Feb 152012
 

Here are what I believe are the most important disciplines for a follower of Jesus living in the USA.  I list them in the order of importance.  Some of you will not like this and not agree.  That’s ok.  I want to challenge you to think about WHY I list them in this order.

SERVE
Why is this number 1?  I think so many followers of Jesus miss out on the impact of serving people around them in practical ways to demonstrate the love of Jesus.  Jeremiah 29:4-7 says to seek the peace and prosperity of a city and if the city prospers we will prosper as well.  One of the greatest ways to make an impression on the people and the world around you is to simply serve people in the name of Jesus.  The spiritual discipline of “service” is under-utilized in making Jesus known to people.  Serve in your church and in your community.  In John 13:3-5 Jesus demonstrates service as he washes the feet of the disciples.  Question:  How do we wash the feet of people around us in the 21st century?

GENEROSITY
In America, we have more money than we know what to do with. (And yet we are still in debt.)  We live self-indulgent lives and money has a stronghold on our hearts through greed.  Jesus told us that we cannot serve God and money at the same time (Matthew 6:24) The way we break the stronghold of greed and money is to give generously!  There is nothing like the discipline of generosity to change our hearts.

SHARE
Most believers don’t know how to start a conversation that leads to sharing the hope that is found in Jesus.  We must cultivate the discipline of sharing our faith.  Regardless of your personality you are accountable for making Jesus known to people in your circle of influence.  You can learn how to get into conversations and actually share your faith.  You can click here to see how I equipped our church to share their faith.  I believe if you practice the disciplines of SERVE and GENEROSITY, this discipline will come more naturally.

Read God’s Word
Some will ask, “Why in the world is this discipline number 4 on the list of most important spiritual disciplines for a believer in America?”  Simply because most Christians that are involved in spiritual growth are “over-read and under-applied”.  We have no shortage of Bible studies available to us but most followers of Jesus are not actively applying the Word of God to their daily life.  Some of us need one less Bible Study in our life and need to get out in the community and serve and practice generosity.  Here’s the deal:  If you are serving and giving generously of your resources and sharing your faith, you will want to read your Bible even more.  God’s Word, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us and we should read it daily, don’t get me wrong.  These disciplines are specifically applied to believers living in America.  READ IT THEN DO WHAT IT SAYS! If you do what it says, you will want to read it MORE!

Talk to God
We should communicate with God through the amazing gift of prayer.  This is an underutilized discipline with most followers of Jesus.  Prayer is learning to depend on God.  This discipline is so often a formality and ritual in the life of the American Christian because we don’t lack for anything.  We don’t HAVE to depend on God because all of our needs are met in our culture.  Real, life-transforming prayer is depending on God for what we don’t have.  Pray without ceasing!  Don’t just stand there, pray something!

Connect with other believers in a local Church
Go to church! Join with other believers for the purpose of glorying God and joining Jesus in His mission of redemption.  God has sovereignly chosen to involve us in His mission of redemption.  We get to take the gospel of Jesus to people that are far from God.  2 Corinthians  5:20-21 says that we are His ambassadors.  Go to church!  Hear the Word! Celebrate Jesus with others!  Put into action what you hear!  Do it every week!  Don’t forsake it!  Hebrews 10:25

Circle Up with a Few other Believers
Circles are better than rows!  Invest your life with a small group of believers that can put into practice together these other disciplines.  You can read the Word and study together, serve together, give together, pray together, love one another!  You can’t grow spiritually as God intends by sitting in rows every week simply staring at the backs of people’s heads!  Get into a small group and get to know others on a deeper level and discover what it is like to live on mission with God with a small group of other followers.

These are the disciplines I believe that followers of Jesus must put into practice to grow spiritually and join God in His mission of getting the gospel OUT into the world we live in.  Some may not like or agree with the order of importance I put them in and that is ok.  Let’s don’t argue but simply apply these disciplines in our lives and the lives of those we are responsible for ministering to on a daily and weekly basis!

 Posted by at 12:40 pm
Feb 132012
 

Hey Church at the Grove!  I love our church!  I am so thankful for a body of people willing to lay their lives on the line to glorify God and take the gospel to the world.  I am fired up about leading people to follow Jesus and Make Disciples.  Yesterday I preached at our Social Circle location and it was awesome to be there with Nathan and our incredible team that is creating an environment for people to explore faith.  We are consistently having new people show up and now there are families that are coming each week!

Here are a few thoughts for our church:

Let’s keep it all about Jesus!
We live in an increasingly pluralistic culture where it has become a bit taboo to speak the name of Jesus in an exclusive way.  The gospel of Jesus is the ONLY hope we have for having a meaningful, significant and purposeful life!  Let’s keep it ALL ABOUT Jesus!  I don’t mean that we abandon the freedom for people to explore faith at their own pace.  We should be accepting, loving and kind to people from all perspectives and backgrounds BUT it really is ALL ABOUT JESUS!

Keep Praying!
We entered this year with a intensive focus on prayer, especially for our campus launch in Social Circle.  We must continue to depend on God!   Let’s continue to passionately ask God to act on behalf of the mission He has called us to.  Let’s pray that He works in lives to bring people to faith in Jesus.  Let’s pray that God works in father’s hearts and works in families in a way that transforms lives!  Let’s continue to pray that God gives us favor and credibility with our local community and ministry partnerships.  Let’s continue to pray!

I read this recently from Mark Batterson on prayer:
“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.”  “And until His sovereign will becomes your sanctified wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply.”

Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church!
Let me be honest!  It’s not about YOU!  We have an incredible group of people that serve and make Church at the Grove a great church BUT we always need more people to simply jump in and find a place to serve.  When people are looking for a church, the prevalent pray should be “God, where do you want my family to partner with you in your mission?” rather than, “God where do you want us to be to have our needs met?”  JUMP IN somewhere and serve!

Encourage Each Other!
Yesterday’s message at both our campuses was about authentic relationships and our need for encouragement and accountability.  Are you engaged in a small group of relationships that encourage you to grow spiritually?  Are you connected in a Community Group?  We will not grow spiritually as God desires until we are connected in meaningful relationships of encouragement.  You cannot grow spiritually the way God intended simply sitting in rows on Sunday staring at the back of other people’s heads.  As we say at The Grove, “Circles are better than rows!”

Give generously!
I have been amazed at how generous Church at the Grove has been especially over the past year or so.  Our financial situation looked pretty dismal two years ago and because of faithful giving and generosity we actually exceeded our budget last year.  I certainly am not in “panic mode” but we are behind our budget so far for 2012.  Please continue your generous giving and if you haven’t stepped out in faith to give, don’t miss out on the blessing that God has in store when we give generously.  You can give on Sundays or on-line at www.churchatthegrove.com

Be a missionary!
See yourself as a missionary to the people in the circles of relationships that you travel!  Who are you praying for and investing in that is a neighbor, family member or co-worker?  Please keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities for CATGrove to invest in our community and then take the initiative yourself to step in and make something happen!  Don’t feel like you have to wait for the church to organize something.  You are commissioned as a missionary!  Go for it!  You have permission!

Easter is coming!
Easter is April 8 and it is a great opportunity to invite someone to join you at CATGrove!  You can read more about how to leverage Easter here!

 

 Posted by at 1:05 pm
Feb 112012
 

I took part in an online webinar with the outreachninja.com guys led by Bob Franqiz and it was excellent with ideas for leveraging Easter to reach more people.  My wheels have been turning and here are some ways to prepare to make Easter huge in getting the gospel of Jesus to more people

 

1.  Pray

There is nothing more effective than praying that the Lord of the Harvest will work on your behalf to reach more people with the gospel in and through your church.  As Pastor/Leader, start with yourself and then enlist your leadership and church to pray for people to engage, invest and invite their friends to join you for worship at Easter.

 

2.  Communicate

Easter is different than most holidays in that it doesn’t happen on the same day every year.  Sometimes it’s not even in the same month!  Most people in your church are thinking more about Spring Break than Easter right now.  You must communicate early and often WHEN Easter is on the calendar.  By the way, Easter is on April 8 this year.

 

3.  Creatively promote

Utilize fun, creative ways to promote Easter as an opportunity for people to invite their friends and family to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Troy Gramling of Potential Church in Florida utilizes the INVITE Bunny in “on the street” interviews to “stoke” the creative “fires” and to get people to invite their friends.

 

4.  Put something in their hands

Give the people in your church an “invite” card that they can give to their friends, family or people they come in contact with in the community.

 

5.  Equip people on how to invite their friends

Shawn Lovejoy of Mountain Lake Church teaches the people in his church how to invite their friends and neighbors AND he makes the evangelistic temperature in his church “white hot” leading up to Easter.

 

6.  Schedule Community Service through Your Community Groups

Nelson Searcy from Journey Church and Church Leader Insights encourages his Small Groups to do outreach events leading up to Easter to get the word out to the community about Easter Sunday.

 

7.  Utilize Lent Calendar for Prayer and Fasting

Mark Batterson of National Community Church utilizes Lent as a season of fasting and prayer to prepare his church for Easter.  They organize prayer walks and prayer lists to prepare people to reach out to their friends and family prior to Easter.

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Feb 082012
 

For the follower of Jesus, forgiveness is not optional.

 Because of the Cross of Jesus, we have all lost our excuse for not forgiving others.

 Ephesians 4:31–32 (ESV)
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Paul addresses the causes of unforgiveness and addresses bitterness, wrath, anger and malice.  What are we to do with all of these causes of unforgiveness?

Stop it!  Get rid of it!

Often our response is, “I can’t get rid of it!”  “If I get rid of it, I will lose an excuse!” or, “I would get rid of it, but I don’t know how!” God is trying to cover all the junk and all the causes of the junk that leads to an inability to forgive.  At the heart of redemption is forgiveness!  At the heart of the health and wellbeing of all our relationships is the issue of forgiveness!

You can get rid of all this stuff by forgiving one another!!

Pastor Andy Stanley states there are three important things to understand about forgiveness:

1. It is a decision you make.

We are commanded to forgive.

2. It is making a decision that someone doesn’t owe you anymore.

When we are hurt, there is a sense something has been taken from you.

It could be tangible–It Could be intangible.

3. Forgiveness is a decision to cancel that debt.

The result is being FREE!

Forgiveness really doesn’t make any sense unless you are a forgiven person.

As Christians, we are forgiven by God through Jesus Christ!  We have been completely forgiven of our sin.  Has forgiveness ever become personal for you?  The degree of which you understand your forgiveness is the degree to which you will feel freed up to forgive those who have hurt you.  If its not personal, there will be no forgiveness for others.  “just as God forgave you”

Matthew 18:21–22 (ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Is there someone you need to forgive?

 Posted by at 1:45 pm