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Doing God’s Work and Will God’s Way in the Church

March 27, 2012 1 comment

We are living in a time in which some people are saying that we need to re-invent the church.  But I say wait a minute.   I agree with a growing number of pastors who seem to have gotten to the point where “enough is enough”.  I believe we need to get back to God and back to basics in the church. We need to do God’s work and will God’s way which is to follow the biblical foundations for the church Jesus himself modeled.

I believe this church looks like the church in Acts 2:41-47.  A church comprised of authentic believers in Jesus Christ living a disciplined disciples life which God honored by adding to the church daily and where God’s people grew in ever deepening relationship with Him. That is the church that changed and turned its world upside down.  Today I fear that the one being changed is the church as the world brings increasing influence into God’s house and among God’s people.  We are commanded to avoid the ways of the world (1John 2:15-16) and have our minds transformed and not conformed to its ways (Rom 12:1-2).   Some churches seem to walk on the margins in attempting to be relevant to our culture often compromising, albeit it well intentioned, in view of winning some.   Jesus never compromised on the gospel and neither should we.

The solution to our dilemma is to be obedient to the Word of God and endeavor to model ourselves after the original foundation for the church that Jesus himself established and exemplified. The Acts 2 church is God’s original design for the church.  A church where the whole Word of God is taught and believers are proactively discipled, where God’s people pray together, fellowship together, serve together, worship together and go on mission together.  This does not mean we avoid acknowledging and responding to an evolving culture, but we should not compromise in this process and never subordinate God’s ways for our own.

The goal of the church is to join God in His work to redeem a lost world.  Our goal is not bigness, entertainment, seeker friendliness, grand facilities, or providing an unending array of programs and activities.   The goal is to establish a “healthy” church where God’s people grow in their relationship with God and go on mission and serve out of their love and obedience to God’s commands (John 14:15).

My heart as a pastor is focused in two primary areas; the first is the spiritual development of God’s people and secondly winning the lost.  These two key areas live at the intersection of the “Great Commission –Matt 28:19-20” and the “Great Commandment –Matt 22:37-40”.  This is the heart of the mission of a biblically focused church.

Doing God’s work and will God’s way should be our chief pursuit.  The only means for doing this is being deeply grounded in God’s Word and being obedient to all it commands.  I pray the church turns from the influence of the world and humbly returns to its foundation and becomes the influence Jesus intended His church to be on the world.

As for this pastor, I pray that God will provide by His Spirit the wisdom, courage, strength, and grace to stand strong and mirror the biblical foundation of His church.  An Acts 2 church where the power of the church is clearly seen by a lost and watching world through the lives of God’s people and a church exemplified by its love for God and where  God’s people live and serve in unity.

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Spiritual Leadership: Urgent need for the resurrection of the small church

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

The following is a short post on the urgent need for the resurrection of the small church in America.  The premise is that the greatest potential opportunity to grow committed surrendered followers of Christ and unleash the full potential of Christ’s church comes from intimate, intentional, proactive, and loving shepherding of the flock (1 Peter 5:2). This is Spiritual leadership at the heart of the gospel.

With over 70% of churches in the United States represented with memberships of less than 300, you have to ask what role the small church is playing in advancing the kingdom of God.   The reality is some are dynamic while many are a sleep.  According to the Southern Baptist Convention the majority of churches seem to be flat or in decline.  Yet, the small church, I believe has the greatest potential to be the catalyst for revival and advancing the cause of Christ in America.  The movement has begun as you see church planting and new church starts on the increase as a core strategy of many ministries, e.g. Acts 29 Ministries, the NAMB, larger local churches.

Why I believe the small church is the future of the church is because the greatest opportunity to advance the kingdom is for the local church to live at the intersection of the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).  To do this requires an intentional effort by the local church to focus on the spiritual development of God’s people helping them grow in holiness and an ever deepening relationship with Christ.  This intentionality requires a shepherds heart and continuous influence.  Peter exhorts church leaders to shepherd the flock.

 1 Peter 5:2
2Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;

What flock?  The flock that is among them!  This means that the primary focus of the pastor is to shepherd the flock God has given and from faithful commitment to this end God will advance His kingdom through the development of committed surrendered followers of Christ.   A healthy church is not necessarily based on its size or the number of new members, but the faithful shepherding of God’s people.  How then do you measure a healthy church?  Some elements include:

  • Marriages restored
  • Broken lives restored
  • Increase in faithful surrendered disciples –growing in holiness
  • Increase in the number of core members serving, going, telling
  • Increase in biblical literacy
  • Passion for prayer
  • Reverent worship
  • Intimate and frequent fellowship of the body

Collectively these areas bring into perspective a view of the apostolic church which grew exponentially through discipleship, prayer, fellowship, ministry, evangelism, and worship (Acts 2:38-47).  These are the basic fundamentals of the Christian walk.  Oh how we need to return to these core fundamentals today.  Not just in activity and by  name but out of the overflow of our love for Christ obediently following His commands (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14) and by faithfully employing core Christian disciplines to deepen our relationship with God, becoming more conformed to Christ so we are most usable for the kingdom (Eph. 4:13;Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor.  3:18).

To accomplish the above requires intentional, proactive, relentless, and loving shepherding of the flock God has given His shepherd.  It can be argued that the small church has a great potential to model the apostolic church led by spiritual leaders (shepherds) intent on the spiritual development of his people, growing them in holiness and Christlikeness where revival can be ignited and spread.

Today, given technology, communications, and many available ministry tools the small church can play much larger than it may be represented in numbers of members.  The avenues God may choose to lead a small church may come in many different flavors, many we readily know and employ today (internet, alliances, satellites, etc.).  However, most importantly we know that God’s ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).  So, if we really desire to join God in His work it is not our ways that we seek it is His revealing of His ways we desire.  How exciting to know that He has so much more for us than we can conceive and that as we remain faithful we can enjoy the potential privilege of having God reveal God sized activities we can join Him in where He can receive all the glory.  After all with God all things are possible (Luke 1:37).  Our job is to trust Him, be faithful in what He has given, and not put any limits on what He might desire to accomplish through us.  Consequently we much keep in perspective that small churches have no less potential to impact the kingdom of God than the large mega church!

Shepherding of Christ’s church is vital to the cause of Christ and is the key ingredient for the spiritual leadership of God’s people.  The small church is extraordinarily vital to God’s mission to redeem a lost world given the call to “shepherd the flock which has been given”.  Yes, I believe that the resurrection of the small church is crucial and urgently needed for bringing revival in the hearts of God’s people, His church, and our nation.  It starts with committed and surrendered shepherds – spiritual leaders on fire for advancing the kingdom through the shepherding of the God given body of believer’s he has been entrusted with.

Pray for God to raise up spiritual leaders to join Him in breathing new life into the small church, shepherding the flock for advancing the gospel and the kingdom of God.

Much more to come on this vital topic.

Moments of Decision – How to Control Your Thought Life

November 12, 2011 Leave a comment

In my experiences mentoring men and families one of the most common areas that seems to always surface is their thought life.   Questions often come from recurring thoughts about their past life before becoming a Christian and how/why this continues to happen now that they are following the Lord?  Men in particular are concerned about lust in their thoughts which they want to deny entry but continue to reoccur.  Women have great memories which can easily resurrect prior relationships and result in improper or impure thoughts.  These thought life situations are all too common, among others many other examples, and often produce guilt and helplessness on what to do about them.  The following article is an attempt to shed some light on this pervasive issue.  An issue that is difficult but not impossible to master.  It is a choice.  A moment of decision.

Why did I think that?  Where did that thought come from?  Why am I constantly thinking about that?  How do I stop these thoughts from coming into my mind? These nagging questions, to one degree or another, seem to confront us more frequently than we care to admit.   For the Christian these questions can often result in discouragement, doubt, lead to a wide range of sin and wage a constant battle for our thought life.  The following are some notable quotes on this pervasive and constant challenge before every Christian.

“Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions.” ~ J.C. Ryle

“Our minds are mental greenhouses where unlawful thoughts, once planted, are nurtured and watered before being transplanted into the real world of unlawful actions… These actions are savored in the mind long before they are enjoyed in reality. The thought life, then, is our first line of defense in the battle of self-control.”  Jerry Bridges

“No matter where it ends, sin always begins when an evil thought is sown in the mind and heart.”  John MacArthur

“Great illnesses seldom attack the body, without a previous train of premonitory symptoms. Great falls seldom happen to a saint, without a previous course of secret backsliding. The church and the world are sometimes shocked by the sudden misconduct of some great professor of religion. Believers are discouraged and stumbled by it. The enemies of God rejoice and blaspheme. But if the truth could be known, the explanation of such cases would generally be found to have been private departure from God. Men fall in private, long before they fall in public. The tree falls with a great crash, but the secret decay which accounts for it, is often not discovered until it is down on the ground.”  J.C. Ryle  Commentary, Matthew 26

“Imagination is a God-given gift; but if it is fed dirt by the eye, it will be dirty. All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. Therefore what feeds the imagination is of maximum importance in the pursuit of kingdom righteousness (Phil. 4:8)”. D.A. Carson

We must be reminded that the Bible teaches the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) and Jesus also taught that out of the heart precede evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19) so we should not be surprised at the rate, scope and nature of thoughts that might enter our minds.  Further we also have an enemy, Satan and his demons that are all too helpful in taking over our thought life if we allow. Consequently, it is critical that we proactively guard our minds from evil thoughts entering and if they enter we need to know how to quickly overcome before they take root.  This is an area where the proverbial ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure aptly applies.

The battle of the Christian walk is in the heart and mind, the thought life, both organs of the soul.  When you became a Christian you were immediately justified and positionally sanctified but you were also called to begin the life long process of progressive sanctification (separated unto holiness) which is the will of God (1Thess. 4:3) where you grow to become more like Christ (Eph 4:13;Romans 8:29; 2Cor. 3:18).  This process continues until the return of Christ when we will be changed to be like Him (1John 3:2) and with this hope comes our call to pursue holiness (1John 3:3;Heb. 12:14). 

It is critical then that we keep our hearts with all diligence for out of our hearts spring all the issues of life (Prov. 4:23).  The content of the Christian’s heart and mind and resulting thought life is to be zealously protected as we earnestly pursue holiness.  The following verses (italics my emphasis) highlight the importance of the mind’s (thought life) role in our ability to grow in holiness.

Romans 12:2
2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Ephesians 4:17-24
17This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 
18having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart
19who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20But you have not so learned Christ, 
21if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 
22that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 
23and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
 
24and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

1 Peter 1:13-16
13Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 
14as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 
15but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct

From the above verses we are clearly called into a continuing process of renewing our minds moving from the old ways of the flesh before we were saved to the new man walking in the Spirit after we are saved. 

So now we know that our hearts and minds are the source of our thought lives.  We also know the critical importance for the renewal and protection of our thought life as we pursue holiness in obedience to God’s command that we be holy; but how do I do this?  While much can be said, in this article I will briefly summarize some key actions we can take to protect and control our thought life.

First, it is imperative that we read and study the Bible. 

When we read and study the bible we are replacing those old thoughts before we were saved, planted by Satan, with God’s thoughts.  The only way you can be sure that the thought you are thinking is of God and not Satan is to know the Word of God.  We also need to be able to discern “good from evil” and allow the Bible to speak to us about the true intents of our hearts.  Without this foundation it will not be possible to proactively manage and control your thought life. 

Hebrews 5:13
14But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 4:12-13
12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 

Second, we need to consciously walk in the Spirit.  

Galatians 5:16
16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 

Not to walk in the Spirit is to open ourselves up to all the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21).  Paul then outlines for us the fruits of the Spirit which Christ perfectly lived as an example for us to follow (Gal 5:22-23).  Therefore living and walking in the Spirit, an indispensable component to controlling our thought life.

Third, we should guard our hearts and minds by focusing on what is good and praiseworthy.

Philippians 4:7-8
7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

Often the best approach to dealing with anxious or evil thoughts is to reorient and focus on those things which are positive, good, and praiseworthy.  Paul in his epistle of joy gives great encouragement as we overcome anxiety – giving it over to prayer and thanksgiving while channeling our thoughts toward anything that is praiseworthy.

Fourth, we need to guard against giving Satan access to our minds.

From Scripture it is evident that Satan is alive and well desiring to devour those He can.  Those that allow him to have a foothold in their lives do so by not being vigilant and sober minded.   Our ability to resist the devil is directly related to our being steadfast in our faith and having a dynamic and growing walk with God.  This is a spiritual war that is being waged for our minds and only by the Spirit of God can we resist.   This is a battle all believers experience – none are exempt from this fight.

1 Peter 5:8-9
8Be sober, be vigilant; £because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 
9Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 

James 4:7
7Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 

Scripture also tells us that the times are evil and we are to walk uprightly redeeming the time.  How do we do this?  By being wise and understanding what the will of the Lord is.  How do we do this?  We need to have a thorough intimate knowledge of God’s Word.  Our minds should be immersed in the Word otherwise idle minds are the devil’s workshop.  We need to constantly be active not passive in our walk with God always endeavoring to be obedient, growing in our knowledge of God, and actively engaged in doing His will.

Ephesians 5:15-17
15See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 
16redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

So briefly how do demonic forces attach themselves to us?   I believe the following analogy may be helpful in understanding how this works.

Satan has no power over us except the power we give him. Think of the mind as the United States and all fifty territorial states. Satan’s goal is to take and steal every one of these territories. He does it by taking one state at a time. How does he do this? When he implants in our minds a thought that is contrary to God’s Word and God’s revealed will to us by the Holy Spirit confirmed through the Word, when we decide to surrender to that thought and act upon it, then and only then is Satan able to attach Himself to us in that piece of territory of our mind. This is why the Bible tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but spiritual forces. Once we act upon that thought and the evil spiritual force which put it there then attaches itself to us, we then are under bondage to that idea and find ourselves not able to say no to the thought any longer even if we want to.

What is the solution once a thought gets attached to our minds? We must retake back that piece of territory Satan has stolen from us. Unfortunately once we have surrendered it, Satan does not want to give it back, and so begins the spiritual battle. How do we regain that area of our minds?  First, by confessing the sin to God.  Second, by repenting of the sin, by resurrendering that area of our lives to Jesus: “Jesus, I will to resubmit this area of my life to you and to obey Your will in this area of my life.” Third, remove from your life whatever is associated with the sin, whatever tempts you and causes you to fall to the sin.  Paul wrote in Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  If the flesh has opportunity, it will sin, so you must remove the object of temptation if you are to go on and have victory over the sin repented of.

Watchman Nee in his book The Spiritual Man outlines five ways we give control of our minds to Satan:

First, by not daily meditating on God’s word.

Second, by deliberately considering and living out sin in one’s mind.

Third, through willful ignorance of God’s truth’s and moral absolutes.

Fourth, by accepting any suggestion in the mind as if from God without questioning or checking to see if it lines up with God’s Word or past light of God.

Fifth, by deliberately blanking one’s mind so as to receive suggestions from evil spirits.

Do you find any of these areas contributing to your ability to control the purity of your thought life?  These are fairly self explanatory but offer a good guide for things to do and not do if we are going to resist the devil and take control of our thought lives. 

The control of our thought life is difficult

The mastery of our thought life is difficult, but then everything that seeks to honor God and counter the flesh, Satan, and the world is difficult.  The difficulty of controlling our thought life rests in the deep recesses of our heart and mind.  Our thought life is totally hidden.  It is impenetrable by even those closest to us.  Our thoughts have no immediate social impact. A person may have bitter thoughts of you yet meet you with a smile on their face.  An employee may despise their boss, yet outwardly be a model of obedience.  A person may have deep lustful thoughts as they sit at lunch in the school cafeteria, yet seem innocent without any emotional attachment. 

Yes our thought life is unlike other areas we seek to master such as our speech, behavioral issues, physical addictions, etc.  Our thought life is an area which is so private we believe that no one will ever know.  This way of thinking is of course of the devil given the Lord knows our heart and all of our thoughts (Ps 94:11; 1Cor 3:20;Matt 15:19).   Consequently, without appropriate prevention and correction, a Christian’s thought life can often result in debilitating feelings of guilt, depression, hopelessness, and a continuing spiral into ever deepening sinful behavior.  It is this secrecy, this surrounding darkness that has led men to say that thought is free without consequence, and that makes the mastery of thought so difficult.

The mastery of thought is within the power of every Christian

The thought life is a matter of the will.  It is a choice, a moment by moment decision, as are all other disciplines of the Christian life which lead to a life of holiness.  It is within the will and power of Christians to master their thought lives.  The following is a short summary list of some ways to help master the thought life.

  • If we will but surrender our lives to the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5). 
  • Choose to walk in the Spirit versus the flesh empowered by the Spirit of God (Gal 5:16). 
  • Choose to decrease and Christ increase in our lives to where He is overflowing where no ungodly thought has place of entry (John 3:30). 
  • Develop a solid pattern of Bible study, prayer, and Scripture meditation keeping your mind active and focused on godly pursuits (Ps 119:11)
  • Do not trust yourself to prevent entry of ungodly thoughts into your mind – trust in God, acknowledge Him and lean not on your own understanding – fear the Lord and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:5-8)
  • Do not allow idle time to give Satan access to your mind – those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:6-8)
  • Do all you can to think pure thoughts as any unscriptural thought works to penetrate the heart and mind  (Phil 4:9)

In the end you must fill your being so full of higher interests that when the devil comes and clamors for admission, he will find there is not a chair for him to sit on. Above all, you must endeavor daily to walk in a closer fellowship with Christ. It is always easier to have lovely thoughts when walking with the Altogether Lovely One. (Morrison)

Prayer: 

Philippians 4:8-9
8Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 
9The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Lord I know what I put in my mind determines what comes out in my words and actions. By your Spirit may my mind only have thoughts which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Examine my life and convict my spirit if there are any areas of my life such as people, television, internet, books, conversations, movies, and magazines corrupting my thought life. I pray Lord that you would replace harmful input with wholesome material. Above all, Lord would you place in my heart the desire to read your Word and pray without ceasing empowering me toward a pure thought life.   And where the enemy has captured my thought life I pray for release of that territory by the name and blood of Jesus.  Amen.

Mentoring Moment: 20 Accountability Questions for the Christian Walk

November 3, 2011 1 comment

One of the benefits of a mentor-mentee relationship is to hold one another accountable in their Christian walk.   Navigating daily life is challenging to say the least.  There are land mines of every type and temptations around every corner.  For the Christian desiring to lead a godly life the challenges are extraordinary given the standard by which we desire to live is God’s standards as prescribed in His Word.  

God’s ways and the world’s ways are clearly different, but never the less Christians’ must function and be salt and light in the dark world they live and work each day.   In order not to be overcome by the world’s values it is critical to have an accountability partner who will help keep us on track in our spiritual walk, moral behavior, dealings with temptations, and overall ensure our integrity and Christian testimony is maintained in tack.

The Bible is clear that a man left on his own will deceive himself with regard to His own perceived righteousness.  Only God weighs the heart (Prov. 21:2).  Therefore it is vital that God’s Word be the standard for all our conduct and our true “accountability guide”(Heb. 4:12-13).   God’s Word also states that as “iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Prov. 27:17).   Therefore knowing that we are prone to deceive ourselves God has helped us see that others can be of enormous value in helping keep us sharp and alert in our Christian walk.

The Bible says that a good name is of greater value than riches and will find favor and blessings from the Lord. (Prov. 22:1) To have a good name we must walk in our integrity and lead a righteous life (Prov 20:7) which the Bible says is more acceptable than sacrifice(Prov. 21:3).  In order words God expects us to do what is right and just and that the sacrifices we present to God are not offered with sin-stained hands.   The calling is clear, it is God’s will our sanctification (setting us apart unto holiness -1 Thess. 4:3,7) so that our lives are not conformed to former ways and lusts but we are called to be holy in all our conduct (1 Peter 1:14-15).

How do we then help each other maintain accountability for our conduct, Christian testimony and growth in our faith?   One component in this broad area is to regularly ask questions which are designed to probe the spirit and encourage proactive right behavior, accountability to God’s Word, repentance, and affirm God’s work in the life being challenged.  These questions are not designed to produce unnecessary guilt but stimulate discussion and encourage.

Here are 20 question categories you might begin with and then add to the list as led:

  1. What are the greatest challenges you have been experiencing?  What are the greatest joys?
  2. How has your walk with God been since we last met?  Have you been experiencing the abundant life, experiencing His presence, drawing on His wisdom and strength?
  3. Have you been spending consistent time with God on a regular basis in prayer and Bible reading/study?  What have you gained in this time?  How is God speaking to you?  What are you reading and studying in addition to your quiet time that is deepening your relationship with God?
  4. In what ways have you stepped out in faith since we last met; given your testimony; sensed God’s activity in your life?
  5. What has been your greatest disappointment since we last met?  How have you handled this?
  6. Is there any hatred, bitterness, spite, resentment, or unforgiveness in your heart toward another person?  Have you gossiped about any person or situation?
  7. How have you managed your tongue?  Have you been sharp, unkind, or said things you should not have said to anyone? Have you used language that is inappropriate (swearing, laughing at inappropriate jokes)?  Have you compromised your integrity in any way by your speech?
  8. How have you served others since we last met?  What were your motives and attitudes when serving?
  9. Have you procrastinated on important things in your daily life and spiritual walk that should not be put off?
  10. Are you spending too much time at work or in other activities at the expense of family, others, and your spiritual life?
  11. Have you been spending good quantity and quality time with your spouse, children, mother or father?  What have you done since we last met to enhance relationships?  Are you praying together?
  12.  Are you giving to the Lord’s work financially?  Have you misused your finances by buying things you don’t need at the expense of your tithe and other responsibilities?
  13. Have you spent time with or talked with anybody that could have been misinterpreted as something unholy?  Have you endeavored to avoid the appearance of evil?
  14. Have you accessed internet sites, watched movies or television which is inappropriate that would have grieved the Spirit, had a negative impact on someone else, detracted from your testimony or hindered your spiritual walk?
  15. Have you committed any sexual sin? Have you had improper thoughts about the opposite sex?  Has your thought life been pure?  Are you wrestling with any sexual sin temptation?  Have you put yourself in an awkward situation with the opposite sex?
  16. Have you used or abused any substance as an escape instead of casting all your cares upon the Lord (cigarettes, food, alcohol, drugs, excessive caffeine, etc.)?
  17. Are you taking time to exercise your body and eat the proper foods?  Are your eating habits healthy?  Are you taking time for rest and relaxation?  Is there excessive stress in your life and how are you handling?
  18. Is there anything you are hiding or something else you need to be accountable for which I did not ask you?
  19. Overall does the external you and the internal you match?  Are you leading with your life?
  20. What is your number one need in the coming week and how can I pray for you?

Yes, these are tough questions as they should be.  Those who desire to lead holy lives as commanded in Scripture will quickly desire to be held accountable to godly biblical standards.   Our desire should be to do all we can to be pleasing to the Lord and become more conformed to the character of Jesus Christ.  Peter gives a series of actions which we should earnestly pursue with all diligence for fruitful growth in the faith and to keep ourselves from stumbling:

2 Peter 1:5-11
5But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 
6to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 
7to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 
8For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
9For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
10Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 
11for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Lord may you provide me with an accountability partner that can place in front of me your standards so that I might lead a life pleasing to you with a heart and testimony which is true to your Word.  Lord by your Spirit convict my spirit moment by moment to any sense of sin in my life that I might not sin against you and should I stumble be convicted to immediately confess, repent, and be cleansed. Lord I pray there is never anything in my life that would be between you and me.   May you crush my pride so that I am not deceived by my own thoughts, wisdom, and self-centeredness into a life style absent your favor, blessings, wisdom, and guidance!  May I lead with my life centered in Christ each day for the honor and glory of the kingdom.

Mentoring Moment: 10 benefits of having a spiritual mentor

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Proverbs 27:17
17    As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
9    Two are better than one,      Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10    For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.     But woe to him who is alone when he falls,     For he has no one to help him up.

Every Christian needs a spiritual mentor.  Each benefit and are stronger together.  The question is whether or not we will reach out and seek the counsel and guidance of a mentor.  Yes, the benefits are invaluable and provide a lifeline in the sea of life that has far too many storms.  But perhaps you are wondering what some of the key benefits might be of such a relationship.   Is it worth it?

While certainly not all inclusive the following is a short list of key benefits from establishing a relationship with a spiritual mentor:

  1. Someone to believe in you:  everyone desires affirmation.  A mentor is someone who believes in you even when understanding all the clutter and imperfections in your life.  Someone who will listen carefully to your passions, dreams, goals, hang-ups, and immature ideas and provide caring objective input you can trust which takes into account their sense of how God is working in your life. (Barnabas and John MarkActs 15:36-39; 2 Tim 4:11)
  2.  Provides a role model:  a mentor has a tall order to fill by presenting themselves as a role model that is not only in talk but in walk.  Spiritually this means that they “lead with their life” as commanded by Scripture where it is evident they are led by the Holy Spirit and present a godly role model of Christ-like behavior to those they mentor.  Seeing a godly life lived out is an invaluable benefit. (Paul 1 Cor. 11:1)
  3.  Promotes spiritual growth:  spiritual mentors are by definition to help others develop a solid pattern of spiritual discipline in their lives which helps deepen their personal relationship with God, help them to grow in the image of Christ, and prepare them to become most usable for the kingdom.  This activity includes formal and informal Bible study, directed reading, training in the Christian disciplines (quiet time, bible reading, prayer, etc.), helping to determine spiritual gifts and ministry direction.   The spiritual life patterns established early on in this relationship are designed to benefit those mentored a lifetime. (Paul Phil 3:13)
  4.  Provides accountability:  today’s cultural environment provides many land mines and diversions.  It is not difficult for the enemy to attempt to derail someone who earnestly desires to deepen their relationship with God.  Consequently having a mentor accountability partner is an invaluable benefit for asking tough questions, heading off danger, and derailing diversions. Samuel and Saul (1 Sam. 9-15)
  5. Is an Encourager:  the “me” generation of today does not widely promote the notion of encouragement to others.  While the Bible is clear that we should look out for the needs of others we often fail in our follow through.  Mentees benefit from proactive encouragement from their mentors, who understand the power and value of this critical motivator. (Barnabas and Paul Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-30; 11:22-30)
  6.  Available in times of crisis:  the Bible is clear that we will experience trials in our lives.  We don’t know when, their nature, duration or depth but they will come.  Mentors provide a tremendous benefit to those mentored as they experience trials in their lives.  Mentors help mentees understand God’s ways and purposes in difficult times; provide counsel and help to navigate through times of crisis; and provide comfort and stability from a trusted relationship. (Paul and Silas Acts 16)
  7. Helps establish and achieve goals: mentors provide valuable advice and objective input as personal and spiritual goals are thought through and established.  Once established mentors can then help to monitor, suggest adjustments, and counsel along the way as needed.  The real benefit in these areas is helping ensure that the balance of personal and spiritual goals is appropriate, e.g. keeping God as the central focus and priority, ensuring that the mentees spiritual growth pattern is not disrupted by other pursuits. (Paul and Timothy 1 & 2 Timothy)
  8.  Provide trusted counsel in life decisions:  mentors provide invaluable benefit for providing counsel in major life decisions given the depth of knowledge and relationship developed with the mentee.  Some of these decisions come quickly and others may be prepared for.   Regardless of the urgency having a trusted objective advocate for weighing major life decisions is extremely valuable (Paul and Titus – Titus)
  9.  Benefits other relationships in your life:  As mentees grow in their faith and pursuit of a godly Christ-like life virtually every other relationship they have will be positively impacted.  Friends, family, co-workers, employees, etc. will all see a changed life.  This changed life has the potential to heal relationships, draw others to Christ, and influence others toward a similar experience.  (Gal. 5:23-24)
  10. Provides an opportunity to give back: Yes, changed lives draw others to themselves as they see the Spirit of God at work and will establish the groundwork for the mentee to potentially become a mentor to others as God leads.  God’s great commission for our lives is to make disciples.   Becoming a mentor is a response to this command and the benefit to others cannot be measured in human terms, only from an eternity perspective.   The true opportunity to give back and invest in the kingdom is the investing in the lives of others.  (Matt 28:19)

Mentoring relationships take various forms.  Those most familiar is a senior to a junior.  However, peer on peer mentoring is also a viable approach.  I encourage an open mind allowing God to lead.  He is perfect in His wisdom and will bring the people together that He desires in a mentor-mentee relationship.   Trust Him and be alert to God’s activity.  Is he speaking to you that you need a mentor?  Has He introduced you to new people that you immediately sparked to which appear to be godly?  Do you have issues, decisions, uncertainties in your life that are crying out for counsel?  Whatever the circumstances God is at work around you and will make it clear whose paths cross for mentoring purposes.  The benefits are priceless.  Be alert and respond immediately.  Don’t wait!

Mentoring Moment: 10 Questions you need to ask as you consider becoming a mentor

October 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Spiritual leadership and mentoring are closely aligned.  One thing they have in common is an underlying reality that “We can’t take someone where we have not been”.   This is particularly critical in God’s economy given God’s ways are not man’s ways (Is 55:8-9). But don’t be discouraged if you feel suddenly uncertain and perhaps a little unprepared.    Let’s look at some questions someone might ask who sense God’s calling to be a spiritual mentor.

First God knows whose paths to bring together for a mentor and mentee relationship.  If we are sensitive to God’s activity in our lives we will be well aware of those we come in contact with and if God is purposing this encounter for a specific reason.   Our task is to be prepared to respond to God’s leading.   Here are some potential questions that you might reflect on as you consider God’s leading and preparation for becoming a spiritual mentor:

  1. Have you been in or are you in a mentor-mentee relationship yourself and benefited?
  2. Have you experienced an extended period of consistent spiritual growth?
  3. Have you established a strong pattern of spiritual discipline in your life?
  4. Does your life speak of your walk with God and not just your talk?
  5. Have you sensed God speaking to you regarding His desire for you to be a mentor?
  6. Has God brought specific people in your life with a desire to grow in their relationship with God?
  7. Are you willing to adjust your personal priorities to the time required to invest in others?
  8. Spiritual leaders/mentors are learners, are you willing to continue to learn as you mentor?
  9. If you are married, does your spouse support this calling?
  10. Do you desire more than anything to lead a holy surrendered life to the Lord Jesus Christ?

The idea of being a spiritual mentor does not mean we are perfect, need a degree in theology, or have an extraordinary list of life experiences.  What it does mean is that we are men and women that have experienced God in our lives in such a way that God has the opportunity to use our relationship with Him to point others in that direction.   

Paul said imitate me as I imitate Christ and follow my example and so walk in the pattern I have given you.  Spiritual mentors have a high calling.  They are to set an example and pattern in their lives which imitates Christ.   Is this the current pattern you endeavor to live?

1 Corinthians 11:1
1Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

Philippians 3:17
17Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 

In my experience if you ever feel fully prepared to be a spiritual mentor you are not ready to be one.  Spiritual mentors are those who humbly assume the responsibility God has given them to help lead others into a deeper relationship with Him.  They know that it is a calling fully empowered by the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom and discernment in this journey.  It is not a journey primarily empowered by human wisdom and experience while God may use these skills in the process.

Further “Iron sharpens Iron”(Proverbs 27:17) and while there is a defined mentor and mentee relationship both benefit enormously from the relationship as God works in each life to develop character and serve His purposes.  

Clearly one of the most urgent needs of God’s people today is the need for spiritual mentors. Life on life relationships which help build a sure foundaton and growing relationship with God.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider this calling and be willing to pay the price for Christ’s sake.   The rewards are extraordinary.  Perhaps Paul’s prayer to the Colossians sums up the goals of spiritual mentoring best.

Colossians 1:9-11
9For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 
10that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 
11strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 

You are Now Leaving the Comfort Zone: Top 25 Words Not Preached Much Anymore

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

It is time to leave the comfort zone of partial preaching of the Word of God.  The Bible is clear that we are to teach and preach the whole Word of God which is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. Preachers and teachers are commanded to “preach the Word” (ALL Scripture) not just to scratch the itching ears of those who just want to hear what they want to hear.  Unfortunately we find this is what is happening more often than we care to acknowledge in our churches.

2 Timothy 3:15-17
15and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 
17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 2 Timothy 4:2-3
2Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 

It is not too difficult to see the dilemma resulting from preaching the whole Word of God as the writer of Hebrews helps us understand since it is piercing to our souls and spirit and a discerner of our true hearts.  Something by nature we look to avoid.

Hebrews 4:12-13
12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 
13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

The result is that many pulpits today seem to be largely void of a number of key teachings and doctrines which are crucial to fully accomplishing the purposes of Scripture.   This may be the result of not wanting to step on toes, keep from controversy, or just wanting to be liked.  Whatever the reasons, failure to preach the whole Word of God is having a devastating impact on God’s people and His Church leaving them ill-equipped to fully accomplish God’s purposes and live obedient lives pleasing to Him.

The following is my quick top 25 list of areas (not in any order) which seem to get limited or no attention today.

  1. God’s sovereignty
  2. God’s goodness and severity
  3. Pursuit of Holiness
  4. The Fear of God
  5. Sin
  6. Satan
  7. The Reality of Hell
  8. Judgment
  9. Prayer and How to Pray
  10. Revival
  11. Basic Doctrines of the Bible
  12. Biblical authority
  13. Biblical Interpretation
  14. Election
  15. Predestination
  16. Christian Disciplines
  17. Sanctification
  18. Assurance
  19. Eternal security
  20. Reverence for God
  21. Obedience
  22. Attributes of God
  23. Surrender
  24. Discipleship
  25. Worship

I am sure that many will have their own list, but the important thing to recognize is that we are creating a Christian culture where many core biblical doctrines are not being taught leaving Christians with only a partial knowledge of God’s Word, His ways and purposes.   We are operating without the full appreciation for the distance between a holy God and sinful man, and a lack of fear, reverence, and appropriate motivations for our spiritual walk.

The consequences are far reaching.  Christians are not fully equipped for their spiritual journey to grow in holiness, obedience, being prepared to defend the faith, share the gospel, and live a life knowledgeable of the ways of God giving them confidence, assurance and hope.   

Romans 15:4
4For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

God give us courage to preach and teach All the Scriptures.

Prayer:  Father will you convict our hearts (preachers, teachers, the body of Christ) to fully embrace and teach/learn all your Word so that we may know you, your ways, and purposes; become more conformed to your son, and more usable for your kingdom.  May we have courage to teach all of Your Word in order to fully inform, convict, correct, and exhort to holiness as we live in obedience to your commands for the purpose of glorifying and pleasing you.  May all who hear your Word apply what they hear to their lives; some to salvation and others to holiness!