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?

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.

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.

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.

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

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?”

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