Rss

  • twitter

AN AUDIENCE OF ONE

The first time I remember hearing the phrase “for an audience of one” was when our good friend, Buddy Mullins, was singing in our church. He spoke of how God had impressed upon him that it was not about performing for people but it was all about worshipping Him. In Joe Gibb’s book, Game Plan for Life, he also talks about performing for an audience of one. We must remember that He is always watching and it is far more important what He thinks about us than anyone else.

Recently, Tony Dungy reminded me about this principle again in his daily devotional book, Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. His perspective is that this principle should be “unbelievably liberating.” It reminds us that it is God who keeps score and His scorecard looks a lot different than ours. Even in ministry we can become more concerned about what others think of our ministry rather than being focused on how God feels about what we are doing.

How do we define success? How do we measure the impact we believe God wants us to be having? This thinking does not advocate giving up or settling for less than God intended but making sure that we are in tune with God’s agenda for our lives and for our ministries. Are we faithful where He has placed us? Are we daily being faithful in the little things so that we can be faithful in bigger things? God looks on our desire to serve and follow Him…no matter what the outcome may be.

The key to this principle of “an audience of one” is finding our identity in Christ Jesus. The reality is that only Jesus can tell you who you are. Three times the heavenly Father declared who Jesus was, affirming that He was His Son, and that He was pleased with Him. Psalm 73:28 says, “But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do.” We must be close enough to Him so He can whisper in our ears what we need to hear from Him.

First, our crises can become opportunities for a fresh experience of the glory of God’s affirmation.

We all face challenges, trials, and difficulties in this life. When a crisis comes it is our opportunity to draw up close to His presence and listen for His voice of assurance that we belong to Him, He is with us, and that He is looking after us. When the Father affirmed the Son He was saying, “Son, we’ve got this!” Our God is able to handle every situation and He will not abandon us along the way.

Second, our goal is greater than avoiding the pain that crises create.

When our identity is in Christ we are driven by a desire to obey and do the will of the Father. None of us take to sacrifice naturally. It hurts and the hurt is real but we push through and we press forward. Why? Because there is a deeper desire than simply avoiding the trial and it should be so that our lives will glorify Him. Jesus said that His food was to do the will of the Father who sent Him and to finish that work.

Third, if you find your identity in what others say about you – praise can corrupt you.

All of us must be careful to not think too highly of ourselves. Years ago my dad’s mom finally got to hear me preach for the first time. I had already been pastoring about seven years and I was excited she was there. When the service was over she took my hand and patted it while saying, “It’s ok, Larry, you keep working on it and you will get better.” Remember that pride comes before the fall.

Fourth, if you find your identity in what others say about you – criticism can crush you.

Words do hurt and we must be mindful of what we say and how we say it. The reality is that people will criticize you for decisions you make as a leader, for stands you take as a minister, and even for preaching the truth. Remain humble, realizing that God will provide you with strength and perseverance in the midst of adversity. It is difficult, but we must have thick skin while maintaining a sensitive heart and spirit.

Fifth, find your identity and security in His presence.

In the first fifteen verses of Psalm 73 the Psalmist is struggling with his apparent failure while the wicked are prospering. It is a sustained dirge about what he sees as the futility of the righteous life verses the success of the wicked. Then every thing changes in verses 16-17, “When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.”

The change occurred when he went into the temple. Then, we assume, he lingered in the presence of God. When we are only interested in an audience of one and get into His presence the change occurs. Our attitude, perspective, and behavior begin to be shaped and formed into who He wants us to become. The audience of one reminds us that the nearness of God is what we need more than the applause of man, the accomplishments for which we have been striving, or accumulating wealth.

The journey can become difficult and trials will come our way. We sometimes wonder, “Will we make it?” Doubts arise and fears come as we ask, “Can I do this?” Then our loving heavenly Father whispers in our ear, “I am faithful!” As we perform for our audience of one He affirms that “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Priorities

priorities picture

To what will you give your time and energy? What are the most important things in your life and ministry? It has been suggested to make a list of the things you find yourself doing that really don’t make a significant difference. It is very easy to get caught up in busy work that is not very productive. All of us can find ourselves just like Martha did in Luke 10 where she was distracted by her many tasks.

The next step is making a second list of the things that are truly important. This includes things like sitting at the feet of Jesus (Mary; Martha’s sister), investing in building relationships with people far from God, and discipling those who are hungry for God. These are the things we should be giving our lives to with all of our time and energy. We must be careful not to nickel and dime our time away on the less important.

  • Decide what is truly important and what is not. Priorities are like banks of a river that keep the water flowing in the right direction. Every day you must be intentional and make choices about what you will do, where you will go, and how you will spend your time. Jeremiah 42:3, “That the Lord God may tell us the way we should walk and the thing we should do.” Saying yes to one thing means you must say no to something else.
  • Discipline yourself to focus on what is important. Time alone with is a priority and that means you must discipline yourself to schedule that time. You have to protect it and be willing to say no to other things that you could be doing. Determining your priorities requires a decision about what are essentials and non-essentials in your life and ministry. You cannot be everywhere and you cannot do everything so you must make wise choices.

Here is a good checklist from Leaders Who Last by David Kraft.  It is a process that helps you stay focused on what is of the greatest importance. You can apply this to your personal life, your entire church, or an individual ministry your oversee. You must be concerned and focused on being productive not simply busy. Leaders must be proactive and intentional compared to reactive and always putting out fires when they ignite.

First, determine your purpose! This is what you are called to accomplish in your life and in your church. Our calling is to passionately follow Jesus and to help others find and follow Him. In Luke 24:48 Jesus told His disciples, “You are witnesses of these things.” What steps are we intentionally taking to build relationships with people who are far from God so that we might demonstrate the love of God to them?

Second, be passionate about your purpose. This is a sense of enthusiasm about your purpose and direction. Passion comes from spending time with the Lord and allowing Him to set our hearts on fire. When Jesus walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus they later said in Luke 24:32, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the scriptures to us?”

Third, you must develop goals. What do you want your life to look like in two to three years from now? What would you like your discipleship program to look like in that time frame? What does your preferred future look like? How many books would you like to read this year? How much weight would you like to lose this year? Goals help you to make the right choices to get where you want to go.

Fourth, write out a plan to accomplish those goals. Every individual and church would be wise to determine their present reality and then envision their preferred future. The plan is what you are going to do to get to that preferred future. What steps are you going to take to make that happen? What needs to be done next to move forward and who needs to be the one doing it? Make sure everyone knows who is responsible to make the plan work.

Fifth, place the plan on a timeline. When does each step of the plan need to be accomplished? Deadlines help us with follow through. Is this doable by the time you have designated? Are the goals you have established SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) goals? Place the goal and plan on the calendar and then be willing to hold yourself responsible for its completion.

Sixth, then you must execute the plan. Nike has said it well, “Just do it!” At some point and time you must pull the trigger and move forward. It has also been said many times, and is still true, “Plan the work and then work the plan!” The everyday choices you are making are your priorities. Are they producing the outcome you desire? Brian Tracy says, “Eighty percent of what you do on a daily basis needs to be intentional as opposed to responsive and should be directly tied to your purpose.”

Seventh, make sure you evaluate your progress. Always be assessing your progress and how you can improve. In Leaders Who Last, David Kraft says, “If I don’t create a daily plan that is a reflection of my God-given purpose and direction in my life, there are sufficient numbers of people who will create a plan for me. I have those in my life who would say with smiles on their faces, ‘Dave, God loves you and I have a wonderful plan for your life!’”

Healthy Christians have a plan to intentionally prioritize their lives and ministries in order to accomplish God’s purpose.

 

Authentic Values

Businesswoman hands holding white card sign with What is important to you ? question text message isolated on grey wall office background. Retro instagram style image

Much has been said and written about values. Are our values preferences or practices? In Acts 2:42-47 we are given the core values of the early church as teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They were not just preferences but daily practices. We know this because we are told they “devoted themselves” to these values. The passage does not say they sat around discussing or debating them but, rather, they were the daily practices of their lives.

In his book Value Driven Leadership, Aubrey Malphurs describes values as either “actual” or “aspirational.” Is there a difference? James 2:18 makes a clear distinction between the two in stating, “But someone will say, ’You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.” James also states in 1:22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Malphurs describes actual and aspirational values in the following ways:

First, Actual Values are the beliefs we own and act on daily. These values come from inside of you and are who you are. It is authentic because they exist now, in the present, and describe what is true about you right now. Actual values are not just preferences but what you practice daily. When you share your actual values people around you shake their heads in affirmation because they see it and agree with you.

Second, Aspirational Values are beliefs you do not currently own. You know you should own them but you are not quite there yet. Aspirational values deal with what should be, not necessarily what actually is. These are values we would like to adopt such as being evangelistic. We desire to reach people with the gospel, but the truth is, we are really not that evangelistic; not yet. We aspire to be!

With these two descriptions of values by Dr. Malphurs, allow me to share a couple of observations we need to be aware of about values:

  1. Our Biblical values will be tested! For example, it is one thing to say we value loving people but we must realize that unconditional love can be put to the test daily. I John makes this very clear, “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.”
  2. Are Biblical truths our values or our goals? We say we are burdened for the lost but what are we personally doing to reach them? It is wonderful to have the goal of reaching the world for Christ but what daily practices are we involved in that are helping us in that direction? The results will never change if we do not change our daily practices. What will we begin doing differently?
  3. Are Biblical truths our actual practices or just aspirational preferences? Jesus said that “men ought always to pray” but how much time are we actually spending in prayer? We say we value the word of God and should study it daily but is it our daily practice to have a quiet time in the word with our Lord? For our results to change our daily practices must change also.
  4. You cannot fake Biblical values! What you really value always shows up! If you really believe in the importance of sharing the gospel with people far from God, then you are constantly building relationships and bridges to them. You do not just talk about what you are going to do but you actually practice what you preach. Matthew 6:21 says it well, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  5. Make sure your values are genuine and authentic! Be honest about it! At our church I like to say, “We want to be the friendliest church in the world!” I never say, “We are the friendliest church in the world, state, or even our city!” There is nothing wrong with openly admitting what goals you would like to adopt without claiming you have arrived. You cannot intellectualize values nor can you rationalize them.

Malphurs challenges us to examine our values to determine whether they are actual or aspirational. You can determine this by whether they are verbalized preferences and goals or are actual daily practices. Here are some excellent questions to ask about ourselves and our ministries: What values or beliefs should we adopt? What values and beliefs have we adopted? What would those looking in from the outside say we value? What are our real values? What key value ingredients are missing?

This is where many churches get in trouble and struggle because they resist what they need most; a complete or partial transition from one set of values to another. Do we value keeping members happy or do we value reaching our neighbors with the gospel? Do we value our traditions or do we value reaching our children and grandchildren with the gospel? Do we value our personal preferences or being culturally relevant while remaining Biblically sound?

Realize that conflict in churches often arises from differing values. Some value safety, comfort, and routine. Others value risk, sacrifice, and shaking things up. Every church must decide what they really value and if those values are not consistent with God’s mission for His church they must be willing to do whatever is necessary to be obedient to His plan for His church. Values can be measured by what our calendars contain and by our checkbooks.

Healthy churches and healthy Christians are authentic about what they value and are willing to change to make sure God’s values are genuinely theirs!

REDEEMING THE TIME _ Part 2

Pastor Now

How do we redeem our time? How do we prioritize our time and make sure we are focused on the right things? There are plenty of ways to waste our time and to invest our time in things that will never produce the results we desire. In Growing New Churches (training materials by Dynamic Church Planting International) Hal Seed shares tips on dealing with time demands. He gives “Ten Biblical Guidelines for Managing Your Time.”

In last Tuesday’s blog we covered the first five:

  1. Our time is precious!
  2. We will give an account of how we spend our time!
  3. We must seek God regularly to guide our use of time.
  4. We spend the most important time each day with God.
  5. Rest is important for our long term health and therefore our time management.

In Building a Discipling Culture (How to release a missional movement by discipling people like Jesus did) Mike Breen describes two New Testament words that are translated as time. The one we are probably the most familiar with is Chronos which refers to things in a sequential order. This is why we have 24 hour days and a 7 day week. The clicking of the clock is what often drives us to set our goals, timelines, and planning the future. The calendar rules!

Another word for time in the scriptures is Kairos. Breen defines it as, “an event, an opportunity – a moment in time when perhaps everything changes because it is the right time. A kairos moment is when the eternal God breaks into your circumstances with an event that gathers some loose ends of your life and knots them together in his hands. In kairos moments, the rules of chronos time seem to be suspended.”

Our goal in redeeming the time is to make sure that God is directing our day. We want our schedule to be under His guidance. Hopefully, we desire to be the best stewards of our time that we possibly can be in taking advantage of every opportunity that we have to advance His kingdom.

Here are the next 5 biblical guidelines in managing your time:

6. Saying ‘no’ to good uses of time to say ‘yes’ to the best uses. Martha and Mary’s response to Jesus’ visit in Luke 10:39-42 is a great example. Mary said no to housework and hospitality while saying yes to sitting at His feet. Just because you can do something does not mean you should do it. It is easy to allow busy work to distract us from important work. Most have a ‘to-do’ list but we would wise to also have a ‘don’t-do’ list. What should you stop doing so you can focus on something of greater importance?

7. The best use of our time is to prepare believers to do ministry. There is no better use of our time than discipling and mentoring others. Joby Martin has said, “The measure of your success is more about who you raise than what you’ve accomplished.” Dave Ferguson puts it this way, “The core competency of any movement is apprenticeship, a fundamental principle of reproduction.” Do you have an easily reproducible plan for leadership development?

8. Avoiding or procrastinating important tasks is often a result of ungodly presumption and laziness. Mark Twain suggested that if there was something you knew you needed to do that day but did not want to you should go ahead and “swallow the frog.” Get it over with and behind you. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

9. Busyness does not equal godliness or productivity. Every job requires our taking care of tasks that are unpleasant and we do not enjoy. Do not avoid the unpleasant but important tasks. Resist the temptation to only spend your time on the things that are ‘sexy’ or ‘fun’ to you. Are you only busy doing ministry or are you busy multiplying ministry through others?

10. We must plan the wise use of our time. Psalms 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Listen to the wisdom of Bill Bright, “For many years, one of the first things I do every morning is to evaluate all the day’s competing demands against one single criterion: How will each opportunity enable me to maximize my contribution to helping fulfill the Great Commission? I prioritize accordingly. Some of the demands go to the top of my list, some down the list, and some get eliminated.”

REDEEMING THE TIME

Redeem Time

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is the proper management of your time.  This has been verbalized many different ways.  Dr Ronnie Floyd said, “Pastor, rise up in your leadership and quit focusing on secondary things.”  Through the years I have heard several say, “Make sure you are making the main thing the main thing.”  Another is, “Don’t allow your busyness to keep you from the real business.”  If you do not take charge of your calendar someone else will!

Redeeming the time is a challenge to make full use of it and not to waste opportunities.  It is a call to allow God to guide us in prioritizing our schedules.  We must have filters in place to help us better determine into what we should and should not invest our time.  First, what is unimportant and not urgent?  Second, what is unimportant but urgent?  Third, what is important but not urgent?  Fourth, what is important and urgent?  We must make sure we are using our time wisely.

The question then is – how do we redeem our time?  How do we prioritize our time and make sure we are focused on what we should be focused?  There are plenty of ways to waste our time and to invest our time in things that will never produce the results we desire.  In Growing New Churches (training materials by Dynamic Church Planting International) Hal Seed shares these tips on dealing with time demands.  He gives “Ten Biblical Guidelines for Managing Your Time.”  Here are the first five:

  1. Our time is precious! Ephesians 5:16-17, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”  Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.”  Redeeming time requires that you trade something for something else.  Are you trading your time for things of no value or for things of significance and eternal value?
  2. We will give an account of how we spend our time! 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”  All of us have three basic resources; our talents, our treasures, and our time.  Are we being good stewards of our time and using it for His glory?
  3. We must seek God regularly to guide our use of time. Jeremiah 10:21, “For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.”  The idea of “brutish” here is that they had lost their senses.  They were being stupid because they were not asking the Lord to direct them in what they should do!  Wayne Grudem has said, “I find the most helpful thing I do regarding the use of time is to spend time in prayer each morning bringing my plans and my ‘to do’ list before the Lord and seeking His direction.”
  4. We spend the most important time each day with God. Mark 1:35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”  What is God saying to you in your daily walk with Him?  Todd West in a recent message challenged our church to discern between a “good” idea and a “God” idea!  The only way to do that is in His presence.
  5. Rest is important for our long term health and therefore our time management. Hebrews 4:9-11, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”  This is not meant to be a legalistic practice but is meant to help us make sure we are recharging ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  What do you do that helps you to recharge?  Here is what a recent tweet from our church said, “If you don’t come apart, you’re likely to come apart!” (Matt 14:22-27)

     In deciding how you will redeem your time, it is my prayer that this quote from Henry Cloud in Boundaries will challenge and guide you, “When we create boundaries, we aren’t saying to the world, ‘I can’t help you.’  Instead, we’re saying, ‘I must focus intentionally on the specific things God has placed right now in my direct influence.’ By saying no to people and to things that are not contained within God’s distinct vision for our lives, we’re actually saying ‘yes’ to His sovereignty.  He knows the best way for His will to be accomplished. For us to assume we can handle more is rebellious and counterproductive!”

Are You Watching the Right Gauges?

Dashboard

The advances of technology have been amazing over the last ten to fifteen years.  This progress can be seen every day when you drive your vehicle.  The options now available on the steering wheel and dashboard of a car are amazing.  They used to only include; speedometer, odometer, water temperature, oil pressure, and a gas gauge.  Today you can answer your phone, manage the stereo, and set your cruise control from the buttons on your steering wheel.  The dashboard has a computer that can tell you when you have a low tire and when you need an oil change.  It can even calculate your fuel range, average fuel economy, and much more.

Even though these accessories are nice and make things much easier for us, the standard speedometer, odometer, gas gauge, etc, is still there.  These gauges or warning lights tell us how well the vehicle is running.  While it is very easy to become fascinated with all of the new bells and whistles you must keep your eyes on the gauges that matter.  Music can make a long trip far more enjoyable, and cruise control is awesome, but those advancements do not ensure that the engine has what it needs for its best performance.   Are you focusing on the right dials, on your life dashboard, which will tell you how healthy you are spiritually, emotionally, and physically?           

Wayne Cordeiro, in Leading on Empty, talks about twelve “dials” on the dashboard of an airplane.  He says,”Yes, a central concern is certainly getting from Point A to Point B in a timely fashion, but the lives and safety of those on board are more important.”  You cannot see the engine and know what the oil pressure or water temperature is without gauges but these critical components need to be monitored.  Cordeiro says, “My “dashboard” includes twelve dials that meter vital systems essential to my health and success.”  We must be focused on the dials and gauges that are true indicators of how well our lives are running in the eyes of the Lord.  Here are some gauges on the dashboard of life that really matter:

  • Spiritual Walk – Are you daily seeking Him and His face or are you just going through the motions?  Because of so many bells and whistles in church life today it is easy to interpret our activity as spiritual health, but not necessarily.  “If you aren’t getting your sense of well being vertically, you will shop for it horizontally and always come up short.” –Paul Tripp
  • Marriage and Family – Are you the spiritual leader in your home?  Does your family see the same person at home that they see at church?  You must not allow ministry to make you one-dimensional.  Take time to walk, talk, and pray together.  “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.” –Wm Bruce Cameron
  • Missional Living – Are you focused on those in your circle of influence who do not know Jesus Christ personally?  What are you doing about it?  It is estimated that there are enough people in churches right now to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our life time.  Right now!  “When it comes to the gospel, some Christians just click “like” instead of “share.” –Burk Parsons
  • Discipleship – Do you have a process of discipleship that is easily reproducible?  Is your process effective in producing healthy disciples?  Are you personally being discipled and are you discipling someone?  Everyone should have a Paul and a Timothy in their life.  “Do you really want to experience God?  Then go and make disciples!” –Francis Chan
  • Friendships – Do you have a social life where you spend time fellowshipping with friends?  Are you seen as friendly person that cares about others more than you care about yourself?  Every Christian should be willing to stand alone for God but should never have too.  “Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren’t rubbed in but rubbed out.” –Rick Warren
  • Church Life – Is your church intentionally carrying out the Great Commission?  Are you more focused on doing church than being the church?  Are you more inwardly focused than outwardly?  Are you program driven or people driven?  “Remember the Alamo!  It began as a mission, became a battlefield, and now is a museum.  Wrong trajectory for a church.” –Alvin Reed
  • Faith – Do you believe that you are complete in Christ?  Do you trust in your ability more than the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God?  Did you know you can take a day off and get just as much done? (Read Ex. 16)  A leader, in the area of faith, has been described as someone willing to build an ark in the dark!

Lately, I have participated in a small group of local pastors and preachers and we all graded our own personal life “dashboards.”  We gave ourselves grade letters, some used 1-10, with A- being the highest and C- being the lowest.  What kind of grade would you give yourself in these seven areas?  What kind of grade would your wife give you on your marriage and family gauge?  Now is a great time to put together your own dashboard, with your own personal gauges, and see what they are really saying!

A healthy church focuses on the most important gauges! 

7 THINGS THE LORD HAS TAUGHT ME

2014-2015

In my quiet time with the Lord I love using the S.O.A.P. journaling discipleship engine.  It is a simple, easily reproducible, method where you write down the Scripture God directs you to in your reading, you then write down your Observations about the text, then you write out your Application which is what you plan to do about it, and lastly you write down your Prayer asking God to help you.  Having a S.O.A.P. journal has helped me to approach everyday asking two questions: 1. What is God saying to me? 2. What does He want me to do about it? 

As I went through 2014 God constantly reminded me that my quiet time with Him is more about being in His presence then being able to check my Bible reading off of my to do list!  In My Utmost For His Highest Oswald Chambers says, “The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him.  Rush is wrong every time; there is always plenty of time to worship God.”  Throughout last year God stamped some truths upon my heart that will guide me and give me a solid foundation throughout 2015.

Here are 7 Things the Lord has Taught Me in 2014 that by the end of the year I would write all seven of them every day at the bottom of my prayer journal.  Here are a few verses to go with these truths a few thoughts He gave me on each one.

  1. Blessed Be the Name of the lord
  • PSA 113:2-3, “Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” ESV
  • “Don’t allow what has been done to you, to become bigger than what God has done for you!!!” –Tony Evans
  • Job 1:21, “And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” ESV
  • I have a choice to make: Will I look outward in fear or will I look upward in faith?
  1. Always Rejoice (I Thess 5:16)
  • Neh 8:10, “Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.” HCSB
  • You have to learn to laugh at yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously!
  • Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” KJV
  • I have a choice to make: Will I focus on God’s blessings or pout about what is not going well?
  1. Be Persistent in Prayer
  • Rom 12:12, “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” HCSB
  • COL 4:2-3, “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison.” HCSB
  • “The only faith that appropriates is faith that causes you to ask God for what you need!” -Jim Cymbala
  • I have a choice to make: Will I live by faith or will I live by sight?
  1. Control Your Thoughts
  • II Cor 10:4-5′ “We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” HCSB
  • Pro 23:7,”As a man thinketh in His heart, so is he.” KJV
  • Every day is a mind battle and every day is a challenge to try to think God’s way!!! (Rom 12:2)
  • I have a choice to make: Will I adopt the world’s thinking or will I strive to have the mind of Christ?
  1. Abide in Christ
  • John 15:5, “The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit,” HCSB
  • PSA 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.” HCSB
  • My prayer for 2015 is to stop trying harder and start trusting Him more!
  • I have a choice to make: Will I slow down and wait on the Lord or will I press on in my weak anemic human efforts?
  1. Show and Express Honor
  • Rom 12:9-10, “Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.  Outdo one another in showing honor.”  HCSB
  • First and foremost, be honorable in all things!
  • Who is it that I should and need to show honor towards today?
  • I have a choice to make: Will I focus on myself or will I focus on honoring others?
  1. Prayer Does Make a Difference
  • Jam 5:16, “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect!” HCSB
  • Yes, prayer is mentioned twice and needs to be!
  • Make no mistake about it – Your prayers can make a difference!!!
  • I have a choice to make: Will I ask Him or not?   Remember, we have not because we ask not!

There you have it 7 Things the Lord has Taught Me in 2014 that will help me follow him in 2015.  I look forward to the lessons He will teach me in 2015!

First Things First

 

First Things First

            2012 is now history and we look back and wonder how it could have flown by so quickly.  Every New Year presents us with new opportunities and new challenges.  A key to making sure that we take advantage of these opportunities and are as prepared as possible for the challenges is to have the right foundation.  The question is, “What do we really value?”  Two indicators of what we value are how we spend our money and how we spend our time.  Values are not confirmed by what we say but are authenticated by our actions. 

            Our values help us to filter what we will be involved in and how we will invest the resources God has given us.  Values are like guiding stars helping us navigate each day.  Core values are needed to ensure that our daily decisions are consistent with what we believe.  If they truly are our values they will be seen in our daily habits and behaviors.  It is not really a value if it is not practiced regularly in our lives.  Core values are not preferences but rather convictions that provide the foundation for formulating and setting the direction of the New Year.

            Oasis Church is where I am a member with Todd West as the Senior Pastor.  Our entire church just spent the last six weeks studying our Core values through our daily SOAP journals (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer).  Every church has a core and this is ours:

  • ·         Keep it Simple!  Matt. 6:33
  • ·         Take it past Sunday!  Luke 9:23
  • ·         Every Member in a Ministry!  Eph. 2:10
  • ·         Be Real!  Ps. 139:14
  • ·         Talk to People, Not about People!  Matt. 18:15
  • ·         Be Generous!  Luke 6:38

Core values are not your doctrinal statement or your biblical purpose statement.  However, they must be firmly founded upon the word of God and they protect the church from drifting away from its purpose.  These values enable you to remain focused on God’s mission for your church.

            How do you identify core values?  In The Multiplication Workshop Dave DeVries gives us five indicators.  Core values are……

  • ·         Consistent – they rarely change.
  • ·         Passionate – they generate emotion and energy.
  • ·         Biblical – they are rooted in Scripture.
  • ·         Distinctive – they reflect God’s unique assignment for you.
  • ·         Convictions – they influence what you do! (not what you say)

 

In Matt. 6:33 we are told by Jesus,But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Core values are placing first things first.  It is making sure that what is most important to God is first in our daily lives and actions. 

Core values are “first” priorities not because of when they took place but because of their importance to the heart of God.  Here are some things to consider as you enter 2013:

  • ·         First adoration, then activity!  Make sure in 2013 that it really is all about Jesus.  Sit at His feet and spend time alone with Him because He is more interested in who you are than in what you do!
  • ·         First others, than yourself!  Matt. 5:23-24, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
  • ·         First function, then form!  Do not major on minor things like programs, structures, or things the scriptures are silent on.  We need to remain focused on the spreading of the gospel, reaching the lost, and loving one another.
  • ·         First be the church, then go to church!  We must be what He wants us to be all the time.  1 John 2:6 says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
  • ·         First make disciples, then work on other things.  This is what we have been commanded to focus upon and make our first priority.  Discipleship is not a program but building relationships.  “It costs no money to make a disciple only your life.” –Neil Cole

Planned Neglect

A young violinist delivered a virtuoso performance.  After the magnificent concert that showcased her gift she was asked by a music critic what she attributed her success and talent to.  Her response was “Planned Neglect!”  She explained a strategic decision in her life to neglect those things that were not necessary to her goal of becoming a concert violinist.  Leaders and churches must begin to eliminate the unnecessary so that we can get back to those things that are necessary for us to be who God wants us to be.  Planned neglect asks the question, “What is most important?”  “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”  —Michael Porter

 There are so many things we could be doing but what should we be doing?  What is it that God wants us to be busy about?  In Matt. 28:19 we are told to “Go and Make disciples…”  We are to be focused on disciple making. That has not changed and never will change until the Lord returns.  We do not have to scratch our heads or call another meeting to try to figure out what we should be doing.  Our mission is clear and we need to quit talking about it and just do it!  “God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves.”  —Thom Rainer

 Two questions need to be asked to decide how effectively we are doing the best things. 

#1  Are we going?  Are you living sent?  A sending environment should be a part of the atmosphere in your church.  There should be strong evidence of mobilizing our people to infiltrate the culture they function in.  We should not settle for a “come-to-us” mentality but a “go-and-find-them” attitude should permeate every ministry of our churches.  Instead of creating paths that lead those outside inside, we need to create paths that lead those inside outside.  Many focus on getting better at what they are doing but we must first focus on doing better things.

#2  Are we making disciples who make disciples?  A process and strategy of mentoring new believers should be in place that is simple, easily reproducible, and functioning in our churches.  Our mission is not just to win people but to cultivate the faith within them.  This involves meeting people where they are spiritually and moving them to where they need to be.  It is relational, a little messy at times, but always meaningful.  “Many people do not give themselves to developing other people because they never had it happen to them.” —Reggie McNeal 

 Be careful because it is much easier to develop programs than to win people to Christ and build them up.  Just because you have a program for discipleship does not guarantee that disciples are being made. We must first “go” if we are going to make disciples.  For far too long Christians have been ignoring their responsibility to evangelize!  This is where it must begin and until individual Christians once again embace this commandment from the Lord, churches will have to try to develop “programs” to reach the lost. 

 How are you investing your time and energy daily that proves you are concerned about the lost people in your circles of influence?  Multiplication of ministry has to begin with subtraction and you must figure out what you need to stop doing so that you can focus on what you should be doing.  All of us need to stop doing some things that are consuming our time and dedicate more time to reaching lost people with the gospel.  “A “stop doing” list is more important than a “start doing” list.  Stop something to liberate energy for what matters more.”  –Eric Geiger

 Dave DeVries puts it well, “What does the American church need to abandon to see the gospel move forward and disciple-makers made exponentially?”  Make plans now to neglect some things that really do not matter in order to focus time and energy on what does matter; Disciple Making!