Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Program Momentum and Personal Momentum?

This week’s post isn’t something drawn out of Sunday’s sermon, but from Saturday’s Leadership Huddle.

Dinita and I presented two different focuses at the fourth Leadership Huddle on Saturday. Dinita presented some insightful and helpful keys to helping people take relationships deeper through asking transformational questions. This is the “up close and personal” aspects of ministry. It is the one on one, let’s get to the core issues of change in a person’s life. We looked at many of the difficulties we face when trying to work with individuals to help them be all that God wants them to be.

I then showed an Andy Stanley leadership video on the importance of ministry momentum and how to get it and sustain it. For all of us there, the light bulb went on. A key thought that was stated in the introduction was “If you have momentum and you don’t know why, you are just one stupid decision away from destroying your momentum.” So that we need to evaluate even when things are going well to know why they are going well. It’s also so true that when you don’t have momentum, everything is difficult. And it is critical that we understand the dynamics and take action to get momentum and then sustain it.

One huge question that we only gave passing attention to was “How do we measure momentum?” If business momentum is measured by financial gain or loss and sports momentum is posted on the score board, what does the church need to look at to gage its level of momentum?

But while so critical to the whole subject, that is not the purpose of this post.

During the prayer time at the end, I sensed the Lord pointing out something. The two subject matters were extreme in their polarity. One the one end is the personal, individual relationships and transformation. On the other end was the ministry program. Of doing ministry together.

Both are essential. The danger and I think propensity for most of us is to focus on the “program” end of things. “If we get the program going, we’ll be set.” There is great danger in that. It “depersonalizes” the issue and removes personal responsibility. We blame the lack of transformation on the program when in fact real live change comes in the context of relationships.

Programs provide a platform where relationships can develop. But programs on their own will not produce the life change (which is our primary score card for measuring momentum).

We must have programs with momentum, but we also need to focus on developing momentum in the area of personal ministry.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Taking Sin Seriously Means Personal Confession

The final point of the message, “The Maturing Christian Takes Sin Seriously,” yesterday was that one of God’s ways for his people to “avoid” having to take the extreme measures of disciplining a sinning Christian was for true Christ-followers to examine their own lives on a regular, consistent basis. Paul talks about that very thing in 1 Corinthians 11: “So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NLT))
The unfortunate thing is that this kind of examination of our soul and our behavior has fallen from popularity. Sometimes for good reasons … It became a morbid kind of self-flagellation. Other times it is because “confession” became a part of the rote of the worship liturgy of the church and felt meaningless.
But without a systematic and intentional effort of examining our lives we can all too often find ourselves drifting far from God’s paths of righteousness. Right there in the principled prayer that Jesus taught his disciples we find “forgive us our debts / trespasses / sins” and “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Then in the book of Revelation Jesus speaks to seven churches, five of which have issues that Jesus tells them that they need to deal with.
How long has it been since you have examined yourself? … taken an extended period of time to read and meditate in God’s Word with the purpose of putting your life up to the examination of Scripture … listened for the Holy Spirit’s conviction in regards to your life and how you are reflecting the glory of God?
The season of Lent was developed by the church as an intentional time for the people of God to humble themselves before the Lord and examine their hearts and lives. When you read the Old Testament you find God prescribing times of confession and repentance for the people of Israel. He mandated a rhythm of life that included seasons of examination and turning to God.
There are a couple of good articles that you might want to read that point to this same issue: “Spirituality Without Ongoing Repentance is *NOT* Christian Spirituality.” CLICK HERE.  Another is “The Mark of Christianity That is Disappearing from Our WorshipCLICK HERE.
One critical element to keep in mind that helps keep us from that morbid self-flagellation and improper guilt and shame is that true Holy Spirit inspired and filled CONVICTION will always draw us toward Christ for grace and cleansing. When conviction comes from the Holy Spirit we can’t get enough of God’s Word, God’s people and God’s gracious love and mercy. When the feelings are CONDEMNING and we feel guilty and shameful to the point that we don’t’ want to be in God’s Word and being at church is totally uncomfortable, then we can know that it is an emotion inspired by the Devil.
May this Lenten season be a time of careful personal and spiritual assessment where the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ and his mercy, grace and cleansing for sin.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Maturing Christian ... Can Handle Criticism

    Here's a little follow up to yesterday's message on the way the Apostle Paul handled the hostility and criticism of the Corinthians. The bottom line on the message was that we are best able to handle critics when we are most secure in our relationship with Christ. When we are living totally for Jesus and His glory, we can be assured of God's commendation (1 Cor 4:5). There is incredible power in the life that is lived in "Self-forgetfulness."
    I mentioned and then quoted from a a booklet that Tim Keller wrote entitled, "The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness." Here is the LINK to Amazon for the booklet. A couple of people asked about it.
    There was one area that I skimmed that I thought I might bring to your attention for your added investigation, meditation and prayerful consideration. It has to do with listening for the nugget of God's truth in every criticism level against you. I quoted a college mentor, Elizabeth Jackson as having told me that I should look at every criticism and see if there isn't some seed of truth that I need to consider as being valid and something that God would want to address in my life.
      The Bible itself is full of admonitions and then examples that illustrate how important it is that we take advice and criticism to heart. Not to let it dictate our self-worth, but for criticism to help us in our journey to be all that God wants us to be. Proverbs is an incredible place to start for those pithy encouragements to adhere to advice and respond properly to criticism.

Come and listen to my counsel. I'll share my heart with you and make you wise. (1:23)

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray (10:17)

There is sever discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die. (15:10)

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home with the wise (15:31)

People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace (10:10)

If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored. (13:18)

To one who listens, valid criticism is like a goal earring or other gold jewelry. (25:12)

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism fare more than flattery. (28:23)

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. (29:1)

Just do a word search for criticism or reproof. You'll find plenty of material to build a strong case for  taking the time to handle criticism God's way. The key, once again, is that we are so secure in our relationship with Christ that we are not destroyed by hostile criticism and can therefore use it for our growth and maturity in Christ-likeness. 

A HUGE REMINDER: The vision of the church is not that you simply attend church. The vision is that you will become a mature, reproducing follower of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Entrusted to do God's Business


The parable of the ten servants who had been entrusted with a mina each to "engage in business" until the nobleman returned is preceded by the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus (the wee little man). The "punchline" of the story is Jesus' declaration that "the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10) That is the business venture that Jesus wanted to urge his disciples to engage in when we returned to the Father.

Inherent in that verse is sense of "going." "Seeking" implies going out and searching. The Son of Man didn't come to "invite" and save the lost. He came to go out into a lost world seeking souls to save.

One of the primary points of our vision at CrossPoint is that we are about helping people make bold crossings from here to there. The very tough reality for the church today is that for too many the church is viewed as irrelevant and an extremest element in society. It is more important than ever that we use what God has entrusted to us to go out and do his business in the world.

As I've been putting together the current series of messages entitled, "Entrusted," I've become more and more aware of how what God has entrusted to us must be focused and invested in moving us into the lives and situations where people need Christ.

Rather than a 30 voice choir at church (which would be great!), maybe those 30 voices could do more to reach the world being a part of the Summit County Choral Society and being light and hope there. In our packed tight lives we often can't do both. Where then do we best engage in the business of seeking and saving the lost?

When we think of the value of relationships (which is one of our core values) we, in the church, often prioritize our church friendships. The Bible clearly teaches and encourages us in the "one another" passages of scripture to connect with each other on a deep level But we also need to realize that God has placed us into relationships with unsaved people that need the investments of time and love to engage in the Kingdom business of seeking and saving the lost.

God has entrusted us with some incredible blessings! How are we engaged in doing the Kings' business? This is where we are going to be headed for the next several weeks. Seek the Lord and his wisdom for your life.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

When a Church Wrestles with Discontentment

The title of this blog might lead someone to think that it is about addressing some controversy in the church. Let me say first and most importantly, there is NO big controversy or issue that people are agitated about at CrossPoint … at least that I know of.  At lunch the other day a young man asked me what he could be praying for at CrossPoint. My mind went to about two dozen issues that are on my “worry” list. Some are minor, two or three major, but probably a majority are not worth worrying about.

As I quickly processed that question I sensed the Lord pointing me to a deeper understanding of all these issues that in many ways seem disconnected and arbitrary. As I processed my thoughts with him I came to a reality that out of all that I long to see God do accomplish CrossPoint the most fundamental need is to see people come to Christ and be transformed by the power of Christ. There is nothing like realizing new life and stories of lives being changed.

We’ve experienced this some over the past couple of months as we witnessed the testimony and baptism of a couple of young men who God has divinely changed. When you have a standing ovation for a baptism that tells you something about the heart of people.

In talking this out with my friend, a reality of church life came into sharp focus. When a church is experiencing new life and life change in its people there just doesn’t seem to be much to complain about. God is at work. What more could we want?

There is something in the heart of every believer that longs for new spiritual life to be born out of their own life. It’s something that the Holy Spirit does when he comes to make Jesus real in our souls. When it isn’t happening there is a sense of irritation that rises. We don’t necessarily know what irritation is that we’re disgruntled about … we’re just discontented. We often target our dissatisfaction at something that really doesn’t matter. But we’ve got to do something to let off the “steam.”

So as I’m understanding it, when churches go through a season of discontent it’s an indication that God is at work in our hearts. We’re bored with the routine of ministry service. We get tired easily and begin to wander about looking for something more “fulfilling” in church life. We may look for a new ministry, look for a new small group, maybe even look for a whole new church. We long to be an agent of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life to lead them to Christ and the fullness of life that He brings. It’s not enough for us to just hear testimonies of others, we want to be spiritual parents ourselves.

Two of the most often cited excuses for not being a witness for Christ are “I’m not an evangelist,” and “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” But Christ’s commission in Acts 1:8 is not directed just to those who are uniquely gifted or have a salesperson personality. It is something that every Christ follower must consider as primary in their lives.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)

When we fail to live this out, we are disobeying the Lord’s calling on our lives. In my personal devotions the other day I read this …

17  This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. 18 Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sands along the seashore— too many to count! Isaiah 48:17-19 (NLT)

I wonder how many churches are submerged in discontentment and discord, having no peace, all because they have failed to fulfill the command of Jesus to be witnesses to all people. We might try to blame the lack of growth on a thousand different reasons, but the bottom line each individual must ask of themselves is how have they lived out the command to witness in the power of the Holy Spirit?

I put forth three areas that I sensed the Lord wanted us to pray for in regards to Five-day Clubs. God answered our prayers in wonderful and meaningful ways. As I’ve thought about moving forward, the Lord clearly indicated to me that these three issues need to be given priority in our whole church life. God’s answering these three things are absolutes to resolving any and every other aspect of our life and work together.

HOPE - 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)
This is not wishful thinking hope. This is expectant hope that comes from deep within our souls from the Holy Spirit. It flies in the face of discontentment and grumbling. It puts us into an offensive posture where we expect to see opportunities to witness.

POWER & BOLDNESS TO PROCLAIM – Acts 1:8 calls us to rely solely on the power of God to do this. I’ve been looking for three months for the perfect program to help us be a more evangelistic congregation. Programs and strategies are useful. But they are not powerful. We are in a spiritual battle for souls and human ingenuity is ineffective. We must be empowered by the fire of God in our souls.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – We have got to be cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The first three listed in Gal 5:22 ought to be our priority: Love, Joy, Peace. These qualities can be faked. They must come from a deeper work of the Holy Spirit within.

Let me remind you that the power of the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force of some kind. The essence of His power is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. (Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5) Read Eph 3:14-21 to understand more of the correlation between the power of God and the power of His love.