Five Healthy Meals for a Church Planter

“Five Healthy Meals for a Church Planter”

By Ed Compean

Consider the meal. The second statement God made to humanity was about food. Eating was an element in the fall of humanity. Food is was made an Intrigal part of the Passover and Levitical offerings. Jesus dined with sinners, provided thousands of meals and instituted His New Covenant with a supper. We all eagerly await another supper with Him.

 

Food is fellowship and an important part of church planting. This is played out in numerous ways, but there are at least five healthy meals church planters should partake of.

 

Community Leaders

Once a core group is established and discipleship is happening, make appointments to break bread with the mayor, high school principal and other civic leaders. You will be surprised how many will be willing to at least meet for coffee. Share the vision of the church plant, ask how you can serve the community and be sure to ask how you can pray for them personally.

 

View this meeting is similar to getting an annual physical from your doctor. You may not have anything wrong, but when there is a need you already have an established relationship. When a civic leader is looking for spiritual leaders, they will already know you.

 

Other Pastors

Unless you are working among an unreached people group, most communities have some type of pastoral alliance or fellowship. If possible, seek them out and eat together.

 

These men, and sometimes women, will not all have the same philosophy of ministry as you. That’s okay because the suggestion is not to partner in ministry as much as join in prayer for your community. These people will have incredibly valuable insight into the spiritual strongholds and challenges of your community.

 

Leaders in the Church Plant

Beginning as soon as possible and continuing as often as possible, share meals in homes with the church leaders. Don’t eat out or meet at coffee houses, but make it a point to break bread in homes.

 

A restaurant is a missed opportunity for true fellowship that is usually only found in a home setting. Being in a potential leader’s home allows interaction and observation family dynamics which will never happen in a restaurant.

 

The Church

Two goals are being reached in having food and beverages after every church gathering. The first is creating an entry point for people to exercise their spiritual gifts as they serve others in hospitality.

 

The second goal is a simple pause. As people pause to enjoy a coffee or baked good, you and other leaders have an opportunity to engage them before they get into their vehicles. It’s a time people can share a moment and hopefully plan for more time together.

 

Jesus

As often as the church plant takes communion they join together to remember the importance of our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. As soon as the first baptisms are held and the church is formalized, it is time to eat of the Lord’s Table on a regular basis.

 

It’s important for the church plant to early on understand the language of 1 Corinthians 11 explains the communion meal is to be taken together. It will not only unite the body together with each other, but with Christians around the world and, of course, with Jesus Christ.

 

Digest

Psalm 34 tells us to taste and see the Lord is good. The post resurrection appearances of Jesus always included meals. At the birth of the church they broke bread from house to house. It follows that eating together is strategic in establishing of fellowship and worshiping communities.

 

 

Three Reasons Why He Must Increase and I Must Decrease

Three Reasons Why He Must Increase and I Must Decrease

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO site

He must increase, but I must decrease. Jn. 3:30

There is something about our flesh that thinks, “While Jesus increases I can increase too.” Have you ever desired your influence to expand while expanding Jesus’ kingdom? Perhaps more people involved in your small group, or any area of ministry in or beyond the local church? Many of us have, and I confess that I have too.

John 3 records when Jesus came to Judea, multitudes received Him and were baptized. John the Baptist’s ministry was established and thriving, but now people were going to Jesus rather than John. John’s disciples were concerned. From their perspective John was “The Guy;” John, however, knew he wasn’t. John’s mission was to proclaim and point to Jesus who is the Christ – The Guy. John realized the ministry success he experienced was the result of God’s blessing and not anything inherent to himself, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” [27]. John likened himself to the best man at a wedding (in this case the marriage of Jesus and His Church) who understands that the groom is to be blessed, and that the best man’s joy flows from helping to bring the bride to the groom and the groom’s contentment [29].

Then John declared the Kingdom principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease” [30]. The reason for this principle flows from John’s next declaration, “He who comes from above is above all …” [31]. The reason Christ must be preeminent or exalted is because He is above all or has all authority. This all seems very reasonable to us as church leaders – He mustincrease. The stumbling block is the condition “I must decrease.” For us to be effective leaders, we need to become less visible or prominent. It must be both He must increase and I must decrease.

The consequences of failing to decrease are truly significant. Here are three reasons why he must increase and I must decrease:

  1. First, as a church leader, you compromise experiencing the joy John the Baptist discovered. The formula: He must increase and I can increase too – does not produce lasting joy, only intermittent glimpses of happiness that are connected to the church leader’s perception of ministry success or prominence.
  1. Second, but more important, is the negative Kingdom impact. Failing to decrease hinders the growth and development of other Kingdom leaders. The longer we continue to hold onto the illusion that we are “The Guy” or “The Gal,” the longer we keep others from being used by the King for His Kingdom purposes.
  1. Third, and most important, our failure to decrease hinders the contentment of Jesus. When the best man or friend of the Bridegroom fails to graciously take their rightful place in the background, Jesus’ contentment is impacted for Christ and His glory are obscured.

When we decide to live the principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” we are declaring our belief that He truly has all authority. That step of faith is likely to be tested. When our local church made the transition to a teaching rotation, some people who had been part of our church for years left for other local churches. Of course, our leadership was concerned, and some expressed that we should leverage my teaching to correct the decline. Nevertheless, we determined to stay true to the conviction that developing Kingdom leaders was what we were called to do. At the end of the first year the average attendance was the same as the preceding year (actually a one person variance). God was gracious indeed as He brought people who were blessed by the vision of a teaching team and the development of Kingdom leaders.

Again, in the second year when the growth of the church appeared stagnant, some urged me to become more prominent in the teaching ministry and leverage the gifts God had given me. I recognized that if I returned to a more prominent role I would not, in fact, decrease, as I believe God called me to do. So we remain committed to a course of developing Kingdom leaders and God has graciously blessed our transition towards being a more Kingdom minded local church.

The transition to Kingdom leader development requires a commitment to live the principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” that will inevitably be a challenge of faith and a struggle for some, or perhaps many, church leaders. For example, imagine a plan to develop multiple worship leaders and teams. The best worship leader and team are clearly ready for the big room – or Sunday morning gathering, but on the other hand, the other leaders and teams are gifted and anointed but clearly not as capable as the best. Putting the B-team on the platform is likely to be perceived as a potential risk to the local church. You can imagine the concerns: people won’t be attracted to the church, or people will leave. Those concerns tend to put a chilling effect on developing Kingdom leaders because of presumed threats to the “personal kingdom.” Nevertheless, you can’t develop Kingdom leaders without choosing to decrease and trust God.

If it’s all about Christ and not about you, choose to decrease so that He can increase. Come to grips with your own desire to be “The Guy” or “The Gal.” Decide to discover an area where you can decrease, then develop, share, and implement a plan to live the principle.

Three Essential Truths About God’s Building Plan

Three Essential Truths About God’s Building Plan

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

I have a certain admiration for handy people. The kind of people that rise early on a Saturday to gather building materials, tools, and supplies at their local mega-home improvement store, and then complete a home building project before the sun sets. There is a satisfying allure to the do-it-yourself [DIY] mystique. That message seems to be particularly attractive in a western culture that values individual achievement generally more than communal accomplishment.

I’m not a handy guy, but through the years I’ve discovered that God has called all of us to be builders. We are called to build with God in every realm of life. In considering the relationship between the labor of God and man it can be challenging to discern the proper balance or division of labor generally. Even more challenging is to understand that balance in the context of the various realms of life: personal, marriage, family, career, community, and calling. In an effort to discover the labor of God and man in every realm let’s contemplate Ps. 127 – a psalm for builders. Here are three essential truths about God’s building plan, or the FYI on DIY:

A. God must build: Unless the Lordbuilds the house, they labor in vain who build it [Ps. 127:1]. Without God’s divine leading and blessing, all of Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, workers, and wives were futile for what he was called to build. Man’s effort apart from God is vain or useless to produce any eternal or godly good. Earthly wisdom and resources are inadequate to build the house that God has planned. We are instructed to look to God and depend on Him for all that we are called to build. People tend to neglect God in the areas where they are strongest. Where I am most gifted by God (talented) I am likely to be lulled into thinking DIY. Similarly, as a result of experience and gaining a certain comfort level in any endeavor including marriage, parenting, career, or serving in a local church believers can engage in those routines without an awareness of our need for God.

B. Man must build; It is vanity for man to work to build the house [1], guard the city [1], or work long hours generally [2] apart from God’s blessing. Nevertheless, man is to work in the building endeavors that God has called Him to. Where I struggle to build I am most likely to avoid my work. I can justify my lack of building effort by pointing to God’s sovereignty [“His perfect will is going to happen regardless of what I do or don’t do”], or His grace [“It’s all about what Jesus has done, so I don’t have to do anything”]. Accordingly, we can attempt to justify our lack of building, and essentially shift all of our work in some areas to God. In every realm, the labor of God and man is called for.

C. The house is big: What does “the house” refer to? Certainly Solomon had experience building the temple and royal palace, and David would have instructed his son about the building of the temple. But the Psalm also refers to family [3-5], and the city [2]. There is clearly more than the temple or royal palace involved. Let’s consider the need for God and man to build in every realm:

  1. Personal: Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount with an exhortation to be wise and build your house upon the rock [Matt. 7:24-27]. The wise man hears the teaching of Christ and does them. The greatest foundation for life is found in dependence upon Jesus and obedience to Him. Our labor is to do what Christ commands.
  1. Marriage: God has ordained marriage, created the institution of marriage, and blesses marriages. Yet a good marriage does not happen without effort. Married couples experience a unique reward for their labor, because there is no other human relationship where two become united as one [Eccl. 4:9-12, Gen. 2:24]. A good marriage takes work but a bad marriage takes more work. Thus it is wise to make the effort to bless your marriage along with God.
  1. Family: Ps. 127:3-5 reminds us that children are a heritage and reward from the Lord, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them …” God has established and blessed the family to pass the Christian faith from one generation to the next [Mal. 2:15]. Parents are responsible to model a healthy Christian life and transmit their faith to their children. Although a local church should support the family, it is primarily the parents’ responsibility and blessing.
  1. Career: Ps. 127:2 warns of the futility of excessive labor that is not required by God, It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Working to advance in your career or gain material wealth that jeopardizes personal and relation health with God and others is unwise. God will give us the strength to accomplish all that He has called us to do. And whatever we do should be done to please God. But God has called us to a balanced work life, “He gives His beloved sleep.” We are to enjoy the Sabbath, and a healthy measure of sleep each night, as we trust God’s provision.
  1. Community: Ps. 127:1 draws our attention to the community, “Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” God is the ultimate source of protection and blessing for a community. And God’s people are called to love their neighbor’s as they love self. It requires effort, sacrifice, and margin to invest in befriending and building relationships where we live, work, study, and play. We are to be the ambassadors of Christ to our communities to transform our neighborhoods with the gospel.
  1. Calling: The house of God is a place where God’s people gather to worship. Jesus has assured us that He will build His Church [Matt. 16:18]. Yet each of Christ’s followers has received gifts to be used to build up the Body of Christ. The calling realm is where we advance God’s kingdom beyond the home and career spheres. Our labor in the calling realm is often connected to a local church or Para-church ministry.

What have you discovered about the labor of God and man?

You are Transitional

You are Transitional

By Ed Compean

A church planter can be overwhelmed with developing a core team, meeting with people and raising volunteers. These immediate based commitments, and numerous others, can make it difficult for a church planting pastor to even consider  who will follow him in the pastorate.

 

My experience until now has been planting churches and helping others plant churches. While the progress sometimes felt glacial, the focus had been to establish, raise up and turn over. In a series of events which can only be described as God’s sovereignty, things have changed. As of six weeks ago, I am the new pastor of a well functioning, almost 25-year-old church full of wonderful people and rich history. It is from this experience I hope to make three points for the planter to consider for the benefit of the church and the next pastor.

 

You Are Transitional 

A few days into my new pastorate,  a man wept deeply in my living room, not in a counseling session or in a time of confession. Instead, he was deeply moved to sobbing tears because the Lord had brought a new pastor to his church. His joy was not for me specifically, it was joy for God’s faithfulness to bring an under-shepherd for the church he loved.

 

Church Planters would do well to encourage the people of the church to care for the church with a view touching  eternity. Bill Holdridge with Poimen Ministries was instrumental in the pastor search and in my transition into the new church. He explained the importance of the long-term view by telling me, “We are all transitional pastors, there will be another.”

 

Church planters will do well to encourage people to love the Head of the church, honor His bride and appropriately respect the office of pastor. Of course there will be a generation in which there is no transition, but until Jesus returns, one day we will all be replaced. It is best to pray and plan from the beginning.

 

You need to Communicate 

The previous pastor had done an excellent job of preparing the church for transition. He had similarly done an excellent job in helping me understand how the church was functioning and how the small staff was operating. The assistant pastor was completely supportive and provided a great sense of continuity. We all knew sheep could be restless in the transition, so effort was made to communicate as much as possible.

 

Before final decisions were made my wife and I met and broke bread with the elders for a time of testimony and dialogue. Similarly, the outgoing pastor arranged for time with key staff members where many questions were asked of all. All the church volunteers were invited to a luncheon where we again gave our testimonies and answered questions.

 

To keep the church updated, the elders asked me to preach and after each service opened the church up to questions for my wife and I. While the final decision was made by the elders, it was an opportunity to communicate to the body. It allowed inquiring, involvement and investment by the body as well as to the body. In the weeks since becoming the lead pastor, several people have mentioned how they felt they understood the process and appreciated not being left out.

 

It Is Not About You

The verses the Lord gave me for the transition is Psalm 23:1-2.

 

The Lord is my shepherd;

     I shall not want.

     He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

     He leads me beside the still waters.

 

Though my wife and I are making another radical change in our lives, these well known words are not for us. They are for the Lord’s sheep in His pasture.

 

There was strong agreement that the former pastor and his family were called to a new work, but there is also strong grieving as a dear part of this community of believers is missed.

 

Even if his leaving had been from disqualification or division, as the new pastor I would want to honor and help the grieving of the sheep. They hurt, and that is okay. Grieving is good and honoring of the relationship. The better the grieving, the sooner the sheep are lying down in the Lord’s pastures and drinking of His waters. Their missing of the former pastor has nothing to do with how they view me as the new pastor. It has everything to do with missing a friend. You want to minister to and with people who feel the depth of relationships.

 

Pray and Prepare

Praying for and preparing the church for the eventual transition to the next pastor should be on the minds of all church planters. Some will transition soon, like the apostle Paul, others after many decades, like Pastor Chuck Smith. In either case, until Jesus returns, we are all transitional and should pray and prepare for the inevitable.

 

Finally, let me take a moment more to make another callout to Poimen and Bill Holdridge. They are a great wealth of information for the times a church planter moves on to do what church planters do.


Ed Compean is a former church planter in Kenya and the current lead pastor at Shoreline Calvary in Morro Bay, CA.

Four Revolutionary Ideas For a Revolutionary Church

Four Revolutionary Ideas For a Revolutionary Church

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching are profound and marvelous. They are full of life, and intended to inspire a revolution. Jesus is not an anarchist, but He is a revolutionary. And Jesus intends His church to be revolutionary. Revolutions are always sparked by an idea. An idea that is so clear, compelling, and catalytic that masses of people are inspired to overcome the inertia of the status quo. Jesus challenged the status quo of religious observance in countless ways. His death, resurrection, and Spirit are what give life to the revolution, but it is His clear, compelling, and catalytic idea that is the essence of the revolution.

Jesus’ revolutionary idea is the essence of all the declarations of God (the law and the prophets) as follows: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … And … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” People called to lead the masses to realize the ideas of the revolution in order to experience the ideals of the revolution, must never lose sight of the idea that sparks the revolution. When the idea is lost or obscured, the revolution fails. Here are four revolutionary church ideas:

  1. I must radically love God: The revolution begins when I respond to God’s amazing love for me with amazing love for Him. As I consider the cross and the gracious sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf, it is reasonable for me to respond with love for God. To love God with all that I am – all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength – is truly a radical idea and a glorious ideal. To experience this ideal, I must confess and repent of my love for this world. I must be led by His Spirit and not controlled by my flesh. I must discover more and more the extent of God’s great love and love Him.
  1. I must radically love my neighbor: Jesus linked the idea of loving God and neighbor not as a revolutionary manifesto. He was making it clear that you don’t truly love God unless you love our neighbor as you love yourself. How did this clear idea become obscured? Well meaning leaders of the revolution started to think and declare that the way that we proved our love for God was as follows: regularly read your Bible, regularly gather to worship, regularly pray, regularly serve the Lord, regularly give, occasionally share your faith, love one another. The leaders of the revolution forget to declare and demonstrate the idea: I must radically love my neighbor as I love myself. Imagine for a moment treating yourself as you treat your neighbor. It is not too attractive an idea to ignore, neglect, and not genuinely care about yourself.

Revolutions become institutionalized, and then the leaders of the revolution become distracted by seeking to maintain the institution. Unfortunately the desire to preserve and advance the institution generally obscures the ideal of the revolution. In the context of the local church, the programs and ministries that are intended to help people to love God and their neighbor become so consuming to the leaders and the congregation alike that there is no margin to befriend and build relationships with my neighbors where I live, work, study, and play. Until we create margin in the church, and our lives generally; and love our neighbors like we care about ourselves, the revolution is lost.

  1. I must decrease in a revolutionary way: John the Baptist understood, “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease” [Jn. 3:30]. Many of the leaders of Jesus’ revolution affirm this idea, but there may be a tendency to think, “Jesus must increase and I can increase too.” Our flesh is a constant foe and the desire for significance can be an idol that impedes Christ’s revolution.

Imagine a world where Christ’s followers gathered in groups in a local neighborhood and learned to love God. As a display of their love of God, they befriend and build relationships with neighbors where they live, work, study, and play. The extravagant displays of love stir people to interest in Christ and His gospel. Ultimately people are moved by the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus. In this scenario, the priesthood (role) of individual believers is elevated and celebrated. It is a revolutionary paradigm when compared to most local church experiences that tend to elevate and celebrate a gifted leader. The more “successful” a leader has been, the more challenging it becomes to decrease. All the institutional forces pressure a leader to continue the status quo. Instead the revolution requires church leaders to change the dynamic so they and others are on the same level – loving God and their neighbor.

  1. I must encourage and equip revolutionaries: The church leader who embraces Jesus’ revolution creates margin in the life of the church and their own life. They begin to shift their attention from the church to their neighborhood; they befriend and build relationships where they live, work, study, and play; they discover the challenges and blessings of having meals with people they are in proximity with who have a different worldview; they create time to ask neighbors, “How are you doing?” They have time to listen to the reply. They ask, “Can I pray with (or for) you?” They ask, “What can I do to help?” If possible, they do what is asked for. And they even volunteer and do the Christ-like thing without even being asked. The church leader who does those things has become a revolutionary leader who can encourage and equip revolutionaries. Until church leaders live revolutionary lives the revolution is unlikely to prevail. Once leaders can model the attitudes and behaviors of Christ’s revolution, then others can be encouraged and equipped to do the same.

How are you living a revolutionary life?

Evangelism Through Invitation

Evangelism Through Invitation

By Travis Sinks

Sometimes we think that inviting people to a church service isn’t “true” evangelism. As the pendulum has swung from one end to the other, we’re in a place where many people think they have to personally share the Gospel and see someone saved to do any good in someone’s life, and that’s simply not true.

We don’t want to neglect our call to personally tell others about Jesus and His love for them, but it’s also just as important to be inviting others to Sunday services and community groups. Here’s 3 reasons.

1. Our witness together is greater than ours separately.

One of the things Jesus said about our community together as believers was that non-christians will know that we are followers and disciples of Him by our “love for one another” (John 13:35). This teaches us that not only are we supposed to be together frequently to display that love (which is one of the many reasons being a part of a local church is so important), but it also tells us that we should be inviting people to be a part of our gatherings – how else will they see this love between us?

Sometimes we think that our witness is merely regarding our individual life, but our witness together as a body of believers sacrificially loving each other is a greater than any of us could achieve on our own.

2. It allows a non-believer to experience Jesus’ people

Although you are a part of the church, you are not the whole church. If you were a basketball player but your friends never came to one of your games, they wouldn’t have the full experience of the basketball team, or even what a basketball game is like if they’ve never been to one before.

When you invite someone to church or a community group, you are inviting them to experience Jesus working through all of the members of His local church in a much fuller way. Although you have good words to share and know them well, Jesus may choose to use someone else in the church to reach out to that person in a way they will respond. By bringing them to church and community group, you are asking others to participate in reaching out to your friend or family member rather than trying to do it all yourself.

3. Coming to a service gives them uninterrupted time with Jesus

One of the reasons we try to plan our services with as little interruptions and distractions as possible is to give people uninterrupted time with Jesus.

The reality is that people are busy.
They are tired.
They are bombarded with information.
Ideas.
Thoughts.
Marketing.
Noise.

We try to have our services be a place away from all of those things. By bringing a friend, family member, or even a stranger to church, you are providing uninterrupted time for them to reflect on the most important questions we have to answer: Who is God? Why am I here? What is truth? Who is Jesus?

You will have, and should continue to, utilize opportunities to share the Gospel one-on-one, and we know that Jesus can save a person in the blink of an eye, but by bringing the person you’re praying for to church you are offering them an opportunity to step out in faith to seek God and have Jesus reveal Himself to them. They may not accept Him the first time, second, third, fourth, or even ever. But we are called to persevere, pray, reach out, and seek the lost for Jesus regardless of their response. We should be taking every opportunity God gives us to love people, share Jesus with others, and invite them to come see what He is all about.

We have seen Jesus change so many lives through being invited by a friend to church. We’ve seen people saved on Sundays, in community groups, and even throughout the week because of new relationships they’ve made. This is an opportunity we don’t want anyone to miss.

So, who will you invite to church this Sunday?

This post is shared from the Redemption Church Blog.

How to Be Marsha in a Mary or Martha World

How to Be Marsha in a Mary or Martha World

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

Many of us read the tale of two sisters, Mary and Martha, and tend to identify with one sister more than the other. If you are a Martha-type distracted with much serving then you likely feel guilt that you are not more Mary (or at least more merry). If you are a Mary-type seemingly sitting constantly at the feet of Jesus you are likely to justify your life because Jesus declared that, “Mary had chosen that good part, which would not be taken away from her” [Lu. 10:38-42]. Rather than choosing the Mary or Martha life, perhaps we should pursue them both. Imagine a third sister, Marsha, who embodied the best of both Mary and Martha? What would Marsha be like? Here are three keys to be a Marsha in a Mary or Martha world:

A. Serve Jesus with healthy boundaries:

Martha loves Jesus and welcomes him into her home, Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house” [Lu. 10:38]. Martha would sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to her Lord. We sometimes overlook the fact that Martha was a devoted worshiper who sat at Jesus feet, but here it is, “Martha had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet” [39]. The fact that Martha’s sister Mary also sat at Jesus feet means that Martha did too. The problems arose when Martha arose to serve.

When Martha felt that it was time to get to work serving Jesus she failed to create and respect healthy boundaries. The problem is not serving. Jesus does not correct Martha for her desire to serve Him. Serving Christ is good and noble when there are healthy boundaries. Here are four healthy boundaries to consider when serving Jesus:

  1. Don’t let the serving distract.Martha was distracted with much serving” [40]. The Greek term speaks of being over-occupied, too busy, or pulled apart. In this case, Martha was pulled apart from Jesus and her own spiritual health. I can so relate to the experience and feeling of being pulled apart from Jesus, because I was over-occupied and too busy trying to serve Jesus.
  2. Don’t question whether He cares. Martha approached Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” [40]. Sometimes when I am trying too hard to serve the Lord, and I feel that others aren’t I can question whether Jesus cares. Of course He cares. He may simply have not called me to do what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. Or perhaps, I’m simply not realizing that my expectations of others may not be God’s expectations (no matter how reasonable I might believe they are).
  3. Don’t order the Lord and tell Him what to do. Martha continues, Therefore tell her to help me” [40]. Martha was frustrated with her sister, perceived that Mary is lazy and compelled Martha to do all the work. Martha effectively orders Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s chutzpah is remarkable to me, but also convicting. I’ve undoubtedly done the same in prayer. It is much healthier for me to simply serve the Lord with reasonable boundaries then to presume to tell Him to order others to share in the work I feel called to.
  4. Don’t be uptight.Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things” [41]. The Greek terms relate to being anxious, troubled with cares, and can relate to seeking to promote one’s interests. Whenever I’m uptight in serving God it is an indicator that I’ve neglected healthy boundaries. It can be manifest by worry, troubled with cares, or promoting my interests (even if they are also arguably God’s interests).

B. Worship Jesus with focused attention and abundant adoration:

Mary loves Jesus and sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word [40]. She is a role model of devotion and worship. She avoided striving and stayed centered in the Lord’s love. Here are three truths about worship:

  1. Worship is needed. Jesus gently corrected Martha and made clear that worship (focused attention and abundant adoration of Him) is what is needed, “But one thing is needed” [42]. Serving Jesus is important, but worship is the priority. We must create healthy boundaries that provide margin for us to spend quality and quantity time with Jesus.
  2. Worship is a choice. Jesus declared, “Mary has chosen that good part” [42]. You must choose to worship. Once you create margin then you have a choice of what to fill that margin with. You must choose to prioritize and protect the time with Christ. There are countless things competing for our attention, devotion, and adoration. Choose wisely, because you become like whatever you choose to worship.
  3. Worship is worthy of protection by Jesus. Once you create margin and choose to worship Jesus will honor your choice by helping to protect it. Jesus was quick to honor and protect Mary from her sister, “which will not be taken away from her” [42], and later from the disciples [Jn. 12:7].

C. Keep growing in grace, knowledge, and faith in Jesus:

Mary and Martha both loved Jesus, and like us they needed to keep growing. When their brother Lazarus died, Mary fell at Jesus’ feet weeping and said, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus groaned and ultimately was moved to tears [Jn. 11:32-35]. Presumably Jesus is not crying about Lazarus for He knows that his life will soon be restored. Perhaps Jesus is moved to tears due to his love for Martha and Mary and seeing their pain. But I suspect that Jesus wept, because He felt that if there was any worshiper who understood that He was the Christ and had all authority over life and death it was Mary. And Mary’s response revealed the limits on her understanding about Jesus.

Jesus’ miraculous restoration of Lazarus, and simply their continued experiences with Him helped Mary and Martha to keep growing in Christ [Jn. 12:1-7]. Martha served without complaint. Apparently Mary helped prepare the supper. And Mary extravagantly anointed Jesus as an expression of love and worship. Both Mary and Martha blessed Jesus. Instead of choosing to be either Mary or Martha, let’s seek to be “both and.”

How have you learned to be a Marsha in a Mary or Martha world?

Do You Know His Voice?

Do You Know His Voice?

By Laura Williams

Do you ever wonder if you have ever heard God speaking to your heart? Really heard Him for yourself? Or have you ever had a thought come into your mind out of the blue and thought, “Is that my own imagination? Is that God speaking to me?” Those are questions that I think we all ask. How can I know when God speaks to me? Or, on the other hand, what if I THINK God is speaking to me, but really it’s just my own thoughts?!

The verse we hear most often in reference to “hearing the voice of God” comes from Jesus in John 10:27 where He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This has often led me to wonder why it is that I don’t always know when I am hearing God speak to my heart. I’m left wondering how I can be His sheep and still not know His voice. But notice that Jesus said that not only do the sheep hear His voice, but He KNOWS them.

Jesus knows how to speak to each one of us, and He does this differently for us all. For example, in the Bible we can read about how the Lord spoke out loud to Abraham, but a burning bush is what caught Moses’s attention when He first heard from God. He directed the children of Israel with a pillar of fire at night, but He called Samuel in a familiar voice when he was sleeping.

It is important to know that God doesn’t want to play games with us–He is not a God who wants us to struggle to hear Him and then laughs when we make a mistake. You can read in Matthew chapter 7 how Jesus compared the love of our Heavenly Father to that of our earthly dads. He wants to bless us, He wants us to hear and know Him, and He delights in His children. You can trust that God will speak to you as a loving Father who intimately knows the way you think, the doubts you may have, and the inmost person of your heart.

Another important thing to consider is HOW we come to recognize His voice. Just as with anyone, we LEARN to recognize His voice the more we listen to Him. And the primary way that we can hear God’s heart, His voice, and His words is through the Bible! As you spend time reading His Word, you will become accustomed to the quiet way the Holy Spirit teaches you in it. When you read a passage of the Bible, and sense God’s conviction and are reminded of His promises to you, this is the voice of God speaking to you!

To become familiar with the voice of our Savior is to let His Word penetrate our hearts on a daily basis that we might begin to recognize His voice!

 

Another beautiful part of spending time in the Bible is that we also receive a firm foundation of truth–Jesus said to His Father in Heaven, “Sanctify me by your truth–Your WORD is truth.” So as we read and study the Word of God, the truths He teaches us will also resonate with us when we hear His voice outside of our reading time. You may be at the grocery store on your way to the car when you see an item in the cart that you forgot to pay for by accident. And a voice in your heart says, “Go back. It doesn’t belong to you. Be honest.” And perhaps this may follow with in inward dialogue on the ethical benefit of paying for the item–“Really is it worth that much anyway? I mean, Walmart already has bazillions of dollars, do they really need the $2.27 for this dish soap?!” (may or may not have been me stalled with my cart in the middle of the blazing parking lot debating this with myself last week 🙂

So, in those moments (that we ALL have, I know) we will be able to recognize the voice of God in us as the same voice we hear in His Word! Does the voice in your head match the heart of God you see in the Bible? When you feel “prompted” (a Christian word for a hunch or thought that isn’t exactly your own) to go and tell someone God loves them, or maybe to ask your waitress if you can pray for her, ask yourself, “Is this consistent with the heart of God?”It would certainly make sense for God to want to use you to share His love with someone, or to reach out and pray for a stranger. However uncomfortable that may be! 🙂 But the truth is, because God is such a loving Father, even IF it were only your own thought and you acted out of obedience to what you believed to be God speaking to you, He loves you! God is never disappointed in us for acting in faith! 

We won’t be perfect–that day is saved for Heaven, but take comfort in knowing that you have a Father in Heaven who has made His voice known to you in His Word, who KNOWS how to speak to you, and loves us even when we make mistakes. There will certainly be times we hear God telling us to take a step of faith in our heart (like speaking to a stranger or even returning dish soap) and we may not always obey. And as the Holy Spirit gently convicts us of our lack of faith or our unwillingness to listen, He always restores us and speaks to us again.

Be comforted knowing that Your Father in Heaven delights in you today. And spend time getting to know Him and His voice in His Word today. He always speaks to us there. 🙂

This post is shared from the Redemption Church Blog.

Four Reasons to Love God and Your Neighbor

Four Reasons to Love God and Your Neighbor

By PB

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

People are generally likely to appreciate the connection between loving God and loving their neighbors [Matt. 22:37-40]. Yet, most of us would have to agree that we tend to focus on one element to the neglect of the other. Those who appreciate the importance of social justice are likely to emphasize the “love your neighbor” aspect. Those who recognize the importance of sound doctrine tend to lean towards the “love God” command. In Jesus’ words, everything God had said up to this point (the Prophets) and every command God had ever given (the Law) hung on these two things: love God and love your neighbor.

Here are four reasons why we are to love God and love our neighbor:

  1. The Great Commandment: We are to love God supremely, because this is the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” [Matt. 22:37-38, Deut. 6:4]. The critical work that reflects love for God is faith in Christ, “This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He sent” [Jn. 6:29]. We are frequently reminded in the church that our faith in Christ is manifest by an attitude of dependence upon Him, and actions of obedience to Him. Similarly, we are focused on certain behaviors and spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, prayer, worship, serving, tithing, sharing your faith, and being involved in a small group. In essence, the implied message is, “Do these things and you demonstrate that you love God.” While these are undoubtedly good attitudes and behaviors, they may unintentionally neglect what Jesus pointed to – love your neighbor. Nevertheless, you will not do what He has called you to do unless you love God.
  1. God inspires love: The idea of loving God solely out of duty (commandment) doesn’t seem to inspire. Similarly, God’s divine attributes should inspire worship, reverence, and awe. We marvel that God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, and able to create from nothing. But worship, reverence, and awe are distinct from love. I would suggest that God’s attributes alone do not inspire love. I believe (apparently along with the Apostle John) that our love for Him is inspired by His love for us, We love Him because He first loved us [1Jn. 4:19]. His love is certainly demonstrated in a host of ways, but the most compelling is the cross [Jn. 3:16, Rom. 5:8]. This is the pinnacle of love. Never before, and never since has such love been displayed. God gave His only Son to experience His wrath on our behalf, even while we were in rebellion to Him, so that we could be reconciled to Him. This completely sacrificial, unconditional, and incomprehensible display sets the bar so amazingly high. It not only assures me that God is worthy of my love, but provides the only true litmus test to measure what I might describe as love. If I want to know whether an attitude or behavior is “love” then the standard to measure against is revealed by God. Because God is worthy of my love, and has inspired love, I’m compelled to contemplate, “God how can I love you better today?”
  1. Loving my neighbor proves my love for God: Jesus revealed the second greatest commandment, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matt. 22:39, Lev.19:18]. The lawyer asked Jesus, which was the greatest commandment (i.e. singular). Yet, Jesus volunteers the second. Jesus reveals that these two commandments are so united that they cannot be separated. Furthermore, we are to demonstrate agape love to God and to our neighbor. It is my love for my neighbor and others that proves that I am His disciple [Jn. 13:35]. The connection between loving Godand my neighbor is so clear and simple that it is humbling to honestly consider the implications. I confess that I am often too busy to befriend and build relationships where I live, work (or go to school), and play. I’m alarmed by the thought that a life filled with activity that is actually seeking to advance God’s kingdom can demonstrate love for God in the absence of love for my neighbors. How humbling it is to consider that we can be so busy doing our religious activity that we have no time to love neighbors. Because my neighbor is worthy of my love, and loving my neighbor proves my love for God, I’m compelled to contemplate, “How can I love my neighbor better today?”
  1. Loving my neighbor reveals God’s love to others: We should consider loving our neighbors where we live, work (or go to school) or play. Many of us who declare our devotion to Christ would humbly confess how poorly we love our neighbors. We may not even know their names. We are unlikely to know much if anything about their life, marriage, or family. We probably haven’t discovered their challenges or rejoicings. A neighbor is not a project. Certainly we want to see all come to faith in Christ, but when we make that the objective then our neighbor feels exploited by our overtures. They are likely to feel like a cog in our program. Loving your neighbor is not a program, but an attempt to reveal God’s unprecedented love. The display of God’s love through human instruments is often a bridge to revealing Jesus and His gospel. But that work, as inspired by His Spirit, will likely hinge more and more in a post-Christian culture upon loving our neighbors.

Here are some simple ideas to help us love our neighbors better:

  1. Simplify church life and life generally to create margin to spend time with neighbors where you live, work (or go to school), and play.
  2. Befriend and build relationships with neighbors by asking, “How are you doing?”
  3. When your neighbor is struggling ask, “Can I pray with (for) you?”
  4. Ask, “How can I help?” If the request is reasonable and you are able then seek to help.

What ways have you discovered to love your neighbors?

What Ship are you on?

What Ship are you on?

All Christ-followers are on board one of two ships: a cruise ship, or a battle ship. 

The behaviors on each of these vessels couldn’t be more different. On a cruise ship, the passengers are on board to take a voyage of leisure. They eat a variety of luxurious delicacies, choose from an expansive selection of activities and programs to take part in, and expect the crew to wait on their every beck and call.

Those on a battleship behave entirely different. They are on a voyage of purpose and are unified in their mission. They are fed consistently, but not for luxury. Their mealtime is designed to fortify strength. There are many unique tasks, and everyone has a job to do, all involved to accomplish the greater good at the expense of the individual’s comfort or recognition.

When you consider your church experience, which ship are you on? What kind of passenger should we be? 

C.T. Studd: Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time of waiting is past! The hour of God has struck! War is declared! In God’s Holy Name let us arise and build! ‘The God of Heaven, He will fight for us’, as we for Him. We will not build on the sand, but on the bedrock of the sayings of Christ, and the gates and minions of hell shall not prevail against us. Should such men as we fear? 
Before the world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God, we will venture our all for Him, we will live and we will die for Him, and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only our God, than live trusting in man.
And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.

-Pastor Pilgrim Benham

This Post is shared from the Pilgrim Benham Blog.