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Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 29

29. No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3).

The kingdom of God cannot be perceived intellectually. One cannot be reasoned into understanding its core realities. Instead, a man must recognize his need of God, bow low in repentance, and lift his eyes in faith before that kingdom will come into view. That’s the essence of Nicodemus’ struggle. He has searched for sufficient signs to believe, but at the end of the day, signs do not convince one of spiritual truth. Faith does. Nicodemus came to Jesus not because he believed, but because he was afraid not to believe. He wanted to rule out Jesus’ claims and His possible origin so he could continue life as he had known it. He wanted answers, not relationship, and probably not even hope.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 87

March 27, 2013 1 comment

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Let’s continue our journey through the five step journey to conquering the temptations that have been conquering you. Step 1 is to acknowledge your weakness daily. Step 2 is to avoid the wildernesses–those places of weakness that increase your chances of stumbling. Last week we looked at the choosing the escape–the very critical Step 3. Now we’re ready to look at the fourth of these five steps toward defeating the moments of temptation.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   Matthew 4:3-4

Some people seem to think that yelling “no” at the temptation or at the evil one who brings it is the way that we resist the devil. Not hardly. Just because you say “no” Satan doesn’t immediately leave. No, he hangs around to see if you’re sure. We might say “no” in the moment, but if we keep thinking possibilities or allowing the tempting thought to linger in our minds, our “no” loses strength no matter how loudly we yelled it.

Here’s the truth about temptation—God won’t make the choice for you. God doesn’t tempt you toward sin, but He also doesn’t keep us away from these moments. You have to make a decision to resist temptation, and when you do, He will strengthen your choice, but you have to make that choice and take the first step away from the temptation.

This is why simply spouting Scriptures at the Devil doesn’t work. Some have thought that the name of Jesus works like a magic repellant with Satan, but Satan doesn’t run from the name of Jesus. He runs from Jesus, and from those who really know Jesus and are depending on His strength and sacrifice. Remember there were guys in the book of Acts that tried to use Jesus’ name without really having relationship with Him. Things didn’t go so well in their encounter with the demonic.

Satan doesn’t run away from your words unless their connect to choices. That’s why many “spiritual” people are trapped in sin. They’ve learned the words, but haven’t chosen to live them.

Fill Your Mind with God’s Word so you can make them foundational to choices. Live the book, and when you walk away from sin, rehearse its promises. How about Proverbs 3:5-6? Maybe remember that Jesus said, “I will never leave you…”

Let Scriptures fuel your steps away from the moment. We must learn to flee temptation by running to God!

That’s why Step 4 is to Run with God’s Word.

 

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 28

28. Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God (John 3:2).

The Pharisee gets it. Though it appears that this conversation occurs in the early moments of Jesus’ ministry, Nicodemus has already seen enough to believe that Jesus comes from God. He is a prophet, for sure. The ensuing conversation is Nicodemus’ effort to determine if more is possible. But the point is that Nicodemus doesn’t let jealousy or other wrong motives block his view of what is obvious–Jesus comes from God. His friends won’t be as wise. They will let their dislike for Jesus color their view until some even believe He has come from Satan. Truth is, when our emotions get the best of us, our judgment seldom improves.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Assimilation – Putting the Pieces Together Part 2

Can your guests tell what you’re all about?

Here’s the challenge. Our Sunday services are typically a practiced journey through a very familiar order of service. We do the things we do and do them to the best of our ability. And, our congregation has learned to appreciate, value, and even be proud of each part. It’s our thing and we do it as good as we can.

But if your “thing” revealing what you are really passionate about?

Remember that your guests are solidifying their first impression of your church in an average of twelve minutes, so while we want to welcome them very well and get off to a good start, do you want them deciding what they think of you without knowing the things you care about most?

We call those things “values” or “priorities.” They are the “why” of our ministries. Unfortunately, our guests often have to attend for a month or more before they begin to know what’s most important to us. They have to sort out what we care about from what we do, and most don’t stay around long enough to get that list figured out.

They think we like to sing, ’cause we do a lot of that. They picked up on how we value teaching since we do a lot of that, even in our smaller events. The probably can tell we like to eat since most of our bulletin items involve food. And they can probably tell that we like to be busy because there’s a lot going on. But is that the right list?

Think of ways you can let your true values show every Sunday. If you value worship (I’m sure you do), help your guests connect the dots by explaining the why behind all this music and those offering moments. If you preach because you believe the Bible is the pattern for life we all need, tell me that! Don’t just assume I know why it’s important.

Why do we take time in a service to shake hands with and smile at others? Because we want to be a family and get to know each other. We value friendships, and here’s a chance to get one started. Again, give me the “why” so I can value the moment like you do.

And try to eliminate those things that don’t reveal your priorities. For example, don’t make announcements just so people will get event details. Let the announcements you make reveal your priorities. So, we encourage everyone to join a small group because we value relationships and the learning that happens best in a smaller setting. We announce small groups because we believe each of us need to be in one.

And we announce an upcoming service project because serving is a way that we grow. Reaching out to others is vital to our development so that’s why we’re serving at the local food kitchen this Saturday. Help people connect the dots between your events and your priorities.

By the way, if you can’t clearly identify a connection between an event and your highest values, don’t waste service time announcing it. There are other ways to get event details communicated! Let your guests see your priorities in everything you do.

On some level, your guests will walk away thinking they know what you care about. So work hard to be sure they have an accurate idea. Yes, the members have living our service order for decades, and we might assume that they know why we do what we do (they probably don’t). But restore the meaning to every moment and make it clear so your guests will know who you are and why you think they should join in to what you are doing.

So what does your church value most? Make a list of the top five and find ways to display those values every Sunday. Knowing what you care about is a critical part of someone’s willingness to become a regular part of your congregation. So give them the info they need to make that choice.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 27

27. He came to Jesus at night (John 3:2).

Don’t we all? We come to Jesus when the darkness surrounds us. We come to Jesus when we hope to hide from the reality of our quest. We come to Jesus when we are overwhelmed, and the light of our lives is on the verge of going out. Sure, the text simply offers an explanation of the setting, but the symbolic realities of Nicodemus’ timing do more than prove he was afraid of the eyes of his friends. He could wait no longer. The curiosity had become need had become desperation. How wonderful to find Jesus in the dark.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 86

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Let’s continue our journey through the five step journey to conquering the temptations that have been conquering you. Step 1 is to acknowledge your weakness daily. Step 2 is to avoid the wildernesses–those places of weakness that increase your chances of stumbling. Check out the last couple of week’s blogs for the full details. Now for step three.

13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.                                                         1 Corinthians 10:13

I love this promise—God tells us that every temptation has an escape route. There is an exit ramp waiting to be found, so that means you don’t have to succumb to temptation. You CAN overcome!

First, this passage let’s you know that you’re not facing anything terribly unique. Temptation and the battle to overcome it is the common human experience. You’re not alone so admitting your weakness isn’t earth-shattering. In fact, Paul tells us that what you’re facing is familiar to a lot of people. So you’re not alone in the challenge, and you’re not alone in the possibility for victory.

AND know that a way of escape will be there. Here’s the truth—there’s a moment where stopping runs through the mind. When temptation strikes, the idea to turn away appears as well. And in that evaporating moment, you have a choice. You can choose to walk away or choose to give into the familiar trap.

Unfortunately, we often we sail by the escape moment, thinking it will return. In truth, there’s usually only one exit and if you ignore it, well, it’s going to be hard to stop.

Perhaps the most important truth to capture is that the exit will come, but it always comes early in the temptation. Moments after the initial thought forms in your mind, the window for escape shows up too, and that’s the time to choose it. Once you ignore the escape, there’s usually no turning back.

You may think you’ll get a second chance to escape, but once you let the tempting thoughts linger, you’ve crossed a line that’s difficult to return from. When the score was tempting thought-1 and escape thought-1, you could have won the battle. But once we let the tempting thoughts pile up, the score gets lopsided and we lose the chance to win.

So how do you help yourself choose the exit? Consider the consequences. Perhaps picturing the face of a loved one will help your choice. If only we could see that exit as a fork in the road, with those you love waving you toward the exit.

It’s amazing how easily we can ignore the possible consequences of our sin. We can realize that it “could” cost us, but we don’t think it will. So we become careless when it comes to risk. That’s a guy thing.

As boys, we stuck our fingers close to a biting turtle to get him to snap. We toss rocks off a cliff to watch them fall. And rather than avoid sin, we try to get close without falling in. Bad strategy.

Good strategy? Look for the escape route and take it.

 

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 26

26. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them for he knew all men (John 2:24).

John’s somewhat cryptic words reveal that Jesus held His identity from those around Him in these early days. His knowledge of people caused him to know that if those who opposed Him connected the dots, they would seek to remove Him prematurely. At the same time, those who followed Him were not ready for such revelation. Their inability to keep such information would escalate conflict and keep Him from making them into disciples. Sadly, Jesus could not trust any of them with the deepest truth He carried.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys