Friday, December 28, 2007


Christmas is over and I can catch my breath. Our Christmas was full of friends and family and food. Thanks to all those who sent warm Holiday wishes.

It is time to consider a New Year. I am personally stirred by the wonder of God's grace and mercy. It causes me to commit to the purposes of God. I have been studying in Romans and have been amazed on how much Paul speaks of obedience. He speaks of how Christ's obedience many were made righteousness (Ro 5:19) and how his life mission was effected. Paul viewed his call and apostleship 'to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of Christ's name among all the nations' (Ro 1:5). He would make no boast except what Christ has accomplished through him to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed (Ro 15:18). His great joy was the testimony of the church and their obedience to the faith. (Ro 16:19).

I wonder how much attention we pay to the idea of obedience. Do we view grace as a way to escape the responsibility to obey God in everything, or do we look at grace as the empowering presence of God to do what is right. One of the great themes of Romans is that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Paul would write 'Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness'.

This is my endeavor and prayer. That I may be a slave to the grace of God.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

It is 5:30 Sunday morning and I feel extremely grateful for the people in my life. To many to list for sure. Family, friends and our church family, to all, Margi and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and greater revelation of God's grace and love.

Thank you for all that you mean to us!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Survivining The Holidays

It has been an incredibly busy month!! And now the Christmas season is upon us in full roar. We have just crossed the ten week mark at Journey Church and things are going well. It has been a great privilege to serve with such a committed group of folks with a real desire to make Jesus known. I have been teaching a series on Surviving the Holidays that I hope helps people keep a even keel in the holiday season.

I have observed that for many the Holidays are awkward times. Difficult family relationships, broken friendships, the feeling of being in a box, the pressure to spend, not to mention the weight gain, are ever present to rob us of the peace of God. I believe that some keys to navigating relational waters starts with understanding who you are in God. If you have accepted Christ, no matter where you have been or what you have done you are forgiven and have right-standng with the creator of the universe. That fact should give as great confidence. Let your identity be rooted in Gods love for you and quite striving for the affirmation of man. Because of the grace given to us we have the opportunity to represent Christ to our family and friends. If we can approach relationships with the mindset of an ambassador we an live above the fray. Ultimately we need to become better lovers of people. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as he loved them. As we become less self focused in our relationships and serve and love others it has an impact. I know a man that in his youth found Christ and was very out spoken and confrontational in sharing his faith. When he would go to large family gatherings he would contend with his brothers and sisters about becoming Christians. It was quite a wake up call when it was pointed out that he never lifted a finger to help with dishes or any other family chores at Christmas gatherings. He never helped clear a table, or offered to take out the trash. As a result the family was increasingly hostile to the message and the messenger. We have the power to overcome evil with good. With a difficult family member that rubs you the wrong way, be kind. live above the fray.

1. Understand who you are.
2. See this as a time of opportunity. Remember we are Christ’s Ambassadors
3. Becoming a Better Lover
4. Overcome evil with Good

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Language of Thanks Giving

As I have thought about the upcoming holidays I can’t help thinking of those for whom the season are full of difficulty. Family conflicts, misunderstandings all conspire to rob us of a thankful perspective. I believe that joy in this life is learned and nurtured in the garden of thankfulness. It is when we see and comprehend (by faith) what God has done and is doing for us today that our perspective begins to change. Thankfulness lets us see the hand of God in our lives!!! How do we maintain an attitude of thanksgiving? In my own life it begins with worship and praise – an expression of the will mixed with faith. I have to make the decision to express gratitude to God in a time of testing and conflict. I was reading….

Col 3:16-17
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The phrase “whatever you do” struck me; thankfulness is an application of the will! Realizing that being thankful is not an emotion but a function of the intellect we can choose to look and recognize God’s faithfulness. I find it helpful to Meditate and saturate your soul with the Word of God. I find that I have to train my self to take joy in the small things.

Heb 13:15-16
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-- the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

All of this has more to do with giving honor to God than trying to be a better person.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Whew, my head is spinning as I look back at the last few weeks. The sale of our church facilities, the move into a school and the development of systems for doing the portable church thing all have dominated my time and thought life. I see why companies like Portable Church Industries charge forty to fifty thousand to set up a portable church. I have found it to be challenging and thrilling to be on a new adventure. Yet I recognize that it is vital not to let the project choke out the central reason the project exists in the first place. That is that Christ would be revealed in our community. It starts with us staying connected and passionate about our relationship with Jesus. There is an ever-present danger to drift into an outward religion and to let the inner fires of faith and passion for Christ to wane. The Apostle Paul who was incredible busy building and planting churches wrote that life for him centered on the ” greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. Jesus must be the central focus of our lives. We can do that by making a conscience decision to place Christ first. It is helpful to remember and rehearse what Jesus has done for you. Think of the grace of God. Express your thankfulness to Jesus. Read the gospels and thrill at Jesus our hero! Pray and give Him your cares, then listen for His encouragement.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Details and Risk

It has been a while since I have had time to write. The church I lead has sold our building and is moving to a school. This move allows us to free up significant funds for ministry and and lower our overhead significantly. It is our desire to do this portable church thing well, so a lot of energy has been going into how to develop systems to move gear and streamline setup. There is real concern that with out great thought to this area we will tire out our core group that is planting this new church. It becomes a pastoral issue as well as a logistic issue. Every decision seems to be loaded with pros and cons. Each decision carries some measure of risk.

In a movement like ours (Newfrontiers) you would expect people to identify with mission and not with a building. Yet we have discovered that no matter how much you preach and teach on mission, there are some who just don't get it. Every thing is processed through the lens of risk. What will it cost me? This will be more trouble! Why spend this much time? The answer to this question is that we need to have the resources to fulfill our mission!

The very nature of life in God has much to do with risk. Risk is a central by-product of a life lived by faith. All of the great heroes of the Bible has to forsake the secure and pursue what God had called them to with little more than a promise. Jesus in inviting men to be His followers said. "if any man would seek to save his life, he will lose it, but he that loses his life for my sake will find it again." Ignoring our instincts of self preservation and living for Christ requires great faith and trust in God. I believe that God through the ages has moved through a people that will take risks for Him. We will make mistakes surely, missteps of course, yet God moves in all of those things!
Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians wrote "all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes." To respond to a call requires some revelation or interaction with God. When we hear Him and follow Him, God works in all the circumstances of life. In my experience the more we risk for God the more we see His hand.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The death and resurrection of Christ sits central in our lives of Christians. The cross stands as a symbol of the tremendous price Christ paid for our self directed living. The reality that our sin, and the just penalty of sin were laid on Jesus is the defining characteristic of the Christian faith.

Isa 53:4-10
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (NIV)

Due to the generosity of God we receive the benefits of a relationship that is leads to salvation and transformation. The work that Christ did on the cross is much more than some kind of cosmic transaction. It is helpful to look at the Hebrew to gain some understanding of the benefits we have received.

Benefits received by the work of the Cross.
• He was pierced for our transgressions (peh'-shah = a revolt or rebellion)
• He was crushed for our iniquities (avown= perversity, depravity)
• The punishment that brought us peace (friendship with God)
• By his wounds we are healed (rapha' ;to mend, to cure)

It is unsettling to view our lives from God’s perspective, revolt, rebellion, perversity, depravity is not something we want to own, yet that is the reality of our nature. When we have a revelation of this, the work of the cross captivates us. Friendship with God! The healing of our nature and transformation! God is generous indeed. Yet many times we settle for something less than a living relationship with Christ, and rely on ritual and form. It is in the relationship that life is given and empowerment for change takes place. Consider Paul’s description of the work of the cross and the benefits we receive.

2Co 5:14-21
We are ruled by the love of Christ, now that we recognize that one man died for everyone, which means that they all share in his death. (15) He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but only for him who died and was raised to life for their sake. (16) No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. (17) Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. (18) All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. (19) Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. (20) Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! (21) Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. (GNB)

Paul in his writing described him self as the chief of sinners as he had persecuted those who were following Jesus. Yet God broke into his life, and he was forever changed. I have come to believe that the more we see and understand God’s generosity the more we will give ourselves to God’s agenda.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Confidence in God

We know that faith is central to the Christian life. The scripture tells us that with out faith it is impossible to please God. For many, faith is a set of principles for securing blessing. We are tempted to see faith as a methodology to move God on our behalf. Faith is some thing more profound.

Abraham is described as the father of faith and our ancestor. The promises made to him apply to us.

Rom 4:16-22
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring-not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
17 As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

It would do us well to look at the foundation of his relationship with God. In Gen 12:1-8, the LORD had says to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Abraham responds to the revelation and leaves for the land of Canaan. The Lord would speak again and promise, "To your offspring I will give this land."

This word from God would carry Abraham for the rest of his life. It was central to all the promises he would receive. The root of faith is revelation of who God is. His character and faithfulness is central to our putting our trust in Him. Abraham responds to God with trust and confidence. He took God at His word. Abraham allowed his dreams and aspirations be changed. Abraham’s faith wasn’t just a principled response, it was a heart response! When we place our lives in God’s hand, trusting Him, we too will have great confidence in God.

Abraham obeyed and the promise became a reality. Notice what is contained in the promise.

I will show you. --- Promise that He will lead us.
You will be a great nation.---- We will have a legacy.
I will bless you. ---- He will care for us.
I will make your name great. ---- We will be significant.
You will be a blessing. ---- We will contribute.
I will bless those who bless you. ---- Secures for us favor.
I will curse those who curse you. ---- He will avenge us. (Sarah)
You will be a blessing to the world. --- Our life has meaning.

The intent of the promise applies to you and your offspring. As Christians we have the assurance of the cross that demonstrates that God is for us. As you consider the promises of God realize that He is the initiator. Our response is to trust Him and to step forward with confidence.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Kindom and Compassion

As I am laying the ground work for launching a church, the Lord keeps focusing me on those outside the church and His heart for them. It is our desire to be a people preoccupied with the building of the Kingdom of God. At the heart of the Kingdom of God is the desire to reconcile men to God, a heart of compassion grieving for the destruction that sin causes. Jesus was criticized for being a friend of sinners in Matthew chapter 9. When I read this account I am struck with Jesus’ response. 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ The word used for compassion in the Greek is ‘eleos’ which means ‘kindness or good will toward the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.’ Another time a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him. Jesus moved with compassion cast the demon out and the dumb man spoke. Jesus motivated by compassion, or good will toward the miserable and the afflicted, reached out to help him. The Pharisees were not pleased. Their hearts were hardened to the afflicted. Their theology believed that bad things happened to those who fell short. In their life with God they worked so hard and became satisfied with their own progress that they lost sight of the fathers heart. How sad, an afflicted man spoke and they were distressed.

Many times we tend to recoil from the afflicted of this world, yet Jesus commands his people to pray and get involved. Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." I am of the personal opinion that much of the western church looks at those outside of the faith with same attitude as the Pharisees. The more we understand the grace of God the more we will understand that Jesus reached out to us while we were, as Paul would write “God’s enemy”. As we get a hold of how broken we were (and may I suggest we still are) it should motivate us to spread the good news of how God made a way for us. The religious spirit on the other hand, is one that measures it self against the righteousness of other men. Therefore it will always be at odds with grace and redemption. The religious spirit always grades on the curve, it builds it self up at the expense of those who are sinners and the afflicted, the very ones that God cares so passionately about.

Reaching our world is not dependent upon our finances of our resources but upon our faith in God. When we embrace the heart of Christ that has been revealed by His graciousness to us the values of the Kingdom become our own, and we stretch to fill the calling given to us

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Keys to Long Ministry Life

Early in my journey as a Christian I was taught that character always trumped gifting. After thirty-two years of ministry I am fully convinced that this is true. I have been told that as many as 80% of those called to ministry give up after just five years. The pressure of ministry life, the constant pressure to perform, unreasonable ideas of success all take their toll. How can we who are called to ministry keep from losing our way? First and foremost is leaning into the grace of God. Grace can be described as “God’s influence on the human heart”. We started the race with grace and it is by grace that finish well. Following list questions is a list of areas that I believe is our responsibility to maintain in our character. I hope it is help to those who are walking the journey of ministry.

• Am I sure of my calling?
• Is my vision clear?
• Is my passion hot?
• I’m I developing my gifts?
What are my top spiritual gifts?
What I’m I doing to strengthen those gifts.
• Is my character submitted to Christ?
• Is my Pride subdued?
• Am I over coming fear?
Fear immobilizes and neutralizes leaders.
• Are interior issues undermining?
• Is my pace sustainable?
• Is love increasing for God and others?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Freedom from the fear of man.

I have been considering the importance of obedience. There are lessons from Saul’s life that serve as an example and a warning for us.

Saul was chosen and appointed King over Israelites. He was the Lord’s anointed with all the promises that go with that call. His future looked bright. God had commanded him to lead an army to go and punish and destroy the nation of the Amalekites.

1Samuel 15:1-2
Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.

God’s anger towards the Amalekites went back five hundred years when the children of Israel were fleeing Egypt. Moses was leading the people out of slavery out of Egypt and the new nation was extremely vulnerable. The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. If God had not intervened Israel would have been destroyed. Five hundred years later the Amalekites were still launching raids and attacking Israel.

Saul received the word of the Lord and proceeded to move against this enemy. He summoned the men -- two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men from Judah, and mustered them at Telaim. Saul was confident about the out come! They went to war and were victorious.

Yet there was a problem, God had given Saul very specific instructions that the people should not take the spoils of war. Yet that is what Saul allowed them do. Saul even went so far as to set up a monument in his own honor. It is amazing to read the account in the bible in 1Samual 15:19. When confronted with his disobedience and the fact that he had not done the specific things that was asked of him, Saul began to rationalize.

1 Sam 15:19-35
Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?" "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal." But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." NIV

Ultimately Saul was caught in the snare of the fear of man. I have come to the conclusion that there are some specific characteristics of those who are caught up with the fear of man.

1. Pride - The need to proclaim our accomplishments. Insecurity is another manifestation. There he has set up a monument in his own honor 1 Sam 15:12

2. Self deception - I have carried out the LORD's instructions." 1 Sam 15:13
Saul believed that there was wiggle room that God’s nature was different than what it is. (idolatry)

3. Blaming--"I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites;” 1 Sam 15:15

4. Self Justification-"I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 1 Sam15: 20 Part of human nature is to grade on a curve, to make excuses or to rationalize. The command was clear but yet Saul felt he had obeyed even when he clearly didn’t.

5. Lack of responsibility--"I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; 1 Sam 15:30

Many times if we were honest we can identify areas of our own life that when we know what is right and what God expects from us, but we like Saul build strongholds of rationalization and miss the obvious. It becomes more important to us to maintain an image or follow the crowd. The grace of God gives us the liberty to follow God with our whole heart. Here are some of the ways I have discovered to cultivate obedience

1. Understand God’s true nature. He does not wink at sin, all sin has consequence.
God is holy; the grace he gives was purchased at a terrible price.

2. Cultivate the fear of the Lord.

1 Pet 1:17-19
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

3. Know that God is for us.

4. Meditate on God’s grace and love.

It is my conclusion that obedience flows from a grateful heat that has experienced the love of God. One that recognizes the influence of God on my heart and responds not as one who is under law but on that but on who has experienced life.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Great Secret!

Mark 11:20-26

And as they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. And being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered." And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you. 25 "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."

Many times we look to this story for insight into faith yet Mark tells the story to lead into profound moral teaching. The power of faith is linked to having a clean heart in regard to others. So profound was Jesus’ teaching upon His disciples that all would write of the same truth. Peter like us was perplexed and troubled by the extremeness of Jesus’ remarks. They required a generosity of spirit that seemed unreasonable. If we forgive, we will be forgiven, if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven was more than Peter could fathom. Peter asks for clarification and receives even a greater challenge.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matt 18:21-35

Paul would later write that we should model forgiveness because of Christ and his work in us. He would point out in Col 3:12 how we were chosen by the grace and mercy of God and we were to act like Christ. James in his direct and (some would say harsh way) lays out the importance with no wiggle room whatsoever. “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

With all this emphases on the subject of forgiving it begs the question of what does it mean to forgive. As a verb it means to stop blaming or to absolve from payment. As an adjective it means inclined to show mercy. It is a position of moral strength that lives above the circumstances of life. All relationships have great possibility of offenses. Yet there is a way to live above the fray.

We gain insight when we look at motivations for not forgiving. The first is vengeance, we have a secret desire to punish or see people hurt. It leads to self-protection, we build a walls so that the offender no longer has access. If unchecked it leads to manipulation, victim status gives opportunity to rally support and pity.

All of these are corrupt and lead to the ensnaring world of bitterness. Our life becomes consumed by the offence. Un-forgiveness can be described as unwilling to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty, grim determination or harsh and severe. In our desire for justice or vindication we can hinder the grace of God in our life.

How do we identify an unforgiving spirit in ourselves? First we examine our thought life. Do we review an offense over and over again? Do we have fantasies of vengeance? Are we judgmental? Second we evaluate our current relationships. Do we hold people at a distance? Do we tend to keep score? Do we justify our actions towards others? Do we harbor a grudge? All of these are symptoms of un-forgiveness. Lastly we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal problem areas of our heart. If we recognize ourselves any of the above attitudes we must take responsibility and move toward real change.

How does one forgive those who have hurt us or offended us? It starts with seeing the need and working to bring our hearts and mind in agreement with God. Meditate on His love and faithfulness toward you. Realize how much Christ has extended Himself to you. Think of the result of your sins and the extravagance of grace given to you. Grace can be described as God’s unmerited favor designed to draw His enemies to Himself. He sought you even when it was your actions that led Him to the cross. Seek to understand God’s involvement in your life. Evaluate your life today in light of God’s faithfulness. Recognize God looks at the larger picture and he is committed to your development. Ask for the Holy Spirits help and repent of bitterness and resentment. Think of simply canceling the debt that another owes to you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What is our part in God’s plan?

What is my part in God’s plan? Every believer eventually asks this question. The answer is found in who God says you are! Consider the remarkable grace of God. He has rescued us from a life controlled by sin and has given us a new life. It was when we were most consumed by sin and selfishness that He called us and made a way for us by the cross. Out of this extravagant expression of love each of us has been destined to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God.

When exploring who God has made us to be we need to understand the idea of being chosen people. Peter wrote to encourage believers who were scattered by the persecutions of Nero about 65 A.D.

1 Peter 2:9-11
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The word chosen comes from the Greek word, ‘eklektos’. It suggests the idea of a select or favorite people, from a single family or common stock. God has placed value in each of us individually and makes us part of a family intent on serving Him. The idea of being a holy nation is a powerful idea. Christ has made us a part of something greater than ourselves. As Americans we identify with our country and what it stands for. The nations marvel at our sentiment and patriotism. Yet, in an even greater way we are to identify with Christ, His Kingdom, and His Church.

Peter states we are a royal priesthood. John in Revelation echoes the truth, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God”. We have been consecrated to minister to God and to stand as a mediator or an ambassador to a ruined and exhausted world. Intercession, sharing the good news, and caring for people are roles all saints are to be involved in. The church is to be a ‘House of prayer’, to make intercession for all men.

We come to understand our part in God’s plan when we take on His passion and His mission. That mission is that Jesus Christ should be made known to all men and that they would willingly submit their life to him. You and I are called “that you may declare the praises of him.” It is in the doing that we get understanding. God’s plan for our life becomes obvious as we engage in the battle.

It is God’s will that none would be lost to sin and the devil. He empowers us to be all He has called us to be. God wants to build the church, to bring men from every tongue and tribe into Christ’s body. Be confident that if we embrace Christ’s mission we will find our part in the Kingdom. Serve God, serve others and you won’t miss the mark.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Clear Conscience

1 Tim 1:18-19
This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (NAS)

In the day-to-day activities of life it is easy to lose sight of the importance of a clean conscience. Like foxes that spoil the vine, compromise can dull our spirit and undermine our relationship with the Lord. Little offences, hardly significant to our natural mind can have serious consequences to our spirit.

Let us consider for a moment what the conscience is. It’s a faculty of a man”s spirit that is sensitive to innate truth. It may be likened to a bridge between the spirit and our mind. The Holy Spirit uses our conscience to quicken us to God’s nature and righteousness. When we cross into areas of unrighteousness the conscience begins to trouble us and requires action on our part to satisfy its accusation. In many ways an active conscience is a great gift because it requires us to live open and righteous lives before the throne of grace.

When we endeavor to navigate life with a clean conscience there is tangible results. We have confidence when we pray or worship and we live a sincere and honest life. Our capacity to share the Good News of the Kingdom is no longer hindered by guilt.

Paul warns in his letter to Timothy to nurture a good conscience. When we sin and do not obey the prompting of our conscience to repent and set things right, we begin the process of hardening our heart. Many are driven to rationalize and justify their behaviors; some lose themselves in the noise of our culture seeking to escape the testimony of their own heart. Some escape through a long list of vices, each leading to more condemnation and further retreat from the grace of God.

A clean conscience produces an inner peace of the spirit, no longer our own heart bringing accusations against us. It comes as a result of making peace with God and restitution with the ones whom we have hurt or offended We must come to gripes that excuses do not clean our conscience. Only sincere repentance, and where necessary, restitution silence the accusations of our conscience. When we offend God, we must repent. When we hurt someone with our words or actions we must ask forgiveness. If we have stole we must make restitution. A life of freedom is living life free from the shackles of regret or shame.

Please consider the promptings of your heart. When you remember your past are you ashamed? Are there those who you have hurt or offended? Is there moral failure in your life? Take these things to Christ. He stands as your advocate and redeemer. Do what ever in your power to restore and make right. Be quick to repent and you will avoid the heartbreak of shipwreck.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spirit Life

I had coffee with a leader of another church the other day and he asked me what God was doing at VCF. I knew right away the answer, God is helping us! My friend smiled and said of course He is but what great things is he showing you? I smiled and said God is helping us and that is big news.

I believe that many times people get discouraged and lose sight of the Christ’s involvement in our lives. The scripture speaks of Christ as our advocate, our help in times of trouble, the wellspring of life and the one who gives us power. There is a battle to see through the distractions of life and to comprehend how much God is involved with us every day. Jesus spoke to His disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit and he would empower them and comfort them. It is imperative that we are a people of the Spirit. It is when we listen to the Spirit that we gain perspective and insight to the world around us. His role is to lead us into truth and to steer us into the mission that Christ has for us. We become a people of the Spirit when we take on the priorities of the Spirit. George Swinnock, an early American church leader (1623 1673) wrote, “The main work which God commands and commends to the children of men, is to glorify him upon the earth by exercising themselves to godliness. What is godliness? Godliness is a worshipping the true God in heart and life according to his revealed will.” Worship is more than a song service but how we conduct all of our affairs. Jesus would allude that the father was looking for something more than a religious people when He said, “an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The way we live and relate to one another is worship. It is the whole of our life.

Paul would make the argument that the Spirit life is to be manifested in serving the common good.

1 Cor 12:4-7, 11-12
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (NIV)

Paul makes the link between loving one another and a walk with the Spirit. The Spirit filled life leads to the fleshly life being freed up to love one another. You can tell a church that is full of the Spirit of God. It is not by flash in the pan revival. It is by the love that is show to each other and to those outside of the faith. Love is the true measure of God’s life flowing through a congregation.

When we look at the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate we see that they are serving gifts. The enduing of power that the Spirit gives is for the encouraging of our brethren. Real fellowship and sense of community is the fruit of life lived by the Spirit of God. Interdependence is an out working of Christ’s nature in us. All the fruits of the Spirit are manifested in the way we relate and walk with each other. It is in the context of fellowship that we are a Spirit filled people. I believe that is vital we develop real and meaningful relationships with those whom God has called us to. George Swinnock also said, "Satan watches for those vessels that sail without convoy." It is important to belong to a home group where you can bring your spiritual gifts to encourage others and others can encourage you. It is when we walk together that we experience God helping and using us. God wants to help His people through you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Four Keys to Guarding Our Future

There are four keys that I believe are necessary to guard our future and to keep us moving in right direction. The first is humility, realizing of how much we need God. There can be no real faith with out it. It is the foundation on which faith has it's footing. I believe that God is, and that He helps those who look to Him. That means avoiding the snares of hyper independence. Independence allows us to hide the strongholds and hidden areas of our life. The truth is we don’t want to bring these things to the light; they are many times so familiar that our very identity can be tied up with them. It is the hidden areas that produce shame and undermine our confidence in God. For example: “I have a English temper”, or “I have a short fuse”, become a part of who we are instead of something to repent and let go of.

The first step in breaking through the cycle of thinking that creates strongholds in our lives is the embracing of our need for God. Not only for our perceived needs and wants but also for the total remaking or transformation of our understanding of reality. God alone establishes what is right.
Transformation begins in the inner man. The battleground is in the spirit and mind. We must be renewed and remade in every area of our life. Taking every thought captive. We need to understand our dependence on God, and our need for His people. and leadership. Pride would be the opposite attitude, "I am independent, self-led."Francis Frangipane in The Three Battlegrounds points out that that “pride is the armor of darkness”. Nothing protects the work of bondage in our lives from the grace of God than pride.Strongholds are broken and the enemy’s ability to influence is shattered when we place our lives under the lordship of Christ. Obedience is a key to freedom; the fact is that is the application of our will that defines the outcome. We can’t escape this truth; we are responsible for the state of affairs in our own life. That is why a savior is needed. It is not in our own righteousness or our ability to “tuck it in” but in submission to God, humbly allowing him to redefine us. It is by faith that we embrace God’s work in our lives.The last key is to maintain a posture of accountability. The greatest men I know are the one that maintain a position of accountability, willing to be corrected.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Finding Joy in the Journey

As I am traveling with my family (16 hrs in a van) I have been contemplating what is it that often undermines our relationship with God. I think the most obvious is unsatisfied expectations. Do you ever feel like you’re just going through some joyless routines in life? If the truth were known some of us are discontent with the way our lives are progressing. We don’t stop and consider just how much we have been blessed. We lose sight of the big picture by the tyranny of an untrained soul. Another way our joy in God is eroded is by unresolved conflict. Our joy evaporates when we allow conflict between ourselves and another person to go on. When someone’s offense against us occupies our mental and emotional attention, we have little left over for the Lord. Anger clouds the eyes of our heart and obscures our view of God, draining away our joy. Finally the last and most damaging is un-confessed sin. This third area is perhaps responsible for chasing more joy out of lives than any other.

I believe that God not only wants to restore our lost joy, He also wants us to cultivate those things that will build lasting peace and joy into our lives so that we fully enjoy our standing with Him. Here are six ways to cultivate our relationship with Christ. Recognize God as joyful. We can be helped greatly in our relationship with Him if we learn to see the Almighty not as a taskmaster, but as the God of the Universe with a smile on His face. Rehearse God’s attributes in worship. God delights in us and finds great joy in His creation. When we celebrate His attributes in worship we allow our joy to flow back to Him. Reaffirm your commitment to others. Romans 12:15 challenges us to “rejoice with those who rejoice…” Reignite your passion for evangelism. One of the best ways to build joy into your life is by talking to others about Jesus.
Release your problems to the Lord. One of the hallmarks of Christian joy is that it can be experienced in the midst of intense sorrow and loss. Remain close to Jesus. Develop those disciplines that draw you into His presence. The short answer to have a joyful relationship is to nurture your relationship with Jesus and keep in step with the Spirit on a daily basis.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Moved Forward

As we are so to speak re-branding and relaunching our church, my mind fill with all sorts of ideas and strategies. It can be a bit overwhelming at times. I am finding that it is extremely important for find times of rest and refreshing in the Lord. It is during those times that the Lord reminds me of the promises and purpose He has for our church. We have been given "everything we need for life and Godliness." I am captured by the Lord’s desire that His church would be equipped to do the same work, with the same heart that moved Him to lay down his life for the world. We have been given so much, We are alive with the Spirit of God by His mercy, we have a testimony that Christ is alive. We have experienced His touch, His love and forgiveness. We have the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. We Know! With that new life comes a new call. The Apostle Peter would write "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;…" How do we make Him known? How do we bring the reality of a living active Savior to this world? I believe it is by being willing and by moving forward on Holy Spirit-revealed strategies.

Prayer and fellowship were significant parts of the culture of the early Church. Much of the believer’s life was centered on meeting together and prayer. It was an exciting time; there were those who actually witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus. They knew He was alive and had a hope that He was going to do something great. They were a people who experienced God. The Holy Spirit was active. They moved forward by the leading of the Spirit of God, revealed in prayer.

The Spirit teaches us how to pray. Of all the responsibilities of the believers, this is one by which you can’t go wrong. If you are interceding for others you are participating in the leading of the Spirit. Prayer releases the resources of heaven to accomplish what we have been commissioned to do.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Love the local Church??

I am amazed on how low opinion many Christians have of the local church. I believe that the local church is the hope of the world. I know, I know, the church has it has its flaws, but is still God's delight and Jesus stands in the mist of her.

I believe is the secret to seeing captives set free and the only way to fulfill the great commission is the local church. So much of the New Testament speaks of growth and transformation in the context of believers living, working, raising families and infecting the communities with the reality of the Gospel. When believers in a city are who they are called to be, they salt the society and the culture. It takes a sustained relational approach to transform a culture. Terry Virgo in his book. 'A People Prepared' states,

"God had ordained a method of displaying his glory in an unbelieving world. It is through the church, where flesh and blood people who have yielded their lives to King Jesus come together in covenant love, loyalty and righteousness, and are a light to the world, a city set on a hill which can not be hidden."

I can't agree more! Charles Colson argues in his book 'The Body',

"Three or four years ago I came to the realization that we had a scandalously low view of the church. The church is not incidental to the great cosmic struggle for the hearts and souls of modern men and women; it is the instrument God has chosen for that battle, a battle we are called to by virtue of our being members of His body. That the church is held in such low esteem reflects not only the depths of our biblical ignorance, but the alarming extent to which we have succumbed to the excessive individualism of modern culture... If we don't grasp this intrinsically corporate nature of Christianity embodied in the (local) church, we are missing the very heart Jesus' plan."

Eph 3:10-12
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV

I encourage you to take notice when you read the Bible how much of New Testament life is centered in the local church. Observe how much of the Bibles instruction to us is in the context of the Local church. Ask your self, am I as committed to a local church as Christ is? Ask Jesus to give you His heart for your brethren.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Agenda for Greatness

Jesus came that we might have life and life abundantly. The Christian experience is to be rich with purpose and meaning. With our position with Christ secure, we of all people should be living a life overflowing with confidence and expectation. Yet a trip to the local bookstore with the hundreds of self-help titles testifies that we “feel” we are lacking, falling short, or not measuring up. I believe much of the insecurity that troubles believers is that we embrace the values of this world and its picture of greatness. We measure ourselves against one another even though in our hearts we know that God does not grade on the curve. We know the scripture; yet succumb to measuring our worth by the standards of our culture.

We need to understand what is expected of us, what truly pleases Christ. Does God need our fruitfulness? Is he impressed with our accomplishments? I can only conclude that He is not. He is not pragmatic. How we live and our motivations are as important as what we accomplish. Jesus lays out his agenda for greatness and what the disciples should embrace as a philosophy of ministry.

Matt. 20:25-28
But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. "It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (NAS)

The Church “culture” sends out the unspoken message that if you work hard and serve then you get promoted to the “great” part. You will be a somebody, a mover and a shaker. When I read the New Testament I am struck that there is an absence of the principles that I have heard at many leadership conferences. Seminars on how to lead others center on “developing those who would serve your vision” and “Don’t become personal with your people.” One respected book on leadership teaches “people naturally follow leaders stronger then themselves’.” There is some truth in this statement, but it misses the mark, it encourages the thinking that if I want to lead I must be stronger than my companions. Jesus warns His disciples not to think in those terms.

Jesus trained twelve men to change the world. What are the keys, the secret? Serve, Servanthood is the goal. Jesus speaks of His own mission in terms of laying down His life. Paul would echo this same set of values in his letter to the Philippians.

Phil. 2:3-11
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NAS)

Leaders, love and serve your flock, in God’s economy it is enough! Future leaders, give yourselves to building others and trust God with your future. Saints, serve with gladness knowing it is counted as treasure in heaven.

You are fully received by God!
You are declared right (justified) in His eyes!
Your life counts!
There are no superstars in the Kingdom of God! Only faithful saints.
God’s agenda does not depend on your skill but your obedience!