Sunday, June 2, 2013

the cause

    The book of Acts clearly shows that the early church thrived when the opposition was great, following 'the Way' was not popular and the world, as a whole, was generally without a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Hmm.. sounds like another period of time I know about, yet the early church thrived!  She thrived because the leaders worked together for a clear cause.  Those leaders may or may not have been willing to die for one another, but all were willing to die for the cause.... and many did.
   The church then was, and the church today should be, committed to the cause first and each other second.  The cause.  Does every member of the church know what that cause is?  Does every member who knows what the cause is, pursuing after it as though the God of the universe commanded that they pursue that cause over any other?
   Great churches, and the teams leading them, are always clear about the cause.  Job descriptions, rules, office hours, dress codes, etc. don't have to even be in place if the cause is at the center of every member of the team.  Each member will do all that needs to be done because they are all committed to the cause.  Some find comfort in the structures while others are more comfortable with the lack of rules.  Regardless of the environment of the leadership team and the church polity, nothing will work if everyone is not committed to getting the job done:  Pursuing the cause!  Having a position, being in charge, doing only what's assigned, spending lots of time on administrative details or even doing many good things, these things will not guarantee a pursuit of the cause.
    The cause of my church/team is "building bridges of love to connect people with Jesus Christ and each other" (2 Corinthians 5:11ff).  This mission statement and the commitment of the leaders to this cause should be the single thing that keeps us together and on track.  Caring about each other and the needs around us, is important, but the cause should come first.  In fact, without the cause being the reason for whatever we do, Jesus tells us that it will not matter. Jesus calls those who do good things, even when done in His name....,  without knowing and pursuing the cause as our purpose, he calls them "evildoers" (Matthew 7:22).
    Matthew 22:36-39 says, "...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "   The rest of the cause is stated clearly in Matthew 28:19-20, "... Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  This is the cause, everything else is secondary.  If you know the cause as truth, then inspiration, motivation, human resources,etc, will be of little relevance. Genuine belief, by faith, in this cause will, without reluctantly, propel each individual on the team and in the church towards fulfilling the cause in their life, in their church and in the world around them.  Pursue the Cause!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Humbled when they really "believe" what you teach.

"A note from our Dad:"

Dear Life Support Team of Sierra and Sky,
                 Life lesson in Spiritual parenting 101:  Do not challenge your children to follow God’s call in their life, regardless the cost of the assignment, if YOU, as a parent, are not willing to prayerfully obey God’s call in your children’s life when He leads them.”

   For almost 30 years of youth ministry now, I have challenged students to fall in love with Jesus, learn how to understand and obey God’s Word and to discover God’s ministry in your life and obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting in it.  I have deeply meant this every time God has led me to challenge students in this way.  I have seen, literally, hundreds of students respond to this challenge and discover God’s wonderful plan for their life in it.  As a result, I have seen students tested, challenged, blessed and I have seen the multiplying of this challenge explode in others that they eventually lead as well.   But when a  calling like this that Sierra and Sky have responded to, “Go to Kenya, Africa for a month, live and serve with missionary friends there,” finally, I have to REALLY believe all the teachings I have reflected over these years.  They are going without me or their mother there to watch over them.  While they will be staying in the home of our trusted friends, missionaries Chris & Lisa Moore (real4Christ Ministries), they will not have a “chaperone” from home. 

 Sky has long sensed that God may be calling her to vocational missions, and she reflects that this will be a perfect life moment for her in this process.  Just a few days ago, when Sierra and I were looking at flight cost, and I was expressing concern, my daughter quoted her father, “say yes to God’s call, and He will provide the resources!”  I was almost moved to tears as I shook my head in the presence of such faith.  These girls believe these words without any hesitation.  I am in awe when I witness faith like this.

    As Sierra & Sky’s Youth/Missions Pastor, I am not officially endorsing this trip, as we are not sending the usual compliment of chaperone supervision and overall church support.  This type of trip is a stretch on conservative planning.  But as the earthly father of two children of THE Father, I could not support this kind of faith any more strongly.  I hope you will pray for them, AND me in this God assignment too… and give God the glory whatever the result.
  A humbled dad,

Monday, April 1, 2013

Does the Great Commission apply to every believer?

   Missions is evangelism, here, there and to the corners of the earth.  On earth, the goal is not converts, but making disciple makers.  I don't think that we are disciples or becoming a disciple if we do not have as our goal to also BE a disciple maker.  But does this apply to every believer?
   The population in the U.S. represents only 5% of the world population, and 95% of U.S. believers  go to minister with 5% of the world's population, while 5% of believers go to minister to 95% of the world's population, a population that mostly does not know Christ.  In addition, less than 5% of Church resources are sent to support missions to this same 95% lost world, anything more would be of too great a sacrifice.
   The Church must not consider Missions simply as supporting workers overseas or going to another country, Missions must become a missional attitude of using every believer, by every means, to reach every person, everywhere!  Inside the church walls, the neighbors in the shadow of the steeple, the city, state, nation and the world are ALL equally our assignment.  Missions is not something we do, but must be something we are!  Not what every believer supports, but what every believer is.  The Church must transform their thinking to the fact that they exist for the people who are NOT attending their church!  We must become a church for every people and a gospel for every person.  Setting up bases of operation around the world, so the message of Christ hope and grace can impact every culture.
   Missions research estimates that six million new churches are currently needed in and around over two billion non-Christians to effectively reach the nations.  That would mean that 600,000 new missions volunteers sent forth by the Holy Spirit from existing churches on every continent are needed.
   The only way to sustain the level of outreach required to finish the task Christ left for us, is  that every Christian must embrace the vision Jesus set for all of His followers.   Expecting the primarily secular U.S. culture to awaken to this need is no small feat.  Therefore, providing solid opportunities for every believer, young and old to live out their faith, becoming compassionate servants who respect the value and worth of every individual must be the emphasis.  We must reorder our values and priorities.
   The challenge is not new, but Matthew 28:19-20 could be stated... "Believers of Christ, in addition to living your life every day as a disciple and a witness for Jesus Christ, every teenager should participate in an annual mission trip, at least before they finish High School, every college student should participate in a 30 day to year long cross-cultural mission assignment before finishing College; and every Adult should participate in an extended mission trip at least every five years, for life."  If adopted, this would infuse millions of new volunteer missionaries into the task Jesus left for the Church to accomplish.
  Envision it becoming normal in our churches that almost every student serve full-time in domestic or international missions for a summer, semester, or year around age eighteen or nineteen. Interestingly, society is increasingly using the term "gap year" to refer to a student who takes time from university studies for an extended trip or some immersive experience.  Envision parents opening savings accounts at birth that eventually will fund "gap year" mission trips.  Churches budgeting for this as a priority part of their great commission assignment. Imagine a major group of believers who receive a call by God to earn their living by secular means, but for the goal to fund this strategy of missions all of their lives.  Envision a day when most all the adults in the church have, as part of their heritage, a season when they joined Christ on the front lines of kingdom advancement.  Would it change the spiritual climate of my church if almost every adult who taught the Bible, made church decisions, parent teenagers, leaders... all had spent a "gap year" completely immersed in the Great commission ministry of Christ?  All continued to pursue this GO assignment, as though it came from God Himself? Hmm....
   Believers who deeply fall in love with Jesus, quickly turn their attention to those who do not know Him.  We believe, we pray, we grow, we give, we send, and we GO. Exempt from any of these I am not. Are you?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Can you hear me now?

The Basic Minutes Plan
Our Church enters a two week Summit Revival from January 6-20. Revival can not happen in our hearts if we are not in tune to God. This blog is designed for you to evaluate some basic principles to open/improve that line of communication between you and God.
Any communication has basic principles that make communication work. The main one is to communicate… talk! This is true with our relationship with God too. There are basic communication disciplines that God has given us to keep the signal strong. The “Basic Spiritual Disciplines” are routines that will train our hearts to stay close or get closer to God. Take some time to evaluate how strong your signal is in these areas (a brief definition follows each discipline for consideration):
  • Bible Study—is a close examination of the Bible under the leading of the Holy Spirit. It may focus on a book or a section of Scripture, a biblical person, or a specific theme or word found in Scripture.
  • Fasting—in the Bible means choosing to do without food for a time in order to focus more on God. However, this discipline can be applied to many areas of life. Giving something up in order to listen more carefully to God.
  • Fellowship—is more than choosing to go to church with your friends. It is choosing to share your life with other believers. Loving, forgiving, confronting sin and meeting needs.
  • Journaling—Tracking your daily spiritual journey. Could include recording prayers, words you hear from God, prayer request from others, insights from scripture, poetry, drawings, quotations and written reflections.
  • Meditation—involves focusing your mind totally on God. Choosing a passage of Scripture to contemplate and seeking to totally understand what God is telling you through it.
  • Prayer—Quickly raising every issue of your life to God as they occur. It also involves extended times of prayer, sometimes called “praying through” something. A decision not to leave God until you are sure that you have sensed his leadership in the issue.
  • Quiet Time—This is time that you consistently set aside each day, usually in the morning, to be alone with God. It involves prayer, Bible reading, but can also include any of the other disciplines as well.
  • Scripture Memory—involves consistently committing God’s Word to memory so that it is available to you for worship or spiritual warfare.
  • Silence—The discipline of closing out all distractions for a time. Turning all the noise off for a period to be still and listen for God’s voice.
  • Solitude—Choose to be alone. Most people spend time alone from time to time, but this discipline is choosing time alone. Time that belongs to you and God only.
  • Witnessing—Telling others what you have discovered about God. A conscience choice that every time God provides the opportunity, you will speak for Him.
  • Worship—More than singing. Pouring out your love, from your heart, for God’s pleasure alone.
The Extended Coverage Plan
Are you ready to engage with God? There are five more spiritual disciplines that are called “disciplines of readiness.” These are necessary to be used by God in great ways. These will put you in the “5 bar signal” range.
  • Contemplation—Is the discipline of setting aside quiet time to reflect on your walk with Christ and His love for you. This may include coming face to face with areas of sin in your life.
  • Contentment—Is an internal decision to be at peace and satisfied regardless of outer circumstances. A daily decision not to believe the message that says “more things will make me happy.”
  • Purity—Certainly includes not having sex until you are married, but it is much more than that. It is living a life that is not mixed with any of the things of the world… inappropriate relationships, music, movies, books, etc.
  • Reconciliation—The discipline of living in right relationship with other people. Whenever you realize that you have a broken relationship, you do everything you can to fix it. It does not matter how the relationship was broken, whose fault or whether the other person is sorry.
  • Simplicity—Clearing the complications from your life. Focusing on loving God and loving people. Living in a way that brings honor to God. Remain ready to respond when He calls.
Check your Signal
What spiritual discipline above can you work on that will best improve your signal between you and God?  Often, in relationships, we get frustrated that we can not get our relationship where we want it to be so we give up. Try this approach instead.
  • Pick a discipline above. Now, ask yourself where it is on a scale between 1-10 (1 is not at all, and 10 would be part of your every day lifestyle). Now, if you said 5 or 6, talk about what you would need to do to get it to a 6 or 7. Just one step of improvement will improve your relationship with God and others. Talk to your family or friends about this, and help each other improve your signal with God. He wants to connect with you in wonderful ways.