Saturday, June 28, 2008

Proclaiming God's Names

This morning I attended a family breakfast hosted by the men’s ministry at our church. Besides being served a fabulous, all-u-can-eat breakfast, our children’s pastor spoke to the families with biblical encouragement and challenged both the children and the parents. One of his encouragements involved families memorizing the seven redemptive names of God and then proclaiming God’s names as a family on a regular basis. I thought this was a fabulous way for child and parent alike to stay grounded in the reality that we serve a big God who is all sufficient and loving. Anyway, here is the list. Maybe you want to incorporate this into your family discipleship.

The 7 Redemptive Names of God:

  1. JEHOVAH-RAAH: The Lord our Shepard, who tenderly leads us, loves us, and will keep us safe.
  2. JEHOVAH-SHALOM: The Lord our perfect peace.
  3. JEHOVAH-TSID-KENU: The Lord our righteousness.
  4. JEHOVAH-RAPHA: The Lord that heals, and restores our souls.
  5. JEHOVAH-JIREH: The Lord that sees and provides. He supplies all our needs.
  6. JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH: The Lord is present and with us everywhere. He is omnipresent.
  7. JEHOVAH-NISSI: The Lord our banner of love and protection.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The revolution has begun

This week's small group curriculum kicks off a study series of the teachings of Jesus that should take us through most of the summer. We are calling this summer the "Red Letter Summer."

Big Idea:
Jesus came into this world to start a revolution driven by repentance and the changing of the human heart, not by civil unrest or military action. We are called to join the revolution. But be warned, everything about your life will and must change.

Jesus began His earthly ministry with the words, “Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” In other words, people needed to think differently because everything was about to be turned upside-down. Jesus was initiating the greatest revolution ever seen, by bringing the kingdom of Heaven to earth. This kingdom wasn’t going to expand by force, but by the transformation of the human heart. God’s revolutionary agenda is here, and it advances by servanthood, humility, obedience, faith, hope, and love – beginning with the poorest, weakest, and meekest, and growing to become a movement that topples the power structures of this world.

Are you ready to join the revolution? Are you ready to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God rather than this world? If so, here are four Kingdom essentials you must embrace and live-out. First, you must align yourself with Kingdom values. In every facet of life, you must know God’s way and live it. Second, you must accept Kingdom purposes. Your reason for living goes beyond worldly agendas and motives. You were created to love without limitation, to serve without hesitation, to worship without intimidation, and to share the gospel without fear of man. Third, you must embrace Kingdom relationships. You become a member of God’s family, not based on social status or physical DNA, but by choosing to accept and obediently follow Christ. Fourth, you must adopt kingdom priorities. What matters most to God must ultimately matter most to you. This stuff is revolutionary!

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Matthew 5:3-10
How can we incorporate these kingdom values into our daily lives? Discuss the changes you need to make for this passage to describe you. Encourage each other to go for it, and hold one another accountable.

Matthew 6:33
What happens when we put God’s plans before ours? Share personal experiences.

Romans 12:1-2
How do we change our thoughts and actions to line up with the Kingdom of God? Discuss how reading God’s Word has renewed your minds and changed your thinking.

Taking Action:
  1. Deepen your understanding of God’s Kingdom by reading through the gospel of Matthew with your family or friends.
  2. Memorize the Beatitudes, and begin to implement Kingdom practices. Start by sharing Jesus with others.

Ministry Time

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Preventing “Life Drift”

I have had the wonderful opportunity to spend the last few days in the San Diego area with my wife and four children. We have spent a lot of time on the beach. My two oldest sons love to boogie board. An interesting phenomenon occurs as the boys ride their boards in and then paddle them back out to catch yet another wave - they drift. In fact, due to the currents and maybe even the tides, they can quickly end up 100 yards down the beach from where they started. This can often take them into the “surfers only” area and out-of-site of mom and dad. In order to prevent this drift from happening, they need to (1) know that drift happens, (2) frequently look up in order to maintain their bearings, and (3) make the necessary adjustments. The best way to keep your bearings is by first identifying a stationary object that won’t move or suddenly disappear. I suggest a rock or a lamp post. Now you must frequently look for that stationary object so that you can determine if you have experienced drift and have moved away from your designated place. If you notice that you are a little off, immediately make the corrections.

This experience and the principles wrapped up in it can be applied to our lives in a much greater manner than simply not drifting down the beach while boogie boarding. Let me take a stab at it. The natural currents of this world are always at work and can cause us to drift, thus pulling us into dangerous territory – into sin, out of God’s will, and away from His purposes. We can prevent this kind of “life drift” in much of the same way we would “boogie board drift.” We must (1) know that drift happens, (2) frequently look up in order to maintain our bearings, and (3) make the necessary adjustments. Remember that the best way to keep our bearings is to keep our eyes fixed on a stationary object that will not move like the tides of this world move. That object that never changes is the truth of God’s Word – the Bible. Frequently looking to God’s Word will help us keep our bearings and let us know when correction is in order. Obedience to His Word is the act of making the adjustments required to stay in His will.

The writer of Psalm 119 calls God’s Word “a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” The Bible really will keep us from drifting. It will keep us on the straight and narrow path. It will keep us out of dangerous waters. That is why we must read it, know it, love it, and obey it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


This week my small group curriculum focuses on the importance of perseverance.

Big Idea:
Testing is a part of life and trials are inevitable. In fact, God uses trials in order to strengthen us, mature us, perfect our faith, and prepare us for His holy purposes.

This life is a proving ground of sorts; a place where our faith is tested on a daily basis. How we respond to the trials and temptations of life will either strengthen our faith or destroy it. As Christians, we must realize that trials are still inevitable and actually necessary for us in order to develop perseverance. Perseverance is the act of bearing-up under trials and living for God every day, even when it is hard. Perseverance must finish its work so that we may be perfected and our faith may be proven genuine. This process is similar to the tempering of steel: the heat, rather than destroying the steel, actually makes it stronger and more useful.

The military demonstrates this principle as they take a new recruit and build them into a soldier. They put the recruit through a series of very difficult tests: physical, emotion, mental, and relational. If the recruit perseveres, rather than “washes out”, they are fashioned into a lean, mean, fighting machine. They become “one of the few” because they have completed the training now stronger and tougher - proven for the field of battle.

Trials are the essential means God uses to develop Christian character. And, perseverance through trials gives evidence of true saving faith. How does going through tough times strengthen and prove our faith? It requires us to trust in God. It requires sincere dependence on God that is made evident in self-control and godly action. What is the result? God uses those who stand, even when times are tough, and He promotes those who persevere.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss – use different translations)

James 1:2-4 & James 1:12
How does James say we should respond to the trials and temptations of life? Why is perseverance so important? What is the ultimate reward for those who persevere?

Hebrews 12:1-11
How does the writer of Hebrews say we should persevere (v.1-2)? Discuss how Christ’s perseverance should motivate us. Why does God discipline us and allow us to encounter trials? Share personal experiences of perseverance or discipline that resulted in maturity and growth.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
What does Paul say our current struggles and trials are actually achieving for us? How does the temporal aspect of this life help us endure tough times?

Taking Action:
Recognize the unique trials God brings into your life, consider why He may be bringing these times of testing, and ask Him for wisdom to face them in a way that will build perseverance and bring Him glory.

Click here for PRINTER-FRIENDLY copy of the curriculum

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I am your man

Late last night I had an intense time in prayer. One of the things that I found myself repeating to God was, “I am your man.” After saying this several times, I was reminded of a scene from the movie The Count of Monte Cristo (2002).

Let me set it up for you. Edmond Dantes had just escaped from prison after being wrongly held for over 12 years. He washed up on a beach where his life was threatened by pirates. He was told he could have his freedom if he survived a knife fight with Jacopo – a pirate who was known for his knife-fighting skills. It was a fight to the death. To the surprise of all the pirates, Edmond was victorious and had Jacopo pinned down. The last move he needed to make was to thrust his knife into Jacopo, killing him and thus winning his freedom. However, Edmond had mercy on Jacopo and offered to spare his life. Jacopo was amazed at this act of mercy and looked Edmond straight in the eyes and told him, “I am your man.” He then dedicated the remainder of his life to serving Edmond. Jacopo responded to this life-saving mercy by surrendering his desires, his dreams, and his very life to the service of the one who showed him unwarranted mercy - Edmond. He became “his man.”

This is how we must respond to Christ. We, like Jacopo, are pinned down and cannot win the fight. In fact, we deserve to die. However, Christ, in His abundant mercy has given us a second chance. So, have you responded to Christ like Jacopo responded to Edmond? Have you become “His man?”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Find a Band of Brothers

I recommend that every man be involved in some sort of discipleship group; a group specifically designed for personal accountability, encouragement, and ministry. Men need to be held accountable. Men need a safe place to share. Men need to be encouraged and at times aggressively pushed by other men so that they will rise to their calling as spiritual leaders.

Living for God was never designed to be a solo experience. We need each other. Jesus modeled that with His disciples. Men can fall into the trap of trying to fight the fight on their own and almost always find themselves taken captive by the enemy. If you are a man, don’t let this happen to you. Get together regularly with other faithful Christian men who also desire a godly life and in brotherly love challenge each other.

Here is a simple format to use for your gatherings:

  • Encourage each other to spend time God’s Word throughout the week.
  • Ask each other to share something from God’s Word that blew their mind, rocked their world, encouraged them, or brought up questions. Discuss.
  • Ask each other to share areas of struggle (sin, finances, relationships, etc.), apply God's truth, and keep each other accountable in these areas.
  • Minister to each other in prayer.
  • On occasion, agree to fast together as you seek breakthrough, direction, and the power of God in your lives.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sex - God's way or the world's way?

This week's small group curriculum is my fifth and final of the Extreme Home Makeover series. It is sub-titled "The Bedroom" and might be considered to be PG-13 by some.

Big Idea:
We live in a culture that shamelessly promotes and engages in a distorted view of sex. The world has taken what God created for good and has used it for evil. As Christians, we are called to not conform to this world, but instead follow God’s guidelines.

God created sex and therefore, it is good. Let’s look at why God created sex. Genesis tells us that God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” He also said that, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.” So, we see that God created sex for procreation, but He also used it to create a special intimacy between man and woman like nothing else could. This intimacy creates a powerful bond at all levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual. And this is why scripture is so clear that sex is designed only for the marriage relationship between one man and one woman. The boundaries are very simple and straightforward: do not have sex while not married, do not have sex outside your marriage, and do not selfishly withhold sex or force sex within your marriage.

However, to his own destruction, man has made a practice of venturing outside of God’s boundaries. Sexual sin has serious consequences spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Sexual sin is extremely hurtful because it is a sin against God, against others, and against our own bodies. Intentional disobedience of God's command not to commit adultery dishonors and displeases Him. Conversely, God is pleased when His children choose obedience and self-control instead of the immediacy of pleasure outside of His wise, protective boundaries.

So, where sex is concerned, we can either choose God’s way and experience the incredible benefits and beauty of His plans or we can choose the world’s way, which leaves a huge wake of pain, destruction, and separation.

Discussion Questions: (You may want to discuss these questions in two separate groups: men only & women only.)

1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Why is sexual sin so bad? Who is it hurting? Give examples of how you can avoid sexual immorality.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
Contrast how the world views sex with how Christians should view sex. How can improper physical intimacy harm others? Is there a possibility of “getting away” with sexual sin?

1 Corinthians 7:2-5
Why can it be dangerous to withhold sex for long periods of time? How can sex be used selfishly in marriage?

Taking Action: Repent from any past sexual sins. Ask God to break any unhealthy emotional and spiritual ties created by past sexual sin. Commit to remaining pure from this day forth so that you can honor God with your whole being. Ask God to forgive you and to give you the grace to live in victory.

Ministry Time

Click here for PRINTER-FRIENDLY copy of the curriculum

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dad, are you the real deal?

I was asked to expand on my previous post "Dads, lead by example" so that it could be used as an article for another publication. Here is the result. HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!


Father's Day is this coming Sunday - June 15th. I know this is contrary to what popular culture is spewing at us, but the role of the father is critical. The father is the head of his household and has the God-given responsibility of spiritually leading his family. Dads, if we simply go through the motions in life without surrendering to God and loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, it can destroy our families and possibly lead our precious children straight into the arms of this cruel world or worse - hell. We can’t take our responsibility lightly. How we treat others, how we love God, and how we lead our family matters greatly. We must lead by example. We can’t just tell our families, but instead we must show them what it means to be a Christ-follower. We must be the “real deals”. A child will see right through a dad who “talks the talk”, but doesn’t “walk the walk.”

So, how do we do this? How do we disciple our families? Jesus said, “Feed my sheep”- John 21:15-17. However, we can’t feed our sheep unless we are fed. We can’t give something we don’t have. Therefore, one of the critical components is time in God’s Word – the Bible. “God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path” – Psalm 119:105. A second critical component is action. Reading God’s Word without taking action can be pointless and potentially can do more harm than good – Dad reads his Bible, but he doesn’t live like it. The Christian life isn’t supposed to be lived passively, but rather passionately. We are called to “put these things into practice.” When we do this, our faith actually becomes evident to others – our children included. Rather than our lives being a barrier between our children and Christ, our sincere, obedient, and surrendered life becomes a magnet that attracts our children to the Creator of the universe - God.

The apostle Peter gives us an incredible word of encouragement when he says, “We have all we need for life and godliness.” In Christ we have the grace, power, and victory to be the dads God has called us to be. That also means that we don’t have any excuses.

Lord, pour your grace out on all of us who are privileged to be fathers. We need your strength, guidance, and help. Thank you for giving us all we need to fulfill the calling you have placed on our lives. May we never shirk our duties or back down from our responsibilities. May we live so passionately for you that it becomes infectious and spreads throughout our families. Protect our children’s hearts and draw them unto you. Amen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I would be LOST

I am not a big television watcher – especially not network TV stuff. However, over the past week, I have watched a few of the first episodes of LOST via the internet. As a guy, my mind races with thoughts of survival techniques and how I would handle the situation of being stranded on an island. One of the first things I would do is take inventory. I began to think about what would be essential. I must tell you that I started to panic when I thought of the possibility of a Bible not being among the inventory. There are a lot of things I could do without, but to spend years – not to mention the rest of my life – without the Word of God would be catastrophic.

Three lessons to consider: (1) never fly Oceanic Airlines - the airline that crashed in the first episode of LOST stranding people on an island, (2) never leave home without God’s Word, and (3) spend time in the Bible daily because we are, in fact, stranded on an island called “this world” where we are strangers and God’s Word is our most important survival tool - the source of life, strength, and sustenance.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The home of the righteous

Peter wrote in the last chapter of his second letter that, "we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." This has me asking the question - if we aren't driven to live godly and righteous lives today, what makes us think that we would even be happy spending eternity in heaven - the home of righteousness?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dads, lead by example

Father's Day is this coming Sunday - June 15th. I know this is contrary to what popular culture is spewing at us, but the role of the father is critical. The father is the head of his household and has the God-given responsibility of discipling his wife and children. Dad's, if you just go through the motions in life without surrendering to God and loving Him with all your heart mind, soul, and strength, it can destroy your family and possibly lead your precious children straight into the arms of this cruel world and perhaps to hell. Fathers, don't take your responsibility lightly. How you parent, how you raise your children, and how you love God matters greatly. Lead by example. Don’t just tell your family, instead show them what it means to be a Christ-follower.

Lord, pour your grace out on us dads. We need your strength, guidance, and help. Thank you for giving us all we need to fulfill the role you have given us. May we never shirk our duties or back down from our responsibilities. May we live so passionately for you that it becomes infectious and spreads throughout our entire family. Protect our children’s hearts and draw them unto you.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Let God call the shots

Too many times we take the lead, go our own way, and make our own moves. We grab hold of the wheel, pilot our own ship, and ask God to follow us around through life showering us with blessings as we call the shots. This is completely backwards. Check out this method utilized by the Israelites for deciding when and where to make a move.
In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels. – Exodus 40:36-38
Like the Israelites, we must follow God. When God says move, we should move. When God says stay, we should stay. We must listen to God and let Him call the shots. He just happens to be the Creator of the universe and is much more qualified to sit in the driver’s seat.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Choose your entertainment wisely

So what do we allow into our lives? What is OK to watch and what should we avoid? How do we manage our entertainment choices? This is the topic of this week's small group study material.

Big Idea:
Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body.” What we allow ourselves to view and what we put into our minds matter greatly. This is definitely true as it relates to our entertainment choices.

The Israelites placed armed guards at the entrance to the temple so that no unclean thing could enter and defile it. The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians that, “We are the temple of the living God.” Are we taking this seriously and, like temple guards, aggressively keeping the junk out? We cannot expect to live out the Christian life with much success if we fill ourselves up with the filth of this world. We are supposed to be aliens in this world. We are supposed to be in the world but not of it. When we invite the things of this world into our minds, they become part of us – we become part of the world.

Have you heard the phrase “garbage in; garbage out?” Relating it to this topic, we are what we watch, read, or listen to. If we fill our minds with trashy movies, books, and music, we will end up with trashy minds and trashy behavior. As Christ-followers, most of the stuff in the movies and on TV should repulse us. Why, because it repulses Christ and is contrary to His very nature, which should be our nature when we are born again in Him.

The Corinthian Christians boasted that, “everything is permissible for me,” but Paul warned them that not everything is beneficial. He knew that they could become enslaved by those actions in which they “freely” indulged. So, how do we know if something is beneficial and appropriate? Here are a few tests: Does it lift-up biblical principles? Does it glorify God? Does it build-up you and others? Is your conscience clear? Would you watch it if Jesus was sitting next to you? (He is you know.) Build your entertainment center very carefully and choose your entertainment wisely.

Discussion Questions: (read the Scripture & discuss)

Ephesians 5:1-7
If what we take into our lives affects us, then how significant are our entertainment choices? Are the potential consequences from a steady diet of worldly filth simply temporal or can they be eternal? Discuss how this might happen.

1 Corinthians 6:12
How does this scripture relate to our entertainment choices? Discuss examples of other things in life that are permissible, but not profitable.

Philippians 4:8
How can you use this passage when determining your entertainment choices? Spend a few minutes analyzing a few current TV shows and movies using these criteria.

Taking Action: Take time this week to prayerfully analyze your entertainment choices. Categorize them into three groups: good, bad, and neutral. Cut out the bad stuff immediately and spend time in God’s Word as a substitute. Share with your group the results.

Ministry Time

Click here for PRINTER-FRIENDLY copy of the curriculum

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Keep on scrubbing

Check out these words from the apostle Peter:
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this (a new heaven and a new earth), make every effort (work hard) to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3:14
Before we go any further, let’s remember that Peter is writing to Christians. He is talking to people who have already accepted Christ as their Savior and been baptized.

In light of God’s new heaven and new earth, Peter exhorts his readers to aggressively pursue growing in holiness and righteousness. He is exhorting them to work hard at making sure they don’t have any sin in their lives. Peter tells them to do everything they have to in order to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with God. Spotless means without any spots. Peter didn’t say mostly spotless or almost blameless. He is saying go all the way, and aggressively participate and cooperate with God’s desire and plan to purify you – now, not just when you die.

I find it interesting that if a pastor today makes this same cry that Peter did for Christians to work hard at holy living; they are chastised for promoting legalism and works-based Christianity. Peter’s message isn’t necessarily politically correct today. Nonetheless, it is truth, and we shouldn't be afraid to repeat it.

This message is exciting to me because God’s grace is enough to remove every spot. Remember what Peter said earlier in this letter, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Yes, we need to keep on scrubbing, but we have been given the ultimate spot remover.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

So, is God using you in big ways?

Why were the Levites set apart? Why did they become God’s trusted servants? It was because of their zeal (extreme passion) for the Lord.

Read this passage from the book of Exodus that is rarely taught in children’s Sunday-school classes.
So he (Moses) stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' "The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day." – Exodus 32:26-29
The Levites were set apart and given the awesome responsibilities and privilege as caretakers of God’s holy tabernacle. Why did God choose the Levites? It was because of their willingness to choose God and practice extreme obedience.

God uses people who are sold-out for Him. God uses people who obey Him. God uses people who forsake all others (friends and family included) – save Him.

So, is God using you in big ways? Have you been entrusted with incredible kingdom responsibilities and privileges?

Monday, June 02, 2008

The irrelevant church

One of the primary reasons the church in America is becoming so ineffective and irrelevant is because the world is being allowed to change the church rather than the church changing the world.

In an effort to be more appealing, the church is actually surrendering its uniqueness, its salt & light, and its power. The church is being lazy and allowing the things of the world in, instead of being world-changers and going into the entire world with the love and power of Christ. The current approach of the church is backward thinking and a non-biblical approach to the great commission. In an effort to be relevant, the church is quickly becoming irrelevant. We must try to change this trend.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Communication matters

My small group curriculum for this week is all about the importance of good and godly communication.

Big Idea:
Sticks and stones may break my bones and words can REALLY hurt me. What we say and how we say it matters greatly, and good communication is essential to good relationships.

Good communication is a vital component of healthy marriages and other relationships, while bad communication is a relationship killer. The Bible indicates that communication skills are key to Christian discipleship. We are called to submit all areas of our lives to God - especially how we speak and communicate with one another. Selfishness and pride are huge barriers to wholesome communication. The prideful always want to be right, and the selfish always want their way. Both frequently use words to accomplish their impure motives. However, the communication between two people who have surrendered their lives to Christ and have humbled themselves will be gracious, polite, and encouraging instead of destructive.

We must remember that good communication doesn’t just involve talking at someone, but also planning our words, listening, and encouraging. (1) Plan your words before you say them. Solomon said in Proverbs 16:23, "Intelligent people think before they speak." That means you don't wing-it and throw words around carelessly. (2) Be a good listener. "He who answers before listening - this is his folly and shame" Proverbs 18:13. Remember, we listen with our ears, but also with our eyes. Body language speaks volumes. If you’re like me, you like talking much more than listening, but a good communicator will seek to understand and then to be understood. (3) Any fool can be a critic, but the wise will lead with encouragement. Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica to, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” Try to begin and end all communication by building up, not tearing down. Bottom line: If we love one another, it will show itself in how we communicate.

Discussion Questions: (read the Scripture & discuss)

James 3:5-12
Why is taming the tongue (what we say) so important? James says that fresh and salt water can’t both flow from the same spring; discuss how this relates to our communication.

Proverbs 15:1-7
How do these passages expose the importance of our words? Discuss differences between good and bad communication.

Luke 6:45
Why should it deeply concern you when you speak harsh and abrasive words to others? What kind of change must take place in order for our communication to sincerely improve?

Taking Action: Make it a point this week to plan your words carefully and to listen to others before speaking. Also, go out of your way to be an encourager and build others up with your words. Make note of the results and share it with the group next week.

Ministry Time