You Will See It

»Posted by on Oct 15, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

You Will See It

It can be hard to hang on to hope sometimes, especially when any hope of change seems to be fading like the summer sun.

  • We are still at this job
  • We are still at no job
  • The spouse isn’t changing
  • The child is still running from God
  • Not sure if we’ll ever love again
  • This car isn’t running much longer

In 2 Timothy 2:1 Paul sharpens Timothy with the words, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Now we could be strong in a lot of things.

  • Some of us have a strong personality.
  • Some of us are strong in complaining.
  • Some of us have a strong passion for the outdoors.
  • Some of us have strong breath (how about a pocket mint?)

God says, “Be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus.”

Be Strong in Grace

What was the apostle Paul’s advice to his young protege pastor as he dealt with the stresses of meeting people’s needs and steering around and into conflicts?  Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

What do we need to hear again and again?

Be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus.

Some would describe grace as the unmerited favor of God. Absolutely true. Grace means you have favor with the King for nothing you did. When we really come to know Christ, it’s because we’ve stopped trying to bring God our worthiness, our eminence, our works, our virtue, our performance, and we’ve said, “Father, I have nothing to commend myself to you. Thank you that, because of Jesus, You give me You approval anyway.” This is a good, correct, theological definition.

Who needs your unearned kindness today?

Be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus.

Still, apart from mentioning God’s compassion, the previous definition can sound a little clinical.

Grace springs from a right kind of righteous pity the Lord has for us. He looks at us, he looks at the devastation that has been caused our sin and the sin around us, and in loving sorrow He says, “I will do this for them just because my heart aches for them. They don’t benefit me in any way, but because of my sympathetic affection for these humans, I’m going to come to their aid.” God operates by the principle of grace, meaning everything He does, He does out of loving condescension and mercy for us, just because He wants to love us.

Where could you demonstrate compassion on someone who created their own mess? 

Be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus.

This next definition may be my favorite:

Grace is the power of God coming into our lives to help us do what is impossible for us to do on our own. Grace is God doing for you and I what we can’t do for ourselves.

So when we are contemplating how we’re going to

  • Make it through school
  • Finally get that promotion
  • Deal another day with this addiction
  • Keep loving a verbally abusive spouse
  • Find enough volunteers
  • Get some altitude above these failure issues
  • Survive the winter with this crushing depression
  • Be the parent that we would like to be

In exactly these these moments, what should we do?

We should lean heavily into God. We should act like our victory depends on Him. We believe in our hearts that if He does not come through, we are in deep weeds. You and I have got to come to the end of ourselves. We’ve got to toss our hands in the air, quit trying to work our plan, and say, “Jesus, I need you to work Your plan, I need You to BRING me through this, and I need You to do it by Your grace.”

We need to whisper, “God will do it. I will decide to be strong in the grace of God.”

What are your hurdles? Where are you tempted to give up?

Be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus.

Even when nothing is happening. Even when it has been forever. Even when you’re endlessly walking. God’s grace will be all the power we need – even when all there is to do . . . is just get through.

Quit the Negetive Talk

One of the dangers of longer trials is the effect they can have on our faith. When we allow disappointments and detours to pull us into a negative mindset, expecting everything to stay old, dead and stale, we need to pay attention to what we’re saying (and thinking)

“There’s no hope for me. Nothing is ever going to go well. I suppose there’s always heaven. I guess I’m just meant to have a horrible lot in life.”

Can I lovingly encourage you with this?: YOU BETTER QUIT THAT MESS!

Every one of us, from time to time, needs to grab ourselves by the scruff of the neck and give ourselves a stern talking to.

When David was being chased by Saul, he penned this:

“I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

Nothing I’ve conceived can compare to how awesome heaven is going to be. But I’m expecting some things from God right now.

God works by faith, and our words can affect our faith, so as long as we have breath, you and I need to declare out of our mouths:

  • I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
  • This trial won’t get the best of me!
  • I’m getting through this, no matter how long it takes!
  • I’m not giving up!  The Spirit of an overcomer lives in me.
  • I don’t have to see how God is going to pull me through – I just know He will!

Whiners go from from weak to weaker, worshippers go from strength to strength.

When we calm down, enter into adoration of Jesus, and get our mouths into agreement with what God says instead of what the enemy says, we find our courage and strength returning.

You don’t need to be strong enough in you.

Be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus.

This week, pay attention to what you’re allowing to come out of your mouth – is it ‘weakening whining’ or ‘strength-producing praise’ to the God who sends His grace to do what you could never do?

 

Resource Recommendation: What I Use My Mouth For

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/hinkelstone/5043646373/”>quapan</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

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When It Is Time To Move On

»Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

When It Is Time To Move On

How do you move on from Moses?

The man who single-handedly, through displays of signs and wonders that the world had never seen, demanded the exodus of the Israelite slaves from Egypt.  And Pharaoh did let the people go, only to chase them through the Red Sea, ultimately being destroyed as a result of Moses’ faithful follow-through (Hebrews 3:5).

Then, right on the very brink, when he’s about to lead them into the promised land . . .

Moses is dead?

What? How does that work? I’m guessing that that was not the way many Israelites thought this story was going to go. Moses, for sure, that was going to be with them as they went in to take the promised land.

There were REAL enemies out there! With their last enemies, they had needed Moses’ help. What were they supposed to do now? Moses was always a part of the plan, wasn’t he? Wasn’t he the guy everything pivoted on? Wasn’t he the guy who went to Pharaoh? Wasn’t he the guy who held up the staff? Wasn’t he the guy who, through God’s power, caused all of those plagues to happen?

Now, in what has the feeling of a major last minute change, God calls in Joshua to replace Moses?

“Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.” - Joshua 1:2

Sometimes the way we thought the story was going to go is not the way the story is going.

  • When you imagined how this would play out, it was a very different set of circumstances.
  • Maybe someone was there who is no longer there.
  • Maybe you thought it was going to go one way, and now you can see, circumstantially, it’s not going that way at all. In fact, it is frustrating now.

 God Knows When It Is Time To Move On

Even though our road often feels full of detours to us, God understands how you feel. And God knows the best way.

I can hear those desert-weary Israelites saying, ‘Sure, Joshua was great but Moses has a got a great record of signs and wonders and pleading for God’s mercy on us. We’d feel very confident if Moses were still here.’

We don’t call him Moses today. In our life it looks more like a season or place or person we cling to. Someone or something we’re familiar with. Moses’s add predictability to life.

And that is the the problems with Moses’s isn’t it. In our eyes at least, Moses’s sometimes eclipse the God they serve. We end up trusting in Moses being around rather than the God who doesn’t need anything.

God knew, “They don’t need Moses to fulfill my will; all they need is Me.”

We get very used to certain things, and God says, “You know what? I used that in the past, but I’m not using it now, and I need you to stick with me here.”

  • From the familiar high school you’ve come to know to college life far away.
  • From the community you’ve lived in all of your life to a job in a new city.
  • From the circle of friends who have all loved each other to the increasingly lonely saturday nights
  • From the security of single autonomy to the compromise of committed marriage.
  • From the predictable chaos of raising teenager to the life of to the uncertainty of empty nesting.

God calls us . . . To move on.

Sometimes, my friend, it’s time to move on from what used to be God to what is God now.

The moving on involves requesting the courage to let go

  • Of a teacher
  • Of an offense
  • Of a parent
  • Of a spouse you thought was forever
  • Of a right to get even

As difficult as it is. As much as we like change, the faith test to ‘move on’ is unavoidable. God has built change into His plan for humans (see Ecc. 3), to conform us to the image of Christ, and to teach them us cling to nothing else but Him.

And for some of us, we have to be able to let go of what happened before, in order to take hold of what God has for us up ahead.

The good news is when we do let go, we discover God is the God of new beginnings. In fact, that’s what the whole gospel is. It is a permanent new beginning.

Joshua (Jeshuah = “Yahweh is salvation”) can’t take us into the promised land . . . Until we let go of Moses.

Are you looking for a fresh start?

What event, person, season, or expectation do you need to let go of in order to embrace the new thing God wants to do in your life?

 

Recommended Resource: Ten Changes for a Fresh Start

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/7874912840/”>Stuck in Customs</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

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Not My Church

»Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Not My Church

So many churches inspire me.

For the second year in a row now I’ve taken some time off in June/July and once again I’ve spent some of that time visiting other churches to see what I could learn from them.

When I Visit Other Churches,

I Gain Appreciation For The Unfathomable Scope Of What God Is Doing In The World.

 

We don’t hear enough about all the GOOD that God is doing around us. Sometimes bad-church-experience stories seem to take center-stage and we can develop an inappropriate negativity or cynicism about the ‘state of the church’.

This is why, amidst tales of very real moral failure and poser-preachers, it is truly an honor to meet and know other pastors who are who genuinely in love with Jesus and His people. It warms the heart and cheers the soul to see how many people out there are ‘the real deal’ and serving God with abandon.

I’m convinced that it is healthy to be freshly reminded that God is doing things everywhere – not just in my home church. This is something I always “know in my head”, yet there is something experientially awesome about witnessing the Holy Spirit impacting people I could never meet through people I don’t know. It is incredibly encouraging to see people with other worship and personality styles sincerely loving God, and working tirelessly for HIm in ways that are different from my own personal preferences.

Paul commanded us to humbly celebrate the fact that, amidst our distinctives, the people of God are all born of and hail the same King:

   “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Ephesians 4:4–7, TNIV)  

Praise God for what He is doing across town, the city, the state and across the country!

I have the privilege of serving in a community (Round Lake/Grayslake Illinois) with other pastors who I know, pray for and genuinely love. Some of the guys are close friends and I consider it an honor to charge hell with them, even though we pastor churches within close proximity to one another. I’d take a bullet for these guys

What do I learn every June?  Torch Church is not the only thing going on anywhere (you already knew that but I need to be reminded). And it is therapeutic for pastor’s heart to celebrate the victories of the King that are won through “not my church”. Because it is still “His Church”.

Watching other congregations ‘bring the heat’ is not only beautiful, it’s helpful. Churches in my area have found creative technical solutions that Torchers haven’t discovered in everything from a random sign well placed to an important message in the announcement loop, to a unique way to set up children’s ministry reception areas.

  • Are you learning from churches other than your own (I.e. Podcasts, books, peer or mentoring relationships)?
  • Are you celebrating the differences of the churches in your community and how they each bring glory and honor to Christ?
  • Whose distinctives of other Christians can you begin to see as a strength today?
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iGrow

»Posted by on Jul 15, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

iGrow

An encore audio presentation of the iGrow series at Torch Church

 

Can this be all? Is this it?  You used to be so filled with passion.  It was so exciting  You were making such great progress . . . once upon a time. But now you feel stuck. You feel dried up and left for dead.

But there is hope.  A fresh taste for water will have you fierce and flourishing in no time.

Say hello to iGrow.

 

Week 1: Take Responsibility
Week 2: Game Changer: Beliefs
Week 3: Game Changer: Spiritual Habits
Week 4: Game Changer: Pivotal Relationships
Week 5: Painful Circumstances
Week 6: Game Changer: Broken Servanthood
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Dude, For Real

»Posted by on Jun 12, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

Dude, For Real

This past weekend at Torch Church, we saw 20 people raise their hands to demonstrate turning their lives over to Jesus Christ and accepting His forgiveness for the very first time. It still thrills me every time I hear about moments like that. That puts us at around 100 people in the kingdom so far this year. That also make 300 since we started Torch Church in July of 2009. Every hand that was raised constitutes a ‘win’ for Christ, because it is what the Lord wants us to do. This is why we cheer after we’ve prayed for them during a Sunday Morning Worship Experience. This is why we tweet that that are more people going to heaven as a result. We celebrate wins because wins are what the scriptures have commanded us to be going after.

Here are 5 WINS we celebrate at Torch Church:

  1. When a lost person comes HOME to God’s family. (Luke 15:10, Lifeline: Is There Any Hope Left?)
  2. When an bound person become increasingly free as they LEARN TRUTH about about Who God is and how He rolls (His ways).(John 8:31-32, iGrow:Beliefs )
  3. When a found person develops life-empowering SPIRITUAL HABITS.(1 Peter 2:2-3, iGrow:Spiritual Habits)
  4. When an isolated personal joins in healthy spiritual COMMUNITY. (Proverbs 13:20, iGrow: Pivotal Relationships)
  5. When a self-focused person begins to SERVE the needs of others and embrace their missional impulse so the Body can grow. (Ephesians 2:10, iGrow:Broken Servanthood)

I’m glad people came to Christ, but what about making disciples?

A question I get from people sometimes is “What are we doing to disciple those people?” Great question!  If the church is in the disciple-making business, what are we doing to grow better disciples?

Part of the answer is right here:

 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, NLT)

Look carefully at that verse and you’ll see that it is not just directed at WE but at YOU.

Here is something that might russell your feathers:  The Great Commission (the verse above) was given to individuals before it was given to a group (through those individuals). Jesus didn’t tell ‘the church’ to go and make disciples (not that we shouldn’t) but more specifically, He told individuals (the Christ-followers standing there) to go and make disciples. There technically wasn’t a church yet.

As I studied the Book of Acts during the LifeLine series I was amazed to take note of how much of the book is not really about what the church did, per se, but rather what individuals (who were a part of the early church) did to make disciples.

The book of Acts is less about the church than it is about a time in church history in which individuals and small groups did amazing things to expand the reach of the message.

Such as:

  • Steven’s stand for truth (see Acts 7)
  • Phillip and the Samaritan revival and the preaching to the Ethiopian (These were done by Phillip and the Spirit of God, not the church as an organization. See Acts 8).
  • The journey’s of Paul (these were done by Paul and his companion Christians, not ‘the church” as an organization. See Acts 13-28)

Are you still with me? The weight of the scriptures present disciple-making not as a program of a church but as the priority of individual Christians.

So, if I could be so bold as to answer a question with a question (just trying to be like Jesus – Matt 21:24): What are YOU doing to make disciples?  In that the task of making disciples was delegated to you as an individual, are you relationally investing in lost people or young believers for the purpose of helping them grow in their faith?

Uh-oh. Cuz see, it’s not God’s plan that merely the amorphous ‘church’ does something about it – the doing something about it has been delegated to you.

Now don’t get me wrong, Torch and probably most other churches could grow in terms of our strategies for ‘equipping the saints’ to make the healthiest disciples possible. I’m aware that it is my job (Eph 4:11-13) to resource our people and keep the vision hot that we are to be an impact on the people around us.

Do you know yours?

If Jesus is your king, forgiver and friend, again it’s right here:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, NLT)

Now of course, through your giving of time, finances, volunteering and praying you are helping your church pull of discipleship on a larger-scale through the Sunday Morning Worship Experience and other events like Torch Groups and outreaches. It is because of what you invest that 101 people have made a commitment to Christ this year alone.

But what about on a personal level? Can you say that Matthew 28:19-20 is true about you personally?

It is a win when I take personal responsibility for making disciples.

HERE ARE THREE THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE ARE HAVE RECENTLY BECOME CHRISTIANS:

Model for People

A disciple, by definition, is a relational learner.  They learn through conversation but also through demonstration. You’ve seen this when you were around someone inspiring and ‘caught’ how to do something they were doing in a way that was more meaningful than if they’d just explained it.

Two things matter here and you don’t need to be perfect -  just be persevering.

1)You have to model LOVE or most folks aren’t really going to care what you have to say. Are you sweet to those you’re called to disciple? Do you do them favors just because you’re a loving person?  Would you inquire for them before running to the store or lunch just in case you can pick something up for them?

2) You have to model integrity (obedience to God’s will as you are aware of it). You can’t be cutting corners, dropping the ball at work, neglecting your kids, and slapping the F—bomb on the slow waiter and think people aren’t going to notice. Honey, God’s grace is not just favor to forgive but power to increasingly obey over time.  You may need to become a real client before you start selling the Jesus stuff.

Of course, a danger here is getting self-focused and legalistic when you discover that you still need Jesus, no matter how long you’ve been doing this. Don’t focus on a perfect score but focus on celebrating the God of perfect grace. Be quick to repent and get over it so you can focus on loving. Which brings us to the next one . . .

Initiate with people

Want to know when God is going to open a door for you to be more of an influence in someone’s life?  When you ask them to do something. You actually have to reach out to people, even though you don’t necessarily know them.

Next, you actually have to get to know people, even though it takes time and usually multiple small-talk-esque encounters. 

One of the reason’s I know Jesus at all is because two 20 year old girls, with their mind on Christ’s agenda, invited a meathead buddy of mine and myself over to their apartment to have a home-cooked meal. They didn’t know what to say. They just believed in big God. Four months of intentionality later (and one occasion of me completely blowing them off by forgetting we had a dinner scheduled), I knelt down on their living room floor and gave my life to Jesus.

Thank God they initiated with me! Thanks God they were gracious with my failings and stumbling and the stupid things I would say in a conversation! Thank God they trusted more in the Spirit’s ability to use them than their own wisdom.

There is a myriad of ways to initiate and it’s never been easier to have a virtually global audience than before.

  • Posting praises and testimonies on your wall.
  • Inviting people to ‘Big Days” at Torch Church. BTW, the next one is TorchFest 2013
  • Looking for shared interests attempting to build a friendship.
  • Sending care packages to a college student.
  • Taking an adolescent nephew out for ice cream.

Resource people

This the part where you offer them some kind of teaching could which include:

  • Listening to their story over a milkshake and fries (and it doesn’t have to always be true but most of the time you buy – the blesser serves the blessee and the teacher washes the feet of the student) and offering short but poignant advice from God’s word.
  • Sending them a link to a message that is relevant to their situation.
  • Purchasing them a Bible and having their name put on it.
  • Writing them a ridonkulously encouraging letter.
  • Resourcing them with a relational network like a Torch Group (this was ultimately the way the gals who led me to the Lord roped me in).
  • Believe it or not, inviting them to the Torch Church Sunday Morning Worship Experience is a way that you resource them with community that will love them, encourage them, pray for them and fight for them.

Twenty new disciples of Christ were gifted to Torch Church last weekend. Some of the were visiting but some of them will stay. What is God’s plan for helping them to grow?

You are.

“But I have other things to do.”

An understandable statement in our time but Jesus already answered this objection in His.

“But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:62, NLT)

A little more plainly:

“No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”” (Luke 9:62, The Message)

You’re busy, I’m busy, Jesus was busy.

For real, dude. Do you want to serve Jesus or don’t you? If you do, with God’s help, don’t be found just reading about things. Start making disciples.

(win).

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jordan_wooley/3860589395/”>Jrwooley6</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

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