Maintaining a Spiritual Movement

John Dawson writes, “It is a dangerous thing to lose the knowledge of the past. One of the greatest needs of the church is a sense of her history and destiny.” After the people of God entered the Promised Land, established their land, properties and families, a very tragic thing occurred. It is the same thing that occurs when every spiritual movement establishes itself. Many times the next generation does not experience “the spirit” of the movement. They do not grow up in tents, they grow up in buildings. They do not see mom and dad praying to survive, they see mom and dad enjoying the fruit, benefits, labor and sacrifice of the previous generation.

The solution to this organizational and spiritual phenomenon is for the church to maintain its focus on the characteristics of a spiritual movement and to continually “rekindle” its spirit. The Israelites did not do that and as a result, after the first generation died, “another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

In the New Testament, God makes clear that Israel’s experience is to be a warning to the Church, the new Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). All these things in Israelite history “occurred as examples, to keep us from setting our hearts” on the wrong things as the church continues its development in salvation history (1 Corinthians 10:6). As church leaders, we must never forget what we are doing is a vital part of maintaining the characteristics of a spiritual movement within the church. Nothing is more vital to the expansion of God’s kingdom through a church movement than for that movement to maintain its original spirit! The lesson is this: never forget the early days, and what happened during the days of the tents! Thank you for being Christ in Action. Look forward to seeing you this weekend at Assembly!

God Is Near

As a church leader, there will be times when you do not emotionally feel that God is near. But that never changes the truth. Jesus reminds us every time we are in error, it is because we are not paying attention to the Scriptures (Matthew 22:29). How I am feeling emotionally at any given time is not how I base my thinking. The great reformer, Martin Luther, put it this way:

Feelings come and feelings go and feelings are deceiving,
My trust is in the Word of God, nothing else is worth believing.
I’ll stand on God’s unchanging Word, till soul and body sever,
For though all things should pass away, His Word will stand forever!

Today, you may not feel Jesus close. But that does not change the fact! Paul reminds us, “The Lord is near!” (Philippians 4:5). God is near you now! God wants us to seek him and reach out for him and find him—he is not far from each one of us! (Acts 17:27).

James reminds us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). So as you lift your heart to Him today, bask in this truth that can set you free! (John 8:32) “The Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him!” (Deuteronomy 4:7) Thank you for being Christ in Action and always keeping this clear truth in sight—God is near! Look forward to seeing you in a few days.

God’s Promise To Provide

As Moses is recounting the way in which God had provided for his people, he was doing so in hindsight. The 40 years were over. They were on the edge of the Promised Land. God had been with them and seen them through! Oh that somehow we all would learn to have foresight as clear as hindsight! That is what God so greatly desires!

In your work as a church leader, here are some wonderful promises God has given you to claim in Deuteronomy 2:7. When you are certain of God’s call, you can be sure that he will bless the work of your hands! God will watch over your journey, no matter what kind of difficulties or “deserts” it may contain. While you are going through it, there may be times you are tempted to feel that you lack a thing or two. But as God continues to guide and provide in your work, you will find His promise so true!

Remember the words of our Lord, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). “Our God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). You will realize and agree with Moses that all the while, “God has been with you, you have not lacked anything!” (Deuteronomy 2:7) Thank you for being Christ in Action … and keeping this clear foresight, that God has promised to provide! … Look forward to seeing you in a few days …

Let God Consume What Is Not Holy In You

As a church leader, God is deeply interested in communing with you. We all know the story that surrounds this passage in Exodus 3. We know the chorus, “We Are Standing on Holy Ground.” The truth is, the time we spend with God can be just as real as the time that God first appeared to Moses on Mt. Horeb! When we come into his presence, we are standing on ground that is declared “holy.”

It is important to note here how God chose to reveal himself to Moses and to his people. This shows us part of the essential nature of God’s character. God gives Moses a commission to lead his people out of Egypt. It is a commission that includes them becoming God’s assembly and his dwelling place. So, how does God chose to reveal himself? God does it through a burning bush that is not consumed (Exodus 3:2–3).

The Hebrew writer tells us, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). So what does God consume? God’s plan is not to consume us, but rather to consume everything in us and about us that is contrary to his holiness. What is unholy in your life? If Jesus had a chance to visit with you personally, what private areas would he probe? How does God want to take your character to the next level, so that everything unholy in you is consumed, “so God may be all in all!” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

“I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:17–18). God declares to us as his holy people, “Since we have these promises … let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). “Holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord!” (Psalm 93:5). Thank you for being Christ in Action … and making a fresh commitment today, to let God consume what is not holy in you! Look forward to seeing you in a few days …

Developing God’s Heart

As a church leader, we must always remember that if we wish to be involved in the growth of God’s Kingdom, we must share in the things that concern his heart. Our heart must feel what God feels. We must care about what God cares about. God could look into Abraham’s heart and God knew that Abraham would “direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what was right and just” (Genesis 18:19). God knew that Abraham was one with him in spirit (John 17:22).

God also knew that Abraham could be trusted. God welcomed Abraham to stand before him. As David wrote, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-4). Abraham could stand before the Lord because of the purity of his heart. It is interesting that in some Masoretic Texts, this passage is also translated “but the Lord remained standing before Abraham” (Genesis 18:22). Whatever the translation, one thing is for sure. God and Abraham sought a relationship with each other!

Abraham had God’s heart. He cared about what God cared about. He focused on what God focused on. As church leaders, we must do the same. We must love what God loves and hate what God hates. We must pray, “Lord, give me the eyes to see what you see in this world. Help me to intercede over the things that break your heart.” May I so live in You “that the world may come to believe that I have been sent by You” (John 17:21, 20:21). Thanks for being Christ in Action! In everything we do this week, let’s remember to keep developing God’s heart! See you in a few days …

Giving Our People Hope

As a church leader, one of the greatest gifts God gives a congregation is hope. Where there is hope for the future, there is power to serve in the present. When people have hope, they have growing morale. They enjoy growing momentum. Wise are the leaders who so connect with God, that the people they lead build and enjoy hope.

This is a law of spiritual leadership—the person who gives great hope gains spiritual influence to do good. As God’s leaders, we must be conveyers of hope! Vision is directly tied to hope. This principle is used regularly by leaders out in the world. It needs to be learned and used by church leaders with the people we serve! “We are not to grieve like the rest of men because they have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We have the opportunity to offer the greatest hope a person could ever have!

Through the power of the living Christ, offer the people you serve, hope! Paul teaches us, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us …” (Romans 5:3-5). We have a message of hope! So today, celebrate the fact that “God has given us new birth into a living hope …” (1 Peter 1:3)! This week, thanks for being Christ in Action and being a communicator of hope!

Cultivating Holy Ambition

No church leader wants to be complacent or be someone who lacks ambition. On the other hand, no leader wants to be perceived as ambitious in a self-centered way. This is a dilemma that must be solved if we are to be effective.

For help in achieving this balance, the apostle Paul gives us guidance. While Paul was incredibly ambitious, when he was converted on the Damascus Road and met Christ personally, his ambition was converted with him.

Or take John 3:27 where we read how John the Baptist is being prodded by the Jewish leaders on the issue of human ambition. John’s reply is instructive for every church leader. “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” The appropriate attitude in serving Jesus? “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

As spiritual leaders, we must regularly ask ourselves, “Am I ambitious for myself or ambitious for Jesus Christ?” If my ambition is only for myself, my ministry will produce the unholy product of human pride. If my ambition is for Christ, it will produce excellence in ministry, maximize people’s gifts, accomplish things seen as humanly impossible and God will be praised!

Fulfillment in ministry cannot be based on seeking the approval of men (John 5:44). If we seek prominence in the eyes of people, it always eludes our grasp. But “if we seek the Kingdom of God, all these things” like fruitfulness and fulfillment “will be added” unto us (Matthew 6:33). The ambition God sees as holy must be purified regularly by seeking His praise alone as the primary motivation of all we do.

This week on the CCD, thanks for being Christ in Action!

Cooperation for Multiplication

For us as church leaders, the Old Testament example here is very clear. As His Church today, God wants us to learn lessons from Israel’s history, both bad and good!

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down … for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Here in Deuteronomy 3 the lessons are very clear. Assisting our brothers and sisters in taking new territory, cooperating for multiplication is not just a suggestion. It is God’s command. The tribes on the east side of the Jordan already had received their inheritance.

But God did not want them to settle down in comfort. There was other territory to conquer. God wanted established leaders to be involved in the “taking-new-territory” process. He wanted established-territory leaders and new-territory leaders cooperating side by side as brothers and sisters.

God’s promise was encouraging and very clear. “The Lord has given us territory to take possession of!” God has promised territory multiplication! However, God made clear there is only one way it will happen. God said, “All your able-bodied men, armed for battle,” in other words, all of our present spiritual leaders, must be willing to cross over ahead of the new generation.

What was God’s point? Everyone must cooperate. Everyone must feel and sense we are brothers and co-laborers with Christ. We must survey the land and we must bring back a report, not of doubt but of faith! Here is the application for us today. God’s plan is that before we as church leaders settle back into the comfort of our “own land” that has been safely possessed, we must always be willing to keep cooperating and working to reach others.

We must be willing to work together “until the Lord gives rest to our brothers” in multiplication work, just as He has given rest to us. (Deuteronomy 3:20) We must work together in our movement until we have taken possession of all the land God wants to give us! Cooperation in multiplying new leaders and new ministries is God’s heart! It must be ours as well.

Thank for your involvement this week, being Christ in Action!

Divine Lessons from the Desert

When you are in a desert as a church leader, do you keep learning? Moses did. The Bible tells us Moses spent the second 40 years of his life—the prime of his life—on the back side of a desert!

Yes, the first 40 years were spent in the house of Pharaoh and that certainly was valuable. But while the first 40 were valuable, the second 40 were indispensable! In these desert years, Moses learned many things from God and many things about himself, though he probably didn’t even know God was training him at the time!

This is the way that God many times works. He is preparing us for what He has in mind, even before we have any idea of what it is! “The far side of the desert” (Exodus 3:1) in our own lives is usually where God gets our attention. This is the place where the world, our self and present circumstances become focused in the light of the Divine Presence. It is here we learn to think correctly about ourselves and the mission God has for us. The noise, bustle and confusion of “Egypt” will not touch us as long as we are here. For here, “in our desert,” is where God’s voice is heard, where His Presence is enjoyed and where His thoughts are received.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue … He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Isaiah 50:4). This experience with God is indispensable for every leader who wants to be led by God. It is to “the far side of the desert” (Exodus 3:1) that we must go if we are to be truly educated for the ministry of Jesus, and it is here that we must learn to regularly come if we want to remain effective in our service.

If you’re in the desert now, don’t fight it, embrace it! Learn from it! God has some divine lessons for you, from the desert!

Thanks for your obedience as, in this new year, you are Christ in Action.

Jesus Has a Place for Everyone

Timo

Christmas is all about inclusion. God didn’t stay in heaven. Why? Because He wanted to include us! At Jesus’ birth, there were not just religious people who gathered, but shepherds … very ordinary people. The good news of the angel to the shepherds was, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people” (Luke 2:10) “Those who were once far away have been brought near by Him!” (Ephesians 2:13)

Let me tell you about Timo … being Christ in Action. We’ve attached a picture of him below for you because it’s necessary for the story.

Timo works at the local movie theater in Elgin. Like any good Christian, he can’t help but talk about church and church people! His friends are stunned that he goes to church because of how he dresses and the music he likes. They figured that anyone who dresses like him wouldn’t be welcome in a church, but he lets them know that Elgin church is different. Timo couldn’t stop including others around him! He has been included by Jesus and he has a passion to include others!

Timo likes to cook as well. He got this great outreach idea that he would make his famous mashed potatoes if his friend would come to church. Last Saturday night Timo was up after midnight making hand-mashed potatoes … because his friend said yes, she was coming!

Many of Timo’s friends dress “on the edge.” He told the youth leader he would be wearing his fishnets and eye makeup. He was dressing in his most outlandish clothes so that his friend could see “the old people” at the church coming up to him and saying, “Oh, you made mashed potatoes!” instead of commenting on his clothes. He wanted his friend to see that the Elgin church is a Jesus church … they accept everyone, regardless of what they wear!

So last Sunday Timo’s friend came to church! Timo set a crock pot of mashed potatoes on the snack table next to the coffee and cookies. Everything went the way Timo hoped! People complimented him on his potatoes and they were eager to meet his friend. A lot of cookies stayed on the table. The mashed potatoes were gobbled up!

Rhonda Sarver, the Youth Leader at Elgin writes, “Timo is doing evangelism the way it works for him, with mashed potatoes and unusual clothes to make a guest feel at home!” Jesus says in John 6:37, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away!” Timo is Christ in Action at Christmas! The good news of great joy is for all the people! Thank you for welcoming everyone and doing the same in your church! Have a merry Christmas and wonderful New Year!