Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2014

2 Differences Leaders Build Together

If you’ve dealt with people at all, it’s not an earth-shattering revelation to recognize that people are different. We all come from different backgrounds, upbringings and value systems. And as your relationships begin to expand beyond your own culture, those differences can seem magnified.

In the local church, Jesus called us to reach people very different from ourselves. The beautiful (and challenging) thing is that we’re called to do it with people who are very different from each other. When we begin to understand that our unity comes from Christ who saved us and commissioned us, then we can start to embrace our differences and leverage them the way God intends for us to.

There are at least four primary differences among the people found in every church. In this post, we will look at two of those. As leaders—by God’s grace and in the power of His Spirit—here are some ways to bring those differences together to accomplish your mission.

Different workload

Let’s face it—life’s not fair. As a leader, your goal is not to try and make it fair. Some people in your church or organization will work harder than others. You can either work yourself into a frenzy trying to get everyone to “share the load”, or you can invest in those who are willing. The former is futile, but the latter will actually get things done. But a word of caution is in order here. Some people who seem like they’re hardly doing anything can actually be doing more to accomplish your mission than you can imagine. Just because a person is limited physically or otherwise, doesn’t mean they aren’t significantly contributing through prayer or other behind-the-scenes efforts. God doesn’t call us to do our fair share. He calls us to do what we can do—however seemingly big or small—with all our might.

Different commitment levels

It would be nice if everyone was as committed to the mission as you are. The reality is, some people will always be more sold-out than others. There are at least two ways to handle this. The first seems to be the default reaction of many leaders—guilt/cajole/harass the non-committed. If you think that will work, then by all means, go right ahead. But you will never guilt/cajole/harass anyone into a higher level of commitment. You will only drive yourself and everyone around you into frustration—or worst case, you will drive them away. As a leader, the best way you can build commitment is to build excitement. Excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. It isn’t taught—it’s caught. When people not only clearly understand the mission, but begin to actually see the vision, they will begin to get as excited as you are. Some won’t. But most will. The ones who won’t will marginalize themselves while the ones who do will accomplish great things. As a leader, fuel the fired-up and quit trying to light wet wood.

In the next post, we will look at two more differences we can build together to accomplish the mission God has given us.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Closing the Loop - 2 More Keys to Effective Communication

When thinking about clear communication, it’s tempting to put all the emphasis on the sender. But in reality, the onus for communication is on the receiver as much as the sender. It reminds me of the old saying about leadership. If a leader thinks he’s leading and no one is following, he’s just taking a walk. In the same way, if you think you’re communicating but nobody’s listening, you’re just talking to yourself. And there are some really special places people go who talk to themselves too much.

There are four keys to mastering clear communication. A few days ago, we looked at the first two keys to effective communication from the perspective of the sender. In this post, we will look at the final two keys from the perspective of the receiver.

Be the right kind of receiver

  • Are you present?
    It only makes sense that you need to be present to receive a message that is being communicated to you. But how often do people rely on second or third hand information rather than receiving the message directly from the communicator? In the context of the local church, it’s important to be present as much as possible. Sermons are not like inoculations—get your shot and you’re good to go. Instead, they are more like regular daily nutrition. Eating only one meal every few weeks or so will leave you malnourished—no matter how good the meal is. Growth requires regular, consistent, systematic nourishment that can only come from being present when the “food” is served.
  • Are you listening actively?
    There is a difference between hearing and listening. Just ask your spouse. It is possible to hear all the words your wife says about her day at work. But you will find yourself in a lot of trouble if you don’t actively listen to her. Active listening is different for different people and different contexts, but the bottom line is that it requires you to do something. Take notes. Give verbal feedback. Ask questions if appropriate. Listen with your whole body—nod your head (not nodding off to sleep), make eye contact, sit up or lean toward the speaker. Your attention span is like a muscle—you need to work it out to make it grow. Actively listening will do that.
  • Are you eager to receive?
    Your attitude as a listener will determine how much you get out of a message. If you don’t like the communicator, you won’t get much out of it. If you have a predetermined position on the subject or think you “know it all”, you are probably wasting everybody’s time. To be a good receiver, you need to be eager to see something you’ve never seen before. Before the message is communicated, pray about it. If you know the text or the subject ahead of time, learn about it. One of the reasons I am committed to systematic expositional preaching is that everybody knows where we’re going to be next week—and the week after that. That way everybody has the opportunity to eagerly anticipate the message by reading and studying ahead. Go into the message with questions in your mind. Expect to be changed by the message and you probably will. 

Have the right kind of response

  • Do you disagree?
    You will not agree with every message that is communicated to you—and you shouldn’t. We are inundated with messages in this information age. Discernment is a necessity, but it requires effort. Examine the sender’s character. What is his track record? Does he have a reputation of being reliable? If the sender has proven himself to be reliable and his character matches his message, spend extra time trying to figure out exactly why you disagree with him. Be a Berean (Acts 17:11). Spend time examining the sender’s message in light of your own biblical study. If you are able, go to the speaker privately and seek clarification. Separate your personal prejudices and preferences from the content of the message. Work hard to give the sender’s message consideration before completely discounting it. If the message only has minor points you disagree with, latch on to the points you agree with and act on them. If it is unbiblical or heretical, or the message doesn’t line up with the sender’s character, remove yourself from his teaching.
  • Do you agree? If you agree with the sender’s message, you still have a responsibility to check the Bible to make sure what he is saying is true. It is very easy for false teaching to tickle our ears by telling us only the things we like to hear. Just because a speaker might pander to his audience doesn’t make his teaching true or helpful. Be discerning about messages you like as well as those you don’t like. Always take it to the Bible. Discuss the message with other listeners. Discover why you agree. Are you agreeing because the message is self-justifying? Or are you agreeing because it challenges you and exalts Christ? Hopefully the latter is true. When you are confident that your agreement is biblically grounded and genuine, then you need to encourage the sender with positive feedback. Acknowledge your reception of the message with both verbal and non-verbal feedback. Not only will that encourage the speaker, it will help you to be an active listener and increase your ability to retain what you hear.
  • Act on it. Finally, a right response requires action by the receiver. Although all good speakers seek ways to apply their message to their listeners, the ultimate responsibility for application belongs to the receiver. How will this message change your life? What will you do as a result of it? Set personal goals based on the message. Make sure they are specific. Many messages you receive are beneficial, but broad. Narrow it down to a specific area of your life. Make sure your goals are measurable and time-specific. “This week I will do X at Y time each day.” Put them on your to-do list or your daily planner. Also make sure they are realistic and achievable. You won’t be able to save the world by Tuesday of next week. When a message is particularly motivating, you can leave feeling ready to charge Hell with a water pistol. That excitement is commendable—just not sustainable over the long haul unless you set realistic incremental goals along the way. You probably won’t be able to do everything at once—but you can do something every day along the way. The key is to do something—act on what you heard.

Sometimes poor communication is because of bad senders—we’ve all heard them. Sometimes it’s because of bad messages. As a speaker, I spend most of my time studying and crafting messages that are biblical, relevant and applicable. I work hard and pray hard to make sure my life matches my message. The same is true of most preachers I know. As receivers, we need to make the same kind of investment—because poor communication is just as likely caused by bad receivers. Take time to study the messages you hear. Be a Berean. Work hard and pray hard to make sure your life matches the messages you hear. Apply them to your life. Close the loop and communication will really happen.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2 Keys to Being an Effective Communicator

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the concept of leadership that we begin to mystify it. It’s very easy to think that developing leadership skills is for somebody else. But in reality, each of us uses the tools of leadership every day. The things that make better leaders also make better husbands, wives, parents, co-workers, students or citizens. More importantly, the things that make better leaders also make us better Christians and church members.

Topping the list of leadership skills that everybody needs to master is communication. Anybody that has been married more than five minutes understands the importance of communication. Parents understand the importance of communication. Leaders need to understand communication as well.

There are four keys to mastering clear communication. Today we’re going to look at the first two, which are from the perspective of the communicator. Later this week, we will look at it from the perspective of the receiver.

Be the right kind of sender

It’s easy to blame others when we can’t seem to get our message across. As a leader, you can never start there. Good leaders always need to start with a self-assessment.
  •  Are you prayed up before you attempt to communicate?
    Before we talk to others about the direction we feel that God is leading us to go, it’s a good idea to talk to Him about it.
  • Are you prepared to communicate?
    “Winging it” rarely engenders the confidence of a listener—and if you think they can’t tell you’re not prepared, you’re wrong. If you don’t really know what you’re going to say before you say it, it’s probably a good idea to keep your mouth shut. You need to figure it out before you ask your listeners to.
  • Are you burdened with your message?
    Many of the biblical prophets introduced their messages with, “The burden of the Lord for….” We communicate all kinds of things with varying levels of importance. But the crucial messages of leadership need to be communicated out of a clear sense of calling. You can tell when a salesman cares little about the product he is pitching. In the same way, people can see right through a leader who doesn’t have a burden for the message he’s communicating.
  • Do you have credibility?
    There is an inherent amount of gravitas with a person who has “been there, done that”. But understand that personal experience doesn’t necessarily equate to credibility. Faithfulness to Scripture builds credibility. Consistency builds credibility. Humility builds credibility. Coming alongside those you’re communicating to and living life with them builds credibility. Credibility is earned over the long haul.

Have the right message

To be a good communicator, your message must be worth communicating. You can be smooth and entertaining in front of an audience, but a good performance rarely equates to clear communication. The difference is the message.
  • Is your message clear?
    One of the difficulties of leadership is remembering how far ahead of your people you are. If you are as prepared as you should be, you have a crystal clear understanding of your message. But in order to make it clear to your listeners, you need to remember that they aren’t there yet. Make your message clear by starting at the beginning. Repeat often. Use illustrations. Repeat often. Clearly define your terms. Repeat often.
  • Is your message specific?
    Make sure you are talking to the audience who is in front of you. Continually referring to the ubiquitous “they” separates your listeners from the message instead of drawing them in. This message is for you. It speaks into your life. Show them specific ways that it does.
  • Is your message purposeful?
    Tell your listeners what the point is. If they don’t understand what the point is, they won’t have any need to invest in responding. Whether through the internet, books, television or talk radio, people are inundated with words. Let them know that your words have a purpose for their lives.
  • Is your message meaningful?
    A NASA engineer briefing can be clear, specific and have a very important purpose. But since I’m not involved in the space program, it wouldn’t be meaningful to me—at all. That’s one of the wonders of communicating the Gospel to people—it is the most meaningful message in the world.

Communication is a two-way street. In the next post we will look at the final two keys to clear communication—from the receiver’s perspective.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

3 Things to Do Before You Plan for Revitalization

It’s very easy to look at the condition of many churches and see the need for revitalization. When attendance is down, baptisms are down, and kingdom impact is down, revitalization is needed. Blaming society or culture is a non-productive cop-out.  

As leaders in our local churches, God has given us a mission and it’s our job to lead our church to accomplish it. The mission is the leader’s burden before it can ever become the church’s burden. It is his vision from God long before it’s the church’s vision. 

But simply having a burden and a mission and a vision isn’t enough—because by themselves, those things don’t get anything done. All they are is words hanging in the air until something actually gets done. In order for something to get done, a plan has to be made . 

Here’s the order—God burdens the heart of a leader with the mission he wants to accomplish through his people. The leader sees the vision and casts the vision to God’s people. Then the leader begins to work with the people to plan the work that it will take to accomplish the mission. 

But here’s the part that is often overlooked. After God gives the burden and before the plan is made, the leader should do three things.

Get some rest

The worst thing a leader can do is jump right in to planning.  No matter how pressing the burden for revitalization might seem, don’t start to plan until you have a clear head. And you can’t have a clear head when you’re exhausted. God hardwired us with a need for rest. When we don’t rest, we’re rebelling against the way he made us. We’re telling God that he can’t do this without us. We need to have enough faith in God that we can rest in him even when the need for revitalization is urgent. When it comes time to plan the work that God has called you to do, do it with a rested mind.

Make it real

Is your burden real or is it theoretical? I know what the statistics tell me. I know what demographics tell me. I know what Ed Stetzer and LifeWay Research tell me. But what is my neighborhood telling me? It’s one thing to know that demographics tell you Millennials need Jesus. Do you actually know any? Your burden won’t really become real to you until you begin to experience the need for yourself. If your church needs revitalized, get outside and begin to feel the lost and dying community around you. Meet the people. Begin to find ways to share life with them. You can’t begin to craft a good plan until the mission is real to you.

Make it yours

Has God called you to pastor a church in need of revitalization? If he has, then you have to own it. It has to be yours. The calling is yours. The burden is yours. The responsibility to lead is yours. Leadership isn’t done by consensus. Leadership isn’t done by collaboration. Leadership isn’t done by majority rule. Good and godly leadership happens when God’s man feels God’s burden for God’s mission and begins to lead and influence and inspire God’s people to accomplish it. Now, I’m not talking about being a dictator. I’m talking about leadership. Somebody has to drive the bus. One time when Adrian Rogers was talking about headship in the home, he said that anything with no head is dead and anything with two heads is a monster. Leadership matters. Own it. Make it yours. And lead.

Now you’re ready to start planning for revitalization.

Nehemiah 2:11-16

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

4 Steps to Overcome Opposition

The only sure way to avoid opposition in life is to never do anything worth opposing. But Jesus has called us to more than that. When he calls us to new life in him, he also calls us to bring new life to our neighbors and the nations. As we begin to do that, our local churches will begin to experience revitalization. And as we do, we will face opposition.

When we begin to face opposition, we have two choices. Either we will quit or we will overcome it. The Lord didn’t call you just so that you would quit on him. He called you to overcome. The question is, how?

Here are four steps to help you overcome opposition:

Go back to your mission

The mission of the church is not to have great attendance. It’s not to enjoy fun fellowship. It’s not to have pristine facilities. The mission of the church is the Great Commission. We are called to bring new life to our neighbors and the nations by making disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ. When opposition comes, don’t allow the opposition to make you lose focus on that mission. Instead, let it cause you to hone and sharpen your focus. Go back to the mission God has given you.

Go back to your prayer

When opposition comes is not the time to start praying. The time to start praying is when you first begin to be burdened about the mission God has given you. Think about it this way—when is the best time to repair a boat? Is it before the storm comes or in the middle of it? At my church, we are preparing for and praying about opposition long before it comes. Hopefully, you were deep in prayer long before you set out on your mission. If you were, then when opposition comes, all you need to do is go back to those seasons of prayer. Claim God’s promises. If you don’t have those seasons of prayer to go back to, then start now. Bail water, fight the storm and pray hard—just don’t give up.

Go back to your preparation

As you set out on the mission God has called you to, it requires preparation. You will never be able to prepare for every opposition that might come your way, but you need to be realistic. Prepare for contingencies. Don’t go into this thing blind. Our faith isn’t blind—it is in a God who has proven himself faithful. Neither should we blindly step out to do the mission he’s given us. We need to step out, knowing that we are as prayerfully prepared as possible for what might lie ahead. That way, when opposition comes, we have something to go back to. You might not have prepared for each specific obstacle, but at least you have trained yourself to think through contingencies enough that they will be easier to work through.

Go back to your faith

While going back to your mission, your prayer and your preparation are important, the real key to facing opposition is to go back to your faith. Nehemiah’s key to facing opposition was that he believed the good hand of his God was upon him. When you know your mission is from the Lord... When you know the Lord has heard your prayers… When you know the Lord has guided your preparation… When you can look back and see all of the doors the Lord has opened up along the way… When you see all of the things the Lord has already done, what makes you think that he would leave you now? God is faithful to keep his promises. And he has promised that he will finish what he starts in you and your church. When you step out to accomplish the mission he has given you, he will finish it. Do you believe him?

God hasn't called us and given us a mission just so we would quit at the first hint of opposition. He has called us and empowered us to be overcomers and persevere until the end.

Revelation 3:12

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Monday, August 25, 2014

3 Kinds of Opposition to Church Revitalization

In life, there’s only one way to avoid facing opposition—just don’t do anything. Even elementary school science students understand that every action is met with an equal but opposite reaction. Why should we expect anything different as we revitalize our churches?

Opposition can come in many forms. I have distilled it down to primarily three:

Opposition Can Be Territorial

Having a sense of ownership for your church’s facilities and ministries can be a good thing. It’s okay to take pride in a ministry that’s near and dear to your heart. When you invest your time and effort into something, you naturally begin to have a feeling that it’s your turf. But understand this—your church, your ministry, your facility isn’t your turf. It’s Jesus’ turf. He’s the one who died for it, so it belongs to Him. When your church begins to have an impact in its community, things will get messy. Programs and ministries will change. Maybe even the ones that you really like. But remember, it’s Jesus’ territory—not yours.

Opposition Can Be Historical

You’ve heard the seven last words of a dying church: “We’ve never done it that way before.” That’s one form historical opposition can take. We can be so enamored by our history and tradition that it’s nearly impossible to move forward. But historical opposition can take a much more subtle and pervasive form. It’s sad, but true—grudges and bitterness about things in the past will often result in opposition to revitalization. “I got hurt doing that before, so I’m not going to allow myself to get hurt again.” It’s like the jilted lover who swears off dating forever. Historical opposition can result in those who have been beat up by the past refusing to step back in the ring. But there comes a time when you have to understand that the past is in the past—leave it there. The future is bright, but you can’t see it if you’re blinded by the past.

Opposition Is Always Spiritual

Regardless whether opposition presents itself as territorial or historical, understand this—opposition to God’s work is always spiritual. Jesus has called your church to be His witnesses to a watching world, both seen and unseen. Satan, our adversary, will do anything in his limited power to oppose that. The opposition to your church’s revitalization might seem like it’s coming from certain people or circumstances, but behind it all is spiritual opposition. The opposition you’re wrestling with is not against people, budgets, facilities, society or circumstances—it’s against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The sad thing is that when many people face opposition, they quit. It is much easier to continue decaying with the status quo than fight the opposition that comes with revitalization. But Jesus didn’t call our churches to simply exist while the world around us goes to Hell. He called us to persevere and overcome the opposition so that we will revitalize and impact our world with the gospel.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

6 Ways to Prepare Your Church for Revitalization

According to recent research by LifeWay president Thom Rainer, over 90% of evangelical churches are either in decline or failing to keep up with the growth rate of their communities. In other words, we are rapidly losing ground. In order to take back some of that ground, most churches are in need of some level of revitalization. 

Revitalization has become a kind of buzzword in church circles. It simply means that most of our churches need to have new life breathed into them. Before that can happen, I believe we need to prepare for it to happen. My favorite line in the movie, Facing the Giants, was when one of the characters was asked why he was carrying an umbrella when it hadn’t rained in weeks. His response? “If you’re going to pray for rain, you had better start to carry an umbrella.” The path to church revitalization always begins with prayer. But that prayer has to include prayerful preparation. There are six ways your church can prepare for revitalization.

Pray Hard

Taking Nehemiah as our example, before he ever had permission to leave his post—even before he had mentioned his desire to go to Jerusalem—he prayed for four solid months. But his prayer wasn’t simply a once-a-day, mark it off the prayer list kind of prayer. The Bible says that he mourned and prayed and fasted day and night for the revitalization of Jerusalem. When was the last time you prayed fervently for 120 days about anything, much less about the revitalization of your church? Revitalization has to start with fervent prayer, but that’s not where it ends.

Emotionally Prepare

By its very nature, revitalization is transformation. And transformation means change. And change is difficult—even painful. It requires continual change to prevent mission drift and shift focus outside the church doors instead of on personal desires and preferences. Change is not safe. Status quo is safe—but it is also decay. And more importantly, status quo is disobedience. Prepare for the emotions that will come from revitalization and don’t quit when they start to happen.

Clearly See the Problem

One of the most difficult things to do in life is admit when you have a problem. We all like to sugar coat our foibles or shift the blame on others. “We’re in decline because people just don’t go to church like they used to.” “If we just had better (fill in the blank), we’d have more people.” The excuses can keep coming—but excuses won’t revitalize your church. Excuses are like blindfolds, and people who wear blindfolds can’t go anywhere. Be completely transparent and honest about the problem. Don’t gloss over it. See it for what it is and boldly communicate it.

Know Who Is in Charge

When a church is in need of revitalization, it is very easy to look to the pastor and church leadership as the savior. We only have one Savior—and the pastor isn’t Him. Pastors are called to lead and shepherd the church—but they aren’t in charge of revitalization. As Baptists, we cherish various forms of Congregational polity. But no matter what your church’s business meetings look like, church members aren’t in charge of revitalization. Deacons aren’t. Elders aren’t. Councils and committees and boards aren’t in charge of revitalization. God is. That’s why we start with prayer and continually undergird everything with prayer.

Understand the Mission

What is the mission of your church? Do you know it? Does the majority of your membership know it? Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying, “If you aim at nothing, you’re guaranteed to hit it every time.” If the people of your church can’t even tell you what your mission is, how in the world will they be able to accomplish it? The mission of the church is the Great Commission. If your church is going to be revitalized, you must understand the Great Commission in your context. Communicate it in such a way that people can remember it. Communicate it regularly and develop a laser-like focus on accomplishing it.

Plan Ahead

One of my favorite things about the early verses of Nehemiah is when he finally had the opportunity to ask the king about going to Jerusalem. As soon as the king gave him the opportunity, Nehemiah rattled off all the stuff he was going to need for the trip. No hesitation. No delay. No, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” Nehemiah immediately gave the king a timeline, some legal requests and a list of materials. How was that possible? Did he just come up with a list off the top of his head? Of course not. He was able to do that because he didn’t just spend that four months praying on his knees in a closet somewhere. He spent it praying with a notepad in hand (only because he didn’t have an iPad of laptop available). To revitalize your church, it will take some serious strategic planning. Understand your values. Develop your mission. Cast the vision. The tactical planning of how and where you’re going to lay the bricks will come later—now is the time to cast the vision of building the wall.

Do you want to see your church brought to new life? It has to start with prayer, but it can’t end there. Prayer has to grow into preparation. Pray for rain—but prepare for it by bringing your umbrella.

Nehemiah 2:1-8

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Does God Really Hear Me?

Our God is a personal God. And as a personal God, He will hear you when you call out to Him.

When you trust Jesus as your Lord and Master and Savior, He opens up the lines of communication between you and your creator. When you turn from your sins in repentance and turn to Jesus in faith—He becomes your high priest, your mediator, your intercessor. Because of what Jesus did for you on the cross, you can now talk to God like He’s your loving daddy—because He is.

God is the God of heaven and earth. He is great and awesome. He is supreme and majestic and glorious and wonderful. He is the only one who is to be hallowed because He is the only one who is worthy of our worship.

But despite that, we can talk to Him. He is our Daddy who loves us enough that He paid the ultimate price of sacrificing His only begotten Son that we might be adopted by Him as his children. And as His adopted children, He will never let us go.

Think about it—the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe delights in hearing us when we talk to Him!

Hebrews 4:16

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Top Four Reasons I Love Being a Pastor

After spending the past two and a half years as a denominational servant, this is my second week “back in the saddle” of pastoring a local church. I have to tell you, the honeymoon is wonderful! But regardless how long the honeymoon period lasts, I love being a pastor.
Being a pastor isn’t always easy. If it was, God wouldn’t have to call us. But as far as I’m concerned, the many blessings far outweigh the struggles. With that in mind, let me give you the top four reasons I’m excited to be a pastor again—alliterated, of course!

The Preaching

There are few things in life I enjoy more than spending time with God in His Word. The richness and depth of the Bible continually amazes me. I am a convinced believer in systematic, consecutive expository preaching. That means I preach week-to-week, verse-by-verse through books of the Bible. I could write for weeks about the benefits of that kind of preaching (and probably will in later posts), but for now, let me tell you what it does for me. During my time as a Church Planting Catalyst, I was blessed to preach nearly every week in different churches around our state—even in other states. It’s always a blessing to spend time in the Bible—but nothing compares to the in-depth, week-to-week study that comes from preaching through an entire book. I’m forced away from my pet topics and into what God is really saying to His people. I have to deal with textual difficulties and hard things. And as I struggle with those things, the Spirit shapes me and the church learns to handle their Bibles well.

The Planning

For some reason, God has allowed me to be a strategic thinker. Some people are great at working out details and dealing with minutiae. I work better at 30,000 feet. For me, it is incredibly rewarding to understand and clearly teach a group of believers what our mission is. Seeing God bring alignment to His people as we begin to understand the direction we’re going and all start heading that way is exciting. Understanding our biblical mission, casting an irresistible vision and developing a strategic plan for how we’re going to get there is challenging, but amazingly rewarding to me. But even more rewarding is watching God work in the hearts of His people as they begin to accomplish great Kingdom work. In the words of the cigar-smoking Hannibal on the A-Team—I love it when a plan comes together!

The People

An old line that preachers often use is, “Ministry would be great if it wasn’t for all the people.” As a pastor, the greatest source of joy and the greatest source of pain come from the people God has entrusted to me. I love the way Paul talked to the church at Philippi. Maybe I’m reading into things, but I think Philippi was his favorite church. It was clear he loved them dearly. Just notice the number of times he referred to them as his joy. They weren’t perfect. They struggled with unity. They tended to grumble and complain a little bit. Their giving wasn’t always consistent. They had a couple of ladies stirring some trouble. No, they were far from perfect—just like all local churches, including the one I pastor. But just like any good pastor, Paul loved them. He loved watching what God was doing in and through them. And he understood it was God who was doing it (Philippians 2:13). Most of all, he trusted that God was going to finish what He started in them (Philippians 1:6). If it wasn’t for the people, I wouldn’t experience the affliction of ministry—but the joy of seeing God work in people and watching them come together to accomplish His mission far outweighs the light, momentary affliction.

The Potlucks

Okay, so I like to eat—and nobody cooks like Southern Baptist ladies (and men)! But aside from the fact I like to eat, I love the fellowship that comes from sharing meals together. Sometimes calling ourselves a church family can sound like Christianese.  But the fact is—we are family. We are adopted sons and daughters of the King—brothers and sisters in Christ. Even secular sociologists and psychologists understand the importance of families eating together. In an article on the Huffington Post, Registered Dietitian Timi Gustafson wrote, “The dinner table can be the perfect environment where kids learn how to conduct conversations, observe good manners, serve others, listen, solve conflicts and compromise.” Eating together as a church family teaches us the same things. And besides that, the banana pudding is awesome!

Those are certainly not the only reasons I’m excited to be a pastor again. In conversations this week with pastor friends who are enduring difficult seasons of ministry, my glasses aren’t so rose-colored to think that rough times won’t come. But no matter what comes when the honeymoon is eventually over, here’s one thing I do know: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)” It’s good to be Pastor to the people of Parkview Baptist Church!

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Monday, August 4, 2014

What If a Leader Can't Wait?

Don’t do anything the first year.

During my time in ministry, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. And every time I’ve heard it, I thought it was sound advice. In some cases, it might be the best thing a new leader can do. But is it a universal truism? More importantly, is it a biblical mandate?

To both questions, I say no. Now, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the thinking behind it. Leadership is influence and influence best happens in the context of real relationships. Real relationships can only happen when people trust you. So before any kind of leadership can take place, people have to trust the leader. That is a universal truism.

I read recently that it takes between five and seven years for a congregation to really trust their pastor (I would give you the reference if I could remember it). So, if that’s the case, then how can a pastor really lead the flock that God has given him to lead? Does he really have to wait anywhere from a year to five or seven years before he is able to lead?

Unfortunately, I believe that’s one of the reasons so many pastors don’t stick around for very long. They can’t lead their churches because they haven’t built “trust equity”. But at the same time they know they must lead the church or they are not doing what God has called them to do. Talk about a Catch-22! So the pastor leaves after five years and the church calls another guy who won’t do anything for the first year or more. And the church suffers.

So what is the solution? Transparency and trust.

The pastor must be transparent

The pastor doesn’t have to have it all figured out when he first gets there (and probably shouldn’t), but he must be clear about the direction he wants to head. If he has convictions about polity or style or substance, he needs to be up front about it—certainly with the church leadership.

Understand that transparency doesn’t necessarily mean he has to lay out a completely exhaustive plan. Good leadership requires strong communication skills and the ability to teach the plan as he goes along. Transparency simply means that the pastor cannot have ulterior motives or hidden agendas.

Nehemiah was completely transparent with the king when he told him he wanted to rebuild Jerusalem. He was also completely transparent with the leaders in Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 2:17, he said, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” Talk about telling it like it is!

The church must trust him

This is a tough one. Many churches are in the shape that they’re in because they’ve been burned by a pastor or two—or at least they perceive they have. It’s a tough thing for people to trust when they have just come out of a bad relationship. But there’s a reason they called their pastor in the first place. That call needs to come with some benefit of the doubt.

Think about it—everybody has a first day. Nehemiah had a first day as the king’s cupbearer. And what did the king do? Apparently he trusted him enough to eat. Nehemiah also had a first day in front of the leaders in Jerusalem. And what did they do? They listened to his plan and said, “Let us rise up and build.” And Nehemiah 2:18 says that they “strengthened their hands for the good work.”

Does it take time to build trust? Of course it does. But it also requires opportunity. Opportunity can only come when trust is extended where none has yet been earned. Pastors—start by being vulnerable and transparent about the direction you want to lead the church. And churches, rather than always thinking pastors have to build trust equity before they are allowed to lead, how about extending a line of trust credit that will hold them over until they are able to earn it? Who knows, God might do something really amazing—without having to wait forever. He certainly did for Nehemiah and the remnant.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

4 Things I Am Going to Miss

Well, today is my last official day as a Church Planting Catalyst for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. A few years ago, if you had told me that I would be a NAMB appointed missionary for our state convention, I would have told you that you were crazy. Denominational work was something I never aspired to, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve the churches of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. While I am ready and excited to be back in the pastorate, here are four things I will miss about serving as a Church Planting Catalyst:

The Church Planters

A few years ago, the former State Director of Missions, Delton Beale, began encouraging us to pray Luke 10:2. Since then, on the second day of each month, several of us have intentionally prayed that the Lord of the harvest would raise up workers into His harvest field. He has been faithful to answer that prayer. And the quality of men that He is raising up is mind-blowing. The church planters I had the privilege of working with absolutely inspired me. Their energy, enthusiasm, boldness and brokenness for the lost convicted me. They challenged me with their creativity and new ways of thinking. God is doing a great work in and through them and I will miss the time we spent together.

The Pastors

I love the local church. And because I love the local church, I love pastors. I will miss getting to share coffee or pie with the dozens of pastors I was blessed to work with. While I’ve served them, they have regularly been in my prayers, along with their churches. Some have changed churches. Some are no longer serving a church. A few are no longer in ministry at all. We’ve laughed together, cried together, strategized together, and just had fun together. Although I didn’t get to spend as much time with each of the pastors that I would have liked, I will miss the time we did get to spend together.

My Fellow CPCs

Nothing builds camaraderie quite like building something new together. I was blessed to start off with the “first round” of CPCs—James Smith, Frank Pilcher, Tony Inmon and Charlie Minney. Each one brought unique gifts and perspectives to the table, and each one was a blessing to me. No one prays like James, works like Frank, strategizes like Tony or loves like Charlie. Those guys laid the right foundation, worked like dogs and inspired me to be the best CPC I could be. Then after them came my brother Danny and my other brother Danny—Danny Cunningham and Danny Rumple. Those guys are true friends who have a tremendous vision for church planting in West Virginia. Danny Cunningham is the best man I know at building relationships and Danny Rumple is the most biblically grounded, driven denominational servant I’ve ever met. I will miss the road trips, the hotel stays, the staff meetings (not really), the long talks and the teamwork with those guys.

The Ride

It’s amazing how God takes people who really don’t know what they’re doing and does a good work through them. That’s a perfect description of my work as a CPC. I’m a simple pastor. I have some leadership and relational skills, but at my core, I’m a simple small-church pastor. And as near as I can tell, that’s what all of the CPCs have been—simple guys with a love for Jesus and His Kingdom. The closest we ever came to working with brilliant strategists is reading Stetzer or Malphurs’ books. But despite that, God has done some incredible things. The thing that I will miss the most about being a Church Planting Catalyst is sitting back and enjoying the ride when God starts doing His thing through planters and pastors and catalysts who don’t really have a clue. I will miss being on the ride, but can’t wait to hear about how He is riding on without me!


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Top 10 Leadership Lessons I Learned As a CPC

With only a few more days left in this ministry role, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some leadership lessons I’ve learned over the past 2+ years as a Church Planting Catalyst. Denominational work in Baptist life is unique. Southern Baptists are not hierarchical—we are a cooperating fellowship of fully autonomous churches. I like to say that one of the reasons we’re Baptists is we just don’t like people telling us what to do. Add to that the fiercely independent nature of West Virginians (our state motto is Montani Semper Liberi—Mountaineers are Always Free), and you can see that cat herding might be an easier calling than leading West Virginia Southern Baptists! Being a CPC has been one of the most challenging and rewarding ministry roles I’ve ever had. It has stretched me and developed me as a leader in ways that I could not have anticipated. That being said, here are the top ten leadership lessons I have learned:

You don’t have to have positional authority to lead 

Within the hierarchy of a non-hierarchical organization, CPCs rank somewhere between pond scum and really likeable pond scum—in other words, it isn’t a title that automatically engenders awe and deference. But real leadership doesn’t depend on position and titles. Real leadership is influence, and influence can only happen in the course of developing real relationships.

Ministry—no matter the position—is difficult

Ministry is about dealing with people. Sometimes it’s about dealing with hurting people and sometimes it’s about dealing with hurtful people. In my dealings with West Virginia churches, pastors and ministry leaders, I have worked with many hurting people and a few hurtful people. Some churches hurt pastors, some pastors hurt churches. They all need the same thing that I do—the hope that is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Viewing everybody through that lens helps.

Calling is essential

One of my primary jobs as a CPC was to help potential church planters discern their calling from God. As part of that process, I made a habit of asking them if they could possibly do anything else besides plant a church. If they said they could, I told them to do it.  Because if you can do anything else, you’re probably not called by God to plant a church. The ministry—whether pastor, missionary, church planter or CPC—is not simply a job. It must be a calling from God, for it is the assurance of that calling that will allow you to persevere even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Leading up is challenging, but necessary

Nobody worth their salt likes a yes-man. Yes-men are terribly toxic for any organization, but it takes tact and thoughtfulness to disagree agreeably. In order for an opinion to be valued, it has to be valuable. To be valuable, it must be competent. And as was stated in Lesson #1, influence can only happen where there is real relationship. Relationships are built on trust and leaders will be influenced by competent, trustworthy followers.

Discernment is vital

Being perceived as having something somebody wants can be a precarious position. If an unscrupulous potential planter sees you as the key to “his” funding, he can be tempted to say anything to win you over. Fortunately, God gave the discernment to immediately recognize those guys and send them on their way. The same kind of thing can happen in the local church with what I like to call "Klingons". Klingons are those folks who "cling on" to the pastor to "warn" him of what all the "other" people are saying and doing. One of my regular prayers is for God to bless me with wisdom and discernment. The Lord answering that prayer is the filter that is required to be a good leader.

It is possible to build an airplane while it is in the air

When I became a CPC, it was a brand new position. Church planting in West Virginia was certainly not a new thing, but those positions were. With very little guidance, our team had to figure out how we were going to relate to the churches and the associations. We had to develop training programs for planters and churches from the ground up. We literally started from scratch—here’s your car and your cell phone, go forth and multiply church plants. I learned very quickly that you can’t wait until the process is perfect before you get started accomplishing the mission. Part of the faith aspect of ministry is stepping out of the boat without really knowing what the next step is. Just continually look to Jesus and keep stepping.

Even your harshest critics can be likeable over a piece of pie

Have you ever noticed how many times the Gospels tell us that Jesus ate with people? I added some more extra weight as a CPC, but it has been worth it—no matter what the doctor says. It is really difficult for people to have adversarial attitudes toward each other when pie and ice cream is involved. It all goes back to relationships. You may not ever agree with each other, but the stories shared over desert somehow cut through the tension and give you something to build on.

It’s easy to miss blind spots.

A long ministry in one place is a wonderful ideal to strive for. I would love to have the blessing of shepherding generations of people in the same place. But, as with any blessing, there is a potential pitfall to being in one place for an extended period of time. My grandparents lived by the train tracks most of their adult life. They never even heard or felt the train when it went past. In the same way, our senses can become numb to deterioration in our ministries. Whether it’s poor signage in the parking lot or clutter in the hallway—or something far more serious and detrimental—it’s easy to overlook the obvious when we’re numb to it. The only way to open your eyes to it is to look at things through someone else’s eyes. Be open to those around you and don’t be threatened by their new ideas and suggestions. That’s one of the reasons I love working with millennials. They keep me fresh and open up my eyes to my blind spots.

It’s easier to use reins than spurs

Another reason I love working with church planters is that they are continually running wide-open. I often describe them like a fighter jet with tons of thrust but little vector. But isn't that so much better than the alternative? I know I'm mixing metaphors here, but any football coach knows you can’t coach speed. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible to disciple a person out of their apathy. But when a person is energetic and excited, he is easy and fun to disciple and train. I would rather somebody make a mistake or two going full-throttle than miss a dozen opportunities because he refused to get out off the runway.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31)

I am a strategic thinker. To me, the only thing wrong with a 5-year plan is that it isn’t a 10-year plan. I love to look at things from 30,000 feet and strategize and develop plans and cast vision. In many ways, I think that’s what God built me to do. But in the end, it’s not my meticulous planning or bold visioning that will accomplish anything for the Kingdom. Because the victory belongs to the Lord. Yes, we are called to plan and strategize—we’re just not supposed to trust in it. No matter what happens, no matter where we go or what we’re allowed to see accomplished, we trust in the Lord. And that’s the greatest leadership lesson of all.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

12 Things to Keep Those Pesky Visitors from Ever Coming Back

This past Sunday, my family and I had an interesting experience. We visited an out-of-state church. As unknowns. As guests. As outsiders. We could have been unchurched, or de-churched, or lost, or pagans, or heathenor even angels unawares. We could have been anybody—the point is, we were obviously not one of them. We were the kind of people that church people always say they want to reach. There were seven of us, ranging in age from 4 to 66. Four generations of a whole family who, for all they knew, could have been looking for a church home.

Our experience was not good. Not only would we never go back, we could not in good conscience recommend the church to anyone else. They weren’t overtly mean or unkind. I’m sure in their minds, they were just fine—friendly even. But let me tell you what it looked like from a guest’s perspective.  Here are a dozen things that would combine to cause us never go back to that church again.

  1. The website--I realize that not all churches have websites, but yours should. The website is the first place a person under 50 will look for information about your church. Have a website or at least a Facebook page, and make sure the information is up to date and accurate! If you have changed your service time to 10:45, don’t say it starts at 11:00 on your website.
  2. The parking lot--As a pastor who has worked with many pastors, maybe I’m overly sensitive in some areas. But visitors to your church should not have to park in the back of the parking lot—especially when there are reserved staff parking spots right next to the door.
  3. The directions--Good signage should be one of the easiest things a church can get right. But it is obviously one of the most overlooked. See your church through the eyes of a person who has never been in church—much less your church. An unchurched person might see an arrow pointing to “The Sanctuary”, but how do they know that’s where they’re supposed to go? Where are the bathrooms? Where do the kids go? Do we all go to the same place? Oh yeah, and nobody is around to follow because we’re 15 minutes late since the time on the website was wrong. HELP ME!!!!
  4. The greeters--A good greeter is more than just a here’s-a-handshake-and-a-bulletin person. Here’s a quiz for you: When a greeter sees a family with children, what should he do? A) Pretend to not see them, B) Offer a handshake-and-a-bulletin to the mom who is already holding the baby, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, snack bags and the hands of two other kids, or C) Stoop down, greet the children, and let the parents know of any children’s programs that occur during the service. I would hope the answer is self-evident—but it really isn’t. It’s also a good idea to have friendly people available to escort parents to the nursery, children’s church, etc. If you don’t have separate children’s activities during the service, provide coloring sheets with crayons or activity bags for them.
  5. The bulletin--I know, it’s not hip to call it a bulletin anymore. But just because you change the name to “Worship Folder” doesn’t automatically make it worth the life of the tree it once was. Unfamiliar experiences are uncomfortable. Use the bulletin to take away some of the unfamiliarity. Write it for an unchurched person (what the heck is a doxology?!?). Give the what and explain (as briefly as possible) the why. Here’s a clue—if your bulletin says nothing about Jesus, then your guests will probably not expect to meet Him there.
  6. The bulbs--What do you think it tells a visitor if you have burned out bulbs in your worship center? What about dirty windows? Overgrown hedges? Junk in hallways and common spaces? Let’s be honest—when we “live” somewhere for a while, we quit noticing neglected maintenance and increasing clutter. But visitors notice—especially visitors with children. Do you think a protective mother wants to leave her child in the nursery of a church with clutter out in the open and burned out light bulbs?
  7. The Meet and Greet--At the church we attended this past Sunday, we missed the meet and greet time (see #1), but the vast majority of churches I have visited include some kind of “welcome” time. The intent is honorable, but I have never seen it work as intended. No matter how you orchestrate it (standing, sitting, some stand while others sit, singing, walking, etc.), it is ALWAYS unpleasant for the visitor. Even the best-hearted church members feign friendliness with guests then immediately turn to genuinely love on fellow members. There has to be a better way!
  8. The dishonesty--I’m all for being positive and energetic. Few things bother me more than down-in-the-mouth commentary from people on the platform. But at the same time, people need to be honest. Don’t talk about what a great crowd is here when there are more empty seats than full ones. When we walked in the church on Sunday, they were in the middle of singing Hillsong’s Church on Fire (see #1). Great song—if the church is really on fire. If unchurched people walk into a gathering and hear people singing, “The Holy Spirit is here and His power is real,” what will they think when they look around and see people looking half-dead? Somebody’s lying somewhere.
  9. The selfishness, part 1--When visitors walk into a church for the first time, do you think they want to sit in the front or the back—especially if the service has already started (see #1)? Yet in most churches, the back rows and aisle seats are the first to fill up. In many churches, those seats are already “reserved” by personal cushions or left behind Bibles. I have visited churches where people in aisle seats actually shifted their legs to “allow” me to scrunch past them to a middle seat, rather than simply scoot over to give the guest their seat.
  10. The selfishness, part 2--Of all the churches I’ve attended, something happened Sunday that I’ve never experienced before. Since we were not made aware of any children’s activities, and probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable leaving him if there were (see #6), my 4-year old grandson sat with us during the worship service. I am unashamedly biased, but he really is a good boy. But even really good boys make some noise during church. Not nearly enough that would warrant taking him outside mind you—just some 4-year old boy noises. Apparently 4-year old boy noises were too much for the older couple who were sitting in front of us. In the middle of the service, after glaring back several times, they got up and moved. How do you think that would make a visitor feel? Welcome or unwelcome?
  11. The people--It is easy to like people who are like us. That’s not what church is supposed to be. When the service was over, my 66-year old mother received warm greetings from the older ladies behind us. My wife and I received a few cordial handshakes from some others. My daughter, son-in-law and grandson were not spoken to. Here’s a tip: love the children first. The parents, grandparents and great-grandparents will follow.
  12. The preaching--I know I’m really particular about preaching. I am a systematic, expositional preacher and particularly appreciate that kind of preaching. I understand that everyone isn’t like me, but if a message is going to be topical, it needs to at least be biblical. And no preacher should ever stand in the pulpit (or platform, or music stand, or whatever) and fail to present the Gospel. We must preach the Gospel, or else we just flap our gums and waste people’s time.

I hope my bad church experience will cause us all to think about our own churches. We say we want to reach the lost. We say we want unchurched people to come to our churches. We say we want to see people saved. But do we show that we really mean what we say?

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Monday, June 2, 2014


Songs are powerful. Even after not hearing a song for years, it doesn’t take much to trigger a tune and lyrics in my brain. Such was the case today. All day, I haven’t been able to get the old David Bowie song, Changes, out of my mind. Of course, by telling you this, I am inadvertently confessing to either bad taste in music or a misspent youth—or both.

 Changes are a fact of life in this fallen world. Sanctification requires continual growth and change until the time we reach complete Christ-likeness in our glorification. Until then, the only thing we have that never changes is God’s Word. With the assurance of an immutable God who has given us His unchangeable Word, we can welcome change in every other area of life—even embrace it.

Having said that, I need to let you know about a significant change that’s taking place in my life and ministry. Parkview Baptist Church in Bluefield, VA, has extended a call for me to become their pastor. After much prayer and wise, godly counsel from some close friends, I am confident the Lord has led me to accept Parkview’s call. I will start my service there on August 1st, ending my time as your Church Planting Catalyst.

I am a firm believer that, as long as we don’t disqualify ourselves, the Lord’s calling on our lives never changes. We are called to His Gospel ministry. However, He is free to change the direction of our calling anytime He chooses. He changed the direction of my calling when He led me to become your CPC. He is once again changing the direction of my calling to become the Pastor of Parkview Baptist Church.

I am thankful for the time I have spent as your NAMB/WVCSB Church Planting Catalyst Missionary. It has been and will continue to be a valuable ministry. It has been my pleasure to serve the Lord by coming alongside WVCSB churches as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission by planting churches in our great state. We have learned and grown and worked hard to develop lasting relationships.  The Lord has blessed and is blessing by raising up some amazing men who are planting churches that are making significant Kingdom impact on Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.

I am excited for the future direction of the WVCSB and am confident the Lord will raise up a man who will take the Eastern Region CPC position far beyond where my limited gifting could. The West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists’ greatest days are in the windshield, not the rear-view mirror.

By His Grace and For His Glory…. #PlantWV

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Daily Truth

Today's time being made to look more like Jesus is in Acts 15:22-29. 
Give Your church more and more gospel-based unity of direction (22,25). Help us recognize and correct false teaching (24), risk our lives for the gospel (26), and strive to help Your saints live up to the holiness of Christ that You gave us (28-29).

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time being reminded of Christ is in Acts 15:6-21.
Thank You for washing my heart clean by grace, through faith (9,11). Don't let me burden others with my own thoughts on how to be holiest (10). Help me to understand my current situation in light of the wisdom of mature believers as validated by Scripture (13-14). 

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time being shaped by the Word is from Acts 15:1-5.
Don't let me ever think that there is anything I can do to be saved more than what Christ already did for me (1). Give me the joy of helping others come to know Jesus (3-4). Help me not become discouraged by those who demand more of me than You do (1,5). 

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Daily Truth

Today, be reminded of our kingdom building mission from Acts 14:23-28.
Help me to equip others who will equip still others by Your enabling (23). Help me finish the work you saved me to do (26). Don't let me keep what You do through me to myself (27). Let me celebrate and enjoy life with Your people (28). 

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time being reminded of whose we are is in Acts 14:21-22.
Help me to understand and expect that "it is necessary to go through many troubles on our way to the kingdom of God" so I will be willing to share Jesus, even in a place where I was abused for it (22). 

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time being conformed to the image of Chist is in Acts 14:8-20. 
Lord, let others marvel at Your power at work in and through me (11-13). Keep me humbly pointing to You, the one true God (14-15). Surround me with followers of Jesus when I am beat down so I can get up to keep serving You (20). 

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time being shaped by the Word is in Acts 14:1-7.
Make me consistent in sharing Your message wherever I go (1). Help me really understand why Paul and Barnabas would stay in Iconium because they had been opposed (2-3). When opposed, help me rely on You and speak with courage (3). Don't let me stop evangelizing (7). 

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time having our minds purified by the Word is in Acts 13:42-52.
Create a hunger in people so they beg to hear Your gospel and whole towns gather to hear Your Word (42-44). Even if I am opposed, slandered, and kicked out for sharing Jesus, fill me with Your joy and control me by Your Spirit as I go to share with those who want to hear (45-52). 

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Daily Truth

Use me today to encourage Your people (15) with reminders that You chose us, You sustain and bless us, You display Your power to us (17), You are patient with us (18), You are faithful to Your promises (19, 34), and You have saved us in Jesus (23-41). 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's life-altering truth comes from Acts 23:4-
Help me to do what the Spirit "sends" me to do today and say exactly what I should as "filled" by the Spirit (4,9) so that those who are seeking You will see how blind those people are who reject Jesus, and the seekers will be saved (10-12). 

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time being reminded of what Jesus saved us to be and do is in Acts 13:1-3.
Let my ministry be ultimately for You. Help me hear Your Spirit's leading today (2). Show me what You saved me to do and help me get to it (3). 

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Daily Truth

Today we submit our lives to the Lord's truth in Acts 12:18-25. 
Forgive me for the pride of wanting people to notice me for what I wear and say instead of the righteousness and truth You have clothed me with (21). Both have hindered the increase of Your rule in my heart and my world (24). 

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's tie being reminded of truth by God's Word is in Acts 12:11-18. 
Don't let my lack of faith cause me to miss it when You answer my prayers (11-16). Make me ready to declare how You have worked in my life (17). Don't let me minimize how much You value the gospel continuing to be shared (18-19-You allowed soldiers to die so Peter could keep sharing).

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Daily Truth

Today's time being made by the Word to live more like Jesus is in Acts 12:1-10. 
Even if my life be taken, no one can take the eternal life I have in You (1-2). Though I be stripped of my my earthly liberty, I am forever free to love and obey You (3-6, 8-10). Though I be in the darkest place of my life, Your light shines into and out of me (7). Help me live today by faith, not by my experience. 

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