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Thinking God’s Thoughts

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The spiritual growth of our churches is greatly dependent upon the spiritual growth of our members and those who attend. A church must have a discipleship system in place that leads an individual through a process of spiritual growth and hopefully on to spiritual maturity. Each follower of Christ must not settle for only knowing what it means to be a disciple but must also be applying the principles being taught. It is not what you know but what you do with what you know that really makes the difference.

Discipleship is about life transformation not just information transfer. We know that in good Bible study there are three basic rules of thumb to follow. First, there is observation. What does the text say? Second, there is interpretation. What does the text mean? What timeless principles can be found? Third, there is application. What should I do about it? We cannot stop at the first two because true discipleship always includes an obedience mechanism. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

The journey begins with learning the truth and understanding God’s thoughts and His viewpoints. How do we know God’s thoughts? How do we know if it is Him speaking to us? The Apostle Paul told the church at Philippi, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” God wants us to see and understand the world through His eyes. He is the only omniscient One who knows all and sees all. There are three primary ways we can hear from God and know His thoughts on all matters.

First, the Word of God! Why read the Bible? So that we will believe precisely what God already knows to be true. The Bible is what conveys the thoughts of God and enables us to think like Him. If you want to be a healthy Christian and be a part of a healthy church it will require a daily commitment of being in the word of God. The Bible can change your life, but not just because you own several copies. The word of God is the primary way that God speaks to us and we are not listing if we are not reading it.

In The Bible Questions, Hal Seed calls II Timothy 3:16 the II Timothy Road. There are four words there that describe how the Bible can make our life better. First, the word of God teaches us. The scriptures show us the road we need to be on and what that road looks like. Second, the word of God rebukes us. It tells us when we have gotten off the road. Third, it corrects us by showing us how to get back on the road. Lastly, the word of God trains us. It shows us how to stay on the road He wants us on.

Second, the Holy Spirit of God! Are we actively listening to the voice of God, the Holy Spirit? In John 14:26 Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit–the Father will send Him in My name–will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” Are you placing yourself in a position to hear Him clearly on a regular basis? Prayer is vitally important to your spiritual growth and it not only involves you talking to God – but also God talking to you.

The very best way we can know God’s thoughts is when we are reading His word and the Holy Spirit illuminates that truth to our hearts. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and is there to enlighten the truth, direct his steps, and guide him daily. He sometimes tells the believer to move forward in faith and other times to wait for further instructions. John 16:13 says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” Study the word and listen to the Holy Spirit if you want to know God’s thoughts.

Third, the people of God! We grow best in a community of believers. Solomon told us that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and that iron sharpens iron. Look for wise godly people you trust and allow them to speak into your life. These wise counselors do not supersede the word of God or the Holy Spirit but they can bring confirmation to both. God speaks through the preacher, a small group leader, a mentor, a coach, and through friends who are walking with the Lord. It is important to remain teachable.

This principle is taught throughout the word of God and Hebrews 13:7 reinforces this clearly, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.” We live in a day of tolerance that says you do not have to agree with other people but you certainly have no right to tell them they are wrong and they can do what they want to do. That is a skewed philosophy because if you love someone you should warn them. Paul said, “Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”

In The Bible Questions Hal Seed says, “That’s the goal: that by reading scripture and letting it read us, we will become a people who have everything we need to do the right thing in every situation.” It all begins by being in the word of God daily, listening to the Holy Spirit closely, and then allowing godly people to speak into our lives.  Are you thoughts His thoughts? Are you looking at things from God’s perspective or yours? Do you have the peace of God in your life? Do the people around you agree with the road you are traveling right now?

Healthy churches train their people to feed themselves through personal Bible study, how to listen to the Holy Spirit, and the need for a spiritually accountability partner!

Thankful for Multi-Generations

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There are so many unique distinctive members of the body of Christ. We are certainly a diverse collection of people. Churches are full of people who never would have done anything together or even have been in the same building together if they had not become followers of Christ. One writer says, “It is through the gospel’s mysterious joining—the joining of Jews and Gentiles; antithetical ethnic groups—that the church is built; and this church, built from scraps of seemingly irreconcilable backgrounds, is primary for displaying His manifold wisdom to ‘the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.’”

It is a beautiful thing to see people who have nothing in common decide to work and live on mission together for Jesus. When you look at Eph. 3:14-21 you see how Paul celebrates the “dividing-wall-annihilating” gospel. This message is also reinforced in Gal. 3:28, “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It has been said many times that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. This diversity when seen in His church is His masterpiece of redemption.

The church today should be a present picture of the worship that will be occurring in heaven as described in Rev. 7:9 of every nation, kindred, people, and tongue. God loves diversity! This should be seen in ethnicities, socioeconomic status, education, gender, and also generationally. Every church must remember to respect the past while embracing the future. It should not be either/or! We must reach younger generations for our churches to thrive in the future but have we must also minister to our older members.

Committing to be a multi-generational church is not about compromise or coddling but rather a gospel issue just like multi-ethnic or any other multi! It is not easy but it is well worth it. We live in a culture that is all about youth and almost seems to have a disdain for old age while the Bible shows us the blessing and wisdom of looking to those who have spent time growing in the Lord. II Tim. 2:2 challenges men to commit what they have learned to faithful men. Titus 2 gives an admonition for older women to encourage the younger women.

Believing that being a multi-generational church is a gospel issue, here are some things to consider. First, focus on all age groups within your church not just one. We should not be committed to bringing one generation in to the church at the expense of driving the other generations away. No, everyone will not like the way you do things but your goal should never be to purposely create a divide between generations. Isn’t a multi-generational church a better display of the gospel than a single-generational church?

Second, a multi-generational church displays the fruits of a true gospel community. There is a spirit of cooperation apparent because the focus is on the furtherance of the gospel and not personal tastes. When forgiveness, patience, and brotherly love are regularly practiced between generations it has a powerful testimony. Quoting one author, “The beauty of God’s holy temple, the church, is found precisely in the fact that it is made of seemingly irreconcilable materials!”

Third, this can only happen by displaying a self-denying humility. Actually, it will not work any other way. Without it everyone has their own personal agenda and believes that they have the answer for how things should be done. With humility you will see members preferring one another’s needs above their own. If you struggle with this concept please check out Phil. 2:3, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”

Fourth, embrace the truth of being one in Christ. Listen to this truth, “It’s (your church) built with people who should be divided, but are nonetheless united by the gospel. It’s (your church) not natural for people who have nothing in common to voluntarily die to self in order to live in thriving community. Yet this is exactly what the gospel accomplishes in its building of the church—and this is particularly true of multi-generational congregations.” Well said!

Fifth, it is good for you, the younger and older generations, to worship together. Think of the impact it can have on a young boy who sees an older gentleman in the altar weeping and crying out to God. Image the lasting impression upon a young girl who watches as an elderly lady lift her hands toward heaven as she worships her Lord. Maybe our children are missing out on interacting with the godly older people of our church because of the way we have structured our services. There are definitely times for age appropriate activities or gatherings but we also need to facilitate multi-generation interaction.

Sixth, everyone needs to be patient and understanding of one another. Older generations tend to be very skeptical and hesitant about change even if that change is healthy and God-honoring. The younger generations tend to think that they are the only ones who know what needs to be changed to fix everything. We must teach patience to the younger believers without quenching their God-glorifying zeal, and we must challenge the older believers to tweak their traditions in such a way that shows we honor and respect them.

Seventh, commit to ministering to all generations and their ability to minister to one another. We must resist the temptation for us to please our own personal preferences. Ed Stetzer writes, “Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.” He continues, “How can you tell? They persist in using methods that are not relevant to their own children and grandchildren. Far too often, church leaders, in an effort to protect the traditions of their congregations, draw lines in the sand on nonessential issues.”

Healthy churches are focused on reaching the next 100 people with the gospel more than they are focused on satisfying the present 100.

You Are Witnesses

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Revelation 11 tells about a day when God will send two witnesses to prophesy for three and half years. Once again, God shows how merciful He is, even when man chooses his own way and deserves judgment. II Peter 3:9 reminds us, “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” Even when His judgment is imminent, God provides messengers of the Gospel to proclaim the message of salvation.

We are called to be Christ’s witnesses. In His last words before He ascended back to the Father recorded in Luke 24:48, Jesus said, “You are witnesses of these things.” Our church is here to help people find and follow Jesus  We list our vision statement with three C’s:

  1. Centered on God! We must love Him more! Far too many churches have an agenda that is more me-centric than Christ-centric. In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren said it well, “It’s not about you!” Tim Keller says this, “Any person who only sticks with Christianity as long as things are going his way or her way, is a stranger to the cross.”
  2. Connected to One Another! We must love people more! We need one another and being a part of the local church is where we fulfill that need. The Gospel Coalitions tweeted this, “Saying, ‘I need Jesus but not the church’ is like saying, ‘I need Jesus but not everything Jesus says I need.’” Love one another well!
  3. Concerned about our City and the World! We must also love more people! This is where we drop the ball the most. Most churches, that I am familiar with, are scriptural and relational but are not missional. Are we getting the good news out?   Are we being witnesses to those who are far from God? We not only need to love people more but we are called to love more people!

The Good News of the Gospel is all about how God loves us! Paul said it was God’s love that compelled him to spread the gospel to all who would listen. The gospel is all about loving well!!! When we are compelled by love, sharing the gospel with others becomes the church’s main mission. Peter Scazzero says it this way, “The sign of the Spirit at work is supernatural love, not gifts or successful works. This love requires a supernatural work of grace in the heart.”

This is why the hope for America is the church actively showing and sharing the love of God in our actions and in our message!

  • Have a servant’s heart! It starts with leaders who have a love and concern for others. When we send church planters to their communities we challenge them to go serve their city and then God will build His church. Remember, leaders, if you want people in your church to have a servant’s heart they must see it in you. Speed of the leader, speed of the team.
  • Love your city! When Jesus saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion and as He looked over Jerusalem, He wept. Daniel Im puts it this way; “Too many times we have a vision for our church but not for our city. Develop a vision for your city.” If your church closed its doors would anyone in your community even notice?
  • Glorify God and spread His fame! Be a church where the glory of your church takes a back seat to the glory of God. All of us need to talk more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ than we talk about our church. Hopefully, you are excited about your church, enjoy your church, and want to invite others to come to your church. However, make sure you tell them about Jesus. Tell them how wonderful a Savior you have and that you would much rather talk about Him because He is what it is really all about!

Your church has the responsibility of spreading the good news! In Luke 4:18, Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Later, in John 20:21, He says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Why share the good news? Because you can join God in making what is wrong in the world right. That which is enslaved and in bondage can be set free through the liberty found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That which is broken and shattered can be mended. That which is diseased and sick can be healed. That which is despised and hated can be loved. That which is dirty and vile can be made clean. That which is wrong and far from God can be made right. All because of the Gospel!

NFL football player, Benjamin Watson, says it this way, “Obama can’t save us. Mrs. Clinton can’t save us. Mr. Trump can’t save us. The only one who can change the heart of the man is the Lord.” Acts 4:12 reminds us of this truth, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.”

Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”  Do you have beautiful feet?

Healthy churches embrace their responsibility to be His witnesses!  Speak and show the love of Christ daily!

Good News For America

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The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News that everyone needs to hear! Our responsibility to share the good news of the gospel is made very clear in Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

Values drive us, but there is often a disconnect between what we say we value and whether or not we actually live out that value. Be careful about asking God to guide your footsteps if you are not willing to move your feet! The book of James makes this very clear in 1:22 when he says, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” He also says in 4:17, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”

Here are some values that churches all agree upon:

  1. The Lostness of Man! We know that man cannot save himself and is far from God. John 3:18 says, “Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” Do we really believe that? If we did, wouldn’t we be doing more to let people know that there is a Savior who loves them and desires a relationship with them?
  2. The Length of Eternity! The soul of man separated him from the rest of creation because man has an eternal nature. Death does not end our existence! Hebrews 9:27-28 makes it clear, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment —so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Should this not make us more passionate in sharing our faith?
  3. The Love of God! I love Romans 5:8 because it says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Jesus said that He had come to seek and to save the lost! He also conveyed who He had come to save in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Shouldn’t knowing and having experienced the love of God move His disciples into action by showing and sharing His love?

If these are truly our values, why does it not change the way we live? Why do polls say that only 5% of people who say they are Christians never share their faith? Once again we see the disconnect in churches and Christians between what we say we believe and what we actually practice. One necessary thing is to finally admit and acknowledge the gap between the two and begin to do something about it. Unfortunately, we talk about it and plan to do better, but nothing changes!

Many seem to be living in the vast wilderness between aspirational goals and actual behaviors. Andy Stanley has said, “Knowledge alone makes Christians haughty. Application makes us Holy.” The book of James is all about pointing out that the true believer will never be satisfied with merely knowing the word without obeying the word of God. We are challenged to not only be dedicated to studying the word of God but also to the faithful obedience of its commands.

What practices do you have in place that show you really do value the lostness of man, the length of eternity, and the love of God? There are two primary things to consider about practices that will help you carry out your values in this area. They are simple and do not require you to be an expert. If we really value people they way God values them we will develop these practices. Luke 15 shows us that God values the lost and as His followers we must value them also.

First, invest in their lives. Think of ways to show and display the love of Christ to those with whom you have contact every day. How can you help them? How can you bless them? Be prepared to build relationships with them by listening to them. Remember, if you want to be a bridge to people for Christ, you have to be willing to be walked on sometimes. Loving people can be very messy but it is always worthwhile.

Second, invite them to into your life! That can be church, small groups, or some activity where they can be loved by others. The invitation will mean so much more when you already have earned a right to speak into their lives. This takes time so do not get discouraged. Keep watering the seed that you have sown and continue investing in them even when they turn down your invitations. Also, invite them to go golfing, fishing, or some other hobby that has interest for both of you.

There are certain values that we all aspire to have; but that is not enough. Good intentions will never get the job done or complete the task. Goals help us to see what we are working toward, but without these daily practices they will never be reached. What practices will you begin to implement in order to invest in people who are far from God? What can you do daily that will display the love of Christ in a practical way?

Healthy churches are outwardly focused and challenge every member to live on mission!