write it down.

How can I be transformed? By renewing my mind. Engage with a Chronological Bible Reading Plan. develop a Spiritual Growth Plan. Join a Men’s Bible Study or a Women’s Bible Study. Get plugged into a Community Group.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and… be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and… put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)


You won’t know any more about the will of God for your life in 2012 than you do today unless you make a radical decision to renew your mind.

To discern the will of God, present your body, counter your culture, and renew your mind.

Now, notice what happens when we present our bodies, counter our culture, and renew our minds. It’s in the last part of Romans 12:2.

… by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2c (ESV)

God will reveal His will. And as you obey Him, you'll make the right decisions that, in turn, will make you.

Related posts:

Trusting God for your future

A pastoral RX

Friday, January 06, 2012

4 ways to respond to critics

A few weeks ago, I recieved an email from an attender at CVC that was challenging our approach to scripture during our series on claiming the promises of God. The criticism was nicely-stated for the most part. The bottom line was that we need to encourage CVCers to approach scripture in a more scholarly, more bibically-accurate way. At the end of the email, the writer implied that I lack the kind of courage needed to lead our people at CVC to grow deeper.

So, how should a leader respond to this kind of criticism?

1) Take it to the Lord in prayer. Don't totally ignore the criticism. God is sovereign over all that comes our way. There are things to learn from any criticism that comes our way.

2) Address the crticism when you are led to do so. Sometimes, we will be led to ignore criticism. Proverbs 26:4 says, "Answer not a fool according to his folly lest you be like him yourself." Other times, we address the issues raised. Proverbs 26:5 says, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." There are times we can explain ourselves without being defensive.

3) Maintain a positive perspective. Don't give more weight to the criticism than it deserves. We don't want it to immobilize us.

4) Be a pastor. Don't abdicate the pastoral role that you can have toward the critic. It's not only a teaching opportunity for those of us being criticised, but for the critic as well.

For better or worse, below is part of how I responded.

***

I always take very seriously the criticism of others. It causes humility and dependency in my life. I take it to the Lord and ask Him what parts of the criticism I am to receive and what parts I am to reject. Please know that I am doing the same with your letter.

Regarding your concerns about turning promises into "talisman-like objects" and claiming promises from God's Word that do not apply to individuals in the church age, I appreciate your cautions.

I do also believe that it is appropriate for us to claim the promises of God as long as we are wise, cautious, and non-demanding. During the messages, both Chad and I tried to emphasize the fact that these promises were made to the specific individuals at specific times for specific purposes. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to "hold God hostage" to precisely keep those promises for us today.

When we go to God, we are wise to claim the promises this way, "Lord God, I know You gave this promise to Israel. But I also know that this promise tells me something about how You relate to Your people. It shows Your character and nature. Therefore, I am asking you to fulfill for me and for my family what You promised to Israel. So, right now I am claiming this promise. It's up to You when and how You will fulfill this promise. I am asking and I am trusting."

Today's scripture reading for CVC was in Genesis 12. Verse two is a promise to Abram. It says that he will be blessed in order that he may be a blessing. It's a specific promise to a specific person at a specific time. However, it also teaches us something about the nature and the character of God. He blesses His people in order that they might be a blessing. Therefore, I think it is appropriate for any believer to say, "O God, would you bless me, too, like You blessed Abram so that I might be a blessing?" Then we must trust God to plan our blessings, to provide our blessings. We don't demand. We just trust Him. He knows best plan how and why to apply the promises to our lives. He is sovereign over every experience and every blessing that He gives.

For a reformed perspective on the promises of God, please check out Joel Beeke's book, "Living by God's Promises."

You asked, "Could it be that you are actually afraid to send your flock to a commentary or scholarly source?" I am not afraid to share scholarly sources. But a sermon that is filled with references to sources is more of a lecture, than a message. So, you may not like this explanation, but I have chosen over the years to do my academic homework before preaching, but to limit the references I make to sources. If God is calling you to pastor and preach, then you might choose to handle that differently in your church. My way of encouraging our people to grow deeper in theological understanding is to point people to sources like the ESV Study Bible, John Piper's writings, and other solid books through some sermon references, one-on-one communications, recommended reading, blog writing, Facebook, twitter, and newsletters. The cumulative effect of this has deepened the lives of many over the years.)

In your letter, you challenged me to "lead the flock through the text." I think you may be seeking to encourage us to do more verse-by-verse exposition. Admittedly, the teachings during the "promises" series were topical in nature. But many times our teaching is verse-by-verse exposition. For example, we taught verse-by-verse through Ezekiel 37, Joel, and Luke 10 this past year. And we are planning a series through Philippians this year. (We will be encouraging our people to purchase a commentary on Philippians to supplement their understanding during that series.)

Please pray for me that I will fulfill God's calling on my life to be a man who has God's good hand on my life as I study the law of the Lord, practice it and teach His statutes and commands to His people (Ezra 7:9-10).

Regarding the close to your letter that challenged me to "grow a pair," I have just a few comments. One, as a former professional baseball player who has been many times challenged in less than edifying ways, I am not personally offended. Two, I agree that there is room in my life to grow in the area of courage and strength. I also think that is true for all of us. Three, your use of those coarse words was unbecoming, unworthy of the walk we have been called to, and unbiblical. (See Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:8, and Matthew 12:34-37 for the Lord's commands that our language be edifying.) Four, the dignified and well-phrased points that made up the majority our your letter were tainted and diminished by the crudeness of your comment at the end. Ecclesiastes 10:4 says, "Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor." Proverbs 16:21 says, "The wise of the heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness." I encourage you to use words that are gracious, winsome, and edifying and you will find that your influence for Christ will grow.

***

Well, that's a part of my response. Do you have any advice for me? How would you have handled this critic?  

How to discern the will of God. Counter your culture...

Yesterday, we saw in Romans 12:1-2 that to discern the will of God for our lives, we have to first present our bodies to God as living sacrifices. Have you done that today? Why not stop and pray right now?

To discern the will of God, Romans 12:1-2 also teaches us to counter our culture.
Think of a school of viscous fish all swimming in the same direction. But one little fish is headed the other way. It’s swimming “against the flow.” That’s the idea here. We swim against the flow of the world.


Do not be conformed to this world...
Romans 12:2 (ESV)


“World” here refers to a system of living and thinking that ignores God or opposes God. We find ourselves in a world that is often headed the wrong way, not God’ way.


One version says, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Eugene Peterson says, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”


Of course, we live in this world. We can’t be anti-culture. Everything is culture. We don’t want to create some kind of weird, insulated and isolated Christian sub-culture. We ought to be leaders in industry and art and education. We are going to participate in the culture. We are to have influence in this world. We aren’t to run and hide from it.


Think! Jesus came to live in this world – to redeem the world. But He resisted the downward drag of the world. When He prayed for us in John 17, He prayed that we would be “in the world, but not of the world.”


We’re to be different. The world leads prayer-less lives, but we pray. It’s “dog eat dog” out there, but for us it’s Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. We’re last place people. Others may try to make a name for themselves, but we do what builds God’s reputation.


The QB for the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow, has been in the news. A lot. Some like him. A lot don’t. He’s not a typical NFL QB. And I’m not just talking about the fact that his throwing motion is long and that he runs a lot. I’m talking about the way he carries himself as a believer on and off the field. He counters his culture. I think he’s trying to figure out how to be in the NFL world, but not of the NFL world.


A few weeks ago, Tebow was miked for the Broncos/Bears game. I thought it was a good example of someone who is not going to let the world squeeze him into its mold.




Now, like him or not, you have to admit that he’s not conforming. The way he plays football is different. You may not want to approach your life in exactly the same way. Tebowing may seem over the top for you.


But I’m hoping you want to live with passion for Christ. I am hoping you want to sing praise to God. I am hoping you want to pray throughout your day. If you look out for the last and the least… if you live a life of encouragement and hope… if you are seeking to live wholeheartedly for God, then you’ll be countering your culture, too.


This will mean we may be rejected by the world. We will likely lose some of this world's admiration and respect. Not being conformed means that in some environments we won't fit in. It means that sometimes we're going to be left out, even ridiculed. But that’s OK. We’re making a break with the world.


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
I John 2:15 (ESV)


Now, what does this have to do with discerning the will of God?


You’re a businessman on the road. Your buddies are headed out to dinner and you’re invited. You’re having a great time. Then, after dinner, someone says, “Hey, let’s check out that strip joint I saw on the way here from the airport.” How will you discern the will of God. If you have decided to counter your culture – to not let the world squeeze you into its mold – then you’ll know to excuse yourself nicely. It’s not the time to sermonize. You just politely say something like, “I have to get back to the room and get some work done and make some calls.”


We’re non-conformists, but not the worldly, cool kind. When rock stars are nonconformists they are cool in the eyes of the world. But we have to be willing to die to the desire to appear sophisticated and hip and “together” in the eyes of the world.


When we are nonconformists, we look silly to the world, but we’re cool in the eyes of God.


To discern the will of God, counter your culture.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

How to discern the will of God. Present your body...

What decisions do you need to make in 2012?

We have all kinds of questions about the will of God. “Where should I go to school? What should be my major? What should be my career path? Who should I marry? Where should we live? Should we buy a house or rent an apartment? Should we have kids? How many kids should we have? Should I quit my job, go to seminary, and study for the ministry? Should I be a missionary? Should we relocate as a family? Should I take early retirement?” We’re looking for specific answers to those questions.

So, how do I discern God’s will? You might think of this in formula form. P + T = R. This formula comes from Romans 12:1-2.

Presentation + Transformation = Revelation. The Presentation of my body as a living sacrifice + the Transformation of my life by renewing my mind and not being conformed to the world = the Revelation of God’s will for my life.

Let's start with the "P."


To discern the will of God, present your body.

I love the fact that the Bible is so practical. If you are going to do God’s will, it’s going to require the use of your body. Check our Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore,  brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 (ESV)

In the Old Testament, the first part of the Bible, when you wanted to ask for forgiveness, you came to the Temple in Jerusalem with an animal. The animal was placed on an altar, killed, and then burned to be a sacrifice to God. An innocent animal became a substitute and died in the place of a sinner. Think about the blood and the smell. It’s gruesome business. Why so gruesome? It pictured the awfulness of sin and the holiness of God. It showed that you understood the seriousness of your sin and that a price for sin had to be paid before a holy God. The innocent died for the guilty.


But in a display of His mercies, God so loved us that He sent His Son, Jesus, as the Lamb of God to live among us and then die on the cross as a sacrifice to secure our forgiveness. The ultimate Innocent One died once and for all for the guilty ones. And that’s when God did away with the animal sacrifices.


Today, God is not looking for dead, animal sacrifices. He’s looking for living, human sacrifices. Now, out of gratitude for our forgiveness – because we have received mercy from God – we are motivated to offer Him a living sacrifice – ourselves! When you offered an OT sacrifice you offered a body that was once alive and is now dead. But when you offer a NT sacrifice you offer a life that was once dead and is now living.

The verb tense in the Greek language here for this word “present” indicates that there should be a definite point-in-time decision where we give ourselves to God. We say, “From this time on, Lord, I am Yours. I present myself to You as an offering.”


Has there been point in time when you said, “Here I am, God. All that I am and all that I have is Yours”? Why not now? Why not today?


This same word is used in Romans 6.


Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Romans 6:13 (ESV)


Here, though, the Greek verb tense is different. Here, we are commanded to do an ongoing presenting of our lives and of our bodies to God.


Think “re-gifting.” Re-gifting is taking a gift that you have received and giving it to somebody else in the guise of it being a new gift that you bought just for that person. Re-gifting is usually seen as a bad thing. But God likes it when we re-gift ourselves to him.


So, just how do we do this? Think about the parts of your body. You give them to Jesus. Every day. Many times a day. As a living sacrifice.

I am reminded of the Jewish prayer shawl, the tallit. On each corner is the fringe, the tzitzit. The Hebrew numerical value of the word, tzitzit, is 600. It has 5 knots (five knots standing for the first five books of the the Bible, the Torah) and 8 strands. 600 + 5 + 8 = 613, the number of commands in the OT. So, the tzitzit is to remind the Jewish people to keep all God’s commands, to be holy, to present themselves to God.


You can think of the 8 stands on the tzitzit this way: mind, eyes, ears, mouth, hands, heart, sexuality, and feet – the members of your body.


So when we are told in Romans 12:1 to present our bodies as living sacrifices and in Romans 6:13 to present the members of our bodies to God, we can present the members of our body in the form of a prayer. “God, I’m Yours today. Here’s my mind. I think what You want me to think. Here are my eyes. I’ll see what you want me to see. Here are my ears. I will hear with You want me to hear. Here is my mouth. I’ll say what You want me to say. Here are my heart, hands, sexuality, and feet. I will be who You want me to be.”


What we choose to do with these bodies makes a huge difference. We have a choice. We can use these bodies of ours to please God. Or not.

If you’ve ever heard anyone teach on these verses, you’ve probably heard them say, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it sometimes crawls off the altar.”


Today we say, “My hands are Yours” but tomorrow we say, “My hands are mine!” Yesterday we said, “My mind is Yours” but today we say, “My mind is mine!” Tomorrow we will say, “My heart – my affections – are Yours” but the day after tomorrow we’ll say, “My heart – my affections – are mine!” And on and on it goes.


God wants us to present every area of our lives to Him every day and as many times a day as necessary.

Now, what does this have to do with discerning the will of God?

Maybe you’re in sales. And the sales training you’ve received teaches you to hide some of the truth about the actual costs, about the interest rate, or about the quality of the product itself. You’re told, “You’re not really lying. You’re just not telling everything. So, say what you have to say to get them to buy.” What’s God’s will? If you’ve presented your body – including your mouth – as a living sacrifice to God, then you are going to have to tell the truth. You’re going to have to sell a different way or you’re going to have to work for a different company.


To discern the will of God, present your body.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year! All year!

I am sure there are things about your life that you hope nd pray are different at the end of 2012 than they are today. If, by God's grace and for God's glory, you make those changes, then all the wishes you have received about having a Happy New Year will have come true by December 31, 2012.

But before you can make a strategy for your spiritual journey, it's important to see where you are and then where you want to go - where the Lord wants you to go.

At CVC, we strive to help people grow to be passionate followers of Christ. And here's what God's word says a passionate life looks like.

Loving God. Loving one another. Loving the world.

It's that simple. That's the destination. But how are you doing?

Use the following tool to evaluate your personal spiritual health in the above-mentioned 3 areas. Simply grade yourself in light of the following statements [on a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest). This will help you see where you currently are.

Loving God

___ I attend church services regularly and expectantly.
___ I truly seek to experience intimacy with God during both the music and the message.
___ I spend time following an organized Bible reading plan.
___ I spend time in regular, ongoing, unhurried prayer.
___ I am giving generously and sacrificially to my local church.
___ My generosity is characterized by priority, percentage, and progressive giving.

Loving one another

___ I have become an active and accountable member of CVC.
___ I am actively involved in a Community Group.
___ I am building a spiritual friendship with an accountability partner.
___ I am volunteering in a ministry of the church.
___ I am bearing the fruit of the Spirit in my personal relationships (see Galatians 5:22-23).

Loving the world

___ I am building relationships with people who do not yet know Christ.
___ I serve in local and/or international mission projects.
___ I regularly invite unchurched friends to church services and events.
___ I am volunteering in a community organization outside my local church.
___ I invite people to put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Now tally your score. And use the highest marks to build on and use the lowest marks to help you develop some strategies to grow.

130-160: ABLAZE Thanks for being an example of an ignited believer. But there’s still more of God available for you.

100-129: BURNING BRIGHT You're an example to many, but what's your next move to be even more passionate?

70-99: SMOLDERING It's really time for you to get to be more “on fire”.

40-69: NEED A SPARK You are truly in desperate need for personal passion.

0-39: FADING Remember: Faith without works is dead. Do you really have saving faith?

Now, you can see where you are spiritually. And you can see where you need to go. Next, with the Spirit's help, design some strategies and goals to help you get to where you know God wants you to be.

Happy New Year! All year!

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