It’s a Group Effort

At one time or another all of us battle against all kinds of struggles and issues __ we face obstacles that may seem insurmountable. In the midst of this battle we tend to think that we are facing a “Me Against the World” kind of encounter _ we have to fight this battle all alone. Well let me assure you: Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I love the way Paul put in in Romans 8. He asks the question, “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Then later on, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” (Romans 8:33) Then, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35) Then he answers those questions with this bold statement: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) And that someone who loves us and leads us and protects us and delivers us is none other than Jesus himself.

When a person gives their life to Christ a supernatural, spiritual transformation begins. But don’t take my word for it. Scripture offers this: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And having that incredible gift means that, as the Apostle Paul put it in Philippians 4:13, “We can do all things through him who gives us strength.

So, church stop the grumbling and whining and negative attitude and excuses and do what we have been called to do. And in case you are wondering what we supposed to be doing… just before leaving planet earth Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Lest We Forget

Today is the day that we celebrate Memorial Day _ a day to acknowledge our debt _ a day to express our gratitude for those who have served us, with many paying the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives to protect the freedom we enjoy in this great nation.

Of course, when it comes to an ultimate sacrifice I can’t help but think of Jesus and how He willingly went to the cross to pay a price we cannot pay so that we can enjoy the promise of eternal life.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, just before he ascended into heaven, he spoke to his followers to give what has become the “marching orders” for the church. It is called the Great Commission. You have heard those words many times but I want you to read them again to be reminded of our purpose _ to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ and lead people into a relationship with the God of the universe…

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Those verses contain God’s purpose for the church. Since the day those words were spoken people have volunteered to become part of the Lord’s army. Just as thousands of Americans have given their lives for freedom, an untold number of followers of Jesus Christ have sacrificed their lives for the gospel. Without them, the church would not be what it is today. We owe them a debt of gratitude as well. So, on this Memorial Day let’s make sure we pause to offer our thanks for them and the LORD they served.

Overcoming Loneliness

The very first thing named as “not good” in the Bible is loneliness and so God fixed that situation by giving Adam a mate. (see Genesis 2:18-25 to read about it).

Here we are centuries later yet even though surrounded by people many think they are alone and so they wallow in their misery. Well, just as it was with Adam, God has a solution.

To make a point here is a story from April 7, 2010:  NEW YORK – Two-year-old Bridget Sheridan fell off a gangplank at the South Street Seaport museum into New York’s East River. Her father, David Anderson, says she slipped through guardrails while he was adjusting his camera.

A French tourist says he didn’t think twice about diving in to save her.  Anderson followed closely behind. Julien Duret scooped up the girl and gave her to her father. Julien said, “The emotion took over. I didn’t think at all. I reacted very fast. I’ve never done anything like that before.”

The New York Daily News says the 29-year-old tourist got in a cab after the rescue and went on with the day. Julien says he doesn’t think he’s a hero. He said, “Anyone would have done the same thing. I was just happy that I was able to help her, and that the family has been reunited.” To Bridget’s Dad _ Julien Duret is definitely a hero.

I came across this quote and think it is a great antidote for loneliness: “I went outside to find a friend but could not find one there. I went outside to be a friend and friends were everywhere.” (“Our Daily Bread” June 21, 2010.) I have a feeling that if you ask David Anderson he would tell you that he wasn’t looking for one but that he certainly found a friend.

I thought about all that and realized that part of the reason church growth is stymied is due to lacking a key element found in the early church. The early church had phenomenal growth because they were devoted to 4 things: the word of God, worshipping God, praying to God, and fellowship with both God and people.

So, church be a friend and you will not only help the “lonely” by helping them connect to someone you might just help yourself not to mention the opportunity to connect them to God, the One who will never leave them nor forsake them _ the One who has the perfect cure for loneliness.

 

 

When You Need Someone to Help _ ASK!

Bobby Grunewald, a staff member of Life Church, wrote a blog entitled How to Uncover Hidden Talent in Your Church. Here is an excerpt from that blog that might just help you fill the spot that needs filled to become more effective in fulfilling the vision God has inspired for your church.

“How many people in your church might be sidelining their gifts because they don’t see a way to use them in ministry? Significant talent could be buried in your congregation, just waiting for a tap on the shoulder, an invite to lunch.

“Whether you’re creating a new staff role or looking to engage high-capacity volunteers, these four perspective shifts can help you tap into the greatest asset you already have—your people!

  1. Don’t say no for them. Sometimes we assume people with demanding jobs are too busy to add something else to their plate. But what if serving in the sweet spot of their gifts becomes a huge blessing in their life, something that actually brings them energy and fulfillment? Be confident that the Holy Spirit will lead them to the right answer for the season of life they are in.
  2. Show them where they fit. We can’t assume people already know how they could leverage their experience in the church. It never occurred to me that a skillset like mine could be useful for our church because I didn’t see it in action there. I was allowing the way things were to limit my understanding of the way things could be. I needed someone to connect the dots for me.
  3. Grow beyond what you know. Don’t let your lack of knowledge hold you back from seeking help in an area. Life.Church was a low-tech church back then, not by design but due to a lack of resources and know-how. Yet our leaders saw how the world was changing and knew we needed to ramp up our technology efforts to reach people in new ways. They didn’t know how to get there, but they could recognize the skillset that would.
  4. Empower and step back. If you want to engage high-capacity individuals, you have to allow them to use their expertise. Instead of creating a culture of micro-management, Craig told key leaders, “I want you to do things the way you want to, not the way I would, because you know things I don’t know.”

“You’re the expert in your church’s vision and have full leadership authority. Bring that clarity to your new leaders, work with them to define outcomes, and then give them space to build a team and execute projects.

“When we’re looking for the people and resources that can help us grow our church, we can’t overlook what—or who—is right in front of us. The church isn’t a building or an institution. It’s people. What might we be able to accomplish when we discover their gifts?”

 

Don’t Just Sit There _ DO SOMETHING!

I received this via email from Steve May, a missionary in Brazil.

“Some of our best ideas are still waiting for the right moment. We call it preparation. It’s really procrastination. Eventually the due diligence phase yields to the do-nothing phase. And another good idea gets covered in cobwebs. Keep in mind what William Feather said: “Conditions are never just right. People who delay action until all factors are favorable do nothing.”

“There’s something to be said for beginning now and filling in the details as you go. Not that details aren’t important or that preparation isn’t necessary, but at some point you’ve got to quit compiling data and start pursuing results.

“Do you know what the problem is? There’s no failure to face in the preparation stage. There’s no disappointment to deal with in the dream-casting stage. It’s only after the plan has been put into practice that you confront results that maybe don’t meet expectations. It’s easier, then, to push back the launch date and plan just a little longer.

“When Abraham was older than just about everyone who will read these words, God told him, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) Abraham went, with no plan in place, knowing not what lay ahead, only that he was following the voice of God.

“There is a time when it’s time to do just what Abraham did: take the first few steps, even if all the questions haven’t been answered and all the problems aren’t solved in advance. There’s something to be said for beginning now.”

So church, take that idea you have been mulling over in your mind _ commit to prayer _ come up with a plan that aligns with God’s purpose (see Proverbs 19:21) _ then get started.

I personally pondered what Steve offered and got started on a project. I will probably have to make a few adjustments along the way but that’s ok.

Prayer Changes Everything

Kim Butts of Harvest Prayer Ministries made this observation: “It’s easy to criticize our government. There’s a lot going wrong in Washington, D.C. If a representative government has gone wrong, however, that means our problems are deeper than just our leaders. It’s a reflection of our condition as a nation. Spiritually speaking then, it goes back to a problem with the church in our nation.

“In a very real sense, the church in America has become lax and unfocused in our work. We have made the church about us and our desires, when we were always intended to be about reaching out and making a difference in our culture. Hiding behind church walls is a good way to bring about not only a slow death for the church but also a steady decline in a nation.

“The solution? In Philemon Paul wrote, ‘I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.’ (Philemon 1:6)”

I totally agree and so I am extending a call _ a warning for this nation to repent _ to turn from sin _ to turn back to God and the principles recorded in His Word. And, it must begin with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. If this nation is ever going to be “one nation under God” it must begin with God’s people and, prayer must be a huge part of that. Now that certainly isn’t a new idea. Here are some thoughts of a few great church leaders from the past concerning this great need to pray for revival.

Robert Law _ Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in Heaven, but for getting God’s will done on earth.

Martin Luther _ To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing… As it is the business of tailors to make clothes, and the business of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray!

Oswald Chambers _ Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.

John Laidlaw _ The main lesson about prayer is just this: Do it! Do it! DO IT! You want to be taught to pray. My answer is: pray and never faint and then you shall never fail.

Then there is this quote from an unknown author _ Prayer will cause you to abandon sin, or sin will cause you to abandon prayer.

The Apostle Paul offers this: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) And “everything” includes turning a nation around. And by the way, the “him” is none other than Jesus Christ who once said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

Listen church, there are basic godly principles and beliefs at stake. There are threats to the moral fiber of those we serve. Like Paul, we may not win every argument or succeed in every endeavor, but we must engage both the Lord and the opposition and in that order. James put it like this, “Submit yourselves to God _ resist the devil _ come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:7-8)

So, church let’s pray and then pray some more and then follow the Lord’s lead by sacrificially serving those we pray for.

Don’t Just Sit There _ Do Something!

There’s an old saying that goes like this, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” Looking back, whether it’s 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago, makes it easy to think about all the trees that should have been planted. We think about how we should have spent less and invested more _ how we should have studied more, prayed more, taken the kids on more picnics, appreciated others more, watched TV less, worried less, laughed more, enjoyed life more, shared Jesus more, and on and on it goes.

It may be tempting to dwell on those things left undone and worry about them but, there is a better way _ do something about today. The fact is that yesterday will never be any different than it was. On the other hand, the pages of now are still blank. Now is a great time to start “planting trees”.

For that to happen there needs to be change, but sometimes, it seems that the only person wanting change is a baby with a nasty diaper. Some of you have been Christians for a while and have thought about more actively serving God or attending worship and Bible study more regularly or getting involved in church activities, or sharing Christ with a friend but you have never followed through. James had this to say about that… “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) So what are you going to do? Well, here’s my advice, “Don’t just sit there _ do something!”