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Posts from September 2012

Answering the Woman's (& Girl's) Heart Question

Hundreds of pre-teen girls, their mothers and grandmothers gathered in the building yesterday. This was our annual "Heart 2 Heart" Conference and it was the largest in history. I remember talking with our Children's Pastor a few years ago about this ministry about the potential of this ministry. I shared that the potential is great, not because it offers cool T-shirts or girly trinkets to young girls, but that it is focused on the Gospel and intent on answering the heart question of young ladies.

The heart question is at the core of every woman and must be answered. (Oh, men have a heart question as well. It's just a different one. This is God's intent.)

PreteenGirl-cutEven though the Heart 2 Heart girls gather weekly, for this one weekend a year, the "Conference" happens. This two-day gathering has really taken off. Where dozens used to attend, the numbers swelled this year to hundreds. Seriously. . .hundreds (and I'm not exagerrating using "preacher numbers.")

I came yesterday morning to give greeting to the gathered group. There were young girls running through the building, dragging their mothers with them. They were saving seats and checking out the vendor tables set up in the back of the room - all with products targeted to the captive audience.

My job yesterday was just to welcome everyone and thank them for coming. Rather than just say "Hey, we're glad you're here. Be sure to stop by the vendor tables," I felt God leading me to remind these ladies of all ages of the very powerful, yet simple answer to their heart question.

I did welcome them and then told them that God desired they knew fully that they were beautiful in His eyes and so very worth it. That's it. That's the answer. I then prayed they would remember this, not just for the day, but for the remainder of their lives.

Our culture (in fact, it's been the Enemy's tactic from the beginning) tells women over and over again that they are not beautiful, or at least not beautiful enough. There is an entire industry built on women seeking to be beautiful. Of course, beauty is not just relegated to physicality, but that seems to be where the message is most strongly sent.

Why is this?

Because it is the heart question of the woman.

Ever since Eve.

It's not a question of weakness. It's a question of wholeness.

So ladies, preteen girls and "girls" of all ages, you will hear that you are not beautiful. You will hear that you are not worth it. Remember where those statements originate. Don't agree with them. They are lies.

God's answer to your question is "Yes, you are beautiful, made in my image, on purpose, with intent. And. . .you are worth it!"

When Christians Don't Like Each Other

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We are a people who love to categorize others. Whether it be by political party, level of conservatism or liberalism, religious affiliation, residential area, the cars we drive, the sports teams we support or even the schools our children attend. We all mentally place people in categories so that we know what to think about them.

A person's espoused political party or "favorite candidate" tells us what they think about important issues, or so we think.

A person's religious affiliation or church membership places them in a category within our minds as well.

I don't like youWhere a person lives also categorizes them. Whether it's a region of the country or even a subdivision within a community, we tend to mentally place people in categories.

This has been happening since the beginning of time. Most often, it's the default conversation when first meeting someone. You know, we really don't know what to say after a while, so we go to questions like "So, where are you from?" or "Where do you live?"

Honest questions and when asked honestly, there's no problem.

However, when questions such as these are asked for the sake of being able to classify others simply to make ourselves feel better, or superior, that's a big problem.

And it happens.

All the time.

When it happens in the church, we end up with Christians who slide into division. It is easy. It seems too easy. Maybe that's because we often ignore that it's happening and settle to be peace-keepers rather than pace-makers.

We've heard it for generations. "We need unity in our church."

It was part of Jesus' High Priestly prayer.

John 17:9-11(ESV)
9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have
given me, for they are yours.  10All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am
glorified in them.  11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 

Paul writes to the church in Corinth about this issue.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17(ESV)
10I appeal to you, brothers,£ by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
12What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”  13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.  16(I did baptize also
the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone
else.)  17For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

It's interesting that Paul, Apollos and Peter all taught the Gospel. They may have had differences, but their messages were consistent. They were proclaimers of the Gospel. Jesus is the Gospel personified.

So. . .this church was not debating theology or doctrine. They were creating factions based on personalities and personal appearances. They were split for really stupid reasons.

First, we need to know what unity is NOT.

  • Unity in the church is not absolute tolerance of all people's actions, views, perspectives and ideas.
  • Unity does not mean we strip away our convictions, distinctives and that which allows us to claim the name of Christ so we can be close to everyone.
  • Unity is not uniformity. It does not mean that everyone must be the same.

Then, what does this unity look like? What does it mean?

The church is to be unified in focus - that focus is God. We are to be unified in purpose. We are to be unified in principle.

There are non-negotiables when it comes to the church. These are abolute truths relating to the Godhead (Trinity), the nature of man, the subsitutionary gift of salvation, the Word of God, the purpose of His church, etc.

In these things, in Truth, we must remain unified.

Step One to Becoming the Kingdom-Focused Church

2 - Keep Calm and Stay Focused

As we begin our study of 1 Corinthians, we start with the salutation of Paul to the church. While in most cases the salutation is little more than a statement of who has written a letter and to whome the letter is written, in this case, it is much more.

CrownPaul is the author of the letter. He is writing to a church. This is not a letter to an individual, as is the case with the letters to Timothy or Titus. This is a letter to a group of people. Not just any group, but a group that claims Jesus as their Lord, God as their King and citizenship in the Kingdom.

The idealism we often place on stories of by-gone days melts away as you begin to delve into this book.

This first century church in Corinth, a city known for religious pluralism, immoral behavior (often as a sign of worship to false gods and goddesses, greed, and simply put – low expectations, struggles with finding its identity, organizing and living with the kingdom in mind and simply staying focused.

Living as a kingdom-focused church is not easy. In fact, it takes severe focus due to the fact the Enemy is constantly lying and confusing, and creating chaos.

So, Paul writes this letter.

It's not about "you." It's about "us."

It is wise to remember the letter is to a church. Remember that it is a set of comments and instructions that build upon previous statements. The natural tendency is to pluck a verse out of the book, or any book really, and say “What does this mean for me?” In this case, since the entirety of the Word of God is living and active and right for teaching and training, it does relate to you and have meaning for you, but the real question is “What does it mean for us?”

In this case, the message of the book is to a church, not unlike this church. Not unlike any other gathering of believers throughout history.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9(ESV)
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do you notice a trend here? I highlighted some words and phrases to bring out Paul's point. Simply put, the church in Corinth or in any other city or location throughout the world IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

This is a difficult concept for us. You see, our culture promotes the "church-based framework" that screams loudly - "The church exists for you, for your personal growth, your personal discipleship, your children, your marriage, your life, etc."

Just typing that is difficult. This is because I have been raised and trained in a model that puts me at the center of the story.

It's all about God.

The Kingdom-focused church recognizes that our existence is not about us, but about God. The King is the focus. He is the sovereign. He is the point. It is for Him we exist. It is by Him we exist. It is through Him we exist.

The wonderful thing is that because we serve a good king, a holy sovereign, the one and only God, we do benefit. I'm not saying it's easy, but I am saying that because of God's grace and holiness, we, his subjects, are blessed. We have purpose. We have hope. We have life. We are redeemed.

This is the challenge. Why? Because we always slide back into the seld-centric, church-based framework. It's easy. It's natural.

However, we're not called to do the easy. And. . .we serve a supernatural God, so why settle for "natural?"

Why Do They Do That?

Have you ever wondered why businesses or corporations do things the way they do? I was reading an article in Reader's Digest today by Joey Green that tackled some of these questions. It seems that in most cases there are the perceived reasons as to why things are done and then the actual ones.

What People Think

  • Bag-of-chipsChip companies put so much air in the bags to dupe the consumer into thinking the bag has more chips than it actually does.
  • Walt Disney World seems larger than life because so many Super Bowl champions are "going to Disney World."
  • Walmart has greeters because they know shoppers like saying "hello" to retirees.
  • An egg has to be added to a cake mix in order to make it moist.

The Real Reasons

  • Chip bags are filled with nitrogen because it preserves the freshnes of the chips, prevents combustion (that's why they don't use oxygen) and provides a cushion in the bag so that you end up with mostly whole chips.
  • Walt Disney World seems larger than life because Uncle Walt used forced perspective throughout the park and especially on Main Street U.S.A. This makes the castle seem larger, the road to the castle seem longer and the buildings seem immense. However, when looking from the castle toward the main entrance, the same perspective makes the exit and the monorail seem closer.
  • Walmart has greeters because years ago, one store in Louisiana discovered if they positioned a greeter at the entrance, their rate of shoplifting went down. Sam Walton heard of this and instituted it company-wide.
  • You don't need an egg in any cake mix, but the folks at Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker discovered that folks at home want to fee like they're really working to bake the cake. Before the mixes were available in stores, cakes made from scratch were the norm. They required eggs, flour, sugar, etc. all to be mixed together at just the right amount. Though the boxed cake mixes didn't require an egg, the cooks at home approved of the addition and sales went up.

Now, it's not really a big deal why these groups do these things. As long as we can still get in Walmart, make our way down Main Street U.S.A., eat a bag of chips or maybe a cake, all is good.

Why do we do what we do?

Books have been written. Theologians and church leaders have debated this question for decades. Yet, if the church doesn't answer the question. . . answers will be created. When an answer is created, it most often is wrong.

Consequently, you end up with churches who preach the Gospel and love the Lord, but since they have not and do not adequately explain how the Gospel motivates and love is the expression of a relationship with Christ, the surrounding community and world becomes even more distant. And, this is what leads some churches to be categorized as irrelevent. (Oh, there are some churches who do not believe the Gospel, do not love each other and meet only for the sake of meeting. These groups are not really churches, just clubs. They're irrelevent for other reasons.)

"Because I'm a Super Hero"

For many weeks, friends and family and members of our church have been praying for young Drew. Drew is four years old and has been diagnosed with leukemia. He's had a tough time and recent days have been pretty severe, but he's a trooper.

Super-heroHis father, Jon, posted this video on Facebook earlier this week. I watched this little conversation between dad and son and could not help but be inspired. I smiled, as did everyone else I showed it to, when Drew made his matter-of-fact declaration at the end.

Drew is a super hero because he has some amazing powers. Those powers, however, are not birthed in the bite from a radioactive spider, a random dose of gamma radiation, a power ring, or even through the technological wonders of a billionaire who lives in a cave. Drew is powered and strengthened through the prayers of faithful men and women throughout this community and around the world.

He may not fully understand right now, but I know his parents do.

Praying for God to continue to strengthen this little man and use him as an instrument to bring Him glory and to allow us to brag on Jesus. 

The Process of Shifting from Being Church-Focused to Kingdom-Focused

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This message is key to the shift we are making as a church. The concepts are essential, I believe, for the change that must take place in the North American church. If no change occurs, It is my belief that within two generations, the church in America will be like many in Europe and Great Britain. . .nothing more than old buildings, sold off, turned into museums, relics of a by-gone era.

The church, however, is not the building. We know that. We don't function like we know it, but we know it.

This message is the kick-off to a study of 1 Corinthians. However, this message goes back to Acts when Paul first entered the city. There are characteristics of the city of Corinth that eerily sound like the city I live near - Jacksonville, FL.

God sends us to the city, to engage the city for His sake.

This is the shift from being Church-Focused to being Kingdom-Focused. Click here to read more about this concept.

So as we delve into this teaching, keep calm and stay focused.

"Student Ministry - Outside the Box" with Dave Paxton


Last night our prospective student pastor, Dave Paxton (we're voting next Sunday) shared with the church much about his faith journey and philosophy of student ministry.

Some points I think are worth emphasizing are:

  • Teenagers are not the church of tomorrow, they're the church of today.
  • The family is the key to spiritual development in the life of a teenager.
  • The student pastor should not be the spiritual hero in the life of a teenager. Ideally, the dad and mom would be. As Dave said, the student pastor should be "Robin" while the parent is "Batman."
  • Teenagers should be led into adventures that create memories (i.e. they need better stories.)
  • The church should strategically have a discipleship model in place that leads a child from birth through college graduation along a path of deepening intimacy with God.
  • Students should lead their student ministry.
  • Teenagers need to connect with senior adults and others within the church. This is for the sake of all age groups.
  • We must set the bar high for student ministry.
  • True Love Waits works and is still valuable.
  • There's nothing wrong with a little adrenaline.
  • You're never too old to work with teenagers.
  • If you can't hear the voice of God, you'll settle for personal opinion (which is most often wrong.)

There are many more points as well. Take a listen to the attached audio file.

Student ministry dave paxton copy