John Denver, The Dentist, and Jesus

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Going to the dentist is never an enjoyable time, however, the other day I was blessed to have my dentist suggest I listen to music on my mp3 player as she pulled my tooth. It was nice to be able to focus on my music as the doctor was busy working my stubborn tooth loose. The procedure was going well when suddenly my tooth broke in half. I was assure that this was not uncommon and they would have the rest of my tooth out in no time. As I sat there reclined in the dentist chair the song “Sweet Surrender,” by John Denver came on my mp3 player. The chorus of the song says:
“Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care,
like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air.
Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care,
like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air.”
The irony of the situation hit me all at once and I began to laugh. I had three hands and two tools in my mouth and I’m listening to a song encouraging me to, “Live without care.”
The spiritual correlation occurred to me as well. The places the Lord leads us are sometimes challenging. They might not always be fun, and care free. Yet as the Psalmist reminds us, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” (Psalm 23:4 ESV). In the presence of the great and awesome living God I can sing, “Sweet surrender, to You Lord, I will live without care, like a fish in the water, and like a bird in the air!”

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Mission Centered Churches

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I read a great article by the Baptist Press about Mission Centered Churches.  We have all read books on the Mission, Vision, and Core Values of the local church.  Many of us have attended conferences, and seminars, on being “Missional.”  At the end of the day, as the old saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding.”  Here are 8 traits of a mission centered Church.

Posted originally at: http://www.bpnews.net/45195/8-traits-of-a-missionscentered-church
ASIA (BP) — God chose the church to be His messenger and make a powerful impact on the world. It doesn’t matter if it has 10,000 or 20 members; a church is called to reach the nations with the Gospel.
The International Mission Board asked pastors, mission and mobilization specialists around the globe to give some insights into what makes missions-centered churches.
They boiled it down to eight traits that indicate this type of congregation:
1. Has a NOW mentality.
The thought of “being in on what God is doing right now” drives this church. They understand most generations before them have not had the opportunity they have today to go to the nations. Not only do unreached people often live in their communities, but global travel is relatively easy now. They can go to India and back in less than a week. They can actually meet the last unreached people groups (less than 2 percent Christian) on earth, not just see their pictures in a magazine.

2. Is in it for the long haul.
Rather than asking, “What fits my church?” a missions-centered one asks, “What needs to be done and where?” They are awakened and consumed by worshiping God and making Him known to all peoples. No matter if the God-given task takes one day or 20 years, they are committed. This collective burden is met with a sustainable plan.

3. Has cheerleaders.

Note the plural. Not one cheerleader but many! Yes, the pastor may lead the way but what happens if he moves to another church? Does this stop a missions-centered church? No! There are other leaders invested and sold out to the vision. They are the mobilizers — point people. A missions-centered church knows that it will be no more engaged in missions than its leaders.

4. Spends time on their knees praying TOGETHER.

They are ready to tackle spiritual warfare head on. The thought that no other church in the world is praying for a specific unengaged, unreached people group really matters to them. They know that it is their responsibility to come up with a church-planting strategy where none has been done before. They believe that starts with prayer.

5. Is flexible and steadfast.

The phrase, “we’ve never done it that way,” spurs the missions-centered church to break the mold. They strive to be creative, knowing that trends and needs may change but the basics remain the same — sharing the love of Christ and bringing people to Him.

6. Trains and equips.

There is an intentional equipping of the church to live out God’s mission plan. The congregation is discipled in God’s passion for the nations. They are hungry for training in evangelism and strengthening local believers. They pass their knowledge on to others, teaching what they’ve learned along the way.

7. Networks with others.

Understanding that they don’t know everything, missions-centered churches are great networkers. They are aware of others involved in similar projects and readily seek advice. These relationships create a unique synergy that leads to increased effectiveness and a greater impact on the people they are trying to reach, whether that’s locally or globally.

8. Sends.

Churches focused on the lost try to plug into the life of the world around them. They understand that being sent isn’t a future event or even an overseas calling. Being sent is a book of Acts lifestyle — a way of living — the way of Jesus.

There are still more than 3,000 people groups with no one intentionally working among them to see churches planted. The missions-centered church will roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty for Jesus. This kind of church will ask God to use them no matter the cost.

Are you part of “this kind” of church? What’s it going to take for your church to be missions-centered?

Be Watchful!

roaring-lionWhat can we expect when we get it right? The Christian life can be tough. We are called by God to live a counterculture lifestyle. We are called to a life of radical holiness living in radical obedience to the living God. This can be tough, and none of us gets it right all the time. In Philippians 3:12-14 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” So, what happens when we, like Paul are pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us?
We can expect opposition! Peter wrote these words in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” If you find yourself walking in harmony with the Holy Spirit, if you find yourself loving and serving the Lord and His people, BE WATCHFUL! The enemy would love nothing more than to destroy you and the work God is doing in and through you.
One Pastor said it this way:

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If you or your church is walking in the will of God, if you are taking back ground from the enemy be assured the enemy will fight back. Our response is not to cower in fear for we have not been given a Spirit of fear, but of Power, Love, and Self-Control (2 Tim. 1:7). Our response is to press in to the presence of the living God through the Holy Spirit and pray like we have never prayed before!
Holy God, Your Name is great and greatly to be praised! We pray by the Spirit in Jesus Name today against every evil spirit that has set themselves against us, our families, and the ministry You have called us to. May we walk today in Your power, with Your love, and in the fruit of self-control. We ask this blessings in Jesus Name, AMEN!

Joy in Sacrifice

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What comes to mind when you think about the, “Abundant Life?”  Likely the first thing that comes to mind is not self sacrifice.  However, when the Bible speaks of finding new life in Christ it is in tandem with losing life.
Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to give us an abundant life. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Putting the two verses together we realize that the abundant life that God desires for us is actually found in sacrifice.
The world puts on display all of the passions and pleasures, self-indulgence, and idols then proudly proclaims, “Enjoy! This is life!” The gospel puts on display Christ crucified upon a cross, dying a substitutionary death in our place, and rising again to new life. It encourages us to reject the world and its pleasures, to give ourselves to the sacrificial service of others and of Him and proudly proclaims, “Enjoy! This is life!” In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

The Christian life requires sacrifice. It costs us something. If the Christian life does not cost you anything than you may have bought in to the lie that you can be a Christian with all of its promises and blessings without rejecting the world with all of its sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, greed, drunkenness, and cheating, self-indulgences, strife, hatred, and jealousy. If we want to experience the abundant life in the presence of the Lord it requires us to sacrifice our old way of selfishness and live a life of service to God and others. This is true living! The beautiful thing is we may find it is no sacrifice at all.

That’s Not Fair!

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In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV).
Have you ever felt like God was not fair? Why is it we, His Children, are continually called to do the right thing, be the bigger person, and turn the other cheek? I believe part of our hang up is in our shortsightedness. We don’t see life in view of eternity. The Apostle Paul wrote these encouraging words, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).
The challenges we face are light, and transient. The reward we will receive is weighty, beyond comparison and eternal! This is absolutely empowering. The next time you or I am mistreated, hurt, or belittled, we can respond in the love of God with grace, mercy, and kindness knowing this affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison!