Evangelism

Who Do You Listen To?

Back in December, Jennifer and I were discussing following the example of our new Senior Co-Campus Pastor James Powell and his wife Brittany and coming up with a word for 2020 that we felt best described the year ahead and what we believed God was going to do in us and through us! I felt impressed to use the word “breakthrough” and Jen wanted the word “new normal”! First, I reminded Jen, that “new normal” was two words and that we needed to pick one. Then, I asked her what that meant to her.

As she shared about the significance of the words “new normal” to her, she talked about how 2020 was going to be different year for us as we prepare to launch Zach into the world and became empty-nesters! Yes, we haven’t shared this publicly much, but Zach graduates Rocklin High School this year and has plans to go to Bodenseehof Bible College in Germany this fall! So yes, 2020 was going to be a new normal for us. I understood her, but still argued that “new normal” was two words. We agreed to disagree, and she choose “new normal” and I choose “breakthrough”.

Well, welcome to the year of the “new normal”! In the first three months of 2020, we have had the threat of war, an impeachment trial and now are sheltered in place for the next 30 days! Yes, Jen had it right!

And as we experience this “new normal,” there are so many differing voices out there on how to respond to what is happening in our world right now. On any given day you get a barrage of information from social media, politicians, the medical community, and the media. Not to mention the lies of the enemy, who is throwing things at us to evoke fear and anxiety!

So who do we listen to in times like these? Well as I was considering this, I recalled a moment in my life, over seven years ago, when we first moved to Roseville! We had just bought a new Honda Accord in Orange County before moving to the area, and the dealership had called me to let me know that my car was due for service. I thanked them for calling, mentioned that I had moved and told them I would contact my local Honda dealer for service. However, when I called the local dealer, they told me that my car didn’t need to be brought in for another 3,500 miles, as my car had synthetic oil.

Perplexed, I told Jennifer about the differing view points and asked her who I should listen to. And in all of her wisdom, she reminded me of that little booklet that sits in the glove box of the car, and suggested that I read it, because she thought it might have the answer to my question, directly from the manufacturer of the car! Again, Jen had it right!

Aren’t we just like that in times of uncertainty? We run to Google, we call a friend, we read articles, we research, we listen to podcasts, when instead we need to turn to our owners manual, the Bible! God has given us His Word to be our anchor, to be our guide, to be our blueprint for living! But, like I did with the Honda, we listen to the other voices, instead of the voice of the One who made us and promises to be with us!

This is what God tells us in Hebrews 6:17-20, Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 2where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

In considering this text, I believe that there are three things that God wants to remind us in this season…

First, God’s nature is unchanging! God is still on the throne! Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. He is the alpha and the omega! He hasn’t changed. And even though our circumstances have changed, His character and nature have not! He is still ALL knowing! ALL powerful! He is the ALWAYS present one!

God loves you! He is near. He is for you! Why is this important to understand? Because as Daniel 11:32 tell us, those who know their God will display strength will display strength and take action. Do you want to display strength and take action? Then spend time learning and getting to know Him! Read your Bible! Invest time hearing it, reading it, studying it, memorizing and meditating on it! It is our source of strength. It is our blueprint for living!

Second, it is impossible for God to lie! This means His promises are true! As Hebrews 6 tells us, He has promised and confirmed it with an oath! Not only is God our way maker, but he is our promise keeper! Throughout the Bible there are so many stories of God’s faithfulness. He’s always keeps His promises in His timing. Remember that the same God in the stories of the Bible, is the same one who is right there with you. He’ll do the same for you every time.

Can I be honest with you for a minute? I have a grid by which a person’s promises go through depending on who promises it! If my teenage son promises to do something for me, I believe he will do it about 85% of the time. However, if my wife promises me something, I trust her about 100% of the time. And then there are others I say, “I am not going to hold my breath on that!” But as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 1:20, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. God’s promises are our HOPE! Let’s claim them, because God is not a liar!

Finally, our hope is secure, because Jesus has gone before us! This is what the text says, We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. Jesus is our forerunner, who has gone before us, and made a way to know and be with God for all eternity! And as our forerunner, our future is secure and guaranteed. Jesus has gone ahead to we can anchor in the fact that He is unchanging, His promises are sure, and therefore we can stand firm and secure because he has gone before us!

You see the writer of Hebrews was writing to new Hebrew believers who wanted to go back to some stinking thinking. Back to the old ways of doing things – under the law. There were some other voices they were listening to. And the writer of Hebrews is saying, Jesus is greater than the high priests, the angels, the law! And because Jesus is greater, our hope is firm and secure!

So who do I listen to? I choose to listen to Jesus!

Why? Because, we have a certain God! We know the end of the story!

Let’s hold onto that HOPE!

We Live By Faith, Not By Sight

I’ve been prayerfully thinking through how to respond to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 around the world. I have gotten questions about upcoming missions trips our church is planning, as well as personal questions surrounding my son’s plans to go to Bible College in Germany this fall. And it’s got me thinking, how do people of faith respond in times like this?

I don’t want to minimize the risk, nor do I want to incite fear. And in being wise, I have heeded the warnings and followed the advise of our medical community. But beyond that, what are we to do?

Well here are three things I believe the Scriptures tell us what to do in times like this:

Pause

Romans 10:17 states that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” If we want to be people who move beyond panic to peace, we need to be in God’s Word! It’s the single most important thing we can do each day…to pause from the cares of this world to be with God. To let God speak to us, and assure us of His promises.

You see, as we are in God’s Word, our faith muscles grow, and we move beyond the fear to the “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). So before reading the headlines, or scrolling through your Facebook feed, make sure you are taking in God’s Word and seeing the world through the lens of His eternal truths. It will definitely change your perspective.

Pray

Did you know that it takes the same amount of energy to worry as to pray? One leads to peace, the other to panic. So we need to choose wisely. Scripture tells us to pray about everything. In fact, Philippians 4:6, 7 instructs us to, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Worry is common to man. But God has called us to face troubles and threats with courage, leaning our weight on Him. So let’s be people who pray! Let’s pray for God’s healing hand upon our land. Let’s pray for our medical community. Let’s pray for our leaders. Let’s pray for our families, our churches and our community. And let’s pray that we in the midst of everything, we would be people of faith, who love others well.

Proclaim

Right now, we have a world in need of some hope. And it’s in times like these, that I am reminded that the church needs to advance, not retreat. So let’s share the hope that we have found in Christ. Let’s remind our brothers and sisters, of an eternal God, who loves us, assures us of His promises and who has made a way for us to spend all of eternity with Him.

Yes, we need to be cautious, but let’s also remember that in times like these, the world needs people who are strengthened by God’s Word, who are marked by prayer and who offer His message of hope to others.

Proud vs Broken People

3426007862_22eed8bdaeWhat kind of blessings does brokenness bring? Well, from the Scriptures we see that God draws near to the broken (Psalm 34:18). He lifts up those who are humbled (Psalm 147:6). We’re told that God stiff-arms the proud. He resists them (James 4:6). He keeps them at a distance, but He comes close to, even as the father of that prodigal son drew that repentant, broken son to his chest and embraced him, we find that our Heavenly Father draws near to the heart of those who are broken.

And while God draws near to broken, brokenness also brings an increased capacity for love and worship. Like the woman in Luke 7, she was able to love much because she had been forgiven much. I see in that woman an abandon in her relationship with Jesus that ought to inspire us.

In my previous post I referenced a talk from the National Staff Training of Cru back in 1995. It’s a powerful message that God is using in my own life again, some twenty years later, as I ask Him to search my heart and understand the message of Jesus in the Beatitudes when he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

I invite you to have a listen and consider what God might be saying to you. For I believe that genuine brokenness leads to repentance. And genuine repentance leads to forgiveness. And forgiveness will produce a life of freedom from the bondage of sin.

Cultivating True Humility

IMG_5420In 1995, God used a message from Nancy Leigh DeMoss to bring about a spirit of true repentance at the National Staff Training of Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Cru. I had just left the staff of Cru two years earlier, but my friends were calling me to share that God was doing a mighty work at the training in Colorado and I couldn’t wait to listen to the message as it was made available to alumni. It challenged me 20 years ago, and today, I was reminded of this message and spent this evening listening to it again, as I asked God to search my heart and break my heart for the things that break His.

In the message, Nancy talks about the characteristics of pride, which are rooted in arrogance and insecurity versus true humility, which is rooted in authentic brokenness. In the message, she challenges the church to be broken before the Lord, for God wants to unleash his power through broken people.

Here are the differences she shares between proud and broken people. In reading these characteristics, let’s confess those characteristics of pride that God reveals in us and let’s ask Him to restore the corresponding quality of a broken, humble spirit within us.

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

© Revive Our Hearts. By Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

ABC’s of Prayer

177624_originalI don’t think we often realize what a privilege it is to have instant, direct access to God. God loves us so much, that He has made Himself available to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And yet, I have to confess, prayer is one of the hardest spiritual disciplines for me to practice. 

In Acts 4, we read how the Christians prayed together with one heart, mind and spirit as they lifted their voices to God (Acts 4:24). The result was a great boldness in sharing God’s message. In the same way, a great force of God’s power can be released as we commit ourselves to effective prayer. But in order to be effective in our prayers, we need to understand what God’s Word has to say about prayer. As we read and study the Scripture, we can learn what the will of God is and as we know His will, we can pray and ask according to His divine purpose. With this in mind here are a few things I have learned about how to pray effectively over the years from the Scriptures.

In order to pray effectively, we need to pray…

Abiding

Abiding is the key to successful praying. In John 15:7, Jesus states, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.”

Believing

In Matthew 21:22 we read, “Everything you ask in prayer, believing you shall receive.” Faith, which is an attitude of believing, pleases God.

Clean Heart

John declares in 1 John 1:9 that, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confession restores communion with God and is a preparation for further fellowship with Him.

Directed by God’s Word

I love what 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” If you want to pray with confidence for God’s will, pray the Scriptures!

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

The Bible says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). I like that about the Holy Spirit. He goes where I cannot. He comprehends things I cannot. He does things I cannot. But when it comes to the things I need to do, He equips me to do them.

Forgiving Others

Mark 11:25 states, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Holding a grudge is not good for the soul. And an unforgiving attitude hinders our prayers. So talk to God about it. Ask Him to give you the strength to forgive others, so you can let go and move on.

Godly Motives

Pray with the right motivation. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Selfish motives cannot be blessed by God.

Humbly

Pray with a humble and submissive spirit. As it states in 1 Peter 5:6, Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Our hearts often connect with God’s heart in a God-honoring way as we develop and approach Him with humility.

Interceding for Others

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18). When you pray on another’s behalf, you experience the blessing and grace of God, as you reflect His character, conduct and commitments.

What might you add to the list?

Tell Your Story

tumblr_m4kwqpURcm1rwoq6lo1_500Who doesn’t love a good story? Whether it’s a story told on a riveting television show, the big screen, or a page-turning book, we all love a good story—especially one with a happy ending!

For me, I love to hear the stories of changed lives! In fact, it’s one of the things that motivates me as a minister. And it’s one of the reasons why I love “testimony night” at Celebrate Recovery! I love hearing the stories of how people overcame their hurts, habits, or hang-ups. And in hearing the stories, I believe we all glean insights into our own journeys toward wholeness, as we identify with their struggle and find the hope and courage necessary to face our own character defects.

There is power in the story of our lives. And in telling our story, our hearts become full of gratitude, as we recall God’s faithfulness in the land of the living. You see, while most of our stories include a period of hopelessness, trauma, or addiction, they usually have a ‘redemptive ending.’ That doesn’t mean that our lives have become rosy or problem free. Instead, the stories remind us of the journey we’re on, recalling that it’s about progress, not perfection.

We all have a story to tell! And when we share our story for His glory, something amazing happens. It offers a powerful witness to those who don’t yet know Christ, and brings hope and inspiration to those who call Jesus their Savior. So tell your story often and tell it well, for you may never know the impact it can make in the life of another.

20 Quotes from Spiritual Leadership

indexSpiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders is a literary classic and is acclaimed as one of the greatest leadership books in print today. Offering a depth and breadth of biblical wisdom and practical application, Spiritual Leadership get to the heart of the matter with an emphasis on the character and qualities of the leader, for leadership flows out of who we are, not just what we do.

Below are some of the memorable quotes from the book during my most recent reread…

  1. True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you.
  2. Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them.
  3. The spiritual leader must be clothed “with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).
  4. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self.
  5. Many who aspire to leadership fail, because they have never learned to follow.
  6. A leader must be able to see the end results of the policies and methods he or she advocates. Responsible leadership always looks ahead to see how policies will affect future generations.
  7. The spiritual leader will not procrastinate when faced with a decision, nor vacillate after making it. To postpone decision is really to decide for the status quo.
  8. People who are skeptical of prayer’s validity and power are usually those who do not practice it seriously or fail to obey when God reveals His will. We cannot learn about praying except by praying. No philosophy has ever taught a soul to pray. The intellectual problems associated with prayer are met in the joy of answered prayer and closer fellowship to God.
  9. If a man is known by the company he keeps, so also his character is revealed in the books he reads.
  10. Life’s value is not its duration but its donation – not how long we live, but how fully and how well.
  11. Procrastination, the thief of time, is one of the devil’s most potent weapons for defrauding us of eternal heritage.
  12. Those who lead the church are marked by a willingness to give up personal preferences, to surrender legitimate and natural desires for the sake of God.
  13. The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others, not with his own comfort or prestige. He shows sympathy for the problems of others, but his sympathy fortifies and stimulates, it does not soften or make weak. A spiritual leader will always direct the confidence of others to the Lord.
  14. Lowering standards is always a backward step and compromise nearly always requires it.
  15. More failures come from an excess of caution than from bold experiments with new ideas.
  16. God will defend the leaders he has chosen. He will honor, protect, and vindicate them. Leaders need not worry about defending their rights or their office.
  17. To succeed in getting things done through other leaders is the highest type of leadership.
  18. Indeed, no man, however gifted and devoted is indispensable to the work of the kingdom.
  19. Faith builds faith. Pessimism dismantles faith.
  20. Willingness to concede error and to defer to the judgment of one’s peers increases one’s influence rather than diminishes it.

Which quote from Sanders book challenges you or gets you thinking about leadership in a different way?

More Is Caught, Than Taught

Big Things Happen in Small GroupsA few days ago, I was giving some thought to a question posed by one of our small group leaders at Adventure. We were discussing the benefits of using written curriculum in a small group or just allowing the group to have a wide open discussion on a given topic or text. As we discussed both options, he asked, “What do you think is the more effective way to lead a group?” He’s what I said in response…

If we’re about making disciples and reproducing leaders, then it would make sense to model effective leadership and help people see just how easy it can be. Therefore, to multiply groups and leaders, we need to help people see that there are resources and tools to help them as they step out in faith. So, here are three great reasons why I believe its best to use curriculum:

  1. First, it keeps people on track and going in the same direction. While most studies tend to direct the conversation in a certain direction, a complaint of some, they do facilitate a process of discovery for the members of the group. Using curriculum also leads to deeper conversation around key points, eliminating rabbit trails.
  2. Secondly, using group curriculum leads to application. James 1:22 states, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” In other words, application, not information, is the goal of all Bible study. Without curriculum, most people tend to overlook this important step in the study of God’s Word. By using a well written curriculum, you will help people integrate truth with life.
  3. Finally, using curriculum is reproducible. By not using curriculum, people may think, “I could never do what they do” and therefore never aspire to lead. But when they see that they don’t need to be a Bible scholar or come up with their own questions, then they are more likely to give it a shot, because you have effectively modeled it for them.

If you want to help others become all they were created to be, model effective ministry before them. After all this was Jesus’ strategy, modeling a ministry marked by visible, memorable symbols and behaviors before his followers, because he understood the principle that “more is caught, than taught”! Jesus used everyday situations to teach life changing principles for the ultimate end of ushering in his Kingdom and we would be wise to follow his example. After all, big things happen in small groups.

God’s Grace

ephesians2-8-9I did absolutely nothing to earn my salvation. God orchestrated the steps. He is always swimming upstream.

My journey toward Jesus began with an invitation to attend Thursday Night LIve, a youth ministry of First Baptist Church of San Mateo. A college student was outside my middle school handing out fliers for free root beer floats. That hooked my friends and I, so we decided that we would meet up at the church that night to check this group out.

I almost didn’t go that night. Dinner was unusually late and I was afraid of walking into the meeting without my friends. However, I somehow found the courage to walk into the room and quickly found my friends. I missed about half the meeting, but in the end I got my free root beer float and decided to come back the following week. In fact, I kept coming back because I noticed something different there. The people seemed to have a warm sincerity and genuine love of life.

So God used the program of Thursday Night Live and the youth leaders to begin drawing me to himself.  And later that year I would commit my life to Jesus at a camp that they would invite me to.

Yep, my gift of salvation had nothing to do with me. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t do a thing to prove my love or devotion to God before I could receive it. It was God ordained. God pursued. However, God did use some extraordinary people, who were obedient to his leading and direction to pursue me. People like Doug Patterson who was willing to stand in front of my middle school and hand out fliers about the Thursday Night Live program. And folks like Danny Waller who took an interest in a junior high kid and was bold enough to share God’s plan of salvation with me. As well as the generosity of First Baptist Church of San Mateo and/or an anonymous donor who was willing to scholarship me to camp.

I am forever grateful to God and his grace in my life. And I am forever grateful for those who reflected the love and grace of God to me.

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