Feb 23, 2014

32 Ways You Can Help Your Church

Every church needs help and your church needs your help.  Every member matters and every member ought to contribute to the mission and ministry of their church. Here are a few practical things that I think you can do to help your church be the church God wants it to be.

1.       Go.
2.       Give.
3.       Serve somewhere, anywhere.
4.       Pray for your church.
5.       Keep your church informed with your prayer requests.
6.       Actually pray for the prayer lists and prayer requests.
7.       Encourage and pray for your pastor.
8.       Invite people to your church, especially lots of lost people.
9.       Speak positively and well of your church.
10.   Meet new people every Sunday.
11.   Be last in line, whatever line it is, let others go before you.
12.   Make sure to love and serve your church's senior adults too.
13.   Check in with people who have been absent.  You might have been the only one who noticed they were gone.  Everybody gets their feelings hurt when no one seems to notice they weren’t there, especially if it’s been a couple of weeks.
14.   Don't gossip about people, don't assume things about people, and don’t ignore people.
15.   Don't let your church settle for the mediocre.
16.   Don't get territorial.  Don’t ever think it’s my seat, my ministry, my room, or my anything.
17.   Don't expect the pastor and staff to do it all, they need your help with almost everything.
18.   Don't get too comfortable.
19.   Don’t ever think that everyone else thinks like you or likes what you like, especially when it comes to music.
20.   Talk more about what God is doing in your church than what God did decades ago.
21.   Enjoy the traditions but don't make them idols or make them essentials.
22.   Don't ever say or think, "I wish we weren't so big" or "I miss our little church.”  Good churches are growing churches, so if your church is growing it's probably because it's a good one.  If you church is not growing then that's bad, really bad, and you should help do something about it.
23.   Realize your pastor and staff are real people with real families and make sure they get the time to do what real people and real families do.
24.   Participate in areas of ministry outside your normal sphere and comfort zone.
25.   Volunteer in the nursery.   I don't care what church you go to, they need help here.
26.   Sign up early for special events.  It helps the staff and encourages others to participate when they see that you signed up.
27.   Be really uncomfortable with sin especially when it's in church leadership.
28.   Regularly ask yourself if your church is fulfilling the great commission as best as it can.
29.   Let your church leadership lead.  Follow them, trust them.
30.   Bring your bible and take sermon notes.
31.   Smile on Sundays and talk to people, especially people you don’t know really well.
32.   Turn your cell phone on silent.  Every time.  Please ;)

Feb 14, 2014

6 Things that Love Cannot Live Without

Today is Valentine’s Day.  For most, it’s a day of attempting to tangibly express our love to the one we love the most.  We buy roses, chocolates, cards, and other things to somehow help declare a reminder to our spouses that “I love you.”  Valentine’s Day is fun and for what it is worth at least it serves as a moment of obligation to reaffirm the reality of our love for our wives and husbands.  Truth be told, none of us say it or show it as much as they deserve it and as much as we really mean it.  For some Valentine’s Day serves as the unfortunate reminder of what we have lost that we once had.  Unfortunately love doesn’t always last.  Love is a precious thing and must we well maintained, expanded, and exercised or it will exhaust itself and diminish.  God doesn’t want that.  He invented love.  He is love, 1 John 4:8. Our culture doesn’t teach and train us to love like God.  The flesh in us fights against us learning to live out God’s love.  With so many divorces, break ups, and shattered families I think it’s time for us to stop learning love from Hollywood and start learning what the enduring, everlasting, unconditional love of God looks like in a marriage.

Love is a Commitment
1 Corinthians 13:8 "Love never ends."
Love is not a choice it is a commitment.  It is the supreme commitment of life.  It is not a feeling you fall in and out.  It is a choice you make and an act of the will.  It is a commitment should be made without a break of contract clause.  Divorce is expelled from love’s vocabulary.  Through thick and thin real love’s commitment overrides all other commitment and all circumstances.

Love is Self Denial
Paul said in Phillipians 2:3-4, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves...looking also to the interests of others.”  That's what love does, it constantly denies self and takes up the interest of the other.  It gives and it gives and it gives some more.

Love is Sacrifice
Love is most appropriately shown though the sacrifices that our love spurs us to make for our spouses.
1 John 3:16 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” 
Paul challenged us husbands with this, Ephesians 5:25,Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  The greatest demonstration of love ever was when Christ sacrificed his life for us.  Too many marriages end because one or both parties are selfishly holding on to what they should sacrifice on the altar of love.  Hobbies, relationships, appointments, money, time, commitments, habits, attitudes... anything that takes precedence over your spouse, aside from Jesus Christ, should be slaughtered.

Love is Faithfulness
Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Hebrews 13:4 “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
Love is demonstrated by loyalty.  My eyes, my thoughts, and my body belong to her and her alone.  A spouse that is 99.9% faithful to their spouse is not faithful at all.  There is no day off and no time off.  Not a thought, not a look, not an action of disloyalty can permitted in the life of one who commits to love if their love is to be considered faithful.

Love is Endurance
1 Corinthians 7:39 “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives”
Love is to be long.  Love is an ultra-marathon.  It requires putting up with a lot, looking over a lot, bearing a lot, and pressing on for the finish line which isn’t until “death do us part.”   We must rethink the value of real love as it appears in wrinkles and decades.  Love like this outlives death and outlast life.
Time and time again throughout the Bible we are told this of God’s love, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1).  Time and time again that must be the way that we think of our love.

Love is Forgiveness
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
One of the most painful and difficult expressions of love is found in forgiveness.  It is also the deepest expression of love.  Listen, YOUR SPOUSE WILL FAIL YOU.  They are human, so are you and so will you.  Real love bears the burden of another’s failure and frees them from the obligation to undo, make up, or be punished for their failure.  It will happen, but real love gives real grace.  Our spouses need grace.  Love them enough to give it.

I remember the day that I officially vowed my love to my wife Kyla.  I was dressed up, nervous, and had a zit the size of a golf ball on my forehead.  When I vowed my love to her that day I meant it with all my heart as much as knew how.  But today I mean it more and I’ve learned that love is more than just making a commitment.   It is continually acting on that commitment even when I don’t want to.   Yes, I’ve lost some things because I love her, but I regret losing none of them...because I still have her.  She is precious to me and she is my greatest treasure aside from Jesus.  It is my prayer for us, and for you and your spouse as well, that one day though we may not be able to see, hear, walk, smell, or taste we will still be able to love and that we will love each other more on that day that we do today.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13  love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends...so now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Feb 12, 2014

3 Ways You Can Grow in the Grace of God

2 Peter 3:18  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
What does it mean to grow in the Grace of Jesus Christ?

It means to Realize Grace
Romans 5:17  If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ
Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Jesus did everything for you that God required of you.  Unworthy, underserved, unearned, and unpayable.  We did nothing to prompt it and we can do nothing to repay it.  Without the work of Jesus Christ we could never have been saved. 
As the old hymn says,
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
Period.  How do we grow in is grace?  We realize the richness of it, the necessity of it, and the totality of it...and so we accept it.  It’s all we need for salvation.  By his grace we are forgiven and free.  We cannot add to it and we cannot diminish it.  It’s enough and it’s all.  God will never expect more from you and ever look at you outside of the grace of Jesus once you have it.  You and I should spend our lives digging into and enjoying the wealth of that unending pot of awesomeness that is the Grace of God.

It means to Live by Grace
2 Corinthians 12:9-10  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

We are saved by the grace of Jesus, but we also live by the grace of Jesus.  The grace of Jesus is absolutely necessary in our everyday lives.  Life throws us impossible moments and mountains.  Mountains that we are unable to understand, overcome, and push through.  It is pride and arrogance that tell us, “YOU CAN DO IT!”  Listen, NO YOU CAN NOT!  You NEED the grace of God just as much today as we needed it the day we were saved.  It is in and through our weakest moments that we find the greatest strength.  We will never get it all right and we will never obtain perfection.  And what a liberating thing to realize.  God does not expect us to ever come to him based upon our ability and doesn’t ever expect us to “get it together” and “get it done.”  Listen, it is already done in Jesus!  It is his power, his strength, and his ability that gets it done every day for us and for every mountain that we face.  It is the impossible moments that we face that the grace of Jesus is highlighted brightest in our lives.  It is when we do not depend upon our own doing or our own strength, but his that we are the strongest.  His grace is sufficient in every circumstance and it is motivating for obedience to him.

It means to Give Grace
We grow in grace by giving grace.  When we begin to really realize the grace of Jesus and then live by it then grace begins to flow out of our lives.  People require grace.   People require forgiveness, understanding, patience, prayer, and then more forgiveness...and that's what grace gives...and a lot of it too.  We can not expect, demand, or treat people as if they are perfect. 
We cannot expect from people what God does not expect from us.
They are not perfect and they never will be!  They will fail you, hurt you, anger you, annoy you, ignore you, make fun of you, disrespect you, etc, etc, etc.  People aren’t perfect.  You won’t ever be either. 
So often we demand grace from others but expect perfection from them.  What hypocrisy that is and what a constant state of disappointment we’ll continue live with others.  From the waiter who can’t seem to get our order right, to our spouse’s continual short comings, to our children’s failure to obey, to our church’s inability to satisfy your high expectations.  Giving grace means bearing the burden of other’s imperfections by giving them room to make mistakes with you and patiently helping them improve.
Husbands give grace to you wives.  Wives give grace to your husbands.  Parents give grace to your children.  Children give grace to your parents.  Church members give grace to your pastors.  Pastors give grace to your church members.  Friends give grace to your friends.  Neighbors give grace to your neighbors.  People who get cut off by the driver next to you give grace to the driver who cut you off.  You get the point.  Grow in grace by giving grace to everyone you encounter that isn’t perfect.

Feb 11, 2014

Why I Don't Share My Faith vs. Why I Do Share My Faith

Almost every Christian feels the responsibility to share their faith to non-Christians.  However, most Christians rarely, if ever, share their faith with someone.   Hey, I’m there.  I hate to admit it, but I don’t share my faith as often as I should.   I’m one of those people who starts feeling really guilty when the preacher preaches on witnessing...and I am the preacher!   Listen, don’t get me wrong, I want more people to be saved, I pray for people to be saved, and I do share my faith...but I not as much as I think I should.  Why is that? 

I have recently felt very convicted about this and I've started thinking about the why and why not.  So I’ve put together two lists.  The first list is 15 reasons why I think I don’t witness.  The second list is 25 reasons that I’ve found as to why I do witness.  I hope these lists will challenge you, convict you, and encourage you as they’ve done for me.   It's my prayer and hope that the first list continues to get shorter and the second list continues to get longer.

15 Reasons Why I Don’t Witness
1.       I am afraid.
2.       I am too selfish. 
3.       It’s just easier not to talk about faith.
4.       I don’t really know what to say.
5.       I am too busy.
6.       I am too shallow in my relationships. 
We have a tendency to keep our relationships with people at surface level.  We do this by keeping our conversations with neighbors, coworkers, and relatives at a small talk level, things like just talking about work, sports, weather, etc., never really rarely engaging people on a deeper and more meaningful level.  Therefore, we don’t feel comfortable talking about heaven, hell, Jesus, or religion with them.
7.       My lifestyle is sometime a contradiction to the truth that I believe.   
8.       I don’t think about the urgency. 
We have a tendency to live life in the ‘here and now’ and don’t think much about the fact that at any moment eternity could be here and we could all be standing before the judgment of God.
9.       I don't see people as a soul or see them in light of eternity. 
10.   I enjoy being accepted.  
We don’t want to be ‘that guy’ or ‘that girl’ that everyone avoids because they talk about Jesus.  We are afraid that if we share Jesus with people then we run the risk of losing our friendship with them.  We like the fact people like us and don’t want to do anything that would cause people not to like us.
11.   I don't want to stick my nose in someone's business.
12.   I don't like confrontation.
13.   People have questions and I don't have all the answers. 
People have critical questions about God, Christianity, and life.  These questions are big and sometimes loaded.  Opening up a simple conversation about faith is like opening Pandora’s Box of questions about Christianity that we need experts, professors, scientists, pastors, and philosophers to help us answer.
14.   There doesn't seem to ever be the right timing.
15.   People will think I'm judging them. 

25 Reason I Do Witness
1.       I am called and commanded to.
2.       Eternity is a long time.
3.       Heaven and hell are real.
4.       I may be their closest and best contact with the true Gospel.
5.       Most people have not really heard a clear gospel presentation.  
6.       In the back of their mind most people still wonder what will happen to them when they die.  
There are some people who believe there is nothing after death, but they are a very small minority.  Most people want heaven when they die.  The big question is exactly how can you be certain of heaven.
7.       I know enough.
If you knew enough to be saved, then you know enough to help someone else be saved.
8.       I have a story to tell. 
You have a testimony.  You have witnessed the work of God in your life if you are saved.  All you have to do is tell someone that story.
9.       I am be blessed when I do.
       Philemon 1:6 “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
10.   I am not the one who saves someone anyway. 
No matter how smart, well crafted, convincing, emotional, or inspirational your evangelism is it will not save anyone.  Jesus saves, only Jesus.  It’s up to you to speak, it’s up to him to save.  We get the easy part.
11.   It's not as confrontational as I think. 
Witnessing is not winning an argument.  Don’t be condescending, be willing to listen, be kind, be honest, show compassion, and be passionate.  You don’t need a megaphone or a large sign to lead someone to Christ.
12.   I really do care about my friends and family. 
13.   I am loved and respected by other people. 
People will listen to you.  Believe it or not there are people that look up to you and respect you.  Many of the people you need to share your faith with probably love and respect you enough to listen to you and give you an opportunity to share your faith if you ask.
14.   I don't have my life all together and nobody expects me to.
15.   I am not alone. 
You've heard, “you may be the only Jesus people will ever know.”  I hope that’s not true, because I make a pretty lousy Jesus sometimes.   The scripture says, “We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.”  We aren’t alone when we witness.  You have an incredible support system made up of the Holy Spirit, the church, and the countless other Christians around you.
16.   There are tons of unique ways to share my faith.  
17.   No one expects me to have all the answers.  
So often we are afraid of people’s questions and fear that our inability to answer all their faith questions could show that there is a weakness in the faith.  Listen, most people don’t expect you to know everything, they probably already know you don’t.  Your inability to answer all their questions won’t surprise them and won’t diminish the opportunity you have to plant a solid gospel seed.
18.   There are lots of people I know who can help me answer tough questions.
19.   I have not been given a spirit of fear.  
2 Timothy 1:7  “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”
20.   People want what I have. 
People want joy.  People want peace.  People want joy.  People want forgiveness.  People want to go to heaven.  We have all of these things and we know how they can get them too.
21.   There is power in the gospel.
Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”
22.   I always accomplish something when I do witness. 
A seed is planted, love is shown, and a person is just that much closer to believing.
23.   I have prayer. 
They may ignore our words and reject our message, but people are powerless against our prayers.
24.   Jesus paid too much to save me for me to be silent about it.
25.   Because Jesus worked for me. 
He did and I will never be the same.  Now, this should not be the only reason we give people for why the gospel is true.  There are a lot of reasons for belief that are much deeper than this one.  But, it is still true, and it’s probably still one of the most convincing personal evidences of the power of the gospel.

I am ashamed of the first list.  My first list exposes my selfishness, my lack of courage, my lack of faith, and my disobedience.  As I wrote the first list there were many tears shed and much repentance.  I am convicted by this list and I am grateful for God’s forgiveness and grace to me even sometimes these things are true of me.  I’m ashamed of the first list, but I’m not ashamed of the second list!  There are a lot more reasons to share your faith than to sit in silence.  I am grateful that more and more throughout my growth in Christ the reasons on the second list have overridden the reasons on the first and that I have had the courage the share my faith with people.  It’s my prayer that this second list continues to override my first list more often.  It’s my prayer for you too that your reasons for sharing your faith would be greater than for remaining silent.