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Posts from April 2013

The One Thing That Is Killing Churches

Earlier today in staff meeting, we continued our ongoing conversation about the journey of living missionally. Of course, we preface any discussion regarding missional by acknowledging that the term has been misused, if not overused in the current church culture.

“The word ‘missional’ over the years has tended to become very fluid and as it was quickly co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they themselves were doing, be they missional or not. It is often used as a substitute for seeker-sensitive, cell-group church, or other church growth concepts, thus obscuring its original meaning.”  – Alan Hirsch

Blog-what-is-missionalFor a pretty good and concise definition of "missional" click here for the Missional Church Network's take on it.

I like what Reggie McNeal said years about about the "missional church" being a redundant term. In fact, there's no such thing as a New Testament church that isn't missional. However, there are numerous gropus gathering around our nation and community weekly claiming to be the church, but are little more than clubs.

But. . .you've heard me talk about this before, no doubt.

The challenge of living missionally as a Christ-follower and being a church that never forfeits the missional DNA is the ever-present push of those who claim to know Christ, enjoy fellowship with others and allow, although most often unwittingly, for the emphasis of ministry to turn inward, rather than outword.

Jen Hatmaker, a writer, blogger, church planter/pastor's wife, and speaker shared about "How to Kill a Missional Community" at the Verge Network Conference in 2012. I led training for area church planters last Saturday and shared the clip below. We also watched it today in our staff meeting. These are wise words and there's value in hearing what is said.


Some good points to ponder:

  • Consumerism is a cancer to missional community.
  • Attempting to build an outward-facing faith community with believers who are intent on just getting their owns needs met is simply unsustainable.
  • If we develop a church bent on serving the saved, then the already blessed people will come wanting more blessings.
  • You will draw the type of people who crave what you're offering.
  • Only Christians want forty Christian programs to choose from.
  • If we're positioned to reach Christians, then Christians we will reach.
  • The (local) church has a very limited amount of resources. If we consume them all for programs for saved people, then we cannot expect our folks to live on mission elsewhere.
  • If we're drowning in a sea of Christian consumers, we'd better take a hard look at the scaffolding we have built.

I asked the staff to respond. The resounding answer was "OUCH!"

Yep, it hurts, because we know it to be true. Yet, this is a continual shift for many. This disavows the default in our lifestyles and our belief systems. The reality is that we (humanity) easily default to self-centeredness and wanting things how we want them. That's why the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all we have and our neighbors as ourselves is so radical. It pushes against the default setting in our hearts.

What does this mean? Where do we go from here?

We know what is broken. We often just don't know how to fix it.

I've come to the realization that we cannot fix it. Definitely not on our own. What would do? Create a program to lead people away from reliance on programs?

As was stated in the clip and affirmed by many others - programs, in and of themselves, are not bad. They're tools of ministry. They are avenues of service. It's just that our consumeristic defaults crave more "stuff" and many churches, since we're full of self-centric human beings (not throwing stones, including myself here,) do the best they can and still, in their own power, create more inwardly focused programs and events.

Thus, missional doesn't happen.

That is called sin.

The truly "missional movement" of churches and believers today is a reclamation of deep doctrine, heretofore left on the back burner. Which means, with this movement, these are indeed incredible times for the Kingdom of God.

To grow as fully-devoted followers of Christ (i.e. disciples) means more than adding the adjective "missional" to programs, tasks, events, etc. Yes, we're called to live missionally, but to do so means we must be surrendered to Christ at such a deep level that we're living incarnationally in a world that needs the Gospel!

We are His ambassadors. This is not "new news."

Even here in the "buckle of the Bible belt" our city, Jacksonville, is increasingly becoming more and more "post-Christian." Hey, we're number 77 on Barna's latest list. What this means, practically, is that to continue doing church with an inward focus will result in nothing but higher and higher numbers of those in our communities who see the church as irrelevant and unneeded.

This is much to consider. There is much to do and yet, we have come far. At least we are recognizing the issues more clearly now.

They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love (But What Does That Look Like?)

042813_915_Keep Calm 23

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 is perhaps the most widely known section. These words are read at weddings often and carry a sense of awe and honor due to the subject matter - love.

1Corinthians13-4-7The subject, however, is not randomly floating alone in the book waiting for the next wedding to come around so it can be read aloud once more. This “love chapter” falls on the heels of an affirmation by God that as a church, unity is to be the norm. Unity among Christ followers is impossible apart from love. Therefore, an accurate definition of the word is essential.

Christianity apart from love, isn’t true Christianity.

Christianity without love is a contradiction.

There are many, many verses in Scripture that touch on this concept of love. Love – that which we all know and seek, but sometimes have a hard time describing and fully understanding.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25 (ESV)

Then there’s this most famous verse that relates to love.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)

Love seems to be connected to death at some level. We don’t like to think about this, but it’s here in black (or red) and white.

“Whoever loves his life loses it. . .”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave. . .”

Then we see Paul’s listing of what love looks like.

  • Love is patient - The word used here “makrothymia” means having the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate. According to all we have read in the previous chapters, there were many members who had been wronged (lawsuits, fights, etc.) How one responds when wronged is a picture of a person’s heart and walk with Christ.
  • Love is kind
  • Love does not envy
  • Love does not boast - Envy and boasting speak of our tendency to be prideful. There’s no room in a Christ-followers life for pride and love. The word for pride appears seven times in the New Testament and six of those are in this letter to the Corinthian church. However, they did not have a monopoly on pride.
  • Love is not arrogant
  • Love is not rude
  • Love doesn’t insist on having one’s own way
  • Love is not irritable - The Greek word here means more than just having a poor disposition. It also refers to the keeping of a list of wrongdoing.
  • Love is not resentful
  • Love does not rejoice when wrongs are done
  • Love rejoices in truth
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love hopes all things
  • Love endures all things
  • Love never ends

The four beginning with "love bears all things" are challenging. Bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. What does this mean? Does this mean that we are to believe everything we hear because we love? No. It can’t. We live in a world where lies abound. The Father of Lies is at work all around us. What then?

Look at these statements as bookends – Bears and Endures speaks of our relationship with other people. The inner two – Believes and Hopes – speaks of our responsibility to the Lord. They echo the triad of faith, hope and love stated at the close of the passage.

With the pairing of bears/endures and believes/hopes defined, check out this paraphrase of the passage to perhaps better explain it:

Love is not for the faint of heart. It is a hard road. Whenever you hear the call to patience (v.4) you know it will be hard—but love is a very good road. So let me say it again: you will bear with and endure relationships in which you feel unloved. Expect this to happen in the church. Expect this to happen even in the home! And when it does you will be tempted to be angry and resentful. But the way of Christ and him crucified is best. He bore with us and endured with us when he was rejected, and his good plan is that we be given the same opportunity. How will you bear and endure? You will do so by believing and hoping—in Jesus alone. If you are believing and hoping in the other person, love will fall flat, but if your trust is sequestered in Jesus Christ, you will have power to love that you never anticipated was possible.

Love ultimately is selfless. Self must die to truly love. So, y0u see, love is connected to death in this way.

Boy Scouts, the Gay Agenda and the Local Church

I knew this document would come. It arrived last week. As the charter representative, I filled it out, signed it and signified that it is our organization's (First Baptist Church) opinion that we are STRONGLY OPPOSED to the proposed national resolution.

This has to do with the Boy Scouts of America.

For decades, First Baptist Church has proudly been the charter organization for Troop 20 of the Boys Scouts of America and the North Florida Council. Over recent months, leadership at the BSA executive board (national level, not North Florida) has promoted and pushed an agenda that many thought was dealt with years ago.

Boy_scout_with_oathIn 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, by a vote of 5 to 4 that the BSAs policy of not allowing openly gay Scouts or Scout Leaders was legal and within the rights of the organization based upon its core values. By reading reviews and stories of this case even now, the terminology of the result shows that many in the media and blogosphere differ with the Court's opinion. The phrase "Scouts could legally discriminate against gays" as stated in one such blog on the New Yorker's website is an example. It's a common position, yet still not a majority one.

The shift in proposed policy, as led by the executive board has caught many by surprise.

Initially, the news media reported that the executive board desired to allow openly gay Scout leaders and boys to participate in troops. When that met with pushback, the group adusted its position to state that it would leave the decision to the local charter organizations. While that sounds like a compromise, it basically leaves the local charter organizations open for civil rights (i.e. gay rights) lawsuits. Oh, by the way, we are a local charter organization. Yeah, this news caught my attention.

In private conversations with Scout leaders and parents, the consensus is one of frustration and concern. I have yet to encounter a sense of "hate" or "anger" when it comes to those who publicly profess to be homosexual. There is, however, a sense of frustration with the executive board in having an openly gay agenda pushed upon them, or at least the perception of such. Rather, I have discovered that many involved in the organization deem the previously held positions (as affirmed in the 2000 Supreme Court victory) as sufficient.

What may have seemed like an easy win for gay rights advocates and those on the executive board soon was realized as a difficult mountain to climb. Rather than vote on the resolution as a board, a wise decision was made to push the decision to the voting members of the national convention, held next month. I am a propoent of allowing the full organization vote on such an issue. I believe that those who strongly support as well as those who strongly oppose such a resolution should be given the opportunity to vote on the issue. I applaud the board in making this decision.

Now, the latest turn has been an adjustment in the proposal. The executive board is now proposing that boys in Scouting can "come out" and be openly gay without fear of being removed from the troop. Openly gay boys will be allowed to join Scouts as well. However, gay leaders will not be allowed to participate and serve.

This is the most confusing stance. Those on both sides of the issue are confounded.

New Yorker writer, attorney, political strategist, writer and long-time gay rights advocate Richard Socarides writes of this on his blog. He calls it a mixed message where one type of "discrimination" is allowed while another is forbidden. You can read his full post here.

Tony Perkins, president of the Washington D.C.-based lobbying organization Family Research Council, has also stated the mixed message is confusing. He called the new proposal "incoherent." Perkins stated, "The proposal says, in essence, that homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18 - then, when he comes of age, he's removed from the Scouts."

Consequently, while some see the BSAs move to "inclusion" as progress, the vast majority of members and charter organizations apparently do not.

It's a confusing move on numerous levels. The BSA has been surveying its scouting family recently and on Friday, April 19, released its findings. "Current Policy" refers to not allowing openly gay leaders or Scouts.

Among the findings as shared in a Baptist Press article dated April 19 are:

  • 61 percent of adult Scout members favor the current policy, while 34 percent oppose it.
  • 61 percent of Boy Scout parents support the current policy, while 50 percent of Cub Scout parents back it (45 percent of Cub Scout parents oppose it.)
  • 51 percent of major donors support the current policy while 33 percent oppose it. However, a majority of Fortune 500 companies want to see the policy changed.
  • A majority of teens age 16-18 in the Boy Scouts program oppose the current policy. A percentage was not given, but in my opinion, this is no surprise based on cultural shifts among the millenial generation related to this issue.
  • BSA stated that parents, teens and the Scouting community "a local option" as proposed in February. The "local option" is what I mentioned earlier regarding the local charter organization deciding.

Click here to read the BSAs Membership Standards Resolution proposal.

A vote will take place in May at the national convention. Regardless the result of that vote, the issue will not die. Scouting will be affected. It is my contention that the effect will not be positive. If the convention votes "no" on the new proposal, the anti-gay rhetoric will intensify as the organization and charter groups will be demonized at an even deeper level. In truth, I'm okay with that. It's a stand on a biblical and moral truth that is not to be compromised. However, the collateral damage (i.e. the boys in Scouting) may be deep.

If the convention votes "yes" on the proposal, then many charter organizations will have to revisit their partnership with the BSA. This is, in my opinion, a tragedy.

My opposition to the new resolution will immediately categorize me, in some people's view, as a discriminator, a hater, and a fulfillment of a negative stereotype. However, I deem that my opposition to the new resolution affirms my support for the Gospel and the definition of biblical manhood and womanhood, not to mention the right of an organization such as the Boy Scouts of America to remain committed to the mores agreed upon at its founding and affirmed over the decades.

I know God is not surprised by this situation. Therefore, I'm praying for His guidance, peace and will be done. I'm praying that those who deeply love Scouting and all that it stands for will "be prepared" regardless the outcome of the vote.

Would Jesus Go to Youth Camp?

Summer is upon us. Yes, I know that's hard to believe. The older I get the faster the days are. In the world of the American church and our varied ministries, summer typically means two months of camps, mission trips, Vacation Bible School, beach trips, abbreviated schedules and hit or miss attendance of church members due to vacations.

Camp worshipOne of the staples of most American evangelical churches is youth camp. Every summer teenagers gather in camp grounds, beach locations and resorts for camp. Camps have evolved over the years.

Most camps work off a similar schedule and concept. There are variations, but in most cases, this is the schedule:

  • On the first day (most often Monday) students arrive to much fanfare. Following a long bus ride, or in some cases, a convoy of rented vans, students who have been traveling in their pajamas, with luggage in tow and their pillow from home, disembark the vehicle at the camp location. 
  • Rooms are assigned. Students complain about the fact the student pastor has assigned roommates. 
  • The week of camp officially begins.
  • Most often there is an evening worship service featuring the camp band/worship leader and camp pastor. In addition to venue, these individuals are key for the student pastor in determining which camp to attend.
  • Each day (Tuesday - Thursday) is pretty similar. Each camp utilizes this time differently. The most effective camps do their best to eliminate any semblance of "free time." To the parent and student pastor, "free time" is code for "get into trouble time." Therefore, tight schedules are sought.
  • Most often, depending on camp location and weather patterns, the day begins with breakfast, small group teaching times, lunch, outdoor recreation, other group activities and then the evening worship time. 
  • Since most camps work with a weekly theme or topic, the messages are pointed and intentional. 
  • Often, and I've been privy to many such events, the Holy Spirit of God, who has been working on the hearts and souls of students throughout the week leads to a point of decision and devotion.

It can be formulaic, but then, so can Sunday morning worship and Bible study. The great thing about a camp situation is the strategic disconnect from the "real" world. In truth, the disconnect from all the noise of everyday life is often essential to hear the still, small voice of God.

It is my contention that when a camp is prayed over and surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, great things happen. I have experienced numerous God-moments at such camps. Oh, the games are fun, the cheers are uniting, the event is cool, but that's just the surface. It's what happens in the open heart of a student that is transformational.

When a student meets with God, intentionally and honestly, great things happen. This doesn't have to happen at camp. . .but it does often. 

Our prayer has always been that the group we return home with would be different than the group that began the week of camp. Different from the inside out. God stories written upon their hearts. 

No, it's not the only place God works, but He does mighty works at such places.

So, would Jesus go to youth camp? Yes. He modeled getting away from it all in order to hear from the Father. In fact, He goes to youth camp each year. I pray we have students who will meet Him this summer and be transformed forever.

Due to what we know about youth camp and about the spirituality of teenagers in our culture, our church and others should do everything possible to enable all teenagers in the community to attend. Yes, it's that big of a deal. I'm praying through how to do this with our Associate Pastors and leaders.

Our students will be attending StudentLife Camp at Covenant College in the mountains of north Georgia. The dates are June 10-14. Cost is $319 per person (due by May 15.) Click here to register.


What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday morning we woke up to some amazing news regarding the Boston Marathon bombers. As the day unfolded, more and more details and parts of the story became known:

  • The bombers had been identified.
  • There was a carjacking.
  • An MIT police officer named Sean Collier was killed.
  • A Mass Transit police officer, Richard Donahue was shot.
  • There was a car chase.
  • There was a shootout.
  • Pipe bombs were thrown out of the car toward police.
  • The older bomber was killed.
  • The younger bomber escaped on foot.
  • Watertown, Massachusetts was put on lock down.
  • Federal, state and local police, as well as National Guard units worked in tandem to find the whereabouts of the second bomber.

Even though everyone outside the Boston area attempted to go about life as normal, the news of the day was magnetic. It was virtually impossible to peel oneself away from the news. All the media outlets were sharing the same information, but I found myself switching channels and looking online just in case there was something new. 

Prayers for those in the city and those tasked with finding the remaining bomber were being said.

Then, the news broke. They found him.

In less than twenty-four hours, the emotional pendulum swung from fear to relief. 

Boston celebratesOf course, the story is not fully known. There are lingering questions. Questions about a potential terrorism cell. Questions that lead with "Why?" and "How?" and "When?" regarding the Chechnyan bombers, their family, friends and possible connections. We pray for answers to these questions, but in the midst of uncertainty, we can celebrate.

Terrorism is here. We live in a Post-9/11 America and world. We (meaning typical Americans) may have slid into a false sense of safety in an unsafe world. Things have changed. The days of innocence seem to be gone. Perhaps they were never here. We live in a fallen world and the "Father of Terror" continues to run rampant.

Nevertheless, as followers of Christ, we have been given the supernatural capacity for peace. It is a peace that passes understanding. It is a peace and joy of knowing that God is still in control.

Much has transpired in the last 24 hours.

We can celebrate. It is good to do so. Seeing the citizens of Watertown and Boston spontaneously celebrating in the streets last night was good. Hearing the fans at the Boston Bruins game sing the national anthem loudly as a statement of unity and freedom was exciting. Even watching Neil Diamond lead the Red Sox fans in their traditional anthem of "Sweet Caroline" made me smile. 

What a difference a day makes.

We should still be praying for those in the Boston area and especially those recovering from injuries and the ones grieving the loss of loved ones.  Pray for those tasked with protecting, serving and rescuing the hurt and endangered.

Remember God is good. . .all the time. All the time. . . God is good. (It's more than a reigious cliche'.)

REAL Manhood: Chesty Puller. . .a Marine's Marine

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9(ESV)

Lewis Burwell Puller was born in West Point, Virginia. He grew up listening to stories by local Civil War veterans sharing of their exploits. While just a young man, his father died. His childhood hero was Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and he wanted to be a soldier just like him. His desire was to serve in the Army. The modest beginnings of this young man deny the greatness of his heroism and leadership.

220px-Chesty_PullerIn 1916 when battles were taking place in Mexico, he wanted to join the Army, but he was too young and his mother refused to sign consent for him. Nevertheless, he ended up at Virginia Military Institute and just one year later enlisted in the Marine Corps. Through the years and numerous wars to come, Puller, known as “Chesty” (because of his bull chest) became a leader of men. Puller is the most decorated US Marine in history and the only Marine to be awarded five Navy Crosses.

He served in World War II and the Korean War as well as numerous other conflicts globally.

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was one of the bloodiest and most difficult conflicts of the Korean War. It was also a decisive battle in the war. Shortly after China entered the conflict, the Chinese army infiltrated the northeastern part of Korea and surprised the Americans there. Soldiers and Marines were surrounded. The battle would last seventeen days during the freezing weather. The 30,000 UN troops under American command were surrounded by 67,000 Chinese troops. Things did not look good.

Forced into these circumstances was Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller.

Chesty was a leader of men and they were looking for inspiration and guidance. As he calmly surveyed the situation, he said “They’re on our right. They’re on our left. They’re in front of us. They’re behind us. They can’t get away from us this time.”

When outnumbered and totally surrounded, Chesty just smiled was so appreciative that his enemies had the decency to come straight at him, since he was apparently tired of walking over to them to attack.

The American and UN forces broke through the Chinese blockade that day. They not only freed themselves from the siege defeated the enemy.

Chesty was a leader of men. Young soldiers and marines flocked to him because of his leadership. He was a fireball. One of his most famous quotes was after he was shown a flamethrower for the first time. He looked it over and asked, “Where do you put the bayonet.” 

Orphan Care Initiative: Step One for Foster Care & Adoption Complete

Last week our first series of PRIDE Classes (no - it has nothing to do with gay rights) here at First Baptist Church. PRIDE is a state required class by the state of Florida for those wishing to foster or adopt a child. PRIDE is an acronym that stands for "Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education."

Our partners at the Florida Baptist Children's Homes led these classes on Wednesday evening. We are so blessed to have such a ministry in our state. 

Kaytee Jimenez, our Orphan Care Coordinator worked with the FBCH to secure these classes here on our campus and our desire is to offer them regularly for our church and the Christian community here in Clay County.

Children's home kidsI was so very encouraged to see the number of people attending the classes, and especially sticking with them through completion.

What does this mean for these families as it relates to our Orphan Care Initiative?

For some, fostering children in the home will occur. For others (or perhaps the same people) adopting a child into their family is the next step.

Orphan Care is one of our "Big Three" here at First Baptist Church. It is more than a fad or a passing emphasis. Click here for more on this initiative and how we view it as a church. Whether adoption or foster care is God's desire for you, we believe it is God's calling for every Christ-follower to be an advocate.

Pray for these families as they seek God's lead for the next steps.

The Florida Baptist Children's Homes are wonderful partners in this ministry. On Mother's Day (May 12) we will be collecting a special offering for the Florida Baptist Children's Homes. Plan to give that day (or now, if you choose to give online) to this special offering. Click here to give online TODAY!

Killing Church Programs

I was looking at our church calendar for the year today. Even though we have tried to simplify and focus this year, the calendar is still full of "stuff." Some of this stuff is good. All if it is connected, at least loosely, to a ministry.

Yet, the majority of it is still just stuff.

Without strategic leadership and defined parameters, stuff happens. And. . .it appears on the calendar. 

Calendarpic2It's a problem in  every church, especially churches that are multi-faceted and growing (or at least were growing in the past.) A full calendar of events and activities at the church may look like success, but many times these activities devolve into busy activities for the Christian community and do nothing to expand the Kingdom. In fact, they often do more to shrink the Kingdom of God (unintentionally.)

Programs and ministries are often seasonal. Unfortunately, many churches have great difficulty killing once useful programs. Apparently, we are one of those "many churches." 

As we work to simplify the ministry, grow disciples, give handles for service and engage the world for the sake of the Gospel, the reality is that some of our programming and calendar stuffers must die. 

You may be facing the same issues in your church. Most are.

Recently, church leaders from around the world spoke into the challenge of killing church programs that either detract from the primary mission of the church or have outlived their usefulness. Here are some of highlights from this online conference called "The Nines" sponsored by Leadership Network.

Eric Geiger - LIfeWay Christian Resources

  • Once a church grows large in the number of programs, it is difficult to simplify.
  • Things that matter most must not be at the mercy of those things which matter least.
  • The mission determines the allotment of funds and resources.
  • Redirect the energy of the leaders into the future.

Mark Driscoll - Pastor, Mars Hills Church, Seattle, WA

  • A dysfunctional church can become individuals just pursuing their own agendas.
  • Ministries, like trees, can have seasons of fruitfulness which run their course. Then, they must change or end.
  • Sometimes ministries grow, but fruit is not produced. They become an end to themselves.
  • Nostalgia is not a reason to keep a program around.

Scott Lehr - Pastor, Southbridge Fellowship, Raleigh, NC

  • Weak leaders are more interested in success of numbers rather than depth of the sanctification process.
  • Weak leaders struggle with killing programs because attendance equates to success to them.

Scott Hodge - Pastor, The Orchard Community, Aurora, IL

  • Incremental growth is when a caterpillar becomes a bigger caterpillar.
  • Transformational growth is when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
  • Transformational growth is always accompanied by grief.

Will Mancini - Auxano,, Houston, TX

  • Persistent modification will course correct programs as they grow so they don't eventually date themselves.

Brian Bloye - Pastor, West Ridge Church, Dallas, GA

  • Sometimes good things steal resources away from the great things of God.
  • Sometimes programs are hard to kill because they're associated with persons of influence.
  • Someone is always upset when you kill a program.
  • Discipleship must be the end goal of every program.

Bruse Wesley - Pastor, Clear Creek Community, League City, TX

  • Just because someone volunteers to lead does not mean the program is valid.
  • The mission of the church must be served by each and every program.
  • Programs can be "religious" without serving the mission.
  • God has called you to be courageous in pruning.

Carey Nieuwhof - Pastor, Connexus Community, Barrie, ON

  • Churches that don't change, die.
  • Find the courage to make change, because so much is at stake.

Amy Hanson - Speaker, Omaha, NE

  • Older adults are able to change because they are connected to the same Holy Spirit.
  • Older adults are capable to learn new things. We need to motivate them.
  • Do not devalue those in the second-half of life. Every part of the Body of Christ is valuable.
  • Eliminate programs, not people.

Waiting On the World to Change

As the news unfolded Monday about the bombing in Boston, I could feel the collective fear and uncertainty grow. While not the scope of September 11, 2001, many were experiencing the same emotions on Monday afternoon and evening as they did on that fateful Tuesday twelve years ago.

WaitingThere are many unanswered questions as the FBI and other law enforcement and Homeland Security work diligently to discover the individual or group responsibile. 

As more stories come out regarding deaths, injuries and personal stories, the emotional response grows. Fear. Anger. Frustration. Relief.

John Mayer sings "Waiting on the World to Change" and it's been the prayer (or hope) of many for years.

The reality is the world is not going change, at least not as most desire. We lived in a depraved, lost, "sin-sick-Satan-serving-society" (I remember that from youth camp - thanks David Burton.)

In this lost, uncertain, fearful world, there is One who is still in control, never surprised and is the change agent. 

The world will not change, or evolve, to be better on its own.

Yet, we have a hope. His name is Jesus Christ.

May the events of yesterday in Boston be a reminder that we all need a Savior. May we who know this Savior, be encouraged and motivated to make Him known.

Continue praying for those affected.

When Your God Is Too Small

It seems that some days go by swimmingly, with no worries whatsoever. Then, there are others where worry, concern, and fear arrive en force. These days of worry - we have begun to call them days of attack - can be debilitating. What's strange is that the fear often comes out of nowhere. 

Last fall, I shared with the church, and through this blog, the spiritual attacks my family was battling. Just because a teaching series ended did not mean the attacks ended. However, we have found solace in the battle through Scripture and believing the God who saves.

Yet. . .there are days.

Days when we forget.

Days when we think too hard.

Days when things just don't seem right.

Days when the lies and accusations scream loudly.

It is these days that it becomes very difficult to hear God.

"What? You're a pastor!"

Yeah. . .I know, but apparently I'm human, too.

ImagesRemembering that each day is a spiritual battle is challenging. Knowing the enemy does not rest is not a comforting thought. Battles manifest in the family - the place where taking out the people of God is most common.

Yet, I'm reminded in these days of doubt and fear, God has this.

He's not resting.

He is simply saying "Trust Me."

I do. Then. . .I often bulldoze forward in "fix it" mode. And. . .well, you know. I don't fix it.

Again He says, in the most creative ways, "Trust Me."

Do you realize how difficult it is to trust a God you cannot see? Do you know how hard it is to trust a God who seems to be going r-e-a-l-l-y slow? Can you relate to praying for rescue only to open your eyes and see nothing has changed?

Oh, you do? 

Yeah, you do. Apparently, many do.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer. Psalm 61:1 (ESV)

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah. Psalm 77:1-3 (ESV)

David cried out to God. This man, known as a "man after God's own heart," found himself in dire straits at numerous junctures. Some were placed upon him. Others were consequences of his own poor choices. Nevertheless, a man after God's own heart would definitely be in the cross-hairs of the Enemy. This is clear throughout Scripture. 

At times, David is crying out for rescue, for clarity, for help. 

Though the cries sound desperate, there is hope there. There is focus. God is God and does not need to prove Himself, yet the biblical account shows over and again that God is faithful. He is true. He loves His children and while from our perspective it may not always seem to be the case, His timing is impeccable. He is in control.

I confess, as J.B. Phillips said many years ago, that my "God is too small." He is not surprised by the attack. He is not surprised by my reaction. He is not surprised that I was taken by surprise. That's comforting in some strange way.

And, still at times, I worry.

I know, I know. Worry is a sin. It shows lack of trust. That's why I need these verses.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:30 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

The battle rages, but as the God's people in the Old Testament discovered, God fights these battles for us. Oh sure, we are to put our armor on, but we don't have to fight alone.

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you." 2 Chronicles 20:17 (ESV)

In truth, He has already won.

Just trust Him.