Saturday, June 30, 2012

5 questions you can use to help you help other leaders

"And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnessed entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2).


Are you intentionally spending time with others to help them grow? 


This week, I met with several young leaders. I typically learn more than I teach. They are usually reading something fresh, experiencing something new, and doing something powerful that challenges, stretches, and encourages me. I want to have a learning posture with these young leaders.


For example, this week Andy Sikora taught me about }getabstract. It's the world's largest library of business book summaries. With Get Abstract, you can learn each book's key ideas. Each 5 page summary is presented in a magazine-page format. You can read it in less than 10 minutes. They are logically structured to get the maximum out of your reading time. I'm checking it out. I'm glad Andy and other young leaders teach me.


But I not only want to learn from these young leaders, I want to add value to their lives as well. 


I'm learning that the best way to disciple these young leaders is not to come to them with a set of lessons. Discipleship happens best when it is not programatic, but individualized. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to discipling. 


I'm learning that the best way to encourage these young leaders is to ask good questions and encourage to them seek their own answers. 


Hugh Halter, in an article titled "How I Coach People into True Missional Leadership," says, "Every leader gets lost and blind in their own world and sometimes the most powerful way to influence leaders is by asking the right questions."


Young leaders already know so much. They need to trust that the Holy Spirit is already working powerfully in, through, with, and for them. He is guiding them. They can search the scriptures. They can find resources. They need courage to follow their own God-given instincts. They need to be empowered. They need someone who believes that God is always at work in and around them.


Of course, as an experienced leader, I also need to make contributions and observations based on the Q&A and based on my knowledge, resources, and experience. 


So, what questions can we ask to help disciple, encourage, and equip others? 


Here are 5 questions I'm seeking to ask young leaders to help them grow.


1. What has God been saying to you and what are you going to do about that? (from Mike Breen)


2. What is your biggest challenge right now and how will you address it? 


3. Where are you feeling most joyful, energized, encouraged, and fruitful right now and how 
will you leverage that?


4. What conflicts or uncomfortable conversations have you had recently and what is God seeking to teach you through that?


5. What are the aspects of your life that must change in order for God to keep growing your influence or leadership? (from Hugh Halter)


Question: What questions are you asking that help you help others?

Friday, June 29, 2012

3 kinds of questions every communicator should ask

What do you do that helps you stay focused and clear as a communicator?

It's always helpful for communicators to ask good questions as we prepare messages. Good questions asked and answered create clarity in communication.

This week, Rick Eimers, our youth pastor, presented me with a set of questions as a way to help make sure all of our environments engage the whole person. He's using a head, heart, hand paradigm.

Head

Rick's questions: "Am I driving participants to the text? Am I teaching them to be self-feeders? Is this "experience" theologically grounded?" I would add, "What does God want the people to know and why does He want them to know it?"

Heart

Rick's questions: "Does this activity draw the participants towards brokenness and repentance? Are our people confronted with truth that initiates compassion?" I would add, "What does God want the people to feel and why does He want them to feel it?"

Hands

Rick's questions: "Is there clear expectation on what to do next? Are tangible opportunities given to give back? Is vision being cast clearly on how service is advancing the kingdom?" I would add, "What does God want the people to do and wht does God want them to do it?"

These are excellent challenging questions for communicators and ministry planners.Why don't you think about using these questions the next time you prepare an event or a message? 

Question: What questions do you use to help you stay focused and clear as a communicator?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Missional? Attractional? How shall our churches reach people far from God?

Over the last few years, our leaders at CVC have been seeking to help our church become more and more missional.

Hang around CVC and you will hear, "We seek to serve the last, the least, and the lost. We want to do good deeds to build good will so we can share the good news about Jesus. We want to mobilize our members and attenders to see themselves as missionaries cleverly disguised..." We come to CVC to be equipped to go be the church in our workplaces and communities. The best form of evangelism is done "out there" not "in here."

This move toward more missional has been an adjustment in emphasis for us.

25 years ago, we started CVC with more of an attractional church model. We wanted to design services and ministries where members and attenders would want to bring guests. We wanted the guests to experience irresistable environments where they could hear and respond to the gospel. We talked about "invest and invite" as a primary evangelistic strategy.

Church leaders today talk about the either/or-ness of missional and attractional. But I am convinced that both are good. It's my observation that the best missional churches typically still have attractional teaching and music and that the best attractional churches seek to mobilize people to sacrifice and be on mission.

When it comes to missional and attractional, I am a big fan of both/and not either/or.

One of our one-time members, Carol Garrett, once wrote a piece that reflects our attractional passion to reach out effectively to the seeker who might be a new attender at CVC.


***
V.I.P.'s In Our Midst

Only God knows who they are…
Each week they take a seat among us in CVC services.
Most wish to remain inconspicuous. Some even anonymous. On the outside, they look just like everybody else. They smile. They sing. They laugh. At appropriate times they stand or sit or listen.
But on the inside, where only God can see, they are searching.
Many don't know what it is they're looking for, or even if they've come to the right place to find it. For a variety of reasons, all kinds of people with all kinds of questions have made their way into our midst each weekend.
Some come looking for God, trying to satisfy a spiritual longing. Perhaps they have never been inside a church. Or maybe they've been in one too many. Disillusioned with religion, they never planned to be in another church. But here they are. Searching.
Some just need a little peace. Life is tough, and they need direction. Or answers. Possibly, even a reason to go on. Something is wrong and they can't make it right. So here they are. Maybe it's a last resort.
A few people come to be polite…a friend kept asking. Why not be nice? Experience something new. No expectations, no strings attached. No awareness of their need for God.
We don't know who these people are. But some things we do know. Each week they are here because in some way God has drawn them. It is no accident. For many, a lifelong search will end as spiritual truths heard here open their eyes to Jesus Christ.
Every believer at CVC will know these things, because at some point in each of our lives, we were that person sitting on that chair, on our own personal journey toward Christ.
We have all been the seeker.
And that is why we spend countless hours planning, practicing, praying and preparing for these few moments each weekend. We provide a comfortable place where others can come, listen, and learn the truth we know. No amount of effort is too great, no time spent is wasted in giving that opportunity.
Whether we plan the service, implement the plans, or invite the visitors, all of us come together with a single high purpose. For the person sitting in that chair—we do our job, then God can do His. And that's the exciting part. That's when seekers become believers.
***

My heart is still moved by these words. May CVC be a safe place for seekers to come and find Christ. And may CVCers be moved to go and be the church. Missional and attractional. Why can't we be both?

Question: When it comes to missional/attractional, how do you think the church should be?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A man's man is a godly man

Yesterday, I had coffee and a bagel with John Campbell. He's leading our men's ministry, Guardians Men's Fellowship, at CVC. 

I love the verse that he's chosen as a theme for our men. "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (I Corinthians 16:13-14).

We want to see our men at CVC be active, not passive. One of the big problems at CVC and in the church at large is male passivity.

Male passivity began in Genesis 3 at the fall – in the garden. Adam did not speak up when Eve was tempted. He was silent when he should have been screaming a protective "No!" go ahead. Read that story. And ask yourself, "Where was Adam?" 

That's when the heart of the husband’s problem became the problem of the husband’s heart. (And the heart of the wife’s problem became the problem of the wife’s heart.) God’s perfect plan for marriage was marred.

Instead of husbands leading with love, we fell to one of two extremes – sometimes vacillating between them both. Milquetoast man or sledgehammer man. And instead of wives responding with passion, they fell to one of two extremes – sometimes vacillating between them both. Door mat woman or brick wall woman.

And so, sin wrecks our families. The problems in our hearts make for problems in the home.

1. There’s the milquetoast husband/door mat wife marriage.
2. There’s the sledge hammer husband/door mat wife marriage.
3. There’s the milquetoast husband/brick wall marriage.
4. There’s the sledge hammer husband/brick wall marriage.

Which one best describes your marriage? Husbands, God wants you to lead with tenderness. (Wives, God wants you to respond with passion.)

A real man is not passive or abusive. A real man is not impotent or on steroids. A real man leads lovingly. A real man takes initiative with tenderness.

Unfortunately, most men are far more comfortable at taking the initiative in the marketplace than they are in the home. On the job, men develop mission statements, set goals, solve problems, coordinate staff meetings, establish new strategies, create, innovate. They move! But at home, they freeze… until they get mad and then they explode. There is a male leadership vacuum in our homes and in the church and in the culture at large.

So, what can we do? Start with repentance. Read your Bible daily. Continue with prayer for help. Meditate on the way Jesus lived out his masculinity. Begin some friendships with some men that are passionate about overcoming their passivity. Make plans to be a part of the fall Men's Retreat at CVC. Commit to be active in the Guardians ministry in the 2012-2013 school year. Meanwhile this summer,  learn from some men who have thought deeply about these issues by reading some good books.

Here are 8 “Manhood” books that I’ve read and that have helped to shape my views.

The Man in the Mirror – Patrick Morley
Disciplines of a Godly Man – R. Kent Hughes
Tender Warrior – Stu Weber
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood – Ed. By John Piper and Wayne Grudem
Point Man – Steve Farrar
The Silence of Adam – Larry Crabb
Every Man’s Battle – Stephen Arterburn
Wild at Heart – John Eldredge

I try to read or reread one or two of these each year. Why? I don't want to be a pssaive man! I need to remind myself of what a godly man really looks like. I want to be an example to my sons and to the men of CVC.

So, men, what's your strategy to overcome the fallen pull toward passivity? Why not repent, pray, meditate on the life of Jesus, develop some friendships with some guys who want to grow, and pick a book from the above list and read it?

Let's turn the words of Robert Lewis into a prayer for our lives. "Lord, give us grace to reject passivity, accept responsibility,  lead courageously, and expect the greater reward."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Can you explain the gospel in 221 words?

This past weekend at CVC, we thought about what it means to obey the command to let our manner of life be worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). We can't obey this command unless we are clear on what the gospel is. 

We defined the gospel as The Story of creation, fall, rescue, and restoration. It's the good news about King Jesus who dies on the cross in our place to pay for our sins so we can be forgiven, who rises from the dead to justify us, who reconciles us to God, and who invites us to join Him on His mission to restore all things. I thought it was a pretty comprehensive and accurate definition of the gospel. 

But when I see that a theologian like D. A. Carson define the gospel, I take notes! By way of the Desiring God blog, here is Carson's definition of the gospel in 221 words. 

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath. 
But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects. 
In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 
The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:162 Thessalonians 1:81 Peter 4:17). 
This is the best good news ever. Really. What saddens and disturbs me is that I too often live like the gospel doesn't matter much. But it's because of the gospel that we are forgiven, that we are given meaningful work to do on this planet, and that we have the sure hope of heaven. 

The gospel. It's something to live up to. It's something to be a credit to. It's something that we show off. By how we live, we can show a watching world that the gospel is supremely valuable to us. 

Join me in asking God for grace to let your manner of life be worthy of this incredible good news. How? Submit to the gospel. Stand up for the truthfulness of it. Strive to advance it's influence in culture and in the lives of the people we know. Share it. Sacrifice and suffer for it. 

Question: How would you define the gospel in 221 words or less?

***

The D. A Carson quote is taken from For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future
, ed. Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon (London, UK: Evangelical Alliance, 1986), 80.

Monday, June 25, 2012

3 ways to grow your hope when you are facing the Monday morning ministry blues

Mondays are often hard for young leaders. And for older leaders, too.

Ministers, pastors, and church planters pour themselves out for the cause of Christ over the weekend. They enter the weekend with great hope. 

But criticisms, lack of visible results, and conflicts show up on Saturdays and Sundays. Self-doubts and guilt feelings pile up. Many weekends, a leader will self-diagnose and do the self-blame thing for an apparent failure to communicate with clarity and life-changing power.

All these disappointments combine to conspire against a leader's hope. 

The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, had a lack of response to his ministry that was stunning. In Lamentations 3, he sings the ministry blues. Here's my paraphrase of Lamentations 3:1-20 with a little help from The Message and the NLT.

"Afflictions, troubles, and sufferings. That's me. Why? God seems so angry with me. He's led me into a ministry black hole. I signed up to serve God, but it seems like He's not helping me. Instead, He's stiff-arming me. I feel old before my time. My hopes are crushed. I am just... sad. I am boxed in. I feel trapped. I cry out and beg for help, but God doesn't answer my prayers. I try to move forward and my way is blocked. I try to walk a straight path and everything twists and turns. My ministry is a joke. I get no sympathy or support. People in other churches and ministries smirk at my struggles behind my back. Truth be told, I am bitter about it. It's hard to remember the good times in ministry. Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost. This is it. I'm finished. I give up."

That's extreme. But honestly, I've been there. Many times. Maybe you are there today. 

How should leaders deal with the despair of Monday morning ministry blues? Jeremiah's tune changes in Lamentations 3. He gives us three strategies for overcoming the funk leaders find themselves in on Monday mornings. 

1. Think.

Remember that God's steadfast love never ceases. "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:21-23). Our ministry struggles are not signs that His love for us has diminished. His reasons for our struggles do not include a lack of love for us. He's doing something we cannot see. We think about His nature and character toward His children. It's love. We want Him more than we want His blessing on our ministry. Think! Isn't His love for us enough?

2. Preach. 

We have to be experts in preaching the truth to ourselves. “'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him'” (Lamentations 3:24). We tell ourselves, "I have God. He's my all in all. He's my inheritance. And He's enough. I don't need ministry success. I need Him and I have Him. My hope is in Him not in visible ministry results!"

3. Wait. 

We want things to happen quickly, now, yesterday! But God says, "Wait!" "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:25-26). Why does He want us to wait? Maybe ministry success that comes too easily or too quickly would lead us to make an idol out of the work of the Lord. He wants us to trust Him to do things in a way that will bring Him the most glory. And He wants us to want Him and His salvation more than we want the accolades of visible ministry results. So, we wait. 

Think with gratitude about His unfailing love for you that was proven at the cross. Preach to yourself about how His value is infinitely greater than visible results. Don't try to make something happen by your own energy; instead, wait on Him to do what only He can do. 

And as you think, preach, and wait, you will watch your hope grow. You'll be ready soon to carry your cross as you serve your King. 

Question: So, how do you deal with the Monday morning ministry blues? 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Aging biblically

As I approach my 59th birthday, I find myself wondering more and more, "Am I really ready to face Jesus? Have I honestly leveraged my time, my talent, and my treasure in the most strategic ways? Have I lived a life worthy of the gospel? Have I shown my family and my friends that Jesus is supremely valuable to me? Have I really purposed to live 'contra mundum'? Have I avoided caving into the American culture that is in pursuit of personal peace and affluence? Am I radically generous? Am I passionately on mission? Am I more prayerful, more focused, more sacrificial, more productive the older I get? Am I really ready to meet Jesus?"

Yesterday, Randy Alcorn shared a video on Twitter from Real Ministries that reinforced these questions for me. The speaker is Francis Chan. He is now is 44. Chan shares the idea that life goes by more and more quickly as we age. He says that in our 20s, life goes by at 20 mph. In our 30's, life goes by at 30 mph. He made me think, "I'm almost 60. Life is speeding by me at 60 mph. Life will soon be past. Am I doing what will last?"

In a culture that has made an idol out of retiring into a lifestyle of R&R, we need to wonder what it looks like to age biblically.

Check out this very well done 3 1/2 minute video as Chan helps us think, repent, and leverage all we have been given for Christ's Kingdom causes. Before it's too late.

Friday, June 22, 2012

4 reasons why you'd better discover and deliver the one big idea as a communicator

Aside from receiving an anointing and filling from the Spirit of God, what is your biggest challenge in public speaking? Finding content? Overcoming nervousness? Maintaining interest? Staying passionate? Sharing illustrations?

These are all important factors. But not the most important.

When we are giving a presentation / message / talk it's important to establish and then relentlessly communicate one compelling big idea. All the other ideas we share should flow out of that one. When teaching a paragraph from the Bible, we have to study the passage so thoroughly that we discover what the one big idea was for the original audience. Then we are ready to teach the idea - the truth - to our people.

Why is this so important?

1. The big idea makes us relevant.

Once we discover the big idea we can communicate it in a compelling way that actually connects with our audience. We must seek to understand and care about the hurts, fears, and hopes of our listeners. Once that happens, them we can "marry" the big idea to the real needs of our people.

2. The big idea keeps us focused.

If we don't uncover and communicate the one big idea, then we will simply be stringing together a bunch of unrelated, rambling comments about the text. And we will doing a real injustice to the Spirit's inspiration through the author of the text. Scripture doesn't violate the principles of literary structure. Paragraphs in good literature have a subject and a complement - one big idea. There were not two or more big ideas in a paragraph for the original audience and there are not two or more big ideas in a paragraph now.

3. The big idea helps us study.

Once we know the big idea, we can find content, illustrations, applications, and supporting texts that truly support the one point we are seeking to make. Identifying the big idea will make it easier to eliminate the material we will inevitably find that won't help us make the point.

4. The big idea gives us passion.

Once we know the big idea and connect it to the needs (felt or unfelt) of the audience, our passion will grow. We will care. We will clearly see that what we are saying matters to the people in the room. Scattered, rambling communication lessens passion. Focused, pointed communication increases zeal.

We want to hit the hearts of people with a sniper-like rifle shot of truth, not the scattered buckshot approach of a running homily method of communicating.

Finding the big idea and connecting it to the people in relevant ways is sometimes easy but often tough for me. I need the prayers of God's people to communicate God's word in clear, practical, and relevant ways. Please pray for me and for anyone you know who seeks to communicate God's truth.

Question: Apart from gaining the anointing and filling of God's Spirit, what do you think is the most difficult task in communicating?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The dangerous use of the "Sinner's Prayer"

Maybe you've prayed a prayer like this: "Dear Lord Jesus, I realize that I am a sinner and that I need Your forgiveness. I repent. I turn from my sin. I believe You died on the cross in my place to pay for my sin and to purchase my salvation. I believe You rose again. Right now, I receive You as my personal Savior. I will follow You as my Lord. Please change me and make me the person You want me to be. Amen."

Have you prayed a prayer like that before? I did. My dad shared the gospel with me. He led me in a prayer like the one above. I gave as much as I knew about me to as much as I knew about Jesus. I meant that prayer. I'm convinced that Jesus took me seriously. And Jesus changed my life.

Many Christian parents sweat and worry about the eternal destiny of their kids until they pray that prayer. Evangelicals make desperate hospital visits to sick friends and family members. Their goal is to help the sick pray the prayer before it's too late.

It's called the "Sinner's Prayer." And it's been controversial this year at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans.

David Platt, a Baptist pastor in Birmingham and author of the book, Radical, spoke at a conference before the Convention. He had said, "I'm convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we've sold them as the gospel, i.e. pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life. Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase, 'accept Jesus into your heart' or 'invite Christ into your life'? It's not the gospel we see being preached, it's modern evangelism built on sinking sand. And it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls."

Some Southern Baptists were deeply concerned about Platt's message and his concerns about the "Sinner's Prayer." They thought he could be leading people to be less passionate about evangelism. They wanted to defend the use of the prayer.

My friend, Jimmy Scroggins is serving this year as chairman of the SBC Committee on Resolutions at the Convention. (Jimmy actually preached at CVC at few years ago and led his Louisville church to give financial support to one of our church plants.) Jimmy exercised wisdom as a leader. He led the committee "to affirm our commitment to evangelism and to calling people to make a decision for Jesus Christ."

The resolution said, "We affirm that repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord (Rom. 10:13), often identified as a 'Sinner's Prayer,' as a biblical expression of repentance and faith." It added, "A 'Sinner's Prayer' is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the gospel (Matt. 6:7; 15:7–9)."

I like what both Platt and Scroggins are affirming.

It's not the "Sinner's Prayer" that saves. Jesus saves. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice.  Jesus shed His blood on the cross and died in our place. We put our faith in His finished work in our behalf. That's what saves us, not saying a few words that a preacher or evangelist tells us to say.

If anyone thinks he is saved by saying a little prayer, then that can be tantamount to salvation by works. If we somehow think that those words save, then we evangelicals have simply made up our own non-biblical sacrament: walk down an aisle, open your mouth, repeat what the preacher says for you to say to God, and be saved.

While I feel that inviting people to pray to receive Christ can be a good thing and while I often invite people to say the "Sinner's Prayer" with me at CVC, we must never give the impression that once someone has said that prayer that they are necessarily saved.

The evidence that we are saved is not that we said the "Sinner's Prayer" but that true repentance and faith characterize our lives. When we are saved, our lives truly change. "If any man is in Christ, old things pass away and all things become new" (II Corinthians 5:17). And if that hasn't happened for you, then you aren't saved no matter how many times you have said the "Sinner's Prayer."

Trevin Wax writes a blog for The Gospel Coalition. He wrote, "The real issue comes down to finding our assurance in these methods and phrases. False assurance is when a pastor says, either explicitly or implicitly, 'as long as you walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or asked Jesus into your heart at some point in time, you’re safe.' It’s the kind of false assurance that doesn’t take into account a Christian’s fruitfulness (as Jesus commanded us to) and tries to convince tares they are wheat. The debate is not really about the usefulness of a sinner’s prayer, but the grounding of one’s assurance in a particular moment in time where one felt remorse for sin, regardless if true repentance was present or later evidenced."

Trying to get our friends or family members to say the "Sinner's Prayer" isn't the goal so we can say, "Whew! Glad that's over with! Now their ticket has been punched to go to heaven." No. We should beg for God to grant the people we love the new birth, to give sight to their blind eyes, to set free those who are enslaved to sin, to grant to them repentance and faith, to make them new creations in Christ Jesus, and to make them friends (not enemies) of God. We want to see a real response to the gospel that results in a transformed life, a hunger for God, and an obedience to His word.

If praying the "Sinner's Prayer" can help a person connect with Christ, then good. Very good. But we must remember the prayer is not a magical mantra. We have heard the joyful sound; Jesus saves, not the "Sinner's Prayer."

Questions: Did you pray the "Sinner's Prayer" when you came to Christ? Do you encourage others to pray the "Sinner's Prayer" when seeking to lead someone to Christ?

Related posts:

Conversion: knowing Christ or trusting Christ

Lordship salvation

Growing in the assurance of your salvation

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Keep it simple enough for a child

"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven'" (Matthew 19:14).

I once had an eighty-something year old seminary prof, Dr. Roy Beamon, who taught systematic theology and could work academically in over 20 languages. He was academically brilliant. He could impress the brightest and best of scholars. Yet, he told his students that the greatest compliment he ever received as a minister of the gospel was not from some academic theologian or from another pastor or from a deacon at his church but was from a 6 year old little girl.

After a Sunday message, she told him, "I like the way you preach." He said, "Thank you, sweetheart. Why do you like the way I preach?" She replied, "Because I can understand what you say!"

Then he told us, "Gentlemen, study to show yourself approved unto God and then preach so that a little child can understand you. Ministry is not a place to impress people with your brilliance. Do your academic homework, but keep it simple."

I have tried to remember that. Keep it simple enough so that a child can get it.

This past Sunday, a CVCer encouraged me big time with a thoughtful note about his daughter. I wrote back, "Thank you so much for sharing what your precious daughter got out of the message. Simply amazing. I am so humbled and honored that God would use me in this way."

Here's what he wrote to me.

***

Rick,

I wanted to reach out following the services yesterday. I played piano [on the worship team] and my wife and three children attended the 3rd service. Our younger children are usually in their Sunday School classrooms. But [the weekend] I guess my wife felt like they should see their dad leading worship on Father’s Day. So, they all stayed in the main service.

My daughter, Jaime (9 yrs old), has been really struggling with worry, especially regarding her health and the reality that we all die eventually. (I know, it's really heavy stuff for a 9 year old to be worrying about, especially since she is a vibrant, healthy young lady.) She absorbs any information at school regarding kids with illness and disease. We spend many nights praying with her and affirming her that she is healthy. I also have been trying to teach her God's truths regarding life, death and sickness.

Well, last night she basically re-taught your message to me.  She started, “You know, Dad, dying is gain.”  I asked, "How so?" She then went on for several minutes highlighting several truths from your message, "You like oranges here, right?" I said, "Yes." She stated, "Then you’ll really love oranges in heaven."  She went on about how my muscles get sore here but in heaven I won’t ever be sore again. She asked, "You like food here? Well, it’s nothing like it will be there. You’ll never be sick, sad, tired or hurt!" She went on and on about how we’ll have new bodies and a new home.

My eyes tear up thinking about the confidence she had as she shared and "preached" God's truths to me, her dad.

I just want to encourage you and to say “great job.” When a person can teach something they just heard that morning, it means they’ve owned it for themselves. If my 9 year old daughter could receive and apply that message then I’m sure there were many more lives impacted by God’s truth on Sunday, including mine.

***

This compliment from a young dad's daughter is one of the greatest encouragements I could ever receive. I am so thankful to God that my words helped her heart.

It's a further reminder for me to hear and heed those words from Dr. Roy Beamon. Do your homework, but keep it simple enough for a child.

Question: What are ways you seek to keep it simple enough for a child?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nic Wallenda, The Great Blondin, Niagara Falls, and what they can teach you about faith

One main trending topic this past week was a tightrope walk. On Friday night, Nik Wallenda walked across a high wire over the Niagara Falls. Most Canadians and Americans are very aware of that amazing feat. But maybe you didn't know that Wallenda wears a cross around his neck every time he walks the high wire. It isn't just a fashion statement. It's a message about his faith in Christ. 

Walenda once said, "I grew up in a born-again Christian family - a Bible-believing, God-fearing family. That's the way I was raised and I find comfort and peace in that. God's hand is involved in every step of my life. I pray and I talk to God a lot and I find peace in that. That's how I can remain calm when people would think I could go nuts. That's why I try to live an upright life and I try to be an example to everybody."

Wallenda's faith in Christ was evident as he walked over the falls on Friday. He had a microphone and could talk with his dad in a control room. You could hear Wallenda praying, "O, Lord, You're my Savior. You're my King. You're my Jesus. You're my wisdom. You're my rest. Thank you Jesus. Thank You, Lord. Praise You, my Father." 

That is a moving example of praying without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17). Wallenda's praying inspires me to walk and talk with God more consistently. Wallenda's effort inspires faith. 

Over the years, another man's walk over another part of the falls has inspired the faith of many people in a different way. Wallenda, of course, wasn't the first to cross the Falls.

Back in the 19th century, a performer named Jean Francois Gravelot was known as "The Great Blondin." He was a tightrope walker who performed amazing, death-defying stunts.

Blondin's greatest fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile across the Niagara Falls.

He walked across 160 feet above falls several times. Each time was a different daring feat. He even carried a stove and cooked an omelet!

On one occasion, he asked for the participation of a volunteer.

A large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another -- pushing a wheelbarrow.

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?" The crowd shouted, "Yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe! We believe."

"Okay," said Blondin, "Who will get in the wheelbarrow? Who among you is willing to ride inside of the wheelbarrow and allow me to push you as I cross on this tightrope?" The crowd went silent. No one said a word. No one volunteered. No one really believed enough to get into the wheelbarrow. No one was willing.

The story of The Great Blondin paints a real life picture of what faith really is. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They said they believed. But their actions proved they truly didn't.

It's one thing for us to say we believe in God. It's true faith, though, when we believe God and put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.

We may say we believe, but when Jesus says, "Follow Me," we don't move. When He says, "Obey," we continue doing whatever we want. And when He says, "Let me show you the way," we act like we don't even hear Him.

If Christ is your Lord and Savior, let Him carry you. Trust Him to lead the way. Give your life completely over to Him and let Him guide you and direct your steps. He won't let you down!

Jesus has carried many across to Heaven's gates. He can be trusted! Ask yourself, “Am I riding in Jesus’ wheelbarrow?”

Receive Christ. Believe in Jesus.

A prayer might express your faith. Simply pray, "Lord Jesus, I believe You are God, the Son. I believe You died on the cross in my place to pay the punishment for my sin. I believe You rose again. Right now, I turn from my sin. I receive You, Jesus, as my Savior and Lord. I am getting into Your wheelbarrow! Only You can take me to safety. Where You want me to go, I will go. I am trusting You and You alone to save me. Change me and make me the person You want me to be. In Jesus' name, Amen."

If you prayed that prayer, congratulations! Leave a comment below to let me know. I would love to send you some information to help you grow in your relationship with Christ.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How worship smashes the idol of lust

"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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (II Corinthians 3:18).

Recently, a friend trusted me enough to share with me his struggle to be free from lust. He hates the fact that he can't consistently overcome the temptation to linger long in looking at what he knows will bring momentary pleasure, but lasting shame. He knows it's hurting his marriage.

We talked about the normal approaches in the fight to overcome lustful thinking. Accountability? Check. Read Every Man's Battle? Check. Prayer? Check. Tell your spouse about your struggle to gain accountability and support? Check.

All these tools and techniques are good. They help my friend for awhile. Then he falls back into the sin that he wants desperately to overcome. His spiritually informed willpower to win isn't working.

I said, "What if your problem isn't really lust, but idolatry? Maybe what you really want is to be valued, prized, pursued, desired, and empowered. What if your fantasies run deeper than the simple rush from lust? What if what you really long for are things like being affirmed, respected, touched, received, and accepted? The lusting is rooted in the fantsy that some beautiful woman values you so much that she seeks intimacy with you. What if the problem isn't lust, but idolatry?"

An idol is something that we put in the place of God. It's something that we love, serve, and allow to dictate our behavior more than God. In the case of lust, it's not the picture that's the idol. It's the sense of vitality that comes from the fantasy accompanying the lust.

In the Old Testament, the saints of God were praised when they took down the high places of worship and smashed the idols. We have to do the same. We have to be idol smashers.

How? We repent and replace.

We receive the grace and mercy that comes from the gospel of Christ. We embrace the fact that Jesus already paid the price for our forgiveness when He died on the cross in our place for our sin. We refuse to live in shame. Past, present, and future lust has already been forgiven.

Then, we realize that that the most real, most powerful, most imporant Person, Jesus, truly values, prizes, pursues, desires, and empowers us. The King of kings and Lord of lords, Maker of heaven and earth, the Sovereign God, the Beautiful One actually affirms, respects, touches, receives, and accepts us.

We realize that we don't need the fantasy from a fake flickering image to feel vitalized. We are valued by God. Knowing that we have great worth to Christ makes lust become cheap and tawdry in our eyes. Why would we settle for a fantasy when we could have reality with God?

While reading books about freedom from lust might help, I suggested that my friend read books about Christ and the gospel. I suggested that he try The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller and Hunger for God by John Piper.

Ultimately, it's worship that sets us free from lust. It will be a lifelong battle to worship the way Jesus deserves and the way that sets us free. We will have advances and set backs. But as we prize Jesus more and more, we will be set free. We will be able to say, "Christ is my all in all" and "For me to live is Christ."

We can learn to meditate on how Jesus truly values, prizes, pursues, desires, empowers, affirms, respects, touches, receives, and accepts us. We can learn to love Him more for all that. We can turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth, even lust, will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Question: What are other idols in your life that you have seen worship smash?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

This past week on the blog

Why dying is gain

At CVC this morning, a man let one of our pastors, Dale Piscura, know that he has been officially diagnosed as a terminal cancer patient. He's given his notice at work. He's calling the funeral home to plan his funeral. He told Dale that the message God gave me to deliver deeply ministered to him.

The message today was from Philippians 1:21 where Paul says that dying is gain.

When most people think about death, they face it with fear and dread. But when Paul considered his leaving this world, he simply said that he had a “desire to depart.” “But I am hard pressed from both directions having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (Philippians 1:23).

Death was no cause for fear for Paul!

Circle that word. Depart = analuo. It literally means “to unloose.” Spend just a few minutes with this word. The truths it expresses are simply awesome. This word was used in Paul’s day in at least four ways. The way this word was used teaches us some comforting, reassuring, encouraging truths about death.

A believer’s death is…

1. …taking down the tent. “Depart” – analuo – was a military word. It was used to describe soldiers taking down their tents. What a picture of a Christian’s death! When we leave this world, all we really do is fold up this tent of flesh and go to be with Christ.

"We are still in this tent… so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, …and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:4-8).

2. …setting sail from shore. “Depart” – analuo – was a sailor’s word. It meant to loosen a ship and set sail. That is what happens when a Christians comes to the end of the way. We just loosen from the moorings of this world and sail off to glory to meet Jesus.

No wonder the Psalmist says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints”(Ps 116:15).

3. …taking off the yoke. “Depart” – analuo – was a farmer’s word. It was used to refer to taking the yoke off of oxen at the end of the work day. What a picture for the child of God! One day our work will be finished and the yoke of service will be removed from our necks and we will enter His rest.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord… Blessed indeed that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Revelation 14:13).

4. …setting the prisoner free. “Depart” – analuo – was a political word. It was used to speak of setting prisoners at liberty. Perhaps this was the image Paul was intending to convey by using this word. After all, we are prisoners in these bodies and in this world until God cuts the golden thread and allows us to come home. The day will come when God will open our prison doors and we will be free.

Paul says, “To die is gain. To depart is very much better.” Unmistakably he’s saying, “The best is yet to come.”

May our friend at CVC who is battling cancer find courage, strength, and hope from these words. And my you find hope, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tend to corporate culture

Over the years I think I have underestimated the importance of a healthy, vibrant corporate culture in the life of the church.

I tend to focus on fulfilling my part of the mission. I want to preach, teach, and lead people to Christ.

What I am realizing is that an unhealthy corporate culture actually detracts from the effectiveness of the teaching, preaching, and witnessing.

Will Mancini and Patrick Lencioni are helping me repent as a leader. Mancini quotes Lencioni, "The single greatest advantage any [organization]can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it" (The Advantage). That quote has rocked my world as a leader.

Recently, I wrote the following to someone on our staff team:

"Forgiveness, honesty, openness, acceptance, accountability, teamwork, support, and care ought to characterize all of us in all our staff relationships.

"Let's pray and work together to actualize these characteristics. As we grow more and more in this way as a staff, we will find that our walk with Christ will grow to be more precious and our work for Christ will grow to be more productive.

"In other words, we'll have more fun and more fruit. And that sounds good to me!"

Question: What might change in your family, career, or church if you made tending to the corporate culture a priority?

Philippians 1:6, Eternal Security, and You

Friday, June 15, 2012

Measuring Ministry Wins

Patrick Lencioni writes and speaks powerfully about high-impact leadership issues. A friend of CVC, Will Mancini of Auxano, speaks so highly of Lencioni that I decided to buy all of Lencioni's books and read them.

Right now I am reading The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. The three signs are irrelevance, anonymity, and immeasurement. Immeasurement is what happens when people don't know if they are winning on the job or not. Immeasurement usually means that employees will experience misery on the job.

Lencioni tells the story of an ex-CEO who retires and then stumbles into an opportunity to turn around a sad-sack Italian restaurant. In the process, he clarifies what it takes for employees to feel energized and passionate about their jobs.

Lencioni is  helping me as a church leader think about what it looks like to measure the win in ministry - corporately and individually.

I am seeking to apply the ideas and concepts to my own life and work at CVC.

At a personal level, I will try a 30 day experiment. I am going to measure 1) Ts and Es and 2) Qs and As.

Ts and Es are Thank yous and Encouragements. When someone thanks me for some ministry I've performed, it's a win. When someone encourages me in some way about my ministry, it's a win.

Qs and As are Questions and Asks for help. When someone asks a question of a spiritual nature, it's a win. When someone asks for my help, it's a win.

I'm planning on keeping a record in my journal. The goal will be to end the month with more wins during the last week of the month than I had during the first week of the month.

Question: if you were going to measure wins in ministry, what would you measure? 

Related posts:
Lifting the leadership lid

Leadership: Insights from George Barna

Leaders and relational curiosity

Thursday, June 14, 2012

20 ways to evaluate your spiritual maturity

One way to evaluate how we are growing into passionate followers of Christ is to compare and contrast spiritual maturity against spiritual immaturity. Look at the list below and ask God to reveal to you some areas in which you need to grow.

Spiritual Maturity vs. Spiritual Immaturity

1. Teaching rather than Being taught

2. Developing depth of understanding rather than Struggling with basics.

3. Self-evaluation rather than Self-criticism.

4. Seeking unity by building others up rather than Fostering disunity by tearing others down.

5. Taking on spiritual challenges rather than Seeking spiritual entertainment.

6. Careful study and biblical observations rather than Half-hearted study and human opinions.

7. Active, risk-taking faith rather than Apathetic, play-it-safe caution.

8. Confident hope rather than Fearful doubt.

9. Taking initiative to forgive rather than Waiting on others to ask to be forgiven.

10. Experiences evaluated by God's Word rather than Experiences evaluated according to feelings.

11. Living in the freedom of forgiveness rather than Living in guilt and self-condemnation.

12. The gospel of grace and mercy rather than The law of sin and death.

13. Confronting sin directly in the lives of others rather than Allowing sin to go unchallenged.

14. Believing the best rather than Believing the worst.

15. Passionate zeal rather than Lukewarm complacency.

16. Fulfilling the Great Commission rather than Letting someone else do it.

17. Serving rather than being served.

18. Engaging in personal growth and change rather than repeating the same sinful patterns.

19. Generosity rather than Materialism.

20. Longing to depart and be with Christ rather than Fearing death.

Question: How would you describe the difference between spiritual maturity and spiritual immaturity?

20 areas of accountability for discipleship

At CVC, our leaders are clarifying our definition of mature discipleship. It's what Will Mancini of Auxano calls "Missional Measures" or "Missional Life Marks." He says that church leaders need to be asking "When are we successful?" Wise leaders don't look at numbers (attendance or budgets) to answer that question. Instead, wise leaders look at the definition of discipleship and ask. "Are we really producing that kind of a disciple?" (You can check out Will's thinking regarding discipleship as it relates to Vision Clarity in his book, Church Unique.)

I was recently going through an old file and found a tool we developed several years ago to help us measure the depth of discipleship at CVC. The tool was used in accountability relationships to help identify areas where discipling needed to take place in a person's life. Can you imagine what might happen in your life if you had a loving mentor/coach who helped you grow in the following 20 areas?

20 areas of accountability for discipleship:

1. I am asking God to help eliminate this time waster from my schedule. ______________


2. These are the people with whom I need to spend more time. ____________________


3. These are the activities in which I need to spend more time. ____________________


4. I am using my talents in this ministry of my church. ___________________________


5. I am giving ____ % of my income to God’s work.


6. I am saving ____% of my income as a nest egg for the future.


7. I am asking God for help in eliminating this unnecessary expense from my spending. ___________________


8. I am involved in a small group where I can serve and be served and experience loving accountability. (Name the group__________________)


9. I have been challenged by someone in my small group to grow in this area recently. __________________________

10. These are the lost people that I am seeking to win to Christ. ___________, __________, ______________.


11. The last time I shared the gospel with some one was ________________________.


12. The last person I invited to a service, group, or event was ____________________.


13. I rarely miss a Sunday service. ___ yes ___ no


14. I am putting my whole heart into worship on Sunday - singing passionately, praying earnestly, and listening intently. ___ never, ____ rarely, ____ sometimes, ____usually, _____ always.


15. The time for my personal devotions is ____________________.


16. Here’s what I’m reading in the Bible right now. ______________________


17. I have been consistent with my devotions lately ___ 0 for 7, ___ 1 for 7, ___ 2 for 7, ___ 3 for 7, ___ 4 for 7, ___ 5 for 7, ___ 6 for 7, ___ 7 for 7.


18. Here’s a verse that I am seeking to memorize. _________________________


19. I am praying consistently. ___ yes ___ no


20. Here’s my latest answer to prayer.______________________


Question: What characteristics of a mature disciple might you want to add to this list?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How encouragement puts a Wow! in your relationships

One way to put a Wow! in your relationships is by saying, "I’m believing in you."

Paul did this with the followers of Jesus in Philippi. "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Paul was in aprison yet he still found a way to encourage others - to let them know that he believed in them.

He says, “Here’s what I see in you. I see in you a people who will make it to God’s finish line. You will break the tape. You will get the ‘well done.’ You will finish well. What God began, He will complete.” And no doubt, that encouragement fueled the perseverance of the Philippian Christians.

Who do you know who needs encouragement?

The film Cinderella Man is the story of a common-man hero, James J. Braddock. It takes place during the Great Depression. Braddock was an impoverished ex-prizefighter, broken-down, beaten-up and out-of-luck. Just like the rest of America was in the 1930s. He hit rock bottom. His career appeared to be finished. He was unable to pay the bills. His family was in danger. He was even forced to go on Public Relief. In a last-chance bid to help his family, Braddock returned to the ring. No one thought he had a shot. But Braddock kept winning and the ordinary working man got a shot at the title. As an extreme underdog, he had to take on the heavyweight champ of the world, Max Baer, a fighter who had killed two men in the ring.

He needed encouragement. And it came in the form of words from his wife. In the film, Mae, Braddock’s wife come to him in the dressing room just before the fight and says, “You just remember who you are... you're the Bulldog of Bergen, and the Pride of New Jersey, you're everybody's hope, and the kids' hero, and you are the champion of my heart, James J. Braddock.” She’s saying, “I’m believing in you.” She’s saying, “I see in you a champion.”

And the rest was history. Against the odds, Braddock won that fight and held the heavyweight title from 1935-1937.

Who needs encouragement from you? Perhaps things are not going so well for you. You yourself  feel like you're in a kind of prison because something has gone really badly in your life. You have finance problems and the debt is so deep that there's always more month than there is money. You had a boyfriend or girlfriend, but they dumped you, moved on, and are now talking trash about you behind your back. You feel like you are the one who needs the encouragement.

Maybe God is even now reminding you through Paul's ministry to the Philippians that there's a purpose for your personal prison and there's joy in the Lord. He’s calling you to go beyond yourself and write an encouraging note to a person who needs it. Your note will make them go “Wow.” They will glorify God because of your love. You'll be showing passion in following Christ. And you won't regret it.

Paul says, "I’m believing in you." And this puts a Wow! in the relationship. Now, will you go and do likewise?

Question: What are some ways you seek to encourage others that puts a Wow! into your relationships?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

4 ways to pray for others that will put a Wow! into your relationships

When your friends and family think about your relationship with them, they evaluate it in one of three ways. Michael Hyatt says it this way in his book Platform: 1) You fail to meet others' expectations. That's disappointing. 2) You meet their expectations. That's average, normal, and, frankly, boring. 3) You exceed their expectations. That's dynamic, exciting, and brilliant. It puts a Wow! into the relationship.

One of the best ways to put a Wow! into your relationships is to pray for people. The great spiritual leader, Paul was able to put a Wow! into his relationships with followers of Christ in Philippi. He let them know that He was praying for them.

And in the process, he teaches us how we can pray for the people in our own circles of influence. How shall we pray for the people in our lives?

Here are 4 ways to pray for the people in your world.

1. Let’s pray that love will grow.

"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more…" (Philippians 1:9a). Paul wanted their love to “abound.” Abound = increase; overflow. It’s like a shaken-up bottle of pop that spews out in every direction.

We should expect to grow from one level of love to more and more mature levels of love. I want to be a more loving person at the end of my life that I was at the middle of my life. And I want to be a more loving person at 68 than I am at 58. I want to love more and more people, more and more deeply, more effectively.

What a great way for us to pray for others. “Lord, let his/her love for others grow and grow and grow.”

2. Let’s pray that love will know.

"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment" (Philippians 1:9). Biblical love is informed love. It doesn’t jump to quick conclusions. In I Corinthians 13 we are told that love believes the best. No, it’s not na├»ve. But after analyzing all the facts, love wants to give people the benefit of the doubt. Discernment prevents us from acting the wrong way – from saying the wrong thing.

Maybe someone seems cold and distant. “She won’t talk to me. I wonder what her problem is.” When the truth is known, a problem is the reason. Maybe there is a heavy burden on the heart. A terrible situation at home. A life that is under constant pressure. When you have knowledge, then you can have judgment. Instead of being critical there is sympathy.

3. Let’s pray that our love will show.

"So that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10). The word “pure” comes from an expression “to be without wax.” In Bible days, clay pots were sold in the marketplace. Sometimes, a deceptive merchant would try to sell a cracked pot. He’d put wax in the crack to seal it. A wise customer would hold up the pot toward the sun to see if any light came through. If it did, then he knew it was damaged goods. The honest sellers of pottery learned to put a sign over their products which read “sincere” or “without wax.”

To stand on the day of Christ, we need to love purely. Our lives can’t be deceptive. When you hold us up to the light of the Son of God, we pass the test. What you see is what you get. The key to passing the inspection is love! Will you pray for the people in your life that their love will show?

4. Let’s pray that love will flow.

"Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:11). Notice the word “through.” Love comes through Christ. Self-effort won’t produce the fruit of genuine love. It comes when we abide in Christ. The fruit of love must come through Christ!

You say, “I can’t love this way.” You’re right. But if we stay attached to Jesus, then He’ll love through us. We can do it if His love flows though us.


So, this is what Paul prays for the Philippians. He prays that their love will grow, know, show, and flow. And it's what we can pray for and with others. And when we do, we'll be on our way to watching God put a Wow! into our relationships.

Question: What tools do you use in your praying for other people?


Related posts:


How to pray for the people you love

Seven Spiritual Prayers to pray for myself and others

A scriptural prayer from the Psalms to entreat God's favor

Monday, June 11, 2012

This past week on the blog

A God story from Forward Church's Jeff Bodziony, one of our church planters: God has our back


When you are stuck and don't now how to pray for someone, here's instruction from Paul's prayer for the Philippians: How to pray for the people you love


If you've ever been tempted to say, "God isn't looking at me with HIs favor anymore; He's not noticing me like He used to; He defends the rights of everybody but me; He pays no attention to my cry for justice," here are some truths from Isaiah 40 that will help you: When you feel like God is no longer looking out for you


A young adult wonders how she will ever escape from the downward drag of generational sin. Maybe you are wondering, too: How grace sets us free from the sins of our fathers


A simple thank you note can transform your relationships: How gratitude puts the Wow! into our relationships


A successful church planter from Columbus, Greg Ford, gives insights that can help any church reach out to the community more effectively: 7 ways to show you care


According to the comments on my blog post, the new casino in NE Ohio has already been negatively impacting families in our church. Here's a Biblical perspective on gambling: The Horseshoe Casino, gambling, and you








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