Archive for category: Ministry

Theology of Missions

09 May
May 9, 2016

missions

The following is a Theology of Missions paper I wrote recently for a missions class I am taking. It was an interesting challenge; on the one hand, missions is close to my heart and something I enjoy writing about. At the same time, I had to follow some structure guidelines so while it definitely reflects my opinions, with more freedom, and no word count limits (technically, I went over as it is …), it may have turned out slightly different (not in theology, but in format) than what you see here.

THEOLOGY OF MISSIONS

Introduction

A theology of missions is a critical need for any ministry leader, and ultimately, every believer. Every believer is called to live out the Great Commission, a reality too often missed. While missions is often thought of something done by a few in a foreign land, every believer is actually called to be a missionary – some in foreign lands, some in their neighborhoods, communities, schools and workplaces.

Missions in Scripture

The message of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is that of hope and salvation. The gospel message weaves in and out of both the Old and New Testaments, creating one unified narrative through many authors over the centuries that details God’s heart for His lost children, the call to missions. Decades ago, New Tribes Mission learned this lesson first hand. Initially in their mission to reach primitive people groups that had not been contacted before, their goal was simple. To immerse themselves in the tribe, learn the language and culture, and then share the message of Christ. However, they were caught off guard by either the lack of response to the New Testament teachings, or the very lukewarm, loose commitment that did occasionally happen.

They went back to the drawing board and developed a one year curriculum, called Firm Foundations, that takes the students from creation to Christ.[1] Over the course of the year, the narrative is built up from Genesis to the New Testament, laying out the foundations for why a Savior is needed. The change in response was dramatic; listeners finally understood why Christ was necessary! Over the decades this material has been used in people group after people group, including the Manjui tribe of Paraguay that the author of this paper lived with as a teen.

It is no wonder then that the message of missions saturates both the Old and New Testaments. Genesis 3:15 plants the seeds of this theme with the promise of offspring that will wound the serpent, a prophecy pointing to Christ’s arrival and provision of salvation. This was a direct result of the separation between man and God that was caused by Adam and Eve’s sin, sin that could only be healed through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Another clear moment of mission in the Old Testament is found in Genesis 12:1-3, when Abraham is set apart and given his calling. While he was specifically called to be the beginnings of a great nation, it was a setting apart that symbolized Christ one day setting apart His church. Through Abraham’s actions, God promised in verse three that “all peoples on earth will be blessed.” All peoples! Abraham was being commissioned for mission, a mission to reach and bless the world with Christ. Hebrews 11 affirms that it was Abraham’s faith that saved and guided him, not his actions. The same faith that is tied so vitally to the mission of reaching a lost world.

The gospels build on what the Old Testament began, revealing the God’s plan for salvation, and ultimately building up to the Great Commission – the command to spread the word to all the world about Christ and the salvation found in Him, the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam and Eve thousands of years before. From there, the rest of the New Testament gives the believer practical advice on how to live out that calling to worship God and reach the lost.

Christ consistently pointed His followers to the need and our role in being a part of the plan to meet that need. In Matthew 9:38, He told His disciples that “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Borthwick points out that there is an undercurrent in scripture that mission is an ongoing task, pointing out that “the command we translate as ‘go’ in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15 is actually a participle: ‘as you are going.’”[2]

Mark 6 and Luke 10 both record instances where Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs of two to preach repentance wherever they could be heard. Before they fully understood the reality of who Christ was, before His death and resurrection, Jesus was already sending them out into the world to pave the way for the promise made to Abraham to be fulfilled at long last. Throughout the gospels, the disciples time and again had the misperception that Jesus was a political messiah for the Jews, while Christ demonstrated over and over His love for all people, regardless of nationality, gender or age, and His desire to see people connected to God.

Nature of God and Missions

The nature of God is far greater than this paper can adequately describe. Man has created words in an attempt to describe His nature; holy, omnipotent, omnipresent, sovereign, immutable, love – the list goes far longer. One of the critical aspects of God’s nature is His worthiness of worship. Passages like Isaiah 43:7, Romans 11:36 and Revelation 4:11 all speak of how mankind was created to bring glory to God, to worship Him. At His core, God’s nature demands worship. Meanwhile, mankind’s core purpose is to worship God. Piper said it well when he wrote “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”[3] Driving that point home, he also observed that “The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.”[4]

Humans were designed to have a relationship with God, given the incredible purpose of bringing glory to Him. This is why Christ’s primary concern was seeing people made right and connected with God. The secondary purpose, why Christ’s closing words before ascending to heaven were the Great Commission, having become right with God, is to in turn help others to be made right and connect with God so that in time all creation will be restored to its purpose of bringing glory to God.

Missions and Theology

“There is no more important question in encountering mission theology than this: How is a solid, biblically based foundation for mission theology constructed?”[5] A theology of missions does not stand in isolation; it is constructed in light of a healthy structure of theology. Theologies of God, humanity, creation, and so on, need to be developed and linked together. Just as God cannot be contained in a few descriptive words, theology needs to be linked to be understood.

Theology of Trinity

The Trinity, while not directly referenced in scripture, is a vital theology, both on its own as well as with regards to missions. “The doctrine of the Trinity is crucial for Christianity. It is concerned with who God is, what He is like, how He works, and how He is to be approached. Moreover, the question of the deity of Jesus Christ, which has historically been a point of great tension, is very much wrapped up with our understanding of the Trinity.”[6]

In understanding the Trinity, believers know both who to worship (God the Father, Son and the Spirit), how God functions, and how He is to be approached. Of particular note in regards to missions is the deity of Christ. Philippians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 1 are two critical passages that affirm the deity of Christ. He was not simply a man. Consequently, His death and resurrection have power for all mankind. His command to mission in the form of the Great Commission, has authority and is relevant to all believers. His approach to mission is an example to both follow and learn from.

Theology of Inerrancy

The authority of scripture to speak into people’s lives is in part based on the theology of inerrancy. This directly impacts the theology of mission as that is shaped by the words of scripture. Why is inerrancy important? The dependability and reliability of scripture is critical both to the integrity of faith, but also to the development of faith practices and theology. The truth of scripture impacts each of the following:

  • Truth of scripture frees from Satan; John 8:32, 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
  • Truth of scripture mediates grace and peace; 2 Peter 1:2.
  • Truth of scripture sanctifies; John 17:17, 2 Peter 1:3-12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  • Truth of scripture serves love; Philippians 1:9.
  • Truth of scripture protects from error; Ephesians 4:11-15, 2 Peter 3:17-18.
  • Truth of scripture saves; 1 Timothy 4:16, Acts 20:26-27, 2 Thessalonians 2:10.
  • Truth of scripture is the ideal of heaven; 1 Corinthians 13:12.
  • Truth of scripture is approved by God; 2 Timothy 2:15.

If the believers call to mission and support of mission, both locally and globally, is based on scripture, theology of inerrancy is a key part of that call.

Two Themes of Mission Theology

There are a number of themes that are tied to a healthy theology of mission; the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ, contextualization, liberation, justice, mission Dei, and others.[7] Particularly relevant to this paper are the themes of worship and the Great Commission. These two themes drive both the purpose and the scope of missions.

Worship

Piper wrote, “Missions is not first and ultimate; God is. This truth is the lifeblood of missionary inspiration and endurance.”[8] Worship defines the theme behind why missions exists. When confronted with even glimpses of God’s glory, the only natural response is worship. Over and over throughout scripture, both the lost and saved, the demons and angels, always respond the same; they drop to the ground in worship and awe. So many behaviors and disciplines have to be learned, compelled, or practiced. In describing His people, God said in Isaiah 43:7, “I created for my glory … I formed and made.” The drive to worship God should motivate all that we do; “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Our natural response to God is to worship Him, and that ultimately, when we are faced with His glory in eternity, there will be no other response possible. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, worship, or giving glory to God, is tied to all that we do – even activities as mundane as eating and drinking. How we work in our jobs, how we interact with others, how we serve in our neighborhoods and in our churches, all should bring glory to God. Even Piper’s comment describing the motive behind missions bears relevance; the Great Commission, the calling to reach a lost world is ultimately based on the reality that not all creation worships God.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission, Jesus final words to His followers before ascending into heaven, define the task itself and the method; “Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Luke records these final words slightly different in Acts 1:8, conveying the same theme but with some additional insight to the method; “[Jesus said] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” From these two passages, we get the Great Commission, the command to reach the world. This is done through making disciples; in other words, creating students of Christ who in turn create students of Christ. The scope? It begins locally, spreads nationally, and ultimately reaches the world.

Practical Mission Theology

Theology of mission is primarily lived out in three contexts; the missionary serving away from home, church leadership in their support and example of mission, and the lay believer not in full time ministry.

Missionaries

For many, the traditional missionary defines what missions is. The individual or couple who moves to a different location with the intent of being a witness for Christ to those there. Often times this is accomplished through learning language and culture, building relationships and understanding of the region they are in, and finally as opportunity arises, presenting the message of Christ, planting a church, and eventually moving on once the newly planted body of believers is self-sustaining.

The danger of not having a theology of mission while serving as a missionary is in losing sight of the purpose of missions. A healthy theology guides and directs the missionary, giving them both a plan for action as well as the purpose behind it. It becomes the source of encouragement and endurance as they struggle through the challenges of immersing themselves in a culture not their own, the time and effort it takes to learn languages and preach Christ, and so on.

Church Leadership

One of the roles for leadership in the church is that of equipper. Ephesians 4:12 charges pastors and leaders to equip the congregation for acts of service. This is important when it comes to missions; leadership must have both a theology and plan for missions, as they are in the unique role of facilitating every level of the Great Commissions – locally, nationally and globally.

Leadership should provide opportunities for growth, education, understanding and for living out the call to mission in the local environment and community. While not all are called to full time ministry elsewhere, every church should be raising up and sending some. In addition, they should be challenging the congregation in their giving to support missions at every level of the Great Commission financially. Paul frequently touches on this point; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8-9, Philippians 4:10-20, and 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Lay Believers

Finally, lay believers active in the local church live out a healthy theology of mission when they understand that each individual is called to be a missionary in the Great Commission – not just the ones who go to other countries and immerse themselves in other cultures. Believers are “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11) called to reach their Jerusalem for Christ. So often, the church prays for God to move in their communities but fail to recognize that He has already placed His missionaries in every community, school, and workplace. Believers truly worship and serve God when they recognize their vital role in both supporting missionaries abroad through prayer and finances, and serving as missionaries to their community.

Bibliography

Borthwick, Paul. Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church? Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3 ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Moreau, A. Scott, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission). 2 ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010.

[1] https://answersingenesis.org/gospel/evangelism/firm-foundations-lasting-faith/

[2] Paul Borthwick, Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012), 112.

[3] John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), Kindle location 547.

[4] Ibid.

[5] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission), 2 ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015), Kindle location 1809.

[6] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 292.

[7] Moreau, Corwin, McGee, Introducing World Missions, Kindle location 1887.

[8] Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!, Kindle location 594.

Colonel’s Rules [image]

12 Apr
April 12, 2016

Colonel's 50 rules for public speaking small

I was surprised at the response to yesterday’s post (find it here) listing my high school teacher’s fifty rules for public speaking, so I thought I would upload a scan of the original document. It was far and a way my favorite class in high school; if you have ever seen the movie “Dead Poet’s Society,” then you know what kind of teacher Tom Jenkins III (or as we knew him, the Colonel) was. He passed away a couple years after I graduated, but left quite a legacy.

The class was a trip. We had to do short speeches with no warning on topics of his choosing, we had to prepare speeches, do devotionals, and most importantly, memorize the fifty rules. He would coach us, challenge us, and show no mercy in challenging us to grow as speakers. My favorite part? He would sit in the back of the auditorium (to make sure we were projecting) and if we broke a rule, he would yell out the number (which meant we lost one percentage point)! It was unnerving at first to have him loudly yelling numbers from the back of the room … but probably the thing that prepared me for working with middle schoolers the most! Ha!

Colonel’s Fifty Rules for Public Speaking

11 Apr
April 11, 2016

mic small

Over the years I’ve taken a few public speaking and/or preaching classes; in Bible school, Gordon College, most recently as part of my course of study through Liberty’s seminary. But my all time favorite class? The one I took back in ’92 or ’93 while I was a junior or senior in high school, taught by Tom Jenkins III, or as we all knew him, the Colonel. I loved the class and the way he taught it. He centered it around fifty rules that he put together that we needed to memorize and were graded by; over the years I’ve thought of them often and wished I still had them … and the other week I found my copy going through an old box of papers! Here they are in all of their early nineties glory:

  1. The speaker should always be in the most dominant place in a room.
  2. Never apologize for the speaking situation.
  3. Do not interrupt a group by saying, “May I have your attention, please?”
  4. The most important aspect of public speaking is that there must be a message.
  5. Minimize distractions.
  6. Your voice is your major instrument but you should use all your instruments.
  7. Maximize your assets – first find what they are, and then use them.
  8. Don’t avoid personal illustrations.
  9. Don’t admit any weaknesses; i.e., “I didn’t have enough time,” “I didn’t have enough education.”
  10. Physical rules for delivery:
    1. The outsides of your feet should be even with the outsides of your shoulders.
    2. Back should be relaxed.
    3. Hands should be comfortably by your side.
    4. Head up with eye contact.
    5. Don’t lock your knees.
    6. Put your belt slightly below your navel.
    7. Your weight should be evenly distributed.
  11. Avoid “stupid” truisms.
  12. Don’t violate time limits.
  13. Avoid vocalized pauses at all costs.
  14. Use as few scriptural references as possible and then major on a few words or ideas.
  15. Never say, “I would like to …” Just do it!
  16. “Suit the action to the word and the word to the action.” –Hamlet, Shakespeare.
  17. “Speak the speech … trippingly on the tongue.” –Hamlet, Shakespeare. ARTICULATION!
  18. “Make your deliverance smooth. You must acquire and beget a temperance which gives it smoothness.” –Hamlet, Shakespeare.
  19. “Don’t out Herod Herod.” –Hamlet, Shakespeare. Don’t overplay anything.
  20. When you get finished, quit.
  21. Organization of a speech is the most important factor in planning a speech.
  22. “Nothing comes from nothing.” –King Lear, Shakespeare. Choose a good topic.
  23. Research until you find something interesting.
  24. Information must be valid, pertinent, reliable, and current.
  25. Don’t change topics in the middle of your research.
  26. Audiences have no toleration for bragging. Don’t be the hero of your own story.
  27. Do not say, “thank you,” except when it is expected and when you can mean it!
  28. The show must go on. Nothing should stop you from delivering and/or completing your speech.
  29. Develop a style. It must include articulation, projection, and message.
  30. Don’t be afraid of emotion.
  31. A crowd is comprised of individuals. Initiate strong eye contact with the key individuals.
  32. Eye contact opens doors.
  33. Handle problems while you’re speaking as if they were planned and you enjoy them.
  34. Try not to laugh at your own jokes.
  35. Don’t major on the minors – get organized.
  36. Reading long passages from other people is dull. Don’t use (carry with you) any books other than the Bible.
  37. Spend a lot of time preparing beginnings and endings – make them effective, then stick to what you’ve planned.
  38. Enthusiasm must show.
  39. Learn or practice using ad-lib.
  40. Organization must be apparent. It necessitates an outline and the outline forces organization.
  41. Different types of organization:
    1. Sequential or chronological.
    2. Logical.
    3. Authoritative – scriptural.
    4. Exemplary.
    5. Function.
  42. Quotes and references must be specific. Use quotes especially to goose ending.
  43. Use specific detail and exact numbers.
  44. Every audience is different.
  45. Every audience requires adaptation. Don’t try to adapt the audience to you, but adapt yourself to the audience.
  46. Performance enhances skills more than rehearsal. Practice in front of someone.
  47. Imitation is no substitute for motivation. Feel it. Never be content with imitations.
  48. Plan for overreaction of the audience.
  49. Anticipate every possible reaction from the audience.
  50. The audience is more important than the speaker – you must believe it!

We Are Called to Worship

04 Apr
April 4, 2016

worship

The highest response for the Christian to God, what we were designed to do and will consume our focus when we are fully united with God in Heaven, is to worship. Philippians 2:9-10 says “Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

John Piper wrote, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”¹ The drive to worship God should motivate all that we do; “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Scriptures point time and again to the idea that our natural response to God is to worship Him, and that ultimately, when we are faced with His glory in eternity, there will be no other response possible. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, worship, or giving glory to God, is tied to all that we do – even activities as mundane as eating and drinking. How we work in our jobs, how we interact with others, how we serve in our neighborhoods and in our churches, all should bring glory to God. Even Piper’s comment bears relevance; the Great Commission, the calling to reach a lost world is ultimately based on the reality that not all creation worships God.

The challenge is our flesh and our sin nature; while we are created to worship God, sin has corrupted our nature. Even as imperfect believers, it is easy for us to lose sight of that high calling. Tozer writes, “Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control.”² Yet, this is the opposite of worship – creating a (false) god we can control is worship, but it is worship of our own wisdom instead of the Creator.

Boa asks the question, what if you only had one year to live? How would that shape your priorities?³ In our core, we know the things of the Spirit, of the soul, of the eternal are what truly matter. While busyness routinely draws our attention to the temporal, what truly matters is revealed in times of crisis, of sickness, of death. In those moments we find it easy to focus on the spiritual. The challenge is in learning to have that perspective throughout life, not just in the briefest of moments. As believers, we must recognize the temporary nature of our physical lives, that it is just vapor rapidly disappearing (James 4:14). This perspective is not a dark one, it is instead one filled with hope. Letting go of the temporal things to instead pursue worship of God in all areas of life, to challenge others to that same worship, that is the highest calling and one that gives our lives the meaning and purpose they were designed to have. It gives us a taste of the unfettered, perfect worship we will one day experience in eternity with God our Creator.

—————

1.  Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne, Perspectives On the World Christian Movement: Reader and Study Guide, 4 ed. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013), Kindle location 7313.

2.   A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: the Attributes of God, Their Meaning in the Christian Life (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2009), 9.

3.  Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), Kindle location 956.

Praying for Missionaries

29 Mar
March 29, 2016

3-27

During the month of March my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Sunday, the 27th:

Missionaries
1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 (NLT)

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

Reflection

Paul the Apostle is one of the church’s greatest missionaries. He knew the scriptures, had a confidence in his calling, and saw tremendous results wherever he went. And yet he had troubles, he had suffering. He was blessed to receive these messages of support and love from the churches.

During my family’s time in South America we loved our calling, but there were times when it was difficult being so far from home. We missed family, friends, and a culture that we understood and could navigate with confidence. One of my favorite memories from those years was the day I discovered our mailbox crammed with letters all addressed to me! My youth group back home in the States had showered me with notes of encouragement, tangible reminders of their prayers and thoughts of me even from so far away. In the words of Paul, it gave me new life and encouragement!

Some are called to serve abroad, others are called to serve in the local church, but we are deeply connected and part of our calling here at home is to be both strong in our faith, and to encourage our brothers and sisters called to serve far from home.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for our missionaries serving throughout the world, that they would be encouraged, that they would have new life, and that they would know and feel our support and earnest prayers for them. Please give them the strength and wisdom to continue serving You in this way. Amen.

Praying for Unity

29 Mar
March 29, 2016

3-25

During the month of March my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Friday, the 25th:

Unity
Philippians 1:27 (NLT)

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Reflection

It’s amazing when you stop to think about it. The Christian believers in Philippi were experiencing persecution and suffering in a way that we will most likely never fully understand. And yet, over and over throughout his letter to them, Paul drives home the importance of unity. It’s almost as if he is saying, yes, the suffering, the death, the torture – that’s all hard, but the real challenge is putting aside our personal desires and being united!

The easy way out when we disagree, when we are uncomfortable, when we do not get what we want, is to leave. To find a church or other Christians who do line up with us … until they don’t. But on those incredible occasions where a body of believers can truly stand together with one spirit and purpose, it is a thing of beauty! Mother Teresa once said, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” God has placed us together for a reason. Our unique gifting and collection of passions combined together in the unity He intends can accomplish great things.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for unity. We ask for the wisdom and ability to put aside differences and focus on the calling You have given us as a church. Amen.

Praying for Church Finances

25 Mar
March 25, 2016

3-23

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Wednesday, the 23rd:

Church Finances
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NLT)

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives
cheerfully.

Reflection

Years ago I attended a rally where evangelist Luis Palau, the Billy Graham of our time, was speaking. When it came time for the offering, he asked everyone to stand, reach forward, take the wallet from the back pocket of the person in front of them, “and give like you have always dreamed of giving!” I loved it!

And isn’t that something we long for? To be able to worship God with our giving without distraction? Without worry? To be generous with what He has given us for His Kingdom? God calls us to give, not because of church heating bills or curriculum needs, but as a way of demonstrating love to Him. When we sacrifice, it reflects a heart of worship. Our joy in giving is seen through a church that is able to meet the needs of our region, to live out the calling God has given each of us as a body both locally and globally.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the finances of our church. We ask that You would continue to provide the resources needed to fund the ministries to which You have called us. Help us to honor our commitments, continue to grow in our impact, and most importantly, give glory to You with cheerful hearts as we give. Amen.

Praying for Financial Guidance

24 Mar
March 24, 2016

3-21

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for this past Monday on financial guidance:

Financial Guidance for Those Out of Work or Laid Off
Matthew 6:25-27, 31-33 (NLT)

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Reflection

Some passages are harder to live out than others. It is easy to say not to worry when surrounded by security, but seasons of difficulty can test the limits of our faith and our patience. The stress from uncertain financial and career status can spill over into family life, relationships with friends, even our health. Often times we like to refer to Job, a righteous man according to God. We hold him up as a silent example of long-suffering; but when we actually read through his prayers to God, it’s shocking how blunt, how real, how deep his hurt and anger were – and yet he was a righteous man! Somehow he was able to be incredibly honest about his suffering without sinning.

This passage in the Gospel of Matthew records the words of Jesus as an encouragement to us. Our big picture can be different from God’s big picture, and Jesus gently reminds us that as much as we may worry or fear, God will take care of our needs. The challenge is in how we navigate those times of uncertainty.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for patience, endurance and peace for those impacted by layoffs and financial struggles. We pray for our church, that we will be an encouragement, blessing, and resource to those in need in our region. We ask that You would use us for Your glory. Amen.

Praying for Hurting Marriages and Families

23 Mar
March 23, 2016

3-19

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Saturday, the 19th:

Hurting Marriages and Families
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Reflection

Author and speaker Stephen Covey once said, “I am convinced that if we as a society work diligently in every other area of life and neglect the family, it would be analogous to straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.”

If we as a church work diligently in so many areas of faith, but ignore the realities of living in a broken and fallen world, and the stresses which that puts on marriages and families, we would be missing the heart of God’s vision for the church. We are one body, united together; when one suffers, we should all feel that pain. I love the challenge by the author of Hebrews to motivate one another to acts of love and good works, to encourage one another!

We need to be the type of church that is honest with one another, speaking to the challenges we have each had, so that those presently suffering feel safe in reaching out for help instead of pressure to hide and project an illusion of harmony. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot turn a blind eye, but need to reach out in loving concern when God shows us cracks in each other’s facades.

Prayer

Lord, we lift up the marriages in our church, that these couples would grow in strength and love. We pray for those who are struggling that they would have the courage to reach out for help. God, help us be the type of church body that cultivates an environment that fosters honesty and being real. Amen.

Praying for Deacons

22 Mar
March 22, 2016

3-4

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for the first week on praying for Deacons:

Deacons
1 Peter 4:8-11 (NLT)

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Reflection

The office of deacon was created in the New Testament to take a leadership role in serving the church body, enabling the pastors to focus on prayer and teaching of the body. In many ways, the roles complement one another, working together in common vision and direction for the good of the church body. Our deacons are called to serve and help this church with all the strength and energy that God supplies, as this passage in 1 Peter describes.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” The challenges of leadership are great. Standing like a rock can come at great cost, often times without anyone knowing the depth of the challenges. That is why in 1 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul tells us to pray for our leaders.

Prayer

Lord, we lift up the twelve men that serve on our Board of Deacons. We ask that You would give them wisdom, direction, strength, clarity, joy in their service, and peace. Thank You for giving us leaders committed to our church and Your Kingdom. Amen.