Sunday, December 30, 2007

Serving with Authenticity

What a great service we had at church Sunday morning! We finished up our Wish series with a challenge to get real with God and with ourselves about how we live. Hundreds of people responded to what the Lord said to them about positioning their lives in a way that they could serve the Lord with authenticity in 2008.

We looked at Joshua 24:14-28. We all are familiar with Joshua's declaration: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" This challenge caused the people of Israel to reconsider what they were saying (possibly their heart's desire) and how they were living (probably their fleshly desires).

Joshua did not accept the immediate positive response of the people. They all said, "Hey, we're all about serving God." (My paraphrase.) Joshua said, "You can not serve the Lord." He reminded them that God was holy and jealous (24:19) and that He wasn't one to mess around with if you are not authentic in your walk before Him.

The best part of the challenge came in the alignment of Joshua's challenge, God's character, and the people's desire to serve the Lord. After Joshua's challenge, the people replied saying, "No, we are determined to serve the LORD!" Joshua said, "You are accountable for this decision, you have chosen to serve the LORD." "Yes," they replied, "we are accountable."

"All right then," Joshua said, "destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel." (It's time to make some lifestyle changes if you want to authentically serve the Lord.) The people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God. We will obey him alone."

Soon after this occasion, Joshua died. But, the record shows that: "Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the leaders who outlived him — those who had personally experienced all that the LORD had done for Israel." It wasn't about Joshua or being an Israelite. It was all about God and serving Him.

On Sunday, hundreds of people responded to the challenge to put away their idols and realign their lifestyles in order to serve the Lord with authenticity this year. It isn't about the preacher(s) or the church. It's all about God and serving Him with authenticity.

What a way to end 2007! Moving into 2008 with a group of people who are positioning their lives to authentically serve the Lord is beyond exciting. For many, this is a major turning point in their lives. How appropriate it is that Clay will be kicking off 2008 with a series entitled "Turning Point."

Ready for 2008!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Celebrate in 2008

I can't help but anticipate great things in 2008. If we truly believe and act upon the fact that God's Word has answers to our wishes and desires, we will see God show His faithfulness. One verse keeps coming to my mind at this time:

"Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the second time, while he was still confined in the court of the guard, saying, 'Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the LORD is His name, 'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:1-3 NASB

Check out the phrases, "while he was still confined", "the Lord who made the earth . .", "call on me and I will answer you." Ever feel confined in the court of this world? Have you considered Who we are dealing with? Where do you turn when you need answers? If we googled God's Word as much as we google the Internet we would find "great and mighty" answers.

We may have limited vision, God does not. We may have limited wisdom, God does not. We may have limited resources, God does not. We struggle for answers to life's challenges. God says if we will call on Him, He has the answers.

The "Wish" series has called us to trust God in a way that will totally change our lives and the world around us. We are right on the mark with our vision of "changing lives that change the world."

You don't want to miss the last two challenges of the series. If you can't come to church, check it out on the website.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Adjust or Do It Differently?

I love "wow" moments. Those times when something becomes so clear that you are almost embarrassed for not having seen it before. It's almost as amazing as those patterns you stare at that turn into detailed 3-D images.

Yesterday I had one of those moments in Mac Lake's office. Clay NeSmith, Joel Wilson and I went down to see Mac for some wisdom on better development of our Community Groups. We went away with a whole new way of looking at small group and leadership development. It was one of the most exciting paradigm shifts that I have made in a long time. Mac had gone back to the Ephesians 4:11 & 12. (The Bible is a good place to go when things don't seem to be working.)

In it he found the key to a process of perpetual leadership training that blows my mind in its simplicity and effectiveness.

Leaders are not people who improve upon things that are not working correctly while accepting less than desired outcomes. Leaders are people who expect the desired outcome and are willing to totally break away from the traditional way of addressing the problem in order to achieve it. They search the Scriptures until they yield up their wisdom and instruction.

We are just finishing up our "Wish" series. The big idea is: "People have wishes. God's Word has answers." Question: Do you wish things were different in your life or ministry? Search the Scriptures until they yield up what you are looking for.

I am so . . . . . looking forward to 2008! Have a blessed and joyous Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Real Team Player

I wouldn't call myself a football fan, but I do enjoy a good game. Being from southeastern Pennsylvania, I became interested in the showdown between the Eagles and Cowboys on Monday night. It was an ok game and I cheered for the underdog Eagles.

With just over two minutes left in the game, I witnessed one of the most unusual moments I have ever seen in football. Brian Westbrook, running back for the Eagles, broke out with a twenty-four yard run toward the end zone. One yard from the end-zone he dropped his knee to the ground and the Eagles took possession at the one yard line. The Eagle's quarterback took the snap and let the clock run out, assuring Philadelphia the win.

Fantasy football fans are still upset! Westbrook denied himself a touchdown on his personal stat report and denied fantasy football players the points they could have received in their crucial 15th week battle. He also assured his team the win. He prevented the Cowboys from getting possession of the ball by eating up the time rather than stopping the clock with a touchdown, kicking the extra point and then kicking the ball back to the Cowboys.

Apparently Westbrook wasn't thinking about his personal stats. He was thinking about how great it would be for the Eagles to beat the Cowboys. He could have a personal victory and risk a team loss or he could take a personal loss and assure a team victory. In this day of career athletes it was refreshing to see a true team player.

Sort of reminds me of Philippians 2:3-4. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others ."

As we begin 2008, I pray that the success of the team takes precedence over personal accomplishment in the church. Need more conviction read on down to verse 18.

Looking forward to 2008!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What Does a Christian Look Like?

"You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come." 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 NASB

These Christians had such an outstanding testimony that Paul didn't have to say anything about what happened when he took the Gospel to them. The evidence was obvious. This is one of the simplest descriptions of what a Christian looks like.

A Christian is someone who worships God and not the idols that the world is seeking. They serve God. They become kingdom builders rather than earthly dwellers. They live life in anticipation of the literal return of Jesus Christ.

A Christian looks like someone with a new focus (God), a new lifestyle (serving God) and a new hope (Christ's return). These traits of conversion go beyond dress and religious activity. When the world looks at us, is this what they see? Is the fruit of the Gospel so obvious in our lives that "it speaks for itself"?

Just Thinking

Friday, December 14, 2007

Watch God Work

I'm making my way back home. I finally have access to the Internet and am beginning my re-entry preparations. One of the things that has been on my mind and in my prayers has been the need to put 4.5 tons of canned food in a pod that is parked in front of our church. When I left, there might have been 400 lbs tucked in the corner. We really asked our people to stretch during this holiday season! I confessed to the Lord that our planning may not have been the best but His name was on the project and His people were engaged. I knew this was going to be an opportunity for God to show up big-time. And He did!

Our student pastor, Chris, had the students pull together an offering to purchase canned goods. They collected $200. While they were checking out at the grocery store, a man asked what they were doing and was moved to give them another $500 to get some more. God tells us to bring what we have and He will show up with what we need. I pray this is a life-changing event for our students!

One man brought a half ton of food in his pickup, which caused another group to do likewise. When I called today, I was told that we now have over 3 tons of food and Sunday is still coming. The best way we can provoke others to good works is to step out ourselves. That truckload of food did a truckload of ministry beyond providing food for Helping Hand.

Service in the name of the Lord gives God a showcase and gives His children a grow-place. Want to get involved in what God is doing? Bring an arm-load, trunk-load or truckload of canned goods to the church before Sunday night. Monday, the pod will be delivered to North Strand Helping Hand.


Monday, December 10, 2007

It's Monday and Sunday is Coming

Did you ever start one of those weeks that lays out before you in such a way that the light at the end of the tunnel is the next worship service? As I write this blog I am sitting in the Myrtle Beach airport waiting for my 8:55pm flight to leave for Atlantic City. The flight is now scheduled to leave at 10:25. The people who were going to pick me up at 10:00 in Atlantic City have put a car in the parking lot and gone home.

My mother is scheduled to have a serious surgery on Tuesday morning in Reading, Pennsylvania. I found a cheap flight on Spirit Airlines and will have to drive a couple hours after landing to get to her place.

It seems like a long time since I woke up this morning to a new day, with new Scripture, and new blogs. I was really blessed and challenged by Flamingo's podcast! (Check out Monday's.) Leaders need to check this one out. It was interesting to find that Clay chose to use the same podcast at our leaders meeting.

We separated the Chirstmas gifts piled up in the lobby and sent 46 of them off to a local elementary school to fulfil the wishes of many boys and girls whose parents were struggling this year to buy their children gifts. Another 100 gifts will go out next Monday.

Cars came and went with canned goods for our effort to provide North Strand Helping Hand with 4.5 tons of food. We have really pushed the envelope this year as our church stepped up to the plate (or maybe the cross) to deliver funds for 200 turkeys for needy families at Thanksgiving, gifts for 146 children for Christmas and now 4.5 tons of canned food to warm the bellies of hungry people this year.

A female officer from our local police department was sent to investigate our ministry to battered women, which w. . . . . .

Opps! The plane came while I was in the middle of that thought. It is now Thursday morning and this is the first time I've had access to the Internet. I finally reached my mom's house at 2:00am and got up at 5:00am to take her to the hospital. Her surgery was difficult, but she seems to be through the worst and may be moved out of intensive care today. I have been learning a lot about patience, while still looking forward, more than ever, to the weekend.

This morning has been crammed with e-mail catchup, preparation to go to the hospital, and the continuation of projects for Gospelink and the church. Tomorrow I will visit the hospital in the morning and then relocate to New Jersey in preparation for an early morning departure back to Myrtle Beach. Hopefully there will be no delays. I have a meeting that afternoon with the board at the church concerning two budgets that represent two of the ministries I will be focused on in 2008.

Sunday is coming!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Framework for Teamwork

Wow! It's been a whole week since my last blog! Time is flying. Things are happening! Days are busy.

We have reached a point in ministry where we are seeing leaders surface and people showing up on the playing field. This is a result of moving people to service. The saints are being equipped for the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4) It becomes increasingly evident that in order to have an effective team we must have a framework or structure that enables people to function as a team.

The tension lies in the tendency to create a group of silos that are independently focused on their particular ministry instead of group of squads, who, although they specialize in certain areas, are all serving on the same team with the same goal. A squad focuses on a certain aspect of the game. Each squad has positions that focus on certain aspects of the squad's needs. The purpose of each squad is to assist the team in winning the game.

The silo effect in organizational structure takes place when each group is focused only on the advancement and success of their area of responsibility. There is very little horizontal communication between departments and a sense of competition over resources and recognition emerges. Initially, the work is accomplished and appears to be organized. A spirit of "team" is even present, but without the horizontal communication between department leaders and the proper framework for teamwork it will soon erode to a dysfunctional group that keeps leaders busy putting out fires and mediating internal problems.

The paradigm held by second and third tier leadership is key to preventing silo-ing and to creating a powerful team of effective squads. Horizontal communication, cooperation and coordination between leaders is vital to a framework for teamwork.

Just Thinking