Monday, March 29, 2010

One Thing

If you missed it... then YOU MISSED IT! Sunday our District Superintendent who oversees the 362 churches in Pennsylvania-Delaware and over 1000 ministers across the two states came and shared with us from Mark chapter 10.

When questioned by a rich, young ruler what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus looked on Him in love and said, "One Think You Lack." The challenge was clear, and the call was person... What is your "1-Thing"?

Let me encourage you to read through Mark 10 today, and listen to the Pod-cast if you missed it. Ask God what is holding you back. As Revelations records... "The Spirit and the Bride say come." Come to him and get that 1-thing right with him. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Fruit of Faith

With only 3-days left in our 21 Days of Faith spiritual campaign, we have learned about the role of prayer and fasting in our lives. However, God is more interested in the end result of our lives. He calls this Fruit.

Galatians chapter 5 lists the fruit of the spirit that should be evident in our lives when dealing with other people. When the Spirit of God continue to take control, the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control should be ever-increasing in our lives and our interaction with others.

However, the fruit (end-result) God is looking for from our lives when it comes to our interaction and relationship with him is something different. This one "fruit" that is recorded in scripture is "FAITH". Hebrews 11:6 teaches us, "6And without faith it is impossible to please God." So where do we get this type of faith. There are 2 producers and 1 refiner of this type of faith.

Faith Producer: #1 The Word of God
Romans 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ."

Faith Producer: #2 The Son of God
Hebrews 12:2, "keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."

Faith Refiner: Trials and Tribulation
James 1:2-4, "... when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."

Let FAITH grow, and let FAITH rule your life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faith Required

The process of the Lord building faith in his people has divine purpose. The building of our faith is not just for our benefit, God wants to lead us to our full potential in Christ Jesus. In order for us to cooperate with His vision, Faith is Required.

As a church body, God is building our faith, that we might follow him toward the future. Faith is required for us to passionately and consistently reach-out to our friends, family & community. Faith is required to commit to our Spiritual Community and continue to growth in grace and Knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Faith is required to generous support the work of the Lord and our gifts to the poor. And Faith is required for a move of facilities, something that has been "talked about" for a long time.

At our Annual Business Meeting in February, we had open discussion about future of the church and our facility. The overwhelming consensus was, "Let's do what we have to do, in order to find an adequate facility!" This will require faith.

Hebrews 11:1 reads, "1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for." My prayer is that God will commend us as well. BUT IT WILL REQUIRE FAITH!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Incarnational Mission

As we fast and pray, our attention moves from Self back to God. Our physical hunger feeds our spiritual hunger. It is not so much that we are fasting from food, as we are feasting on God. This is the reality that surfaces when we decide that nothing, not even our precious food and taste buds, are more important to us than God and His presence in our lives.

However, as we continue down this pathway, our attention moves yet another direction. It moves from Self to God, and then eventually to others. As we feast in God's presence, we begin to see as He sees, and feel as He feels. This is the incarnation, not only of Christ's life, but Christ's mission.

It is for Christ's mission that the Father is preparing us. 2 Corinthians 5 calls it the "ministry of reconciliation." We've heard through the years, that God has a plan for our lives. But those plans always come through preparation. Allow this last week of the fast to prepare you to join Christ's MISSIONAL Work. The harvest is plentiful, volunteer as a worker in the field.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Counting the Cost

As opposed to a devotional, I would like to make this next blog a dialogue. Sunday we will study a passage from the Gospels where Jesus tells His followers to be ready to "give up everything", & "count the cost." His words are recorded in Luke 14:25-35.

Take a chance to read the words of our Master and then answer the question: "WHAT HAS FOLLOWING CHRIST COST YOU?" If an unexamined life is lived without value, than I suggest we do some soul searching according to the standards set forth in Scripture.

Let me know what FOLLOWING CHRIST HAS COST YOU! The Cost represents our journey.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Useful or a Spiritual Couch Potato?

Why do we practice the Spiritual Disciplines, like fasting? In our Men's Group last night we talked about the role of the disciplines in our lives. I truly believe God is doing a VITAL WORK in our lives and church to prepare us for the next step of the journey, but we must be willing to be trained.

Fasting is not just about obedience. It trains our Body, Minds and Spirits for the Lord's purposes. Let me explain what I mean from an excerpt taking from one of our discipleship courses, "Training for the Prize."

"As we continue to bring our lives before our Lord in Spiritual training, please don’t forget what we learned early on. The spiritual disciplines/exercises you are learning and applying do not necessarily bring growth and maturity into our lives. God does. He causes us to grow. These exercises simply discipline our bodies, minds and spirits, so that God may have his way. For example, a K-9 rescue dog is no better than any other dog, it has simply been trained and disciplined for usefulness" (p. 32).

You see, these 21 Days of Faith are one of the avenues we avail ourselves to the Lord's Training and Discipline for usefulness in His Kingdom. The opposite is to be over-stuffed, Spiritual couch-potatoes. Fasting is not a matter of securing our place in Heaven. Christ did that for us on the cross. Many people would like to be capable of running a marathon, but only those who have undergone the necessary training are capable. Same with spiritual fitness. Christ is getting us in shape so that we can finish this race, and race to win!

Fasting Increases Usefulness!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Transfer of Life

I am currently reading a book called "The Celtic Way of Evangelism." Kind of appropriate for this time of year. The focus on the book is St. Patrick's life and ministry as a missionary, making the Gospel relevant to an Un-Christian people. They address the ETHOS of his message.

According to Aristotle, when someone is speaking, the listener(s) evaluate whether the speaker can be trusted and believed. Emerson likewise acknowledged the rejection of the message in relationship to the messenger, "He refuses to accept you, the bringer of the truth..." (p. 57). People evaluate our Ethos, not just our Logos (logical content).

You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with these 21 Days of Faith. Let me explain. On our participation cards at the beginning of this time of prayer and fasting, we listed three names which we committed to praying for their salvation every single day. As we participate in this fast, we are being conformed into the image of Christ. We are becoming more like him!

You may be facing some struggle in proceeding with the fast. It is getting hard, because your flesh is experiencing death and is fight back. However, this death must occur for His Life to take root in us. This transfer of life must take place for the Gospel to be productive in our life and through our message to others. Our ETHOS, gives power to our LOGOS.

God has given you relationships with those three people you are praying for. However, our flesh often times gets in the way of our message. Your sacrifice is a sacrifice of love. It is once you are dead and Christ is alive in you, that the transfer of life can be communicated and your friends/family/co-workers can be Born-Again. We echo the words of John the Baptist, "I must DECREASE, and He must INCREASE."

Friday, March 12, 2010

When We Pray

Prayer can occur without fasting, but fasting ALWAYS is coupled with prayer. This video is a follow up from our teaching on Sunday about prayer. Prayer is faith in action. It proves that we believe God is real, that He is concerned about our lives, and that he is still active through miraculous interventions. 2 Choronicles 7:14-16 reads, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there."

Your prayers, during this 21 Days of prayer and fasting, is releasing faith into your life/spirit. It is Faith that pleases the Lord, and moves His gracious hand to action. You may be feeling a little week at this point, and almost on the verge of giving up, but keep the prize in mind. Stay strong and persevere. He is worth it!!!


We are in IT to Win IT

At this point in your fast, you are experiencing the reality of Christ's words to the tempter in Matthew 4:4, "Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Since we are resisting the urge to pop food into our mouths when we are stressed or anxious, we must turn to someone or something. We are learning to lean upon the Lord.

Depending on your level of fasting this week, you may be experiencing quite a drain on energy due to your fast. Hunger "pains" do quit after day 3, energy typically picks up around day 10. Remember, we are in it to win it.

The Apostle Paul was driven to win. He penned the words in 1 Corinthians 9 that reminds us why we are keeping food (or comforts) from our lips. He writes,

"23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

Don't lose heart or focus on the prize of life. Don't lose strength as we pray for the eternal destinies of the three on your card. Don't stop believing God for that miracle or breakthrough. He is able, as we put our complete faith in Him.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When the Flesh Fights Back

Fasting reveals what owns and commands us. Of all the spiritual disciplines, fasting before the Lord in prayer reveals the owner of our hearts. There is something that happens when we choose to put to death the fleshly nature through a fast. PRIMARILY: The Flesh Fights Back!

The Apostle Paul understood the fight with the flesh when he wrote in Romans 8, "5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires..." In fact it would benefit you to read that entire chapter of Romans. It focuses on the dichotomy of the sinful nature and the Spirit.

During these 21 days, we are purposefully setting our minds "ON WHAT THE SPIRIT DESIRES." So don't be surprised when the flesh kicks and fights, because it wants your attention. I have confidence, you will persevere and you will be victorious. Paul concludes that chapter with this encouragement, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." AMEN & AMEN!!!

Strength in the Battle

As I was stuck in Philadelphia traffic yesterday on Rt. 611, I was listening to the radio (560 am) and heard about the tragedy in Nigeria. Hundreds of Christians were murdered, mostly women and children, by a group of Muslims. As I eventually made it home, I looked up on the web to discover more. The more I read, the more my heart was stirred by Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms!" Those Nigerian believers are not just being attacked by Muslims, but by the powers of hell itself.

Fasting and praying are more than going without food (or a comfort) and talking with God. It is actively participating in the spiritual battle that constantly surrounds our lives and our world. This is why Paul reminded the church of this battle. While this battle certainly includes the personal battles that wage against our soul; there is a cosmic fight that has been waging ever since Satan was hurled down from heaven. We are a part of something sooooo... much bigger than ourselves.

By participating with this 21 Days of Faith, you are actively participating in the battle of the ages. As you pray for the salvation of the 3-People you listed, the miracle you are believing God for, and the ministry and leadership of Cornerstone, remember that you are praying with the authority and power that Christ, our Lord, has delegated to us.

I pass on to you, what God told Joshua, "Be Strong and Courageous" (Joshua 1:6,7,9, 18). Finally, be challenged by the apostle words in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Comfort Foods

Today marks DAY 3 in our journey of Fasting and Prayer. No doubt you are noticing that temptation comes to bend or break the fasting commitment you made. If you haven’t experienced that yet, don’t worry it will come J. However, you’re in good company!

Jesus, when he was fasting, was tempted by Satan in the desert to turn to Comfort food, instead of God the Father (Matthew 4). Jesus response, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God' (v. 4)."

Perhaps you've heard the term "Comfort Food." What a great description of our use of food. Too often Food becomes what we turn to when we look for comfort and peace. Whether it is the big meal that causes the tired satisfaction that comes after stuffing our face, or that binge of chocolate that Make You Happy!

During these 21 days, we are on a quest to dethrone the False Comforts of this life, and learn to live by the Word of God. When you are feeling tired, weak or tempted, Turn to God's Word and God's Presence to find what you need.

You and I are in the process of dethroning King Stomach, & Re-Throning KING JESUS!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Your Full Attention

This past week I was reminded about priorities and who we try to please. I had just returned home from two days of intense and strategically effective ministry. On Tuesday I spoke to the Philadelphia Urban Coalition and then later that evening I was a guest professor at Valley Forge Christian College.

Returning home at 10:00pm that night, I turned my attention immediately to Wednesday morning, in which there would be over 100 pastors from over the Philadelphia region coming together to strategize for a city-wide outreach on September 25 with the Convoy of Hope that will reach 20,000+ people with the hand of compassion and the message of hope (Hope4Philly).

By the time Wednesday evening came, I was both exhausted and exhilarated by the Kingdom work I was a part of. However, I was taught a very important lesson by my 3-year old.

As I sat at the table, she came up to me as I was sending out some follow-up e-mails and declared... "Daddy, stop that and look at me. I want to show you something!" As I looked down at her, she showed me this $5 toy that was a cheap imitation of an etcha-sketch. Truthfully, she had nothing important to present to me, but was telling me that she wanted and needed my attention. Even more, SHE DESERVED IT!

My arm wrapped around her as she instructed me on the intricacies of her little toy and the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart... "No matter how important you think your work is, I still deserve your full attention... LOOK TO ME!"

Too often we get caught up in our own self-perceived important work, and we forget that our main calling is to be with the Lord. Being always comes before Doing! Whatever your day holds for you, remember... He Still Deserves Your Full Attention!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fully Engaged Dads

I woke up today, had a sip of coffee and went to Facebook and saw my brother-in-laws status that simply read, "Mr. Mom". Enough said! He's an awesome dad who loves and is involved with his kids. I considered my day off as well, and remembered that I would have 5 kids in the house by myself. It was time for me to engage with my full-time, non-paying job... being Dad.

There are many men I've talked to who feel like taking care of their kids is an inconvenience, or is the woman's job. In my experience there are three reason that dads have a problem with being fully engaged with their kids.

1. Lack of Reward: As men we like to see the immediate rewards of the time and energy we invest. The more we exercise, the better in shape we become. The harder we work, the more $ we make. Cause and Effect is a concept I am very comfortable with. The Answer: Embrace the fact that your full engagement/involvement reaps massive benefits in your children's lives for decades to come.
2. Perception of Inadequacy: Many men I talk to just don't feel like they are very good at the parenting gig. The unfortunate part is that many moms don't give their husbands a chance to engage event in the child's infancy. My suggestion to the moms is let your husband do stuff, even if it isn't the way you would do it... and don't criticize their efforts. Dads, don't feel pressure to be a mom to your kids, just be their dad. They are looking for your strength, encouragement, and will see themselves how you see them, and communicate with them.
3. Not Stimulating: Men like big trucks, hard hitting football, and powerful tools. So, when it comes to engaging with our children, it is certainly not testosterone producing work. I write this as I have a few potatoes in the Microwave. However, the problem for me is not that being fully engaging with my kids is not stimulating enough, but that it is too stimulating. It is hard to handle with poise the 3-year old fit, the brothers arguing and fighting over dump stuff, and the complaints about what to eat, no matter what you cook (or warm up in the microwave). And for us males, when the emotions of your kids get the best of you, just remember that they are kids and that in 45 seconds their mood will change anyway. Keep your cool and the big picture in mind.

Dads, just go for it. Your kids need your involvement and love your attention. You're smile and time wrestling with your 10 year old or tea-party on the floor with you toddler is the greatest complement you can ever offer your child. It equips them with the confidence to succeed in life.