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Archives for : August2019

Direction > Destination

Having grown up in northwest Florida and then pastoring primarily in the north made for some pretty long trips to go visit my parents.  Many of those trips were between 12-16 hours and being a driven person (pun intended) made me focus on getting to our destination as quickly as possible.  If you were to ask my children (whose memories are not real good) they would try to make you believe that I would not stop at a gas station on the opposite side of the highway because it would take too long. 

It does not make any sense to cross over to the other side of the highway anyway when you are convinced there will be a much more convenient place to stop just 5-10 minutes down the road.  Please refrain from judging me because getting to our destination (my parents home) was the primary goal of the mission not enjoying the journey.  It is easy to forget that the journey is as important as where we are headed.  The trip is as much a part of the adventure as the destination. Believer, you are headed to heaven but what you do on the journey is of eternal importance.

The Lord has promised a place for those who have put their faith and trust in Him.  In Matthew 25 Jesus gives two parables to describe this journey until He either returns or you graduate to your heavenly home before He returns.  The first parable (the 10 virgins) reminds us to always be watching and be ready because He could return at any moment.  The second parable (of the talents) teaches us to not just sit idly by but to be industrious and to occupy, serve faithfully, until He returns.  You may know that you have eternal life but what are you doing with this life right now?

Sometimes the destination is clear and other times you have no idea where the Lord is leading.  What church should you join and become a member of?  What ministry should you commit to and participate in?  How will you determine what God’s will is for your life and for your church?  

Adrian Rodgers said, “You do not find God’s will.  God’s will finds you!”  

He pointed out that if you are doing what the Lord has told you to do you cannot help but find His will.   He stressed that if you are not obeying what you know He desires you will never be able to find God’s will!

The direction you are headed in as an individual believer and as a church is the key.  

Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  

If you are not being transformed and changed more and more into His image then you are not truly following Him.  If you are not fishing for men then you are not truly following Him.  Quite often the problem is that the direction you are headed in is not going in the direction Christ desires.  You have to have the determined courage to believe so strongly in His Lordship that you are good with wherever path He may lead you.

Church you may not know exactly what He is up to but you have decided you will still go in His direction.  Believer you may not understand exactly what He is doing in your life but you have chosen to follow Him and go on whatever path He leads you.  That is why the direction you are headed in is of greater importance, right now, than the ultimate destination.  

Are you getting closer and closer to Him everyday or farther and farther away?  

Tony Evans recently posted this on Facebook, “Don’t stay in the boat when God is calling you to walk on water.” 

Dr. Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism describes a disciple as, “A learner who’s following Christ.  You learn by following.  And that means since we are finite and God alone is infinite, there’s never a place in the journey where we stop learning.”  

Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, defines a disciple as  “One being taught by many means intentionally, in a specific direction.” When you look at different definitions they all have particular nuances, but the one common thread that holds them together is movement toward Christ. 

  1. A disciple sets their eyes on Christand continually moves toward Him.  A church must do the same and settle for nothing less.  Every decision, ministry, action, and thought process must be centered on moving closer to Christ or you will drift naturally away.  
  2. The spiritual battle is real and we do not receive any days off.  Church, today, will you get closer to Christ or farther away?  Will you continue on this journey, no matter how difficult or the sacrifice required, or will you sit this one out?  Will you run towards the battle or will you run the other direction?
  3. What direction does Christ have for your church today?  What will you do, today, that will produce the results God desires and wants for tomorrow?  What decision do you need to make that will correct your course and put you back on track with the direction He is leading you? What steps in towards Him do you need to make so your church can flourish again the way He desires?  What personal preferences do you need to sacrifice for the good of the entire body and those who are far from Christ?

The journey is as important as the destination. The direction you are headed in is of greater importance today than the destination you are headed towards!

Relationships Matter

Jesus is the Lord of His church!  That means that He is the boss and He calls the shots.  Jesus challenges us to be a church that is biblical, relational, and missional.  Revelation chapters 2 and 3 make it clear that the connecting ingredient that made His churches bring Him glory was when they recognized Him as their Lord and Master. Six of the seven churches of Asia received some kind of compliment from Christ.  As you read His admonitions to these churches it becomes apparent that all of His churches are important and all are significant to Him.

The biblical mandate is for a group of believers to join together in a local church to carry out His Great Commission. Thankfully, believers are not expected to do this alone or to be transformed alone.  Christ has always desired for us to live, grow, and serve in community and fellowship with others.  When Saul was saved in Acts 9 the Lord told Ananias to go get him and help him.  It has been said that, “Transformation is a communal experience, not an individual exercise.”  The greatest potential to grow in Christ is realized in community with other believers.

Surveys tell us that when we connect attenders to small groups that they are five times more likely to still be faithful to church five years later. That is a great thing to know and we should believe in and promote the benefit of small groups but we are not driven primarily by pragmatism.  Jesus came and focused His time on a small group where He built relationships and did life with twelve men.  The reason we should be sold on small groups is far more theological than just the fact that it is effective.  Small groups are biblical and critical to our spiritual growth.           

The power and the benefit of community is a biblical fact and not just a passing fad.  Think of how we are commanded to meet together.  Even the Greek word for church, ecclesia, is plural and means “called-out ones.”  It is not the called out one or individual but overwhelmingly refers to that local congregation of baptized believers who are doing life together in order to live on His mission.  The importance of being a part of a local congregation cannot be overstated.  It is essential to our growing and maturing into whom Christ wants us to be.

If we choose to grow on our own by ourselves that growth will be much slower that it was meant to be, at best, and it will be very warped growth, at worst. We must teach with confidence a theology of community.  We were created for community and there is no way we can fulfill the over thirty “one anothers” (pray for, comfort, forgive, etc.) without community.  God’s plan is for every one of us to find a biblically sound group of committed believers to fellowship with and carry out His mission together. 

  1. Small groups are where real and lasting transformation can occur.  They do not guarantee spiritual growth but are a tool that Jesus used and challenges us to use at well.  The goal is not a method that generates numeric growth but rather an environment where every person in the church can become a mature disciple of Jesus Christ!  Small groups should not be seen by your church as an option but rather seen as a biblical mandate for returning us to the environment for which God created us. Hebrews says clearly, “Not staying away from our worship meetings.”
  2. Worship is what connects us to the Lord while small groups connect us to one another.  Then we are connected to the mission He has called us to carry out.  You cannot deny the truth that we need one another, we are better together, and God intended from the beginning that we never follow Him alone.  We should always be willing to proceed alone if required but we should never have to. It is not God’s primary mode of operation.  Community is the structure that God has always intended for His churches in order to care for and shepherd one another.

Hebrews 10:22-24 gives us three plural admonitions, “Let us.”  Verse 22 says, “Let us draw near.”  The beauty of seeking Him together is having a community of believers where we can love and be loved, know and be known, serve and be served.  In verse 23 we are challenged, “Let us hold on to the confession.” We lean on one another with a willingness to bear one another’s burdens.  When we have a church family we know that we have the support of others who have our back.  They understand the struggles and spiritual battles of following Christ.

 Community is essential to our spiritual growth and Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.”  The theology of community throughout the scriptures makes it clear that we need the church and the church needs us.  Let us encourage one another daily and lovingly hold one another accountable.  Romans 15:7 says, “Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you to the glory of God.”

Yes, small groups work and they are beneficial to individual growth and the entire health of the church.  This is the biblical mandate and this is God’s plan.  One author puts it this way, “We’re not saying growth doesn’t happen apart from community.  But we don’t think it’s possible for formation to fully occur without community.” When we get into biblical community we are returning to what God intended from the very beginning!

Are You Running on Empty?

In my sophomore year at Central Baptist College in Conway, AR I was leading the singing in revival services about 100 miles to the south of our campus.  Money was very tight and as I was driving down for the services one evening my gas gauge began to stare back at me reaching “empty.”  It was so low that I began praying for God to stretch out what little fuel I had.  Then I covered up the gauge on the dash with a piece of paper so I could not see it any longer.  Fortunately, I made the services, on fumes, and a member filled up my tank after the services.  

Some of you are going full steam ahead while running on empty right now and you are trying to not look at your dashboard that is showing empty.  You cannot give what you do not have and you will come to a screeching halt at some point. Your focus on ministry, mobilizing your team, and planning your next steps has caused you to begin running on spiritual fumes.  Those times of joy, being full of His presence, along with His daily freshness and vitality in your spiritual walk are only a memory.  What you do is very important but who you are is even more important.  

The danger is real because it is very easy to become so focused on the external issues of getting your ministry where you believe God desires it to be, that you ignore the crucial internal issues of spiritual transformation and health.  In Leading on Empty Wayne Cordeiro says, “We don’t forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.”  We all have limits (spiritual, emotional, physical, time, gifts, etc.) and we need to see them as a blessing from the Lord and not a curse.

II Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”  You may not like admitting your weaknesses or your inabilities but it is wisdom to understand you definitely have limitations and God shows up when we embrace that reality. Your nature may be that you want to go around your limits, conquer limits, deny, and break through them.  Actually, they are a gift from God to protect you!

God gave us limits to serve as guardrails placed in our lives tokeep us from straying outside His will and to continue trusting in Him.  This is actually counterintuitive to us as itgoes against our culture that teaches us that we can handle it ourselves and we don’t need anyone’s help.  Be a self-made leader and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps may be how you were raised.  Don’t depend on anyone else because you can do anything you put your mind to.  You have to reconcile that with what Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing!”  

One of the greatest dangers of leadership is the temptation to rely to heavily on our charisma and competencies while paying too little attention to our character and core identity through our personal walk with Christ.  It is easy to lead without Jesus short term but you will end up paying a very steep price long term.  Pete Scazzero says, “The reality is that it is easy to live as a Christian doing religious acts and doing Christian things without necessarily being in loving union with Jesus.”  Sometimes we live out the old adage, “fake until you make it!”

  1. Learn to slow down and abide in Christ. Abiding means you remain in Him and you are able to relax in Him.  You cannot live at warp speed without warping your soul!  Think of Mary and Martha.  You may be a Martha who is a doer and what you do is important but who you are is of even greater importance.  Sometimes our doing exceeds our being in Christ and before you know it you are running on empty and getting close to shutting down.
  2. Practice silence and solitude so you can hear God’s voice in your life.  Dallas Willard referred to silence and solitude as the two most radical disciplines of the Christian life. Solitude is finding that quiet space where you intentionally remove yourself from people and things in order to focus 100% on God. Silence is striving to quiet every inner and outer voice to be attentive to the Lord’s direction and presence.  Silence is the Christians number one need while being the hardest to develop.  It is very challenging in this busy and noisy world.  
  3. Wait on the Lord.  King David stressed its importance by saying it twice in Psalm 27:14. Do not wait on the Lord only for what He will do for you or for the results you desire but simply to spend time with Him.  David reminds us of this in Psalm 27:4, “I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.”  You must actually limit what you are doing by focusing on being with Him realizing that He can accomplish so much more than you can! 

Without slowing down, being silent and in solitude, and waiting on the Lord it will be almost impossible to live a healthy spiritual life. Are you running on empty?

“Your doing for God is fed and sustained by your being with God!”