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Posts from May 2012

Comforting the Grieving (Don't Quote Romans 8:28 & Other Things NOT to Say)

There are times as a follower of Christ when opportunities come to comfort those in need. These times are not reserved for pastors. Every Christ follower will experience these moments.

Grieving-stressThere appears to be great fear when these times come. Most people say "I don't know what to say," and therefore do their best to avoid those situations.

However, you won't be able to avoid those situations forever. At some point a close friend or relative will be experiencing great pain or loss. It's during these moments, God chooses to use you to be his ambassador and conduit for comfort and grace.

This past week people in our fellowship have been grieving the loss of loved ones. Spouses, children, parents and friends have died or are in critical condition. The church gathers, but what do you do?

It's good to have a plan, but the fact of the matter is that in those times where loved ones are experiencing grief and pain, God will give you that which is needed to be His hands and feet. I like what one of our senior adult ladies told me a few years ago, "We need to be 'Jesus with skin on' for each other during these times." 

What an honor that God would choose you to bring comfort during times of need.

There are, however, some things you shouldn't do. These are just some that come to mind:

  • Don't say "I know what you're going through" unless you have gone through the exact same thing, and I mean EXACTLY the same situation.
  • Don't say "You'll get over it." 
  • Don't quote Romans 8:28 when the wound is open. We know all things work for good to those who love the Lord, but in the midst of the pain, sometimes this quote - though said in love - is not received well. 
  • Don't talk about something you've gone through that you think relates. Your story will most likely, in the immediacy of the painful event, not bring comfort. Possibly later, so hold onto the story and share as God leads.
  • Don't say "It was just her time."
  • Don't say "Don't cry." 
  • Don't say "God needed your loved one in heaven more than we need him here." God doesn't need anyone. This is poor theology and leads to a false understanding of God and heaven.
  • Don't say "You just need to move on."
  • Don't say "You'll get over this eventually."
  • Don't say "She's an angel in heaven now." That's so biblically incorrect, it makes me grimace every time I hear it. People do NOT become angels.
  • Don't say "God will never give you more than you can handle." Oh really, I think God always gives us more than we can handle, but even though that's the case - don't say that either.
  • If young parents have lost a child, either before or after birth, don't say "You're still young. You can have more children." You can't replace a person. People are uniquely created in the image of God. 
  • Don't say "He's better off." Well, if the person has died and is in heaven, that's the case. It's just that this statement doesn't really comfort.
  • Don't say "If there's anything I can do for you, call." You can say this only if you leave your number with the person. Most likely, they'll never call, so maybe a call to the person or a visit within a few days or weeks is best.

There's a common theme in the points above "Don't say. . ."

So often, we feel that we need to lecture or preach or offer comforting words. While being totally silent is most likely not the answer, empty words, poor theology, bad cliches and the other things listed above (and many more) are not the answer.

More than "saying" is "being." Be there. Hug your friend. Cry with your friend. Be honest with your friend.

I had a friend ask me not long ago while dealing with a trauma in her life, "Why is this happening, David?" Oh, I had some deep, biblical answers, but in truth and at that moment, my answer was "I just don't know." That's what I said. Then, we hugged. She cried. I prayed for her. I prayed aloud, in her ear, just loud enough for her to hear, not for everyone else, for God to comfort her as only He could. I said to God "We don't understand this, but we trust You. It's hard to trust You right now, so help us do this." It was honest. It was hard for my friend to trust, but she loves God. She's a disciple. She knows the Truth.

God was there. God is there still. She's still grieving and the pain comes in swells like waves in the ocean, but God is there. She knows this. She just needs reminding. Her faith is strong. She's known Jesus longer than I've been alive. She's a dear saint. She needs comfort and God is that comfort.  (BTW - if you can, stop reading for just a moment and pray for her and her family please.)

There have been others surrounding her that know the Jesus we know. There are other stories just like this and God is ever present in each.

There are also those who do not know Christ. They're confused. They're angry. They need hope. In those cases, God may place you as his conduit of grace. Be ready. Trust Him.

Remember. . .

2 Corinthians 1:3-4(ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 


Making the Shift from Church-Focused to Kingdom-Focused

I readily admit that I really never have original ideas. I claim Ecclesiastes 1:9 for this reality.

Last week I was at a gathering of church planters and pastors of churches that are raising up church planters. The keynote speaker and leader of Vision 360 (and Pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas) Bob Roberts, Jr. shared about the necessity of moving away from the western "church-focused" model to the biblical "Kingdom-focused model." 

Though this is not a new concept, it was so refreshing to see it laid out in such an understandable way. It is exciting to be able to see or hear something and sit back and go "Wow! That's exactly what I've been thinking, but wasn't able to clarify in my mind." God does this. He uses the Word, situations and others to speak (and pretty much anything else He chooses. He is God, you know.)

So, what does this mean?

What's the big deal about shifting from being Church-Focused to being Kingdom-Focused?

The big deal is that remaining in a Church-Focused framework means death and missing what the Gospel leads us to do and be.

The problem is that I grew up in a Church-Based model. I was trained in this framework. That's what I learned in church, at seminary and in ministry meetings. We work and work at doing church better under this framework only to continue to see the Great Commission go unfulfilled.

I'll break down more of this in later posts, but let's start here. 

The Church-Based Framework . . .

  Church Focused Framework copy


Now, at first glance you may not find any problems with this framework. It has a number of church terms listed: disciple, gospel, etc. However, look closely and you'll discover that the Church is the center and the primary functions lead to growing the church (the organization, not the body and therefore, not the people.) 

This is a radical shift for me and maybe you as well. Of course we're supposed to make disciples, but all too often that looks like nothing more than a membership drive and increased participation in a program. Here's a newsflash - just because people show up at church does not mean they are disciples.

The membership strategy and participation numbers lead this framework and then an interesting view of the gospel comes. This view is all about self, rather than about God. It's about personal salvation and personal atonement for one's sins. I know, I know, you're saying "What's wrong with that?" Well, nothing except for the exclusion of God. Unfortunately, this is how Christianity has been sold, especially in the west. It's about "praying a prayer" rather than about the Lordship of Christ.

Of course, the desire is for personal salvation and Christ's death does atone for one's sins. The issue is the focus. The focus is not about "me" or "us" but Him.

In the church framework the society is basically ignored. This leads to isolationist Christianity. It's evidenced in a "hiding place" church and ministry that is designed to keep us safe from the evils of the world. It results in "Christian" versions of every societal domain and further removes us from being "in the world" while using the excuse of not being "of the world."

The church, therefore becomes the building and an institution. Regardless how many times we say that "the church is the people not a building" our culture is built on this framework, so it is difficult to really live otherwise.

So, that being said, what does the Kingdom-Focused framwork look like?

The Kingdom-Focused Framework. . .

  Kingdom Focused Framework copy


It may seem subtle, but the differences are huge. In other words. . .THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

The Kingdom-focused Church begins with the Gospel. It's the gospel of the Kingdom of God and focuses on His sovereignty and kingship.

This leads to disciple-making. The Great Commission is a Kingdom-focused command. We are to make disciples. Disciples are those who hear and obey. They live under the lordship of the King. (

Society is not something to be disengaged from, but something to engage. Domains are engaged. Loving one's neighbor becomes real. We then do not love people for the sake of seeing them become Christians, but just because we love them. Yes, we want them to come to Christ, but love must be unconditional.

The church is then defined and living out as the "ecclesia" - the called out ones. The church is the people and we are the ambassadors of the King in this world. We represent Him.

What does this mean?

It means a shift must happen. Language must change. Motivation must adjust. It's about the Kingdom, not about "our" church.


It's Time to Kick Up Some Dust

02 04 - Soldier On

Sand-on-his-feetIn chapter one of 2 Timothy, Paul encourages the young pastor Timothy in ways that seem very fatherly. It's powerful how Paul reminds Timothy of his heritage of faith and the role God has called him to fulfill.

Then, in chapter two Paul steps into instructing. It's as if he's saying "I encourage you. You have what it takes. You are a man of faith and courage. So. . .get to work." There's power in the encouragement followed by the instruction.

When we talk about what it means to be a disciple of God, there are many definitions thrown around. Most are pretty good and correct, if not complete. However, if there's one phrase that sums up what it means to be a disciple of God, I believe it is simply to "hear and obey." 

Many church attenders in the world have heard the truth. However, just hearing does not make one a disciple. Unfortunately, I fear that many who attend church regularly around the world and especially here in the west are not disciples. Thus, the church fails to be what God intended.

God intended His church to replicate. His plan is for the church to make disciples. 

In Timothy’s case, he was instructed to find faithful men. These men were to be those changed by the Spirit of God, men who were all in regarding the church. These couldn’t be superficial men. The qualifications of these men were given by Paul to Timothy in his previous letter.

The pastor who does not multiply his faith in God through others is set up to become a codependent pastor preaching to a church full of weak members who always “need their pastor.”

It’s dangerous and yet, for generations has been expected in our culture. Therefore, we have stories of burned out pastors and passionless churches that become black holes of self-interest who gather weekly to biblically gaze at their navels, have pot luck meals and attend funerals all while the community slides into a post-Christian funk who cannot understand the relevance of the church.

So, Paul affirms to Timothy – get your team together. Be strong. Lead them. Soldier on.

This message is one that God is using to move us as a church from a "church based framework" to a "Kingdom based framework." You'll hear more about this later. Stay tuned and connected. It's pretty powerful. 

We have been called to be disciples, to hear and obey and to change the world. 

This is a powerful message and at one point, I share a story from Pastor Dion Robert of Cote d'Ivoire. He was asked at a conference what it means to be a disciple. His answer regarding being the shadow of God really clicked with me. There's so much more, so I've included the video here. Take a moment to watch. You'll be glad you did.

A friend of mine told me that one of the root words that we get our word "disciple" from actually means to "kick up dust." I like that. A disciple is an action figure. Can you imagine the first century world that encountered Christ's disciples saying "Hey, look at those dust kickers!" 

Let's be the shadow of our God.

Let's change the world.

Let's be dust kickers.


To Be Called "Faithful"

01 3 - To Be Called Faithful

Every Christ-follower yearns to hear the Father say "Well done, good and faithful servant." To be called faithful is a deep compliment of a valuable trait.

In Paul 's letter to Timothy, he affirms the young pastor's faith as well as that of his mother Eunice and grandmother, Lois.

What is it that makes a Christ-follower faithful?

I believe the first and primary characteristic is that of surrender. A person who is fully surrendered to Christ will live a life that honors Him. This person will love deeply, pray authentically, serve unashamedly, stand firmly and give generously. There are many more characteristics of the faithful, but they all come from total surrender.

May we be fully surrendered, faithful followers of Christ.

Faithful
The audio message attached was the Mother's Day sermon presented at First Baptist Church of Orange Park on May 13, 2012.


Prayer Point 10: Renew Every Pastor's Heart

The final Prayer Point for our ReVision Florida gatherings focuses on the hearts of our pastors.

Prayer Point 10: Renewal of the hearts of our pastors

Problem: No passion. Stagnant, dull services. No focus on the Word of God.

Symptoms: No salvations. No baptisms. No vision. No mission. No passion in the pulpit.

Truth: Spiritual renewal has always come on the heels of a renewed reverance and hunger for the Word of God.

Scripture:

  • Psalm 51:12(ESV)
    Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 
  • Colossians 3:10-12(ESV)
    And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
  • Romans 12:1-2(ESV)
    I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17(ESV)
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

Our Prayer: God, renew and revive the hearts of our pastors. Return them to their first love. Remind them of Your calling on their lives. Lead them to serve You today in such as way that is as thrilling, exciting and dangerous as when they first answered the call. May the power of the Holy Spirit renew the hearts of our pastors for Your glory.

Prayer


Prayer Point 9: We Must Own This Vision

Prayer Point 9: Ownership of the Vision

Problem: God's people do not sense ownership of the work to be done in our state. God has given us our communities and state as a stewardship. However, many of us feel like the problem of the lostness in Florida belongs to someone else. As Baptists, we sometimes believe the problem belongs to the Florida Baptist Convention, the local Associations or some other network of churches. The reality, the problem is ours.

Symptoms: Lack of unity among churches. Working to build small kingdoms rather than work for the Kingdom.

Scripture:

  • Proverbs 29:18(ESV)
    Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. 
  • Acts 18:9(ESV)
    And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 

Our Prayer: God, may we see the stewardship You have given us here. God has called us to reach our communities and this state. May we see the challenges, the problems, the possibilities and the vision as ours to fulfill under God's lead.

Blurry-vision


Prayer Point 8: Releasing of Resources

Prayer Point 8: Releasing of Resources

Problem: God has supplied the needed resources and funds for His work. His people will not release the resources.

Symptoms: Ministries left undone for lack of resources.

Scripture:

  • Psalm 37:34(ESV)
    Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. 
  • 2 Corinthians 9:6-8(ESV)
    The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 
  • Matthew 6:33(ESV)
    But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  • 3 John 1:2(ESV)
    Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8(ESV)
    And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Our Prayer: God, give your people a heart of generosity. May the church release the resources of God's for His work. In our abundance, let us understand that what we have is not ours, but Yours and send a fresh sense of sacrificial generosity.

Giving-hands


Prayer Point 7: Need for Laborers

Prayer Point 7: Lord of the Harvest to Send Forth Laborers

Problem: A shortage of workers.

Symptoms: A harvest is waiting and the field needs workers.

Scripture:

  • Matthew 9:37-38(ESV)
    Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 
  • Matthew 28:18-20(ESV)
    And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 
  • Luke 9:23(ESV)
    And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 
  • Luke 19:10(ESV)
    For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Our Prayer: Lord, change our mindset and our vision so we will see that the harvest is still great. Call out the next generation of workers, missionaries, church planters, pastors, teachers, evangelists and others for this task.

  Harvest-field

 


Prayer Point 6: Unity Among Christ Followers

As pastors and leaders praying throughout Florida, we come face to face with the issue of unity. There are churches splitting, fights among believers. There are even churches who wrongly view other churches as "competition" and therefore, create an island of ministry that misses the larger story. Therefore, our prayer focus this day is about unity. This is not a surface level, "feel good" unity, but a deep, gospel focused oneness of purpose and Kingdom-mindedness.

Prayer Point 6: Unity

Problem: No harmony. No agreement. No godly interaction and poor fellowship

Symptoms: Division among church leaders. Wasted time. Wasted energy

Scripture:

  • Psalm 133:1(ESV)
    Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9-12(ESV)
    Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. 
  • John 17:20-26(ESV)
    “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” 
  • Acts 1:14(ESV)
    All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
  • Acts 2:1(ESV)
    When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 
  • Acts 2:46(ESV)
    And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 
  • Acts 4:24(ESV)
    And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 
  • Acts 5:12(ESV)
    Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 
  • Acts 8:6(ESV)
    And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 
  • Acts 15:25(ESV)
    It has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 

Our Prayer: Lord, let us be in accord with You!

Threestrands