Friday, February 27, 2009

A night of creativity

Last night I watched a movie with my family about the life of Beatrix Potter - "Miss Potter". She was a best selling author of children’s books like “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. It was very interesting to notice that after watching this movie which highlighted a very creative and artistic person, that we found ourselves playing music, dancing, singing, and our youngest two children even spent time drawing and coloring. Our home was alive with creativity. It was an amazing example of how what we put into ourselves affects who we are and what we do. We watched a movie about creativity and we were drawn to creativity. 

It is so important what we allow into our lives, what our eyes see and our ears hear. I venture to say that if we had watched a movie about fighting and murder that our natural reaction would not have been to sing and dance. This is why God’s Word tells us to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). God’s Word also tells us to be careful what our eyes see and what our ears hear because what we put into ourselves matters greatly and will contribute to making us who we are.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friendlationships - Part 2

This second installment of our small group curriculum focusing on friendship gives us insight on how to avoid toxic relationships. 

Big Idea:
Relationships are a gift from God, but when they go sideways things can become painful and toxic. However, dealing with toxic relationships in our own strength and wisdom will typically almost always make things worse. This is why we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the patience and love of Christ, and the grace of God.  

Relationship with others is one of the most powerful forces in the universe outside of God. They can bring us indescribable joy or unbelievable despair. They can make us whole or fragment our souls. They hold the potential to coach us into destiny or restrain us from our life’s purpose. When ruled by selfish desires, relationships are the greatest challenge you will encounter in life, but when governed by the Word of God, relationships are a treasured joy in life. The relationships that affect us the most are the ones that are closest to us. When these are toxic, they can have a significant affect on us emotionally and ultimately spiritually.

The world teaches us to think of ourselves as victims when we find ourselves in a toxic relationship and to dismiss those who don’t enhance our lives. However, Jesus taught us to love the unlovely and the unlovable. The way of the kingdom is to draw on God’s grace, take a stand, and speak the truth in love. That means confronting issues, situations, and people who put us in bondage and pain because God’s Word clearly shows us that people can change and relationships can be redeemed for the glory of God. Here are 5 simple steps to detoxify your relationships: (1) Confrontation. As long as you ignore the situation, it will not change. Own up to your share of the mess and approach your friend in love. (2)  Grab More Grace. Be grounded in your identity as one who is loved by God and be filled with the power of Jesus Christ that has redeemed. (3) Build Righteous Boundaries but don’t let these boundaries be rooted in selfishness. Begin to shape your life by making Godly choices. Do not allow your friends to keep you from doing what’s right. (4) Forgive the Offender. This is not optional. ’t live in a self made prison of unforgiveness because you could not forgive. (5) Give Change a Chance. Don’t abandon a relationship before you’ve made all the changes you need to make.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Luke 6:39-42
What does this statement from Jesus indicate should be our first step in the process of detoxifying a relationship? Is Jesus advocating mean-spirited rebuke of your toxic friends? Discuss ways in which we can lovingly help remove the speck from our brother’s eye. 

Luke 17:3-5 & Matthew 6:14-15
Why do you think the apostles responded the way they did when Jesus told them to forgive over and over again? How does your willingness to forgive affect your relationship with God? Discuss how forgiveness has been instrumental in detoxifying one of your relationships.

Ephesians 4:15 & Romans 15:5
Why is love and patience so important in a relationship? How has someone spoken the truth to you in love? Have you seen relationships end because of a lack of patience? Discuss how can we be patient and loving without being a doormat for abuse? How does the character of Christ encourage us in this area of relationships? 

Taking Action: Examine your toxic relationships, but before you approach your friend, make sure your heart is right and that you have dealt with any of the toxin that you might be bringing into the relationship. Daily ask God to create in you a clean heart and to give you the grace to be patient with others. Pray for your friends and your relationships. Lay them at the feet of God.  

Ministry Time

Friendlationships - Part 1

This is the first of our small group study about relationships. 

Big Idea:
Friendship is one of the greatest gifts in life. The success or failure of our friendships will be greatly determined by the most important relationship in our lives – our relationship with God.

From the beginning of time, man has longed for friendship. Even in the Garden of Eden when Adam walked and talked with God in perfect relationship, the longing for human companionship still existed. Adam’s life was incomplete without the companionship and fellowship of another human being. He craved it. And every human being since then has struggled with the innate craving for human companionship. God created man in His image, knowing that for man to be spiritually, emotionally, and even physically healthy, man needed more than just his relationship with God, he needed relationships with other image bearers. This shows us that our craving for relationship with others doesn’t necessarily diminish our passion for God because God created us this way. We were designed to live in relationship with other people, and when we are deprived of those relationships, we feel empty and incomplete. However, these relationships can only be as healthy as your relationship with God. In fact, relationships become contaminated without God. God created you with a capacity, a craving and the power of choice, but it takes His involvement to keep you from contamination.

There are three primary choices that everybody makes in life which determine the quality, the productivity, and the ultimate destiny of their lives. The first choice is the god that you’re going to worship; the second choice is the person you’re going to marry; and the third choice is the friendships you’re going to keep. Choose wisely - choose friends who model the values you appreciate; choose friends whose influence you welcome in your life; choose friends who welcome your influence in their life; choose friends who are considerate, confidential and candid. Ultimately, our horizontal relationships with others should strengthen and build-up our vertical relationship with God.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
How have you benefited from friendships? Describe how your relationship with others has made you more effective and useful to God. What role does God play in your close relationships? How does this help the relationship?

Proverbs 12:26 & 1 Corinthians 15:33
How do our relationships affect us? Share how relationships have helped you and how they have hurt you. What do you look for in a friend? Why?

John 15:13-17 & Proverbs 18:24
How did Jesus model true friendship? Have you experienced this type of friendship with others? How can we practically lay our lives down for our friends? How does Jesus say we can show him friendship? How does your vertical relationship with God affect your horizontal relationship with others?

Taking Action: Analyze your current relationships. Are they healthy or are they contaminated? Do they bring life and glory to God? Intentionally bring Christ into your relationships with others. 

Ministry Time

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The fullness of ministry

This passage in the Gospel of Luke gives us a wonderful picture of Christ’s earthly ministry. He preached the gospel message to the lost; He announced the freedom we now have from our sinful ways, from our addictions, and from the forces of darkness; He brought physical healing; He proclaimed that life in His kingdom is abundant life. In other words, the ministry of Jesus was about preaching, teaching, healing, and deliverance. This is also a clear description of what our lives should be about as we continue the work of Christ.
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." - Luke 4:18-19

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fighting the Devil?

Is it God's plan for the Believer to be in direct confrontation and conflict with the Devil? If we are called to do the work of Christ, then the answer is yes. Jesus was all about battling the Devil and driving out demons and He clearly tells us repeatedly to do the same. Because of Christ and His victory, we can go boldly into battle. Let's roll...
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. - 1 John 3:8

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. - Matthew 10:5-8

17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons - Mark 16:17

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Innocent people can get hurt

I was reading in 1 Chronicles chapter 13 today and noticed that when leaders mishandle the things of God, innocent people get hurt. A man named Uzzah can testify to this fact. Here is what happened. When David called for the ark of God to be brought back to Israel, a decision was made to transport the ark on a cart. This seemed like a logical and expedient decision. However, the ark of God was not supposed to be transported on a cart; instead, it was to be carried by Levite priests on poles. Their plan seemed to be working out just fine until they hit an unexpected bump in the road, which required someone to touch the ark. Touching the ark was forbidden, and Uzzah died as a result of this act. 

They had violated the ways of God and a man lost his life. We must handle the things of God His way. We must not rely on our own understanding and do it our own way. We must not compromise and believe the lie that "the end justifies the means." We must do it God's way or innocent people will get hurt.  

Read it firsthand in 1 Chronicles 13:5-14. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Jesus Your Hope? (Audio Teaching)

On Wednesday, February 4th, I taught from the book of 1 Timothy. As is customary with the Apostle Paul, the greeting in his letter packs a punch. This teaching covers the first two verses and drills down into two critical truths: (1) Jesus our Hope and (2) the importance of having spiritual children. It is worth the listen. (Click on the audio player button below to listen to this teaching.)

1 Timothy 1:1-2, City of Grace Church (February 4, 2009)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Taking the Baton

On January 21st. I talked to the Band of Brothers men about the importance of taking the baton from Jesus and running our leg of the race. My primary texts were from 1 Corinthians 9:23-25 & John 14:12. I posted a brief discussion about this topic back in January and titled it "Take the Baton and Run". But, here you can get the whole teaching in audio format. (click on the following audio player to listen)

Taking the Baton, City of Grace Church (January 21, 2009)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

God's kingdom advances

When I was in Ghana, I visited the village of Ohawu with my friend Pastor Emmanuel Fiagbedzi. This village was about 6 miles from the village of Afife where Pastor Emmanuel pastors his church. Several people travel from Ohawu to Afife to attend church because there is no church in their village. They travel the 6 miles by foot, bicycle, or motorcycle. While in Ohawu, Emmanuel and I discussed the possibility of planting a church in this village. We got so excited and we began to plan. When I returned to Arizona, I discussed this opportunity with a close friend of mine who immediately funded the construction of the modest structure and the first-years salary of the pastor of this church plant.

This week, the church was planted and the village of Ohawu has a place to worship Jesus Christ the Savior of the world. Hallelujah! Many came to Christ this week in Ohawu as they held a three-day crusade. Additionally, one of the village chiefs received physical healing from the Lord. God is showing Himself powerful to the people of Ohawu. Pray for this new church. Pray for this village. Pray for this new pastor, David, who has been sent by Pastor Emmanuel to pastor this church plant.

These pictures are from the crusade and the new church structure (before the thatch walls). I have also included this message from Pastor Emmanuel. God's kingdom is swiftly advancing.
“Pastor Eric,
New souls for the Kingdom of God! Glory be to His Name! We saw many touched by the power of the Holy Spirit during our second night of services. The crowds grow with each passing night and the hunger for God builds in the hearts. God moved among the old and young. Tonight we look forward to another great harvest. We saw the demons flee at the mighty Name of Jesus. Praise the Lord! God bless you. The feature presentation of the night was "The Passion" and it stirred hearts to come to Jesus! We even pulled up benches to allow them to sit and be ministered to. A great harvest has been gathered over the last three nights. Tomorrow morning we will meet at the newly erected chapel structure. We have assembled canopies to contain the overflow for tomorrow's service. God is moving in Ohawu. Praise His Marvelous Name! God bless” - Pastor Emmanuel, Feb. 7, 2009

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The African Anointing Transcript

I have heard from several of you that it is hard to understand Pastor Emmanuel's accent on the video. I guess I have gotten used to it. My wife, Velvet, has graciously transcribed this awesome event. (You must check out the video of this event too - HERE)

The Jones’ African Anointing, December 14, 2008 
by Pastor Emmanuel Fiagbedzi
Ghana, Africa

The Lord spoke to Samuel the prophet. Go to the family of Jesse. Anoint his head with oil. Let him become the King of My Land. I stand in that anointing today. I stand as a servant of the Most High God, who has never disappointed me before. I walk with Him in power. He has displayed His glory over my ministry, over my life, over the (African) nations. Mighty God of Israel, we glory in His name, the God of Abraham, the God of Elijah, the God of Moses, the God of Isaac and Jacob. You never change. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Whom you have called, You have equipped. Whom You have equipped, You have sent out. Your servant has been polished by You. You have placed Him in Your quiver. You have placed Him in Your quiver. And now, is his season. Now You are ready to send him out as an arrow (of a King), as an arrow….., as a weapon of peace. On that note Father, I release Your anointing upon his life. Mighty God, let there be a turning point toward him – a spirit of grace). Let the anointing of the Lord rest over him. Let his favor be strong. Make him great in the land of Arizona and beyond, O God. Make him to represent You in power.

You are the apple of His eye; You are the weapon in the hands of the Lord. You are favored in the land. You are the 1st, not last. You are the head, not the tail. The eyes of the Lord is upon you; the (lost) are with you. May you go in the power. May you go in the power. May you go in the power. You are claimed for the sake of the gospel.

You are being granted an expanded ministry. Your ministry has been expanded by the favor of God and announced. Wherever you stand, when you raise your hand up, demons shall flee, demons shall run away from you. You will (set them a running). The eyes of the blind shall be opened. Cripples shall walk. Your voice shall sound in the nations, O Jesus.

I release an anointing on your wife, O God. For yours is the glory. For yours is the glory - the power. Display your glory; display your glory; display your glory over her life, O God. Do it for Your name’s sake.

I anoint the children of God. I anoint … Hidden in the frame of the children; hidden in the frame of these are mighty warriors. It was said with Daniel … Lord, thank you. I pray, my God, that Your anointing be great over their lives. Let them grow in power. Let them grow in the Spirit of Jehovah. Let them walk in unison with You, Oh God. Be upon their family. Amen.

Father, the angel I saw guide them, let that angel continue to guide them, defend them, in Jesus’ name, Amen. Let everybody say, “Amen.”

Be Courageous, President Barack Obama

John Piper's recent message to President Barak Obama regarding abortion. 

Friday, February 06, 2009

The African Anointing

At the end of a Sunday morning church service in Ghana last December where I had preached and many from the village had gathered including several chiefs, Pastor Emmanuel Fiagbedzi invited me and my whole family forward. He anointed me by pouring a significant amount of oil on my head and then proceeded to very powerfully bless me and, in so many words, commission and ordain me for the work of the kingdom of God to the nations. He also anointed Velvet and the children and spoke blessings over them and our family as a whole. It was a very meaningful time. Here is the video of that occasion. 

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Faithfulness matters to God

In 1 Chronicles chapter 10, we again see a side of God that is not often highlighted in the writings and teachings of today's Christian community. It involves the justice of God and His requirement for faithfulness and obedience.
Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse. - 1 Chronicles 10:13-14
God established Saul's kingdom and He then took it away. God elevated Saul and showed him favor, but then removed his hand of favor and demoted him to the point of actually causing his death and the death of all of his sons.

God's Word tells us that this happened to Saul because of his unfaithfulness to the Lord and his disobedience. Saul took things into his own hands and decided to seek the advice and guidance of the wicked instead of trusting in the Lord God. God will not be mocked.

Let's learn from the mistakes of Saul and take note of the character of God. God is love, He is patient, and He is merciful. However, our faithfulness and obedience are also very important. God will accomplish His plans. His kingdom will be established. Let's be people of faith and faithfulness so that we can be part of His plans. Let's turn our eyes, our ears, and our hearts toward Christ every day. Let's be people of faith who trust God for our everything.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Our Hope

In 1 Timothy, Paul refers to Christ as our hope. The Greek word for hope used in this passage is "elpis" which means "deep desire or great expectation". I love the way Paul begins this letter that focuses heavily on the importance of proper doctrine by underscoring the importance of Christ being our deep desire and great expectation. Is this how we are daily living? Do we wake up in the morning with a great expectation of what Christ has in store for us? Do we live every moment of every day with a deep desire for Christ? Is Christ truly our hope?
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope... - 1 Timothy 1:1

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Redeeming Time

This week we finish up our series called "Live Like You Were Dying" with a small group curriculum focusing on living a life with the proper priorities.

Big Idea:
The Bible reminds us about the brevity of life, but it also teaches us about the urgency of life so that we do not squander our God-ordained opportunities. We are called to live life with a sense of kingdom priority.

Time is one of the most precious gifts given to us by God. No matter our social or financial status, we all have the same amount of time given to us in each day – 24 hours. Using our time unwisely can have devastating effects and prevent us from fulfilling our kingdom purpose in this life. Interestingly enough, we don't see a significant emphasis on saving time or managing time in the Bible. However, God does call us to REDEEM time. What does it mean to redeem time? Simply put, it means that we take back our time from Satan, the world, and sin. A life spent in sin or chasing after the things of this world is a wasted life filled with missed opportunities. We know that what we do today echoes throughout eternity. Therefore, using our time wisely will not only result in satisfaction in this life, but also rewards and eternal life with God. We must make a conscious effort to use our time properly and to take advantage of our God-given opportunities.

We can redeem our time by getting our priorities right and allocating our precious time to things that matter. Jesus told us that the two things that matter most are loving God and loving others. Therefore, we should be spending our time with Christ and doing things that bring Him glory, while also showing others love. In fact, time not given to God and His purposes will often be stolen by Satan, resulting in discontent and squandered opportunities. Have you squandered God-given opportunities? Have you wasted some of the precious time given to you by God? Here's some good news; there is still a chance for you to redeem your time – today! Christ came to redeem, and in Him, we can redeem our time. Take it back and capitalize on the plans and purposes God has laid out specifically for you. Live the rest of your life with a sense of priority.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Ephesians 5:15-17
Contrast how the “wise” spend their time versus the “unwise”. Discuss how we can learn what the Lord wants us to do. According to the Bible, is there a place for “down-time” in our lives? What should that down-time look like? Do you have any God-given opportunities that you have been neglecting?

Colossians 4:2-6
What do our actions towards others have to do with redeeming time? What kind of opportunities should we be looking for? Discuss opportunities you have had to redeem time by ministering or helping others.

Matthew 25:14-30
How does this parable of the talents teach us to wisely use opportunities in the limited time we have been given? What is the result of continuing to disregard the gifts and opportunities God has given us? Who suffers when we don't redeem time and invest it in the kingdom of God?

Taking Action: Spend some time this week reviewing your use of time. Write out how you are spending your time. Don't let your time keep slipping away. Identify time that can be captured for His kingdom purposes and REDEEM it.

Ministry Time