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Archive for August, 2013

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 72

72. the Son can do nothing by himself (John 5:19).

Had Jesus been operating in His own power, He could not have been our example, for if He had access to power that is unavailable to us, then we could not walk where He walked or do the things that He did. Yes, He came to earth as fully God and fully man, but this passage reminds us that He laid aside His own power and worked by the same Spirit that fills our lives. His identity as God didn’t change, but He emptied himself of that which we could never reach. His life is proof that with the power of God’s Spirit, we can live without sin and with miraculous evidence of God’s presence in our lives. Why don’t we? We fail to let God live through us.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 109

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.

Whom do you respect? As I watch the political landscape unfold in each day’s newspaper, I wonder who we respect anymore. The president sure doesn’t get much. Seems it doesn’t matter who he is, if he’s from the other side of the political aisle, people feel comfortable lampooning every move he makes.

Other leaders are just as easily criticized. We just don’t know what respect looks like anymore. Not long ago I heard an old-timer griping about how today’s “kids” don’t know what it means to respect their elders. That afternoon I saw the same old-timer had posted some pretty disrespectful statements about his congressman on his Facebook page. Guess it’s hereditary.

Respect is akin to honor. It demands that we regard those with greater responsibility to be worthy of trust and understanding of their larger assignment. I may not agree with every move a leader makes, but I don’t drive behind his windshield either. I don’t know what he knows or face what he faces, so my “wisdom” probably isn’t sufficient for the truth of his challenges. Therefore, I should respect him and trust that he’s giving his best to the work before him.

Or perhaps we think our leaders set out each day to irritate us and to make foolish choices. Perhaps they rise each day thinking, “How can I mess up the world today?” Seriously? I’m pretty sure they are as desperate to do a good job as we are in our work. They’re probably balancing more sides than just ours and they certainly have more people to please than just us. Doesn’t it make sense to at least cut them a little slack, if not offer a bit of respect? I think it does.

God set up this world with a few core principles, and one of them is “you get what you give.” Okay, you can use the sowing-reaping terminology if you want, but the truth is still the same. You may question whether giving respect will necessarily cause you to be respected, but I can guarantee you that showing disrespect will land the same in your lap.

So next time you’re tempted to trash a leader in either personal or electronic conversation, remember that God would have you do better than that.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 71

71. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (John 5:14).

These words of Jesus to the man He healed have focused many on the possible connection between sin and sickness. But beyond that important question lies another–how often do we continue in our sinful path after Jesus has removed sin from our lives? Forgiveness is a powerful form of healing, and we rejoice when we are given such a gift. But isn’t it squandered when we then return to the very things Jesus washed from our lives? Sin and sickness may not be related in every case, but sin and bad consequences are permanently joined at the hip.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

10 Questions for Small Group Planning – 4

10 Questions for Small Group Planning – 4

In recent weeks, we’ve looked at three critical questions for small group ministry planning:

1. Why are we doing small groups?

2. What will our small groups do?

3. Who will we involve in small groups?

 

Next on our list is another important decision for leaders:

4. Will we keep an open chair?

In small groups “lingo” the open chair symbolizes the openness of the group toward new people. Will our groups maintain an openness to new attenders or will they be closed groups, where people must sign up at the group’s beginning in order to experience the content to be studied.

In most cases, relational groups have the best chance of remaining open to new people. After all, these groups have fellowship as their goal so adding someone new to the group seems like a “no-brainer” doesn’t it? Discipleship groups that tackle a specific curriculum often are more closed because if you miss out on the first weeks of study, it can be difficult to join in the later weeks.

But relationship groups aren’t easy to keep open either Most have found that after a group has met together for six months, they tend to functionally close. We have formed a group and the desired friendships have formed. Now it gets harder to welcome in new people.

Most pastors dream of small groups being a “front door” to the church. By “front door” we mean a place where people can first engage the church and its ministries. Perhaps someone is invited and attends a small group before ever entering the church building on a Sunday. That’s the dream, but it’ not easy trying to make it a reality.

Many find that to get new people involved in small groups, you often have to start new groups. To add new people to existing groups requires great intentionality. Group members have to clearly understand this goal and finds ways to invite and welcome new people.

Some churches try to overcome the tendency toward small groups with a semester approach where groups disband and reform two or three times a year. While this can help get new people involved, it can also be very disruptive to successful relational groups and it provides an easy opportunity for some people to disappear from small group ministry altogether.

However you approach this question, understand that openness doesn’t just happen. It must be a strong and clear part of the plan if it will become a reality. There’s no room for assumptions here. Keeping small groups open takes hard work.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 70

70. The man who was healed had no idea who it was (John 5:13).

How easily we overlook the most important part of our miracle–the One who gave it. It’s hard to blame a lame man for his excitement in being able to pick up his mat and walk, but to not have any idea who healed him when he had just had a conversation with his Healer, really? How quick are we to celebrate the answer to our prayers and forget the One who gave the answer? In the preceding verses, we see that this man was quick to blame others for his predicament, so how could he not focus on the One who gets credit for his healing? Yes, celebrate his healing, but it’s hard not to see his self-focus, no matter the condition of his legs.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 108

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.

Steroids have become the bane of modern baseball. Today greatness cannot be achieved without confronting the question of “clean” or not. Given that most of us grew up with a few heroes from the ball diamond, it’s sad to think how would-be players today must grow up without such admirations.

Mistakes are common to us all. I don’t think the worst of this era is the use of banned substances or the breaking of rules. Instead, it’s the effort to sidestep the truth. Apparently, we aren’t guilty unless our actions can be proven and we lose all appeals. Then we come clean, hoping to restore public opinion and any lost endorsement contracts.

But right is still right no matter what the famous might do to dent it. Living above reproach is the still the Christ-follower’s mandate. That means guarding your heart and doing what’s right whether or not you might get caught. Getting away with little things dents the Christian’s armor and will ultimately create gaping holes in his character. We must be committed to righteousness, and not to the mere avoidance of headlines.

Sure, we can insist that real heroes are the guys at home, the ones who don’t shrink from responsibility, the fellas that work hard and provide for their families. But these heroes can be just as easily dented by compromises. Don’t think you can cheat your work day or take advantage of the things “everybody’s doing” without damaging your reputation and your future respect. You’ve got to be the right man everyday if you will still be the right man someday.

Excellence requires knowing the truth regardless of whether you get your name in the paper. Be the man you would look up to and you’ll give your children (and other people’s children) what they need to chart a healthy course for their lives.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 69

69. “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).

Is that a crazy question? Surely if one has been afflicted with disease for 38 years, he wants to get well, or does he? How many people continue in sin with no desire for change? No, we do not equate this man’s illness with sin, but sin is an “illness” in itself–one that many people prefer to hold onto, having become addicted to its “freedoms” and temporary feelings of pleasure. When Jesus approaches us in our sin, do we want to get well or do we prefer to continue in our current path at this time? To reject cleansing seems as ludicrous as this man rejecting healing, but it’s a choice people make every day.