Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Give God Praise

As we reflect on this past year and look forward to what God will do in us and through us in 2009, we must remember that it is important to give God praise for the wonderful things He has done. We must give Him the glory due His name. 
21On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." 23Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24But the word of God continued to increase and spread. - Acts 12:21-24
1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. 2 Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. 3 Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, 5 praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. - Psalm 150

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We must be worshippers

In my last small group curriculum, I wrote the following:

"Worshipping God helps direct our hearts and our minds away from ourselves and toward God. Worshipping God helps kill selfishness, jealousy, and the desires of the flesh. Intentional worship of God prevents the unintentional worship of other things."

Here's the bottom line... we must be worshippers. We must intentionally direct our focus onto our Lord and Savior - Jesus Christ. This cannot be something we only do on Sunday morning. It must be who we are. We must be worshippers!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Want success?

In the first chapter of Joshua we see several promises made by God to His children.  Two of the promises involve success and prosperity. Before I continue, let me be clear that prosperity as defined in the Bible isn't about getting stuff here on earth, but rather storing up treasures in heaven. It is about being rich in God's kingdom, not the kingdom of this world. 

With that said, let's get to what I really wanted to point out in these passages. We clearly see a correlation, a dependency, between kingdom of God success and obedience. An obedient child of God will find success. Doing the will of God leads to success and prosperity. Living for ourselves and entertaining sin leads to defeat and destruction.  

Check it out:
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. - Joshua 1:7-8

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Going after God’s heart

This week, my small group curriculum has us examining our hearts.

Big Idea:
Like King David, we are called to be men and women whose hearts are fully given to God. Life is no longer about our will, but instead we seek God’s will and lay it all down for His purposes as we obediently follow His plans. 

Summary:
King David is the poster-child of what it means to have a heart for God. The life of David is a beautiful picture of love, forgiveness, faith, and the complete abandoned pursuit of God. There are three things that we can learn from David’s life about what it takes to be someone after God’s heart. First, we see that David had a sincere desire to be close to God. Like any relationship, closeness occurs when we spend time with someone. How can we become close to God without spending time with Him? God has given us His Word, prayer, meditation, and fasting as means of growing closer with Him. Scripture shows us that having a heart after God can actually be cultivated. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you and your heart will be changed. If you are sincerely open, God will renew a right spirit within you. 

A second thing we learn from David is the importance of integrity. Integrity is who we are at the core of our being; it is about doing the right thing for the right reason. Integrity before God is about freely doing His will out of love, respect, and obedience. This can never be faked because God judges the heart of man. So, chase after God with a pure heart. Finally, David shows us the immense value of being a worshipper of God. David was consumed with the need to be in God’s presence. Therefore, he delighted in worshipping God. Worshipping God helps direct our hearts and our minds away from ourselves and toward God. Worshipping God helps kill selfishness, jealousy, and the desires of the flesh. Intentional worship of God prevents the unintentional worship of other things. 

You can become a David. You can become a person after God’s heart.  

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

James 4:7-8
What are ways in which we can draw near to God? How does sin and disobedience pull us away from God? 

1 Samuel 16:7
Ultimately, where is integrity measured? Give examples of how you can do something that looks right, but actually lacks integrity. How does obedience to the commands of Christ relate to a Christian’s integrity? 

John 4:24
What do you think it means to worship God in spirit and in truth? How is this similar to the greatest commandment found in Mark 12:30? Discuss different ways we can worship the Lord. 

Taking Action: Like David, ask God to search your heart and reveal any selfish and wrong motives. Be open to what the Holy Spirit reveals and be willing to change. Remember, a person after God’s heart is a repentant person. Finally, become a worshipper and spend time in God’s Word where He will reveal Himself to you and you can become close to Him. 

Ministry Time

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peace has come

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." - Luke 2:14

Those who glorify God by accepting the gift of His Son as their Savior and Lord, will live at peace with Almighty God and receive good will from Him. Peace between man and God comes only through Jesus Christ - the Savior of the world. 

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Jesus came, He saw, and He conquered. He is the King!

Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our African Experience - the video

This short video provides just a taste of what we experienced while living and ministering in Ghana, Africa for 30 days. We are in awe of God's incredible goodness and power. In our short time, we made lifelong friends, we saw people make the decision to follow Christ, children were fed, miracles happened, the lame walked, demons were cast out, fresh water ran through a village for the first time, people were baptized, hearts changed, and our "normal" American perspective was forever ruined for the glory of God. You can also find more information about our ministry time in Ghana HERE.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Your attitude toward the Word of God is your attitude toward Jesus

So many people say that they love Jesus and that their relationship with Him is the most important thing in their lives. Yet, they spend little to no time studying the Bible. How does our time in the Bible relate to our relationship with Jesus? Well, in the gospel of John we see that Jesus Christ is the Word of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1:1 

The Word of God is the very presentation of Christ. It encompasses and displays Jesus to the world. If you love someone, you will want to spend time with them, you will want to know everything about them. That is why, "Your attitude toward the Word of God is your attitude toward Jesus."

Spend time with Jesus... spend time in The Word.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Having a birthday in Ghana, Africa

Thursday was my birthday. I turned 41 while in Africa. We had a wonderful party and dined on the local cuisine of banku, pepper sauce, and whole roasted tilapia - head, tail, and all. (Notice: no silverware - you eat it with your hands.) Velvet made some brownies which we enjoyed with some "ice cream". I was blessed with songs from the children at the compound and several rounds of "Happy Birthday". 

Earlier in the day, I attended a Life Christian University class held here at the compound with several local pastors. The topic of study was "The Ministry of Helps." We got into some lively discussion. I was blessed when this group of Christian leaders prayed blessings over me and sang Happy Birthday to me. 

Early that evening, I preached at Pas
tor Ken's church in Sasieme. It is a recent church plant located in a small village about 3Km from Efife. Pastor Ken is also the Headmaster of The King's Voice Academy - the Christian elementary school in this area. The congregation was very kind and eager to hear God's Word. I preached from the third chapter of the book of Joshua and discussed how God goes before us and He also stays with us. 

Before the church service began, we took a short tour of the village. There was a funeral going on and we found ourselves driving right through the middle of the processional. It is very different in Ghana - the cars have the right of way and they simply honk and the pedestrians must get out of the way - even when they are part of a funeral processional. It was an odd experience. The other interesting aspect of the funeral was that it was a funeral for a young person (teenager) who was an idol worshipper. I am told that you can tell this from the colors and outfits worn by the mourners. 

It was a good day filled with memorable moments. After all, it's not every day that you have a birthday on Africa. If you want to read many more details of our time here in Ghana, you can visit http://jonesteamupdates.blogspot.com/. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

God’s plans are best

Some time after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Israelites approached Jericho (Read Joshua chapter 6). It was time to take the first city of the Promised Land. How would they do it? God had a plan. God had a specific way by which He wanted to take the city and it was a strange way. It was far from a normal battle plan. In fact, it seemed rather foolish to most:
Walk around the city quietly each day and then on the 7th day walk around it 7 times. On the 7th time around that last day, they were told to shout. How would this work?
You know the story, the Israelites obeyed the Lord, followed His plan, and the walls of Jericho fell. “The victory is ours, when the battle is the Lord’s.” I find it interesting that the final instruction from the Lord was to shout. They were told that the victory would be theirs when they lifted up their voices in unison and shouted. Throughout redemptive history, we see the power of the spoken word. “The tongue has the power of life and death” – Proverbs 18:21. It has the power to bring down walls. Do you have walls in your life that need to come down? 

God’s plans for taking the land are not always our plans. But, His plans are best. When we follow His plans, we will find great success. When we ignore God’s way and do it our way, we will encounter poor results and often experience total defeat.

Remember the story of Gideon’s army? You can read about it in Judges 7. God’s plan didn’t make a lot of sense to Gideon and his people. It wasn’t a military strategy that had been used before. They had tens of thousands of soldiers, but God wanted to send only 300. And He wanted them to go to battle with candles placed in clay jars. Gideon’s army followed God’s way and experienced total victory, while the enemy turned on each other and destroyed themselves. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

Saul decided to not follow God’s plans. (1 Samuel 13) He was told to wait for Samuel to make the sacrifice before going to battle. However, because of fear and to keep his men happy, He didn’t wait and instead took it into His own hands. He disobeyed God’s plan. That was the day the anointing was removed from him and his family. He did it his way and lost everything: his kingdom, his son, and his own life. 

What can we learn from this?
We need to seek God’s plan for our lives. We are not promised victory on our terms. We are promised victory when we do it God’s way. Are you listening for His plans or are you just doing it your way, the way you’ve always done it, the way the world does it? I recommend spending time in prayer, seeking God’s face and His voice. Seek God’s plans and His ways before going into battle, before tackling the issues of life, before moving forward into your future, before ministering to others, before making big decisions. God has a plan and you need to follow it. 

There’s a popular song from a few decades ago called “I did it my way”. This should not be the theme song of a Christ follower. Instead, we should be singing the song, “I did it God’s way.”

Monday, December 08, 2008

God stays with us

In my last post, I discussed how God goes before us. He told the Israelites to put the Ark of the Covenant, which was the earthly representation of God Himself, into the Jordan first. He also told them to leave the Ark in the river until all of the Israelites had crossed over. God remained until His children were all safely on the other side. GOD STAYS WITH US. He won’t leave us. He won’t abandon us. 
Joshua 3:17 “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” 
This is a timeless characteristic of God. Check this out:
  • “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) 
  • “For the Lord your God will go with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) 
  • “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”(Hebrews 13:5b-6)
  • “Surely I will be with you all the days of your life.” (Matthew 28:20b) This is part of the Great Commission and is the last thing Jesus said He ascended to the right hand of God. 
When we give our lives to Christ Jesus, we are not alone. He is with us everyday of our lives. And He sends us the Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us, lift us up, educate us, and empower us. We are not alone. God is with us! God leads us and He stays with us! Hallelujah!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

God is the ultimate leader

God understands leadership. He is the author of leadership. God shows us that leaders lead. They don’t just tell people what to do. No. They lead. They go before. Leaders are in front. You can’t take someone someplace you haven’t been. 

For instance, you can’t lead someone to Jesus if you don’t know Him yourself. Additionally we see that a good military leader doesn’t lead from anywhere accept from the battlefield. They lead their troops into battle, not simply command them into battle. They lead!

In Joshua 3, we see how God leads. He once again led the way for His people. God went into the river before His people. He put Himself in the place of perceived danger first. 

Before reading these passages, I want to point out the fact that the ark of the covenant in those days represented the very presence of the Lord. It was His seat. It was the place where His Spirit dwelled. 
Joshua 3:5-13 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves (purify yourselves), for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river’.”
Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Gebusites. See the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord – the Lord of the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” 
Not only was God the first to enter that place of danger, but He stayed in that place until all of Israel had crossed the Jordan safely.
Joshua 3:17 “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”
Lo
ok, God didn’t simply point the Israelites in the right direction and tell them to go for it. I’ll see you later guys. You’ll be fine. Have a nice journey. No, God Almighty led the way and remained until all of His people were safe. The ark of the covenant was first to enter the water and the last to leave. This is leadership. This is the leader I follow today and the one I will follow all the days of my life! 

We follow the greatest leader in the universe. We follow the King of kings. We follow the ultimate commander. We follow the LORD Almighty! God goes before us and He doesn’t call us to go anyplace He hasn’t already gone.
Check this out:
  • He tells us to say no to sin – He was tempted in everyway, yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
  • Be holy as He is holy – just as He who called you is holy, be holy in all you do. (1 Peter 1:15  )
  • He calls us to forgive others. God led the way and has forgiven us. “Forgive as He has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13)
  • God calls us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength … and to love others. Well, God first loved us with His everything. He gave His all for us. (Mark 12:30-31)
  • He commands us to make disciples. Jesus was all about making disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
  • He tells us to cast out demons, raise the dead, and heal the sick. (Matthew 10:7-8)
  • He tells us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:29)
  • He calls us to pray & fast – when you pray & when you fast – not if… (Matthew 6)
  • He says that we must die to self and live for God.
You name it, God has gone before you and has led the way. He is THE LEADER! Let’s be people who follow our leader, Christ Jesus, with confidence.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Where are the signs?

Most Christians are familiar with the Great Commission that is recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. However, the gospel of Mark also records a "great commission" given by Jesus before He ascended. Here is how it reads: 
15He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." - Mark 16:15-18
This passage of scripture is almost a combination of the "Great Commission" in Matthew 28 and the instructions given by Jesus when He sent out the disciples in Matthew 10. But, why don't we see much expression of these signs today? In fact, why does there seem to be such a noticeable lack of expectation of these signs in the modern church? If these signs are supposed to accompany those who believe, then why aren't they commonplace in the church and in the lives of Christians today? I don't know about you, but I sure see a need and a relevance for driving out demons and healing the sick. 

Are we selling ourselves short? Have we settled for a watered-down Christianity? Have we become so accustomed to eating only the crumbs that we have missed the feast which has been prepared for us? 

I say, let's live out the fullness of the Great Commission by making disciples, teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus, and also taking real ground from the enemy today by driving out demons and healing the sick. Let's expect the signs and wonders to accompany us because we are children of God, follows of Christ Jesus, and people who believe. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Willing and able

Jesus has made it very clear that He is willing and able to physically heal us. Will He always do it the way we think it should be done or when we want it to be done? Not necessarily, but let's not get hung up on that. Rather, let's be assured that God is sovereign and His Word is true. 

During His earthly ministry, Jesus said on on a number of occasions that He is willing to heal and He showed us time and time again that He is definitely able to heal.  

Take Matthew 8:3 as an example:
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.
Here's the kicker, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is a God of healing. I have read about it in His Word and I have seen it with my own eyes. He is willing and able. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ghana Updates

I wanted to remind all Transformed Daily readers that you can get relatively frequent updates of our ministry activities in Ghana, Africa at www.jonesteamupdates.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Friends

I found out just how easy it is to make a friend. Today, while waiting at the gate in New York for my flight to Ghana, Africa, a man named Amaning approached me to say hi. He was on our flight from Phoenix to NY and was also flying to Ghana - his native country. He just wanted to say hi. We struck up a conversation and I found out he was traveling with his two brothers back to Ghana to attend their sister's funeral. About 45 minutes later, I walked across the room to again say hi to Amaning and also to meet his his brothers. The four of us talked for 30 minutes about life and about the Arizona Cardinals. I made some new friends today.


Amaning was so kind and it was a blessing to meet him. May the Lord reveal Himself to Amaning and his family during this time of loss. Please pray for Amaning and his family. 


But, that was just the first experience at how easy it is to make friends. My son, Ben (age 5) met a young African boy on the airplane and immediately they hit it off. Ben simply referred to him as "Friend". It was beautiful. They spent time sitting next to each other and just being friends. 


Why do we make relationships so difficult? In America we live such isolated and guarded lives. It is really sad. 


Lord, please help me show care, compassion, and interest in others. As you have given us the privilege of calling you friend, may I show friendship to others. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Men go for greatness

Friday night and Saturday, we had our church's men's conference. It was an incredible time with hundreds of men praising God - arms raised and hearts open.

On Friday night, we saw nearly 200 guys go for greatness as they came forward and fell on their knees in repentance and surrender to the King of kings. It was their time to go to a whole new level! 

God is at work and His kingdom is advancing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ghana Updates

Do you want to receive updates about our ministry in Ghana? If so, you need to visit a new blog I created specifically for this purpose. It is located at http://jonesteamupdates.blogspot.com/. (Note: You can also sign up for automatic email updates on this site.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A little ditty about The King

I did something yesterday morning that I haven't done for years - I wrote a song. This is a simple worship tune that I hope to play with my family. If we get a chance to record it, I'll post it online. In the meantime, we'll have to see if it makes it past my kids. They can be a pretty tough crowd.  The song doesn't have an official name yet, but here you go...
Intro:

Verse 1:
You are God alone
You are King on the throne

You are Lord of Lords
You are the One I adore

Chorus:
You are God, You are King, You are Lord of everything
You are God, You are King - Jesus    (repeat)

Verse 2:
You spoke the universe to be
You saved my soul on Calvary

You freed me from my sinful ways
You gave me new life, so I will say...

Chorus:

OK, I think it needs a bridge in there somewhere.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What is success?

This week, my small group curriculum challenges us to look at success from God's perspective.

Big Idea:
How do you define success? What drives you? The world has its explanation and prescription, but as Christ followers we must embrace the definition and truth of success presented to us by the View Master – God.

Summary:
What is success? Is it the accumulation of things? Is it simply about achieving more, acquiring more, and possessing more? Your answer will be based on the source of your worldview. The world’s view of success is really quite straightforward: getting what you want while gaining fame or prosperity. However, the ultimate view master, God Himself, reveals to us that the purpose of life does not exist in the abundance of things. There is more to life than what you own, where you live, what you drive, and who you know. But for many people, even some Christians, having more is the prime motivation in their lives. Why do people exchange what is eternal for what is temporary? It is so sad and frustrating to see people giving up the victory, freedom, joy, and peace found in Christ for the trappings of this world. It is heartbreaking to watch the destruction of holy matrimony over the pursuit of momentary pleasure.

God has provided us with several criteria for determining whether or not we are living a successful life. He tells us that relationship matters. Our relationship with Jesus Christ must matter more than anything else. He tells us that serving others and putting the interests of others above our own is a measurement of successful living. God tells us that living lives of faithfulness to Him, our families, our church, and our kingdom assignment is success. Finally, maintaining a credible and relevant witness to a lost world is a component of success in the eyes of God. We cannot forget what matters most to God. We must allow God, through His Word, to be our View Master and the definer of success in our lives.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Matthew 13:44-46
What does Jesus say we must be willing to give up as we pursue true success? Give examples of false success. Discuss how we can stay focused on the prize and not get trapped in the pursuit of temporal success.

Matthew 16:24-26
Again, what must we give up in order to gain ultimate success? What is the result of pursuing worldly success? Share with the group an area of success in your life that doesn’t have anything to do with money and fame.

Matthew 25:14-30
How does the faithful exercise and use of the talents God has given us contribute to ultimate success? How does Jesus describe people who aren’t faithful with what God has entrusted to them? Share examples of how selfish living, the pursuit o personal gain, and unfaithfulness have ultimately brought defeat rather than success. Discuss some of the talents God has given us that we must put into use for His glory.

Taking Action: What is your definition of success? What are you pouring your life into? Honestly assess your life and determine if you are investing in temporal success or eternal success. Make the necessary corrections today. Don’t know what to do? Start by reading God’s instruction book – The Bible.

Ministry Time

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The result of faith

Paul opens his Roman letter by stating that obedience is the result of true saving faith. In other words, obedience is the evidence of faith; it is the fruit of faith; it is the necessary outcome of a faith that saves. Therefore, lack of obedience indicates a faith that is broken or possibly all-together dead (James 2). If our lives are characterized by ongoing and perpetual disobedience (especially willful disobedience), then we must go back to the cross, back to repentance, and back to Jesus. 

Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. - Romans 1:5


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Famous Faith

In the introduction of his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul tells them that their faith is "being reported all over the world." In other words, their faith is so strong and obvious that it is being discussed and held in high regard around the entire globe. Their faith is famous. 

Is our faith famous? Are we living a life of such abandonment and obedience to Christ that people are talking about it on the other side of the world? Ok, does that seem like a stretch. How about across the street? Let's be men and women who put our faith into action in the good times and the bad times. Let's be the people of God who really live it out. Let's be the real deal and lift up the name of Christ in such a way that our faith becomes famous. Not for our glory, but for the glory of the Famous One - Christ Jesus.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Got Truth?

This week, my small group curriculum focuses on the important issue of truth and worldview. As Christians, our worldview must be shaped and formed by the Word of God.

Big Idea:
How do you view reality and make sense of life and the world? Do absolute moral truths exist or is everything relative? What determines truth? How you answer these questions matters greatly.

Summary:
Everyone has a worldview. Whether or not we realize it, we all have certain presuppositions and biases that affect the way we view all of life. What have you allowed to influence and shape your worldview? Many Christians profess to build their lives on absolute truth, but they have allowed themselves to be influenced by a postmodern culture that tells them everything is relative. This leads to interpreting truth on a case-by-case basis. However, truth is ultimate reality and is framed by the Creator of the universe – God. In fact, absolute truth exists because truth is the person Jesus Christ, who Himself declared, “I am Truth.” Jesus does not claim to be just one truth or one reality among many. Rather, He claims to be the ultimate reality; the foundation and framework for all that we can see, know, and understand. Just as Christ is the one-and-only Way, He is also the one-and-only Truth.

Additionally, the Apostle John tells us that Jesus is the Word. In other words, to know Jesus is to know the Word of God. And thus, to know the Word of God is to know Jesus. Furthermore, to believe Jesus is to believe the Word of God and to believe the Word of God is to believe Jesus. There is perfect correspondence between the two because the two are somehow one. If Jesus is Truth and Jesus is the Word, then the Word of God (The Bible) is ultimate Truth.

Thus, the worldview of a Christ follower is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do. We must embrace Truth with confidence. We cannot think that anything apart from Christ and His Word is a solution. We have one life, and we must quickly eradicate every compromise of Truth and allow Jesus Christ to fully reign in our lives. GOT TRUTH?

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

John 14:6
How does the character of Christ depict truth as absolute? Is there any other way to God apart from Jesus? What does this scripture tell us about the ultimate source of truth? Discuss why it is dangerous to look elsewhere for truth.

2 Timothy 3:14-17
Where does this passage state that all scripture comes from? Do you consider all scripture, the whole Bible, to be trustworthy? Why is it important to know God’s Word? Discuss your motivation to be in God’s Word.

Romans 12:2
Why is the Bible essential to the transformation of our minds? What is the result of a transformed mind? Discuss how the Bible has changed your way of viewing the world around you and affected what you do and who you are. Give examples.

Taking Action: Examine your worldview. Is it rooted in the truth of Jesus Christ – The Word? Do you have a biblical worldview or is your worldview skewed and polluted by the influences of this fallen world? Make time in God’s Word a priority. Schedule a daily time of Bible study and prayer; not to be religious, but to allow God’s Word to transform your mind and your view of truth.

Ministry Time

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just do it ... now

The harvest is now. Are we missing it? Do we keep planning ministry instead of doing it? Do we keep saying, "when I have reached this place or achieved this position, then I will be able to serve God?" We must wake up and not allow ourselves to fall into this trap. The fields are ready for harvest. People need the Lord today. How will they find the Savior, Christ Jesus, if we don't tell them?

Let's be men and women of action who go to all the nations today. For most, the nations start with our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. There is not better time than the present. In fact, we are not promised anything beyond the present. So, let's be about our Father's business today and every day.
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do ou not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and ook at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, ven now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. - John 4:34-36

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

God provides

I get frustrated with the disciples when I read in the gospel of Mark how they questioned Jesus' ability to feed the 4,000. Jesus had already fed 5,000 with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. The disciples had already witnessed this miracle of multiplication and provision. How could they so quickly forget and doubt?

Well, do we do the same thing in our lives? Do we forget how God's hand has been on our lives; how He has delivered us; how He has provided for us? When the going gets tough, do we question God's ability to deliver us and provide for us?

We serve and follow the God of the universe who is full of love for His children and who is completely able and capable. We have no need to doubt or to fear. "God will meet all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

People of Refuge

This week my small group curriculum reminds us that since people matter to God, they had better matter to us. We must be people of refuge.

Big Idea:
People are hurting and are in desperate need of a refuge. As children of God, we know that the Lord is our refuge. But, what are we doing to share our place of refuge with the rest of the world?

Summary:
God is a refuge for those who put their trust in Him. Refuge is defined as protection or shelter from danger or hardship; a source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble; a place of safety, healing, and redemption. Our God is certainly all of these and more. He is there to protect us from the dangers of life, and shelter us in each of the storms we go through. As God’s children, we are called to be like Christ and show the characteristics of God to a hurting and dying world. Therefore, we must be people of refuge, and the church must be a place of refuge.

What does it mean to be people of refuge? (1) Being a person of refuge starts with loving others. Christ tells us that our love for one another will prove to the world that we are His disciples (John 13:35). People matter most to God and they must matter most to us. (2) If people really matter, then we must treat them with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). People of refuge display God’s grace through generous gestures and acts of kindness. (3) People of refuge forgive one another just as they have been forgiven by God Himself. Offenses, accusations, bitterness, and the critical spirit are definitely not characteristics of refuge. (4) People of refuge let the light of Christ shine brightly in their lives. Jesus instructs us to, “let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). By letting the light of Christ shine, we are directing people to the true place of ultimate refuge – the almighty, living, and loving God.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

1 John 4:7-21
Why is love so important? How does love help create a place of refuge? Can we be people of refuge without love? Discuss how we can show love to those in need of refuge.

Ephesians 4:32
Compassion and forgiveness are refuge characteristics. In what ways do you show others compassion and generosity? Share your story if you have been the recipient of these characteristics. Why is forgiveness so important?

Matthew 5:13-16
Why do Christians have a unique ability and responsibility to be people of refuge? Discuss examples of how we can shine the light of Christ in this world? Share testimonies.

Taking Action:
Are you a person of refuge? Are you a safe place for the needy and the hurting? Ask God to fill you with His grace to become a person of refuge. Look for opportunities this week to love others, show compassion, offer generous gestures, forgive others, and let the light of Christ shine brightly through you. Be Christ to this hurting world.

Ministry Time

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sharing our lives

As important as it is to share the Gospel with people, we must get to the place of true love where we share our very lives with others. This is where the rubber meets the road. It often gets messy and can be time consuming, but love takes work. Jesus has called us to live a life of love displayed in word and deed; a life of ministry that addresses the physical, emotional, and social needs of others while maintaining our eyes on the prize – spiritual transformation.

Here is how the Apostle Paul put it:
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. – 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is your vote spiritual?

Everything is spiritual; however, many Christians separate the sacred from the secular. They no longer believe that all of life is spiritual, so they compartmentalize their faith by separating the spiritual aspects from the “less spiritual” aspects of life. In this philosophy, the spiritual stuff belongs at the church and the rest of life is inherently secular. Unfortunately, this is true of how many Christians approach their vote.

Like it or not, we will be held responsible for everything we do. We will be judged for our action and our inaction. In America, we have been given the gift and responsibility of voting. As Christians, we will be held accountable to God for how we use this gift. Did we use our vote to further biblical values and God’s kingdom or did we use our vote to advance our own selfish agendas and personal financial gain? By the way, not voting is not an option, it is a cop-out.

The Bible speaks very clearly to several of the hot political and social issues of our day. God instructs us to choose life over death and He commands us to not commit murder (Exodus 20:13). God’s Word also underscores the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). Fiscal policies tend to get much of the attention in today’s political environment. This is especially true this year as we are facing an economic crisis in our country and throughout the world. However, the Bible is rather silent on the fiscal policies of governments. When confronted with a question about tax and fiscal policy, Jesus responded by telling us to, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21). Do we so cavalierly think that just voting for a candidate with anti-biblical views and agendas leaves us far enough removed that judgment won’t fall on us? Our vote matters greatly to God and is an opportunity to champion His values.

We are called to be “in the world but not of the world”. The things that drive the world should not drive followers of Christ. Christians should be advocates for the helpless, for the unborn, for the widows, and for the orphans. As representative of Christ, we must take the privilege and responsibility of voting seriously. We are ambassadors of Christ, and our vote should represent that fact. Therefore, our voting guide cannot be CNN, Fox News, the Arizona Republic, or conventional wisdom; it must be the Bible.

Prayerfully consider how you will use your vote this November. Remember that your role at the poles is spiritual and God is watching.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Powerful Prayer

This past weekend I taught from the fifth chapter of the book of James where "Old Camel Knees" tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. I don't know about you, but I want some of that powerful prayer.

James - Powerful Prayer, City of Grace Church (October 19, 2008)


Note: if you have received this via your email subscription, CLICK HERE to access the audio file of this teaching.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Faith in Action

The Apostle James tells us that faith without works is dead. This teaching of mine discusses the inseparable relationship between faith and works and presents why we must have faith in action.

James - Faith in Action, City of Grace Church (October 12, 2008)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Money, money, money

This week's small group curriculum reminds us that everything we have is a gift from God and must be handled in a God-honoring, biblical manner.

Big Idea:
How we view money and how we handle money matters to God. We are called to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us by managing them God’s way.

Summary:
Stewardship is simply managing God’s money the way God wants it to be managed, with obedience and with faith. God has called us to do two different things: bring the tithe and give offerings. Tithing is returning to God ten percent of what already belongs to Him. It is the acknowledgement that God owns everything and is the giver of all things entrusted to our care. Giving, on the other hand, really begins after we have tithed. We are encouraged to give freewill offerings from what is left over as an act of faith and worship. When we fail to do either, God is dishonored. Bringing the tithe is an act of obedience. Giving offerings is an act of faith. Both are signs of good stewardship.

“First fruits” is the important biblical principle of giving our first and best to God. God gave us His best, His Son, and we should give our best in return. The opposite of first fruits is giving God only what we think we can get away with or planning out what we want to spend and then looking at what is left and figuring how much of that we can give to God. Jesus says that we can tell where someone's heart is based on where they invest their treasure. To have our hearts with God is to give generously of our financial wealth to God, His church, and His causes. Since we also value our time and talents, we should invest them with God in faith.

God is serious about this issue of financial stewardship for two reasons: 1) It is the most obvious way we honor Him. How can we trust God with our souls if we can’t trust Him with our money? How can we trust Him with our salvation if we can’t trust Him with our finances? 2) It creates the opportunity for Him to give us more. When we honor God with our resources, He has promised to multiply those very resources so that we can honor Him even more. God sets us up for blessing by requiring an act of obedience from us. Let’s reclaim our finances for God’s kingdom by obediently managing our money His way.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Luke 16:10-15
How can money become our master? Give examples of how we tend to serve money and make it a god. What practical things can we do to keep money from controlling us?

Deuteronomy 26:1-12 & Proverbs 3:9-10
How is the gift of Jesus a picture of first fruits? Why should we give God our first fruits? Discuss how we can practically live out the principle of first fruits.

Malachi 3:8-10
Why is holding back the tithe considered robbing God? Give examples of how God has blessed your faithful and obedient giving.

Taking Action: If you haven’t committed to tithing, make that commitment of obedience today and honor God. Additionally, you are encouraged to take a step of faith by sowing into God’s kingdom through a generous freewill offering. Join-in on the “miracle offering”.

Ministry Time

Friday, October 17, 2008

Is your hope alive?

How do you respond to the difficulties of life? Many people bail out; they run from the troubles and trials. Some people actually blame God for their problems as they lose their eternal perspective and hope is extinguished.

This is how King David responded to difficulty:
14 But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 15 My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. 16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. 17 Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. 18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. 19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? 20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. 21 You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. 22 I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. 23 My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed. 24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion. - Psalm 71:14-24

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My name is pride

My wife, after reading my last post, forwarded me this poem on pride by Beth Moore.

My name is Pride, I am a cheater.
I cheat you of your God-given destiny....because you demand your own way.
I cheat you of contentment......because you "deserve better than this."
I cheat you of knowledge......because you already know it all.
I cheat you of healing......because you're too full of me to forgive.
I cheat you of holiness.......because you refuse to admit when you're wrong.
I cheat you on vision......because you'd rather look in the mirror than out a window.
I cheat you of genuine friendship......because nobody is going to know the real you.
I cheat you of love....because real romance demands a sacrifice.
I cheat you of greatness in heaven....because you refuse to wash another's feet on earth.
I cheat you of God's glory.....because I convince you to seek your own.

MY NAME IS PRIDE. I AM A CHEATER.
You like me because you think I'm always looking out for you. U-N-T-R-U-E.
I'm looking to make a fool of you. God has so much for you, I admit, but don't worry........ If you stick with me YOU WILL NEVER KNOW.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pride is a nasty thing

I recently received a generous gift from a friend and colleague: an all-tube guitar amplifier. I was blown away by the generosity and excited to receive such a cool gift. However, to my disappointment, I also felt a little awkward. Why was this awkward feeling such a disappointment? It was disappointing because it revealed pride.

Pride is a nasty thing. It is so nasty that it can actually make it uncomfortable, and sometimes impossible, for us to accept a generous gift from someone. For some reason we have this warped perception that receiving a gift makes us appear weak or incapable of providing for ourselves. Therefore, people often awkwardly accept gifts or altogether reject the gift in an attempt to maintain their pride. Unfortunately, pride has eternal consequences for many people because it is one of the primary reasons people do not accept the ultimate gift of salvation from Christ Jesus.

Lord, I repent of this pride. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. I set my mind on what the Spirit desires and choose to live by the Spirit and not my flesh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In God’s hands

Are you going through difficulties? Are you feeling the effects of these shaky economic times? Are you allowing fear to creep in and take hold of your mind and emotions?

If so, you need to read Psalm 31 in its entirety to see how David dealt with difficulties and how God delivered him in his hour of need. In the meantime, check out this statement of King David:
I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands... – Psalm 31:14-15a
As followers of Christ Jesus, all events and circumstances of life are in the hands of the Lord “our God”. Our provision and future are in God’s hands. Do we believe this? Is our trust in the Lord? It has to be otherwise we will go crazy in these crazy times. We need to trust in the Lord and invest in His kingdom. Let’s not let the times that we live in or the failure of the world systems dictate our obedience to God or our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Together we are stronger

This week's small group curriculum focuses on the importance of all generations being actively represented and engaged within the body of Christ. Together we are stronger!

Big Idea:
Generational segregation in the body of Christ is not only unhealthy, it is also unbiblical. We are called to be “one body” in Christ Jesus that passionately serves His purposes in our generation.

Summary:
God is looking for people who will bravely follow Him – young and old alike. It’s not about age; it’s about heart and commitment. Have you ever felt too old to serve God? The good news is that you and I are never too old to serve our King. Have you felt too young or too inexperienced, or even not gifted or wise enough? Remember, God is more interested in our availability than our ability! In fact, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. The truth is that we need the strength of youth and the wisdom of age. We need the energy of the young and the stability of the old. We need the creativity of emerging generations and the life experience of preceding generations. The Kingdom of God makes room for both, even though the world seeks to divide us.

God is glorified when His church is a multi-generational community which celebrates (not simply tolerates) young and old. We are called to be a people and a church that keeps Christ the main thing while energetically following His plans for this generation by being “young at heart”. Here are a few characteristics of a “young at heart” church: (1) A young at heart church is committed to the next generation. (2) A young at heart church will not allow generational differences to divide them. (3) A young at heart church is forward thinking. (4) In a young at heart church, older leaders surround themselves with young leaders. (5) A young at heart church is committed to leaving a legacy. Are we ready to be this kind of church in this generation? We must renew our thinking and “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in each of us” while we serve our King as ONE BODY.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Romans 12:3-13
Why do we need each other? Is our age the determining factor of our usefulness? Share how your gifts or the gifts of others you know have been used to edify the body of Christ. How should we treat others in the body of Christ? (v.9-13)

Joshua 14:10-14
Did it sound like Caleb was retiring from doing God’s work? Discuss why retirement from serving God is neither an option nor beneficial. Discuss practical ways we can stay forever young at heart, like Caleb, as we serve Christ and His church.

Malachi 4:6 and Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Why is it important for the hearts of the older generation and the younger generation to be in unity? Explore together ways in which the older generation can pass the baton off to the younger generation. Discuss how the generations working together advance the kingdom of God – give examples.

Taking Action: Decide, this day, to adopt a heart like Caleb’s and remain vigorous for the kingdom of God. No matter your age, be young in your thinking by being a follower of Christ who is teachable, flexible, vibrant, and charitable.

Ministry Time

Friday, October 10, 2008

God funds His plans

God has been blowing my mind with His abundant provision for our upcoming mission’s trip to Ghana, Africa. He is providing more than we could ever have imagined or hoped for; even in the midst of these uncertain economic times.

Last Friday night at our Encounter Service, the Holy Spirit clearly spoke these worlds to me:
“You have seen that God funds His plans. God underwrites His kingdom projects. Lack of finances will never prohibit or stall the plans of God, only disobedience will do this. It is not about finances, it is about obedience to the calling of God.”

Thursday, October 09, 2008

No more WIMPY Christians

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." - 2 Timothy 1:7
Does this describe you? We need to live like people who have the Savior of the world living within us. We need to live like conquerors and not cower like wimps. God has given us all we need for life and godliness. Do you believe it? Then live it. Let’s stop tip toeing around like we have done something wrong. Instead, let’s boldly live the lives Christ died for us to live. As Paul said, let’s live in power, love, and self discipline. Let’s bravely show the world Christ in us and draw all men unto Him.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Come in power

Lord,
Come in power. Jesus, just as you came performing miracles and drawing men unto you with signs and wonders, so I pray for signs and wonders in this generation. This generation wants to feel alive. They are experimenting with all kinds of things, like cutting themselves, just to feel alive. Jesus, you are the way the truth and the LIFE. Draw this generation unto you and show them that true life is found only in you. May we, your followers, shed our pride and fear and have the faith to expect miracles. Come Holy Spirit and move among us in power. May we stop holding you back and allow you now to blow our minds with your presence and power. May we be a people filled with both Spirit and Truth. AMEN.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Shooting straight

In Psalm 127, our children are referred to as arrows.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! – Psalm 127:4-5
If the arrows are in my quiver, then that makes me an archer. This is a huge responsibility because I must make sure I release these arrows at the right target and make sure the arrows are properly prepared so that they will fly straight. I must also make sure they are sharpened so that when they hit their target, they penetrate the target with effectiveness.

This analogy of arrows in the quiver applies to all followers of Christ because we are all called to have spiritual children. We are all called to disciple others and help them grow up in their faith and then send them out to hit the mark for the kingdom of God. (Matthew 28:19-20)

As the archer, do you have a quiver full of arrows? In other words, are you discipling others? Have you thoroughly prepared your arrows for flight? Do you have arrows that will fly straight and hit the target? Have you sharpened them with the Word of God? Are they balanced with Spirit and Truth? If their fletching (feathers) has been damaged, have you applied correction, compassion and love in order to repair them?

Remember, blessed is the man who has a full quiver. We must be sure our quiver is full of disciples – spiritual children. We must take our role as the archer seriously because we are called by God Himself. Finally, we must remember that arrows weren’t designed to remain in the quiver indefinitely. Eventually the arrows are sent out. They are purposefully shot at a target for the glory of God and for the furthering of His kingdom.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Another disappointment - Yeah ... ?

This week, my small group curriculum focuses on handling disappointment.

Big Idea:
We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people – yes, even to Christians. The question today isn’t, “will I experience disappointment,” but “how will I handle it?”

Summary:
When we put our hopes and dreams in people or in circumstances, we usually find ourselves disappointed. Have you found yourself disappointed with your own choices and actions? Has someone betrayed you or has a close friend rejected you? Have you set your hopes on your children being all you want them to be, only to be let down? Did you marry, thinking your spouse would meet all of your needs? I hate to burst your bubble, but no man can meet all of a woman's needs, and no woman can meet all of a man's needs. If our joy is dependant upon circumstances, we are in trouble, because circumstances are always changing. Did you expect a promotion, and someone less qualified received the job instead? Has illness permanently altered the plans you had for your family? Has an unwanted divorce drastically changed your circumstances? If you are trusting in someone or something other than God to bring you happiness, you are a candidate for continual disappointment.

How do we rebound from disappointment and prevent it from defining or defeating us? How do we go from disappointment to destiny? We do this by putting three biblical principles into practice in our lives. (1) Surrender our will to the will of God. Our Heavenly Father has a plan and purpose for our lives. We need to surrender our plans and embrace His. Even Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (2) Trust God with those things we don’t understand. We must never rely on our limited understanding, but instead daily put our faith in God who will show us the way. (3) Put our hope in the Lord. The world will let us down, but Psalm 130 reminds us that, “with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.”

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Jeremiah 17:5-8
What happens when we put our trust and confidence in people or circumstances? Share how you might have experienced this in your life. Instead, where should we put our trust and hope?

Proverbs 3:5-8
How would your thought life and prayer life change by applying these verses and trusting in God’s wisdom instead of your own? Discuss blessings you’ve experienced by doing things God’s way instead of your way. How does trusting God help you rebound from disappointment?

James 1:2-4
Why should we rejoice when we encounter the trials and disappointments of life? Discuss how God has used a trial in your life to mature you. How does this truth change the way you will handle disappointment?

Taking Action: Do you have disappointment in your life? Has it escalated to depression and defeat? Surrender that circumstance or relationship to God and commit to memory Jeremiah 29:11. Proclaim this truth daily - when you awake and when you go to bed.

Ministry Time

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Treasures in heaven, not banks

Fear is a nasty thing. Fear can grip us and cause us to focus on wrong things and make wrong decisions. During this time of economic craziness and turmoil, we cannot allow fear to distract our focus from Christ and His sovereignty. We must remain God-focused and seek first His kingdom.

Today, we must say no to fear and worry by focusing on God’s truth that our treasure is not here on earth, but in heaven, and that our heavenly Father knows our needs and will provide them.

19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...

25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:19-34

Monday, September 29, 2008

An uncomfortable parallel

Telling God that you love Him while you are knowingly engaging in sin is like telling your wife that you love her while openly carrying on an adulterous relationship.

P.S. Not that I really need to say this, but obviously any adulterous relationship, whether open or hidden, is a complete violation of your marital relationship and the antithesis of true love. Likewise, all sin hurts the heart of God; not just the big ones or the ones that have been going on for some time. Both situations require complete repentance.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Remaining requires faith & obedience

This week, my small group curriculum discusses what it takes to possess the land and then remain in it.

re: the art of starting over
(re:possess)

Opening Prayer, Confession of Faith & Worship

Big Idea:
Crossing thresholds is a part of the Christian journey. It is not possible for us to move forward without crossing some thresholds into new places, new experiences, new opportunities, and new victories the Lord has waiting for us on the other side. While it takes faith and obedience to cross a threshold, it also takes faith and obedience to remain on the other side of the threshold and possess the promises of God.

Summary:
Many times, crossing the threshold is the easiest part of the journey. Dealing with what we see, think we see, or maybe don’t see on the other side can often be the most challenging part. When the Israelites finally crossed the threshold and stepped into the Promised Land, they were faced with the seemingly impossible task of taking the well-fortified city of Jericho. At this point, they could have given up and turned around. However, they chose to remain in the land and possess the promises of God. The Israelites chose faith and obedience over fear. We, too, must chose faith and obedience over fear so that we remain where God has called us and don’t retreat when we encounter strongholds of stiff resistance while pursuing the will of God. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is not God’s will. We cannot allow obstacles, fear, or doubt to deter us from possessing the land.

Faith is important because it is believing in what is true – God, His character, and His promises. While faith requires being convinced that what we believe in is true, just knowing the truth is only half of faith. God’s word must be hoped for, embraced, and seized. This is where faithfulness and obedience play an important role in our possession of the promises of God. We must put our faith into action and actually do what God has called us to do. Let’s always remember that with God all things are possible. But, faith and obedience apart from Him are worthless. As much as we pour our passion and efforts into something, ultimately God has to do it … and He will.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Joshua 6:1-20
How did the Israelites display faith and obedience at Jericho? What was the result of the Israelites daily obedience? Discuss instances where you have crossed a threshold just to find strongholds of stiff resistance. Has God ever asked you to do something “unconventional”? How did it turn out?

Matthew 14:25-33
How was Peter able to get out of the boat with the confidence that he would not sink? Why did Peter eventually sink? What areas in your life require complete faith?

Deuteronomy 11:22-27
How does this passage correlate obedience and God’s blessings? Discuss how you have experienced the blessings of God as a result of your obedience.

Taking Action: Are you facing a Jericho in your life – a stronghold of stiff resistance? During this season of fasting and prayer, daily submit this “giant” to the Lord, trust Him, obey Him, do not turn back, and see His victory in your life.

Ministry Time

Printer friendly copies of curriculum: full version or text only.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Daniel and his fasting

Daniel was a man who did not compromise. He consistently said no to the world and yes to God, even when it was uncomfortable and life threatening. Because of this, God used him in big ways and he was greatly favored. Daniel shows us that we must always choose the path of pleasing God, rather than pleasing man or ourselves. We must never compromise our convictions or our relationship with Christ. Daniel also shows us the importance and power of prayer and fasting.

Let's take a brief look at Daniel and his fasting. The background of the “Daniel fast” is that Daniel and his three friends had been “deported” to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians had conquered Judah (2 Kings 24:13-14). Daniel and his three friends were put into the Babylonian court servant “training program.” Part of the program was learning Babylonian customs, beliefs, laws, and practices. The eating habits of the Babylonians were not in complete agreement with the Mosaic Law. As a result, Daniel asked if he and his three friends could be excused from eating the meat (which was likely sacrificed to Babylonian false gods and idols).

The concept of a Daniel fast comes from Daniel chapter 1:8-20 and chapter 10:1-9
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you." 11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. 17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. 18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. – Daniel 1:8-20
Note: Daniel and His friends were obedient to God and God poured out knowledge, understanding, and favor on them.
1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. 2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. 7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. – Daniel 10:1-9
Note: Daniel was the only one who fasted and he was also the only one who was able to see the vision. God opened his eyes. Daniel prepared himself and it touched the heart of God.

Related article: The Gift of Fasting

The gift of fasting

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is often completely ignored by many Christians today. This is a shame because God has given us this gift of fasting as a unique method of relating to Him that touches His heart in a special way. Just as we gain intimacy with God through reading His Word and prayer, we too gain intimacy with Him when we fast.

Why fast?
Do you find yourself in a place of needing a breakthrough? Maybe a personal issue, you need an answer, you are contemplating something big, possibly asking the question “God are you in this?”, maybe you’ve hit a time of danger or significance, or you really need the power of God. How do you get a breakthrough? FASTING & PRAYER! However, we must remember that just like prayer cannot be used to manipulate God, fasting is not a way to manipulate God.

Fasting is also not supposed to be a religious act done to impress man. Here is what Jesus says, "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” - Matthew 6:16

Notice that Jesus says WHEN you fast, not IF you fast. Jesus assumes that His disciples are taking advantage of this incredible gift from God. Jesus himself fasted.

What is fasting?
It is the denial of something – usually food. It is saying to God, “I would rather go without food (starve myself) than to go on as I am.” I want to touch God. I want to hear God. What you do is tell your body to sit down and shut up. “Flesh, you are not getting my attention. Rather, I am giving my attention to God.” It sometime said that when we fast we starve the flesh and allow our spirit to be fed.

Other reasons you may need to fast
Fasting is a form or way of humbling yourself before God:
I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting… - Psalm 35:13 Why is it important to be humbled before God? Because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. God gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore … - 1 Peter 5:5b-6

When there is sin that needs correction – fast and humble yourself.
On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers.- Nehemiah 9:1-2

When you need deliverance:
If you have an addiction or a habit: FAST and PRAY! Do you need deliverance from demonic bondage? Sometimes you need to persist, get serious, pray and fast. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. - Matthew 17:21

When you need God’s guidance & protection:
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. - Ezra 8:21 21

Related article: Daniel and his fasting

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The "fast" way to God

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is often completely ignored by many Christians today. This is a shame because God has given us this gift of fasting as a unique method of relating to Him that touches His heart in a special way. Just as we gain intimacy with God through reading His Word and prayer, we too gain intimacy with Him when we fast. Could you imagine living without prayer or the Bible? Why then do so many Christians choose to discount or completely disregard fasting?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Crossing the threshold

This week, my small group curriculum is all about taking the leap of faith and crossing the threshold into God's promises and plans for your life. It's an all-in proposition with eternal consequences.

Big Idea:
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” When we live for Christ instead of for ourselves, everything changes. We are presented with new opportunities, new ways of doing things, and a new beginning.

Summary:
You are probably familiar with the term “crossing the threshold”. A threshold is the step that forms the base of a doorway, so when you cross one, you pass from one side of a doorway to the other. This term has historically been used in the old marriage tradition of a man carrying his bride “across the threshold”. The idea was significant, not so much relating to the literal door, but symbolizing the passing from one stage of life to another - a passage which has permanent and irreversible consequences. Crossing the threshold is therefore widely used to speak of passing through significant change points in our lives. Throughout the Old Testament we see how God uses thresholds to define transitional moments that signify moving from one place to another – often closer to the heart of God and His promises. For instance, Israel crossed a threshold at the Jordan and moved from a state of wandering to their destiny in the Promised Land. Like the Israelites of old, each of us has significant thresholds in our life that we must cross in order to move from bondage to freedom, and then from freedom to the promises of God.

We must never allow fear, selfishness, or unbelief to keep us from redirecting our lives and crossing the threshold. When God calls us to cross a threshold, we can do it with confidence because Christ crossed the most significant threshold when He passed from death to life. This can be a threshold crossing for each one of us, because we can be united with Christ and raised to new life with Him. At this point, everything changes. Today, God is saying, “Behold, I stand at the door (threshold) and knock.” He is calling us to cross over the next threshold and gain entrance into new opportunities, new ways of doing things, and new beginnings in Him.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Acts 11:1-18
God presented Peter with an opportunity to cross a threshold into the gentile world. What if he didn’t cross this threshold? What could have prevented Peter from crossing? What new opportunities have you found as you have crossed thresholds in your life with Christ?

Galatians 5:16-26
Christ changes what we do, the way we think, act, and live. What characteristics have changed in your life as a result of crossing the threshold from darkness into the light of living for Christ Jesus?

2 Corinthians 5:17-20
What thresholds are you afraid to cross and why? How does our relationship with Christ change everything? Why can we cross the threshold with confidence? What new beginnings have you personally experienced because you surrendered to Christ?

Taking Action: Have you crossed the threshold of surrendering all to Christ? If not, do it today. Are you standing at a threshold which God clearly wants you to cross? Determine that today is the day - take the leap and cross over.

Ministry Time

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Know God? Love others?

If we have a problem loving others, then we could have a significant relationship issue with the Creator of the world. The Apostle John said that if we don’t love others, then we don’t even know God. Why? Because when we know God, we are so completely changed that it results in sincere love for others. We can’t hate because we are changed by the love of God. We freely forgive because we have been forgiven. We lay down our own rights in deference to others because Christ laid down His rights for us.

Has the love of God changed you?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. - 1 John 4:7-8

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fueled by grace

God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. We are created on purpose and for a purpose. God has called us to do good works. This is exciting news, but how are we supposed to accomplish all this? Are we on our own to figure it all out? Absolutely not.

God doesn’t call us to accomplish incredible things for His kingdom and then leave us hanging and holding the bag. He doesn’t leave us to figure it out or to make it happen on our own. Rather, God makes His powerful grace abound in our lives so that we can find success in every good thing assigned to us by Him. God provides all we need to experience huge success as we chase after His plans and purpose for our lives.

In fact, we shouldn’t expect to simply skate by with minimal success. God’s word actually says that we will flourish and find abundant success because God fuels and equips us with His grace - that powerful grace which allows us to say to this mountain “move from here to there, and it will move.” God gives us all we need to “git-r-done” and fulfill His purpose for our life.

Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:8