Ministry Values

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the last ten years, Our Mountain Lake Ministry Team has been bound together by a set of core values. So many CHURCHES I know have core values these days. Great thing. However, most Church staffs/Ministry Teams don’t have a clear set of values they covenant to live by. Mind you, when we started Mountain Lake, we didn’t sit down and decide what we WANTED our values to be. We actually sat down as a leadership team about six years ago, and IDENTIFIED TOGETHER the values we saw bubbling up in our team environment every day. Here is what we wrote down:

The Mountain Lake Ministry team values:

  • Community: We do life together
  • Honesty: We share the last 10% of what we’re thinking.
  • Teamwork: He help & serve each other regardless of job description.
  • Loyalty: We have each other’s backs.
  • Execution: We do what we say we’ll do.
  • Resourcefulness: We’re thankful for what we have and do our best w/ it.
  • Sacrifice: We’re wiling to pay a price to do life and mission together.

We talk about these values ALL the time. We hold each other accountable to them. These values have governed our relationships as team members the last ten years and are one the main reasons why our church is so unified in our mission and love for one another ten years later!

Questions for you…

What are YOUR team’s values?

Do you ever talk  about them as a team?

Are they written down?

Does everyone know them?

Is the team held accountable for them?

Categories: Uncategorized

Fasting

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

“Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.” John Wesley

Types of Fasting

In the same way that God appointed times and seasons to fast, he also designated several types of fasts. Because of certain medical problems and physical needs, there are different types of fasting. Not everyone can go on an extended 5-7 day fast; similarly, not everyone can totally abstain from food and water.

A person should exercise wisdom and consult their physician if they have any medical concerns before they fast, otherwise it could actually be harmful to your health. However, there are at least three types of individual fasts: absolute fast, solid food fast, and partial fast.

  1. Absolute Fast. An absolute fast is conducted by abstaining from all food and water for a certain period of time. This is also known as “total fast.” There are several biblical examples for the total fast. Moses and Elijah both abstained from food and water for forty days and forty nights. (Deuteronomy 9:9, 10:10, 18:25-29; 1 Kings 19:8). Although the Bible says they fasted for forty days, many people usually only totally abstain from food and water for three days.
  2. Solid Food Fast. A solid food fast is where an individual may drink juice and water, but chooses not to eat solid food. Certain scholars and theologians think that Jesus may have drank water while in the wilderness since the Bible doesn’t say that he was thirsty after his forty day fast (see Matthew 4:2). Drinking water while fasting for several days can actually be therapeutic for your body. In any case, you should not fast for more than a week unless you consult a doctor.
  3. Partial Fast. A partial fast is where you choose to abstain from certain foods and drinks instead of complete abstinence. The Bible tells us that Daniel abstained from bread, water, and wine for 21 days (Daniel 10:3). Others may choose to fast from television, computer, newspaper, and hobbies. This will help you free up some time to spend in prayer and reflection.

Categories: Uncategorized

Temptation

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

1. Satan is a real enemy

Satan is a real enemy. Do you believe that? You need to discuss that at your community group and with your friends. If you don’t, if you still think, “I think that’s hocus pocus. I think that’s psychological projection. My community college professor really confused me on this point,” you need to articulate that. Don’t be a liar. Be honest. Come clean.

See, one of the most amazing things Satan did is he presented himself in the media: cartoons, little horns, red cape, and pitchfork. “Here he comes. Yeah, we know it’s him. How can we tell? He’s the red guy.” It’s not that easy. He’s into marketing and advertising. He’s subtle and crafty and sly and he’s very adept at baiting the hook. You have a real enemy. If you don’t believe that, confess that as sin. That’s the beginning of all your troubles. You have a real enemy. You’re born into a real war. You’re born again as a Christian on Christ’s side of the battle. But, the battle rages in your life as it did in his.

(Click here to see the rest of this post)

2. Satan will H.I.T. you

Satan will H.I.T. you. By that I mean, be particularly aware when you’re hungry, isolated, and/or tired. How many of you find that your physical condition weakens your resistance to temptation? Jesus had physical hunger. When you’re physically hungry, you’ll get more grouchy, grumpy, tempted, and isolated.

Now, solitude is good. The Bible says, and we’ll see it a little bit further in Luke, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to be alone with the Father (Luke 5:16). Solitude’s good. It’s “I need a break from all of my activities to get alone with God and have him refresh me.”

Isolation is dangerous. Jesus here was led by the Spirit into isolation, to do battle with Satan, to win where we and Adam lose. But, for you, isolation is a very dangerous thing. Isolation means you don’t really have a lot of Christian friends, or the friends you do have, the relationships are very shallow. “How are you doing?” “Great, how are you?” “Great.” “Well good, nice that we’re all caught up now.”

It’s even inviting your friends in defining the terms of your relationship. “Okay, look, we’re Christian friends, not in some legalistic, weird referee, whistle-blowing religious way do I want you to ask me accountability questions. But, as a loving friend in the course of relationship, I want you to ask me real questions. You know my weaknesses towards sin. Ask how I’m doing. You know my vulnerabilities. You know how Satan baits my hook.” And, if they don’t know how he baits your hook, ask your friends and in your group and with your spouse. That’s the first question. “So, what bait’s usually on your hook? Great, do you mind if I ask every once and a while how it’s going?” Those kinds of relationships draw us out of isolation and into community. They’re very important.

And, what happens is, most people don’t pursue them until they’re in crisis. So, they don’t pursue Christian friendships. They don’t join a community group to live on mission together as a church, opening the Scriptures habitually every week together, doing life together. They wait till they’ve taken the bait, they’ve got the hook in their mouth, they’re headed off into Satan’s possession and their destruction, and then they run into the church and say, “Give me deep, significant, profound, life-changing relationships right now.” We’ll try, but it would’ve been a lot smarter to get started before the hook was in your mouth.

It’s not too late. We’re not going to give up on you. But, it’s better to be preventative than reactive. It’s better to have friends help keep the hook out of your mouth than wait till the hook is in your mouth and then beg for some people to come and take the hook out of your mouth. Isolated. This includes church hopping and shopping and bouncing, not committed, plugged in, dialed in anywhere. Find a home.

And tired. Sometimes that tiredness is our own sin: staying up too late, watching TV, surfing the internet, disorganized. Sometimes it’s just a season of life: crisis happens, the baby’s teething. It’s just one of those times when you’re just tired.

And what can happen when you’re hungry or have physical need? This can be a propensity then toward gluttony, comfort food rather than Christ giving us the Holy Spirit as our comforter. Drunkenness, just, “I’ve had a hard day. I just deserve a stiff drink.” This can be sexual sin and pornography and things of various sorts and kinds. “I’m lonely, I have urges, my body desires things so I must satisfy them.” Isolation. “I’m lonely, there’s no one to help, God you’ve abandoned me. Where are my Christian friends?” Tired. “I’m exhausted, I’m worn down, and I’m weary.”

Jesus was hungry, isolated, tired, and without sin. Don’t use biological, physical desire, relational isolation, or personal fatigue to allow you to sin and say, “Well, God, look, it’s hard. I feel like you owe me one.” No. You will be hit when you’re hungry, isolated, and tired. That’s why you need to make particular provision for those seasons where you’re experiencing one or more of those factors. You just need to. You need to be honest about that, particularly if you’re married.

3. Jesus Christ is your victorious Warrior-King

Jesus Christ is your victorious Warrior-King. Up until this point, you’re all depressed. You’re all like, “Alright, I’ve got the big idea. I’m really bad. Satan’s a winner, winner, chicken dinner, and I am a loser. I got it, big idea, thank you very much.” Here’s the hope. The hope is not in you. The hope is Christ in you. That’s the hope. You’re not a winner. You’re a loser.

See, some of you say, “Well, now life makes sense,” because see, in school, they keep telling you, “You’re a winner, you’re a winner, you’re a winner.” And, if you’re paying any attention, you will notice that you’re not. And what they’ll say then is, “Okay, you’re a loser, but if you have high self-esteem then you’ll be a winner.” No, then you’ll be a proud loser. And pride is the worst sin of all. And if you walk into a church, they’ll tell you, “You need to have more esteem so that you can be all you can be. You’ll never have to be poor. You’ll never have to be sick. You can be a winner.” It’s all a lie. Here’s the truth. Jesus is the winner. That’s the truth. We’re not victorious. He is. We’re not righteous. He is. We don’t redeem ourselves from slavery to sin. He does. We don’t change ourselves. He changes us.

I’ll read it to you, one of my favorite texts, Colossians 2:13–15: “And you,” that’s you, “who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

Here is what he is saying. There’s a list of laws and commands and Satan would stand as the accuser of the children of God, that he would condemn us day and night and he would simply check the list: “This is your sin and your sin and your sin, thought, word, deed, omission, commission. You have done what you ought not do. You have done what you ought not have done. You’ve said and done that which is in violation of God’s laws. Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. You are my possession. You belong to me. The hook is in your mouth. I am your master. You will worship me.”

And Jesus comes, and he identifies with us humbly. And he’s tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. And he goes to the cross, and what looks like the greatest defeat in the history of the world is the great victorious liberation of the captives who become the children of God. And Jesus substitutes himself on the cross. And he who is without any sin takes our place, suffers, and dies in our place for our sins. And he says that cancels any right Satan has to you. You don’t belong to him. You belong to God. You’re not a slave, you’re an adopted son. You’re not an addict, you’re a worshiper.

Worship got you into trouble and worship will get you out. And so, you need to worship Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he triumphed over Satan at the cross. He disarmed him. Satan can’t defeat you. He can get you to defeat yourself, but your victory is in Christ. I have so much hope for you. All day I’ve been praying with people who have no hope. And I look them in the eye and I tell them the same thing I tell you: I have hope because we have Christ. And he is not finished with you and he has not given up on you.

And I know you may be feeling guilt and condemnation and shame right now. But there is now no condemnation in Christ. There is conviction but not condemnation. The conviction should cause us to love Jesus, give him our sin, go and sin no more, and walk in his great triumphant victory. Condemnation is paralyzing. Conviction is liberating. Condemnation will cause you to live out of an identity that is stained and marred and broken and worthless and a failure. And Jesus will give you a new identity as one who is changed, loved, healed, forgiven, and granted his perfect righteousness. Jesus’ victory is your victory. Jesus’ righteousness is your righteousness.

Live up to what you’ve already obtained. See, this is why we love Jesus so much. See, some of you would’ve come in here and you would’ve said, “I think Jesus is good. But sometimes he’s not very fun. He doesn’t let me do some things that I really want to do. And maybe Satan isn’t that bad because he would let me do those things.” No, Satan is bad and Jesus is good and sin is death and he’s a liar and you need not be a fool. He’s your victorious King.

4. The Holy Spirit is your power

The Holy Spirit is your power. Jesus was filled and led by the Holy Spirit. How did Jesus resist temptation for forty days? Answer: by the power of God the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who takes up residence in the children of God. You have the same presence and power of God the Holy Spirit in you that Jesus did. You can live as he did. You can defeat the temptation that comes to you as he did by the presence and the power, by being filled and led by God the Holy Spirit.

This isn’t religion and it’s not guilt and it’s not more that you need to do, it’s more of you yielding to his purposes and presence and power so that you can follow in the life of Jesus by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t just stand back and say, “I’m keeping score, you need to do better.” Jesus dies to forgive, redeem, give new identity, sends the Holy Spirit to redeem, regenerate, transform, and give new power. That’s an amazingly loving, gracious God.

5. Biblical truth is your counterpunch

The Bible is your counterpunch. Biblical truth is your counterpunch. Satan will lie to you. You need to know the truth. Jesus says this in his high priestly prayer in John 17, “My prayer is that you protect them from the evil one. Father, sanctify them by the truth. Your Word is the truth.” Every Word of God, Proverbs 30:5–6, is flawless. This is the truth.

When Satan comes, you need to know the Scriptures. I just want you to read your Bible. I know some of you come here and the only time you pick up your Bible is when I’m talking. I’m grateful that you would come. I’m grateful that you would let me teach you. I’m grateful that you would come to listen and learn. But if this is the only consistent time you pick up the Scripture, you are really doing great danger to your soul.

6. Christ is your identity

Christ is your identity. I don’t care what you’ve done, and I don’t care what has been done to you. Those things are horrible and we can deal with them in Redemption Groups, biblical counseling, community groups, friendship, and relationship, but here’s your identity. It’s not what has been done to you or what has been done by you, but it is what Christ has done for you. In the eyes of Christ, you are clean. You were forgiven. You were adopted. You were redeemed. You are beloved. You are, you are. And I know some of you, the guilt is deep, the sin is real, and life is a wreck. And Christ is good. And if you believe that your identity is transformed in Christ as an adoptive, loved, forgiven, regenerated, transformed, empowered, renewed, hopeful child of God, you will live differently.

7. Escape is always possible

Most of you don’t believe this: escape is always possible. What happens is, for some of us, the hook has been there so long that it’s like, “I can’t ever get free of it. I used to eat all the bait. Now, I eat some of the bait. I used to eat the bait every week, now I only eat the bait once a month.”

Or, “I eat the bait, but it’s my dad’s fault, he ate the bait too and it’s a habitual family issue. My counselor says it’s a genetic issue. I come from a long line of people who are addicted to this particular bait. I can’t really stop.” So, I need to blame someone else, manage it, and hide it. “Oh, I’ll just go over here in the dark all by myself and I’ll eat my bait and I’ll put the hook in my mouth. But, if I do it privately, it won’t count.” God’s there too.

See, some of you would take the bait and you’ll put it, you’ll walk so close to it. Like, “Oh my goodness, look at that. That’s amazing. I would like to eat that, smoke that, drink that, get my hands on that, do that twice.” God would say, “Hey, there’s a door over here that’s open and you could walk out it and be free.” “I don’t see any door.” “Really? Well, there is one right over there.” “Yeah, this is so big and so real and so awesome and so close.” God would say, “Do you see the hook?” “No, I don’t see the hook. I see some pretty amazing bait.”

The truth is you have two choices: the hook or the door. You either bite the hook or run out the door. Those are your only options. I’ll give you a verse, so that I can win: 1 Corinthians 10:13–14, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Don’t worship anything or anyone other than God.

What he’s saying is this. When temptation comes, keep your senses. Look for the way out. There is a door of escape somewhere. There’s a way out of it. Some of you have said for so long, “Well, I’m already dating them. I’m already at the club. I’ve already logged onto the internet. I already started this conversation, you know. I’m already halfway there.” Run. Run out the door of opportunity that God gives.

You have two choices, friends, the hook or the door. You bite the hook or run out the door. Your whole life, it utterly depends on the decisions you make in those moments. There’s always a way out. You and I, we love to always be the victim. “I couldn’t help it. It was not my fault, my friends blank, my life blank, this blank, God that.” No way. The door was open and your eyes were closed. Repentance is believing that. Some of you need to go back over your life history and some of the major traumatic decisions you made and say, “Holy Spirit, show me where the door was open so that I can repent of having my eyes closed. And please help me to keep my eyes open. And please help me to keep my feet moving.”

8. Satan eventually taps out

Satan eventually taps out. Resist the devil and he will, what? Flee from you. Eventually. Maybe it takes forty days.

9. Repent whenever you tap out, and fight another round

Repent whenever you tap out and fight another round. Some of you, Satan tempts you, you’re in a fight, and after a while you’re like, “Okay, I tap out, I give in, I’ll do what you want, I’ll believe what you want, I’ll behave how you want.” So, what do you do then?

10. Life is a battle with many rounds

Fight some more, because, number ten, life is a battle with many rounds. Just because you tapped out in one round doesn’t mean it’s over. He’s going to be back anyways, just like he was to Jesus. He’s going to come back into Jesus’ life repeatedly. He’s going to, in fact, indwell and empower Judas Iscariot to murder him. This was just one round. The battle will rage all the way through the empty tomb.

And it rages all the way to this very day. Some of you come here having already tapped out. Repentance is acknowledging that you bit the hook rather than running out the door. It is acknowledging that Jesus is your only hope for escape and victory. It is confessing your sin to him in humility, so that that control Satan has in your life would be broken, that you could live a new life as a new creation as a new person with Christ.

1. Satan is a real enemy Satan is a real enemy. Do you believe that? You need to discuss that at your community group and with your friends. If you don’t, if you still think, “I think that’s hocus pocus. I think that’s psychological projection. My community college professor really confused me on this point,” you need to articulate that. Don’t be a liar. Be honest. Come clean. See, one of the most amazing things Satan did is he presented himself in the media: cartoons, little horns, red cape, and pitchfork. “Here he comes. Yeah, we know it’s him. How can we tell? He’s the red guy.” It’s not that easy. He’s into marketing and advertising. He’s subtle and crafty and sly and he’s very adept at baiting the hook. You have a real enemy. If you don’t believe that, confess that as sin. That’s the beginning of all your troubles. You have a real enemy. You’re born into a real war. You’re born again as a Christian on Christ’s side of the battle. But, the battle rages in your life as it did in his. (Click here to see the rest of this post) 2. Satan will H.I.T. you Satan will H.I.T. you. By that I mean, be particularly aware when you’re hungry, isolated, and/or tired. How many of you find that your physical condition weakens your resistance to temptation? Jesus had physical hunger. When you’re physically hungry, you’ll get more grouchy, grumpy, tempted, and isolated. Now, solitude is good. The Bible says, and we’ll see it a little bit further in Luke, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to be alone with the Father (Luke 5:16). Solitude’s good. It’s “I need a break from all of my activities to get alone with God and have him refresh me.” Isolation is dangerous. Jesus here was led by the Spirit into isolation, to do battle with Satan, to win where we and Adam lose. But, for you, isolation is a very dangerous thing. Isolation means you don’t really have a lot of Christian friends, or the friends you do have, the relationships are very shallow. “How are you doing?” “Great, how are you?” “Great.” “Well good, nice that we’re all caught up now.” It’s even inviting your friends in defining the terms of your relationship. “Okay, look, we’re Christian friends, not in some legalistic, weird referee, whistle-blowing religious way do I want you to ask me accountability questions. But, as a loving friend in the course of relationship, I want you to ask me real questions. You know my weaknesses towards sin. Ask how I’m doing. You know my vulnerabilities. You know how Satan baits my hook.” And, if they don’t know how he baits your hook, ask your friends and in your group and with your spouse. That’s the first question. “So, what bait’s usually on your hook? Great, do you mind if I ask every once and a while how it’s going?” Those kinds of relationships draw us out of isolation and into community. They’re very important. And, what happens is, most people don’t pursue them until they’re in crisis. So, they don’t pursue Christian friendships. They don’t join a community group to live on mission together as a church, opening the Scriptures habitually every week together, doing life together. They wait till they’ve taken the bait, they’ve got the hook in their mouth, they’re headed off into Satan’s possession and their destruction, and then they run into the church and say, “Give me deep, significant, profound, life-changing relationships right now.” We’ll try, but it would’ve been a lot smarter to get started before the hook was in your mouth. It’s not too late. We’re not going to give up on you. But, it’s better to be preventative than reactive. It’s better to have friends help keep the hook out of your mouth than wait till the hook is in your mouth and then beg for some people to come and take the hook out of your mouth. Isolated. This includes church hopping and shopping and bouncing, not committed, plugged in, dialed in anywhere. Find a home. And tired. Sometimes that tiredness is our own sin: staying up too late, watching TV, surfing the internet, disorganized. Sometimes it’s just a season of life: crisis happens, the baby’s teething. It’s just one of those times when you’re just tired. And what can happen when you’re hungry or have physical need? This can be a propensity then toward gluttony, comfort food rather than Christ giving us the Holy Spirit as our comforter. Drunkenness, just, “I’ve had a hard day. I just deserve a stiff drink.” This can be sexual sin and pornography and things of various sorts and kinds. “I’m lonely, I have urges, my body desires things so I must satisfy them.” Isolation. “I’m lonely, there’s no one to help, God you’ve abandoned me. Where are my Christian friends?” Tired. “I’m exhausted, I’m worn down, and I’m weary.” Jesus was hungry, isolated, tired, and without sin. Don’t use biological, physical desire, relational isolation, or personal fatigue to allow you to sin and say, “Well, God, look, it’s hard. I feel like you owe me one.” No. You will be hit when you’re hungry, isolated, and tired. That’s why you need to make particular provision for those seasons where you’re experiencing one or more of those factors. You just need to. You need to be honest about that, particularly if you’re married. 3. Jesus Christ is your victorious Warrior-King Jesus Christ is your victorious Warrior-King. Up until this point, you’re all depressed. You’re all like, “Alright, I’ve got the big idea. I’m really bad. Satan’s a winner, winner, chicken dinner, and I am a loser. I got it, big idea, thank you very much.” Here’s the hope. The hope is not in you. The hope is Christ in you. That’s the hope. You’re not a winner. You’re a loser. See, some of you say, “Well, now life makes sense,” because see, in school, they keep telling you, “You’re a winner, you’re a winner, you’re a winner.” And, if you’re paying any attention, you will notice that you’re not. And what they’ll say then is, “Okay, you’re a loser, but if you have high self-esteem then you’ll be a winner.” No, then you’ll be a proud loser. And pride is the worst sin of all. And if you walk into a church, they’ll tell you, “You need to have more esteem so that you can be all you can be. You’ll never have to be poor. You’ll never have to be sick. You can be a winner.” It’s all a lie. Here’s the truth. Jesus is the winner. That’s the truth. We’re not victorious. He is. We’re not righteous. He is. We don’t redeem ourselves from slavery to sin. He does. We don’t change ourselves. He changes us. I’ll read it to you, one of my favorite texts, Colossians 2:13–15: “And you,” that’s you, “who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Here is what he is saying. There’s a list of laws and commands and Satan would stand as the accuser of the children of God, that he would condemn us day and night and he would simply check the list: “This is your sin and your sin and your sin, thought, word, deed, omission, commission. You have done what you ought not do. You have done what you ought not have done. You’ve said and done that which is in violation of God’s laws. Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. You are my possession. You belong to me. The hook is in your mouth. I am your master. You will worship me.” And Jesus comes, and he identifies with us humbly. And he’s tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. And he goes to the cross, and what looks like the greatest defeat in the history of the world is the great victorious liberation of the captives who become the children of God. And Jesus substitutes himself on the cross. And he who is without any sin takes our place, suffers, and dies in our place for our sins. And he says that cancels any right Satan has to you. You don’t belong to him. You belong to God. You’re not a slave, you’re an adopted son. You’re not an addict, you’re a worshiper. Worship got you into trouble and worship will get you out. And so, you need to worship Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he triumphed over Satan at the cross. He disarmed him. Satan can’t defeat you. He can get you to defeat yourself, but your victory is in Christ. I have so much hope for you. All day I’ve been praying with people who have no hope. And I look them in the eye and I tell them the same thing I tell you: I have hope because we have Christ. And he is not finished with you and he has not given up on you. And I know you may be feeling guilt and condemnation and shame right now. But there is now no condemnation in Christ. There is conviction but not condemnation. The conviction should cause us to love Jesus, give him our sin, go and sin no more, and walk in his great triumphant victory. Condemnation is paralyzing. Conviction is liberating. Condemnation will cause you to live out of an identity that is stained and marred and broken and worthless and a failure. And Jesus will give you a new identity as one who is changed, loved, healed, forgiven, and granted his perfect righteousness. Jesus’ victory is your victory. Jesus’ righteousness is your righteousness. Live up to what you’ve already obtained. See, this is why we love Jesus so much. See, some of you would’ve come in here and you would’ve said, “I think Jesus is good. But sometimes he’s not very fun. He doesn’t let me do some things that I really want to do. And maybe Satan isn’t that bad because he would let me do those things.” No, Satan is bad and Jesus is good and sin is death and he’s a liar and you need not be a fool. He’s your victorious King. 4. The Holy Spirit is your power The Holy Spirit is your power. Jesus was filled and led by the Holy Spirit. How did Jesus resist temptation for forty days? Answer: by the power of God the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who takes up residence in the children of God. You have the same presence and power of God the Holy Spirit in you that Jesus did. You can live as he did. You can defeat the temptation that comes to you as he did by the presence and the power, by being filled and led by God the Holy Spirit. This isn’t religion and it’s not guilt and it’s not more that you need to do, it’s more of you yielding to his purposes and presence and power so that you can follow in the life of Jesus by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t just stand back and say, “I’m keeping score, you need to do better.” Jesus dies to forgive, redeem, give new identity, sends the Holy Spirit to redeem, regenerate, transform, and give new power. That’s an amazingly loving, gracious God. 5. Biblical truth is your counterpunch The Bible is your counterpunch. Biblical truth is your counterpunch. Satan will lie to you. You need to know the truth. Jesus says this in his high priestly prayer in John 17, “My prayer is that you protect them from the evil one. Father, sanctify them by the truth. Your Word is the truth.” Every Word of God, Proverbs 30:5–6, is flawless. This is the truth. When Satan comes, you need to know the Scriptures. I just want you to read your Bible. I know some of you come here and the only time you pick up your Bible is when I’m talking. I’m grateful that you would come. I’m grateful that you would let me teach you. I’m grateful that you would come to listen and learn. But if this is the only consistent time you pick up the Scripture, you are really doing great danger to your soul. 6. Christ is your identity Christ is your identity. I don’t care what you’ve done, and I don’t care what has been done to you. Those things are horrible and we can deal with them in Redemption Groups, biblical counseling, community groups, friendship, and relationship, but here’s your identity. It’s not what has been done to you or what has been done by you, but it is what Christ has done for you. In the eyes of Christ, you are clean. You were forgiven. You were adopted. You were redeemed. You are beloved. You are, you are. And I know some of you, the guilt is deep, the sin is real, and life is a wreck. And Christ is good. And if you believe that your identity is transformed in Christ as an adoptive, loved, forgiven, regenerated, transformed, empowered, renewed, hopeful child of God, you will live differently. 7. Escape is always possible Most of you don’t believe this: escape is always possible. What happens is, for some of us, the hook has been there so long that it’s like, “I can’t ever get free of it. I used to eat all the bait. Now, I eat some of the bait. I used to eat the bait every week, now I only eat the bait once a month.” Or, “I eat the bait, but it’s my dad’s fault, he ate the bait too and it’s a habitual family issue. My counselor says it’s a genetic issue. I come from a long line of people who are addicted to this particular bait. I can’t really stop.” So, I need to blame someone else, manage it, and hide it. “Oh, I’ll just go over here in the dark all by myself and I’ll eat my bait and I’ll put the hook in my mouth. But, if I do it privately, it won’t count.” God’s there too. See, some of you would take the bait and you’ll put it, you’ll walk so close to it. Like, “Oh my goodness, look at that. That’s amazing. I would like to eat that, smoke that, drink that, get my hands on that, do that twice.” God would say, “Hey, there’s a door over here that’s open and you could walk out it and be free.” “I don’t see any door.” “Really? Well, there is one right over there.” “Yeah, this is so big and so real and so awesome and so close.” God would say, “Do you see the hook?” “No, I don’t see the hook. I see some pretty amazing bait.” The truth is you have two choices: the hook or the door. You either bite the hook or run out the door. Those are your only options. I’ll give you a verse, so that I can win: 1 Corinthians 10:13–14, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Don’t worship anything or anyone other than God. What he’s saying is this. When temptation comes, keep your senses. Look for the way out. There is a door of escape somewhere. There’s a way out of it. Some of you have said for so long, “Well, I’m already dating them. I’m already at the club. I’ve already logged onto the internet. I already started this conversation, you know. I’m already halfway there.” Run. Run out the door of opportunity that God gives. You have two choices, friends, the hook or the door. You bite the hook or run out the door. Your whole life, it utterly depends on the decisions you make in those moments. There’s always a way out. You and I, we love to always be the victim. “I couldn’t help it. It was not my fault, my friends blank, my life blank, this blank, God that.” No way. The door was open and your eyes were closed. Repentance is believing that. Some of you need to go back over your life history and some of the major traumatic decisions you made and say, “Holy Spirit, show me where the door was open so that I can repent of having my eyes closed. And please help me to keep my eyes open. And please help me to keep my feet moving.” 8. Satan eventually taps out Satan eventually taps out. Resist the devil and he will, what? Flee from you. Eventually. Maybe it takes forty days. 9. Repent whenever you tap out, and fight another round Repent whenever you tap out and fight another round. Some of you, Satan tempts you, you’re in a fight, and after a while you’re like, “Okay, I tap out, I give in, I’ll do what you want, I’ll believe what you want, I’ll behave how you want.” So, what do you do then? 10. Life is a battle with many rounds Fight some more, because, number ten, life is a battle with many rounds. Just because you tapped out in one round doesn’t mean it’s over. He’s going to be back anyways, just like he was to Jesus. He’s going to come back into Jesus’ life repeatedly. He’s going to, in fact, indwell and empower Judas Iscariot to murder him. This was just one round. The battle will rage all the way through the empty tomb. And it rages all the way to this very day. Some of you come here having already tapped out. Repentance is acknowledging that you bit the hook rather than running out the door. It is acknowledging that Jesus is your only hope for escape and victory. It is confessing your sin to him in humility, so that that control Satan has in your life would be broken, that you could live a new life as a new creation as a new person with Christ.

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Church Planting Lessons

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

As Mountain Lake Church approaches our Tenth Anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on our church planting experience. God has DONE so much; and I have learned SO MUCH! As I reflect on everything that’s happened in my life and the lessons I’ve learned, here are my top 5:

1. The most difficult person to lead is myself. As a pastor, the tendency is to think we need to spend al of our time changing the world by changing everyone around me and leading them. I must do that. However, what I’ve learned is that the best way to change the world is to change me and lead myself. This includes what we call at churchplanters.com: “Nurturing Vitality” Paying close attention to my own physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational vitality. Mountain Lake has grown as I have grown. Discipline is probably the most important characteristic of the spiritual leader in a church. Mountain Lake will continue to grow as I grow.  I must lead myself.

2. It takes extraordinary courage to be the leader. Followers make suggestions. Leaders make decisions.  The Sr. Pastor has to possess a measure of courage and confidence that can only come from God.  We must relentlessly protect the vision of the church, and not allow it to be high-jacked. At churchplanters.com, we call it “being mean about the vision.” I’m not talking about being mean to people. Jesus wasn’t mean to people. He was mean about protecting the mission Jesus had given Him and would not allow anyone or anything to get in the way or sidetrack Him!  We must also be willing to have courageous conversations and make tough, sometime unpopular decisions with our church and our staffs, if we are going to go where God is leading us.  A leader must be secure in his own skin and be willing to please God OVER people no matter what. The Sr. Pastor must choose daily to be respected over liked. That takes a TON of COURAGE!

3. The Sr. Pastor can only lead the church so far by himself. The Sr. Pastor must build a team…no, not just a team…a GREAT team. If he doesn’t, it WILL stop the church from reaching its God-given potential.   At a certain level…as a matter of fact at every level of a church’s growth, the Sr. Pastor must evaluate the team around him, and the seats they sit in on the bus and raise the bar of the team around him. A church is not as good as its preaching and music. I know of some GREAT churches who have average music and teaching. A church is only as good as the team that leads it. At churchplanters.com, we say: “Think Team”: ALL THE TIME; EVERY DAY; EVERY DECISION. Consistent  team thinking will move the pastor to constantly examine and reposition his dream team for maximum Kingdom effectiveness. Mountain Lake is what it is today because of an extraordinary team! It will be everything God wants it to be in the future based on the team God leads it with!

4.  Contemporary or traditional doesn’t matter. I used to think that God wanted to use contemporary, cutting edge churches to change the world. I’ve learned that God wants to use HEALTHY churches (regardless of music style or dress) to change the world. I know some traditional churches God is using GREATLY right now in our world; and I know some “cutting edge ones” that are. I also know some dead “cutting edge” churches and many dead “traditional” ones. Health is what matters. Acts 2 is what matters. Not music style or video elements.

5. Vocational Ministry is only for the called. I’m really not KNOCKING other careers and occupations when I say that I believe that vocational ministry is the hardest job there is. Before you say “yeah, but…” let me unpack it. I’ve been in the professional world. I worked in real estate for three years before entering the ministry. I know what it’s like out there. I have never questioned myself and my abilities as much as I have since entering the ministry. I NEVER felt the emotional weight I feel in vocational ministry.

First of all, think about all the hats a Pastor has to wear: Counselor; Therapist; Cheerleader; Prophet; Preacher;  Marry-er; Bury-er;  CEO; CFO; Real Estate investor; Board Member; Boss; Friend; and tons of others, depending on the need of the day!

Above all, there’s the spiritual warfare aspect of my job.  Satan knows if he can take me down, he can damaged the faiths of THOUSANDS of people. Would you say I am a target? Would you say he wants me out of the ministry? Would you say he wants me discouraged? Lazy? Prideful? Undisciplined? Unloving? Unfaithful?  You bet he does; and you can bet he’s got a host of demons assigned to me and every other pastor, because he can do a ton of damage through us!

All of this is why, as pastors, we MUST nail down our call. NOW. Yesterday. If you;re thinking about planting a church, DO NOT PLANT A CHURCH  unless you know that you know that you know that GOD is CALLING you to do so! If you’re in vocational ministry now, or pastoring a church,  and don’t know that you know that you know that God CALLED you into vocational ministry, do yourself and the church a favor. Quit. Resign. Get out. NOW. It’s only a matter of time before you quit anyway. Here’s what Jesus said:

“A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will leave the sheep because they aren’t his and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he is merely hired and has no real concern for the sheep.”  John 10:12-13 (NLT)

You’ve GOT to be called or you will run away when times get tough. If I did not know for CERTAIN that God had called me to do what I’m doing right now, I would have quit DOZENS of times! You will, too!

However, if we KNOW we HAVE been called, it means we KNOW we can’t quit, even when it’s hard. I can’t do anything else! I’m called! Anything else would be to be disobedient to God! We must hold TIGHTLY to the call! When we’re called, this is God’s prayer for us:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

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Preaching

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been preaching now in churches for close to 15 years. Preaching is a spiritual gift. I believe God gave me the gift of speaking. However,  it’s been a gift that I have needed to fan into flame over the years.  I’ve learned a TON about preaching and its place in my life and the church. Above all, I’ve learned three primary things about preaching:

1. Preaching is not the most important gift.

We know this, don’t we? God tells us through His Word that all spiritual gifts are NOT equal. Some are more important than others (see 1, 2 Corinthians, among other letters). The apostle Paul actually said that LOVE was the most important gift. I was hanging out with a Pastor who pastors a church near a seminary in Kentucky, and he said.  to me: “The problem with so many of these seminary students is that they love to teach, but they do NOT love people.” WOW. What a tragedy. Someone’s gotten it backwards. I would love to say that my testimony would be that I love people BETTER than I preach. If that is said about me, I am getting it right!

Pastors, I know of GREAT churches who have average communicators, and I know of non growing churches who have GREAT preachers. However, I do NOT know of any GREAT churches where the Pastor is not a gifted leader who loves people well, especially, his staff and leaders. Pastors, preaching is not the most important gift. Love is. If people know you love them, they will listen to you. If you just love to preach and are looking for a platform to preach, don’t become a Sr. Pastor. Pastors: as the chief overseers, our primary responsibility is to care the flock of God entrusted to us ( 1 Peter 5:2). Preaching IS one way we do that. It simply should NOT be the ONLY way!

I work HARD at preaching. Harder than just about anyone I know. Preaching is one of the most important things I do. But I’ve learned it’s not the MOST important.  Loving leadership is.

The primary role of a shepherd is to be out in front of the sheep leading them.  The sheep can not follow a shepherd if he is not out in front of them and close enough to hear his voice? For many of us, even if we are out front, many of us are too far out in front trying to change the world, that we leave our sheep behind! God forbid!

Pastors, are you out in front of the sheep? Are you leading?

Are you modeling the way? If so, have you gotten so far AHEAD of your sheep that they aren’t listening any more?

Are you loving the sheep? Caring for the flock? OTHER THAN preaching?

I’ll share about the  two other things I’ve learned about preaching next. Stay tuned.

In my previous post on what I’ve learned about preaching, I discussed the fact that preaching is not the most important gift. Today, however, I want to contrast that with the second most important thing I’ve learned about preaching, and that is that:

2. Preaching must be viewed as one of the most important things I do.

While I do NOT think preaching is THE most important element of church leadership, it IS ONE of the most important elements of church leadership, and I can not relegate it to something I squeeze into my schedule when the tyranny of the urgent slows down. I’ve mentioned before here that I do not believe that preaching is my greatest spiritual gift. I believe leadership is. However, I believe preaching is EXTREMELY important! God has called me as a Senior Pastor to preach His Word and preach it well:  “Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” 2Timothy 4:2 (NLT).

God has also reminded me time and time again through His people that He HAS called me and gifted me to preach His word, and I need to be faithful to that call and gifting. Anyone will tell you that while I may not be the best preacher in the world, God has given me an uncanny ability to GROW in my preaching ability over the years. When I look back to my sermons 10 years ago when I started Mountain Lake, I writhe in pain! However, this just means I can look back and SEE my growth as a preacher. Everyone on our Ministry Team will tell you also that this has not happened by mistake. I WORK HARD AT PREACHING.  Below are just a few thoughts on my preaching work ethic, my priority of preaching, and my desire for preaching excellence. These things have enabled me to “fan into flame” my preaching gift:

  • I blocked my mornings off years ago for preparing to teach. I meet with NO ONE in my church in the mornings. Sorry, but while my mind is fresh, I need to give my best to be with God and receive His messages for my church!
  • I spend 20-30 hrs every week preparing to teach, including time on the weekends and Sunday mornings when I get up.
  • Early Sunday morning every week, I walk around in my Study and say the msg OUT LOUD  at least four times to myself. God works through this audible learning time to connect ideas bouncing around in my head and connect transitions. Every week, some of my best thoughts for my sermons come during this time!
  • Every week, I meet with at least two other pastors and talk about what I sense God is laying on my heart and ask for input. I can’t remember a time I got up and preached  that someone had not given me input before I preached it.
  • I ask for my wife’s input. She’s a genius, knows our church,  and she listens to God. She also knows me better than anyone on the planet.
  • I allow critique and feedback on my sermon every Monday at 1PM by a group of people on   my Ministry Team.  During this time, it’s open season on the preacher. This process is sometimes painful, but the log time product is always better because of it!
  • I try NOT to preach more than 70% of the time. Here are some reasons for that:
    • My preaching will be better down the stretch if have ample weeks of the year when I allow God to speak to me w/o the urgency of preaching that Sunday!
    • NOT teaching on a given week allows me to look ahead to what “good teaching” looks like in the future for our church. Our church preaching calendar currently runs 6-9 mos. ahead because of this.
    • SITTING in the congregation of the church when I’m not teaching gives me priceless data about my own church and the preaching there.
    • I don’t want to build this church around my preaching personality
    • I want to raise up other preachers.

Suffice to say, preaching IS one of the most important things I do. It IS one of the most important gifts in the church.  I must “fan into flame” the gift He’s given me and commit to delivering “good teaching” on a consistent manner to my church. To this I am committed. Pastors, are you?

In part 3 of this series, I want to talk abut perhaps the most important thing I’ve ever learned about preaching, and that is the fact that:

3. Preaching is empty without passion and authority.

Passion comes from spending enough time with the Scriptures I’m teaching on that God has captured ME through them FIRST. Passion comes from an urgency of knowing that THIS MESSAGE might be the message that brings someone to faith in Christ. Passion comes from a moving of the holy Spirit in my life in such a way that I can not HELP but raise my voice to some extent when I talk about what he has laid on my heart. Passion comes from my own emotion. Passion comes with my own confessions and willingness to become vulnerable as the preacher on the platform. Passion comes from understanding that everyone in the crowd that day has showed up HOPING that the preacher possess some answer, some hope, some level of intimacy with God that they do not currently possess!

Authority comes with understanding that I AM GOD’S  MESSENGER to the church.  He has called me to speak for Him. He as asked me to be the spiritual leader.  He has commanded me to care for the flock that He’s given me. He has celled me as and Elder to be able to teach, and as I do, to allow my life to preach on a daily basis. He has called me to live above reproach, so that I can speak with moral authority when I preach. He has called me to model the way. He has called me to speak with boldness and authority and to love for the applause of Him, not the applause of men.  he has called me to preach in such a way that people are impressed by HIM,  not ME.  He has called me to rebuke, encourage, and lift people up with good teaching. He has anointed me, ordained me, and given me the privilege and power to proclaim His Good News. I need to preach like I believe  He has!

I can say all the right things and make all the correct interpretations, be funny, be impressive, be loud, and be engaging. However, if I have not preached with passion and authority, I have failed?  A sermon without passion and authority is like  coke without the fizz.  These days as I am finishing up prep work for a message, I ask myself: “Where’s the fizz?” Where’s the heart? Where’s the urgency? Transparency? Challenge?  Emotion? Call?  Pastors, let’s PLEASE covenant together that we will preach without passion and authority! It may be our greatest opportunity in ministry to worship Him!

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Biblical Parenting

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

In October 2008, Mars Hill Church hosted a Biblical Parenting Conference with Dr. Tedd Tripp, who presented biblical teaching on topics from formative instruction to corrective discipline. Listen to streaming audio or watch video by clicking on the links below.

Session 1: Helping Kids Understand Authority – Tedd Tripp

Session 2: Helping Kids Understand the Heart – Tedd Tripp

Session 3: Overview of Corrective Discipline – Tedd Tripp

Session 4: Giving Kids a Vision for God’s Glory – Tedd Tripp

Session 5: The Call to Formative Instruction – Tedd Tripp

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Being a Missional/Evangelistic Church

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

The missional church movement has been good and bad. On a positive note, let’s focus on the bad. I want to suggest three ways to not be a missional church. In continuation of the series, this post examines some of the defects of evangelism-driven mission.

Evangelism-Driven Mission

These churches focus almost exclusively on evangelism. Their view of the gospel leads them to see social action as optional. For them, mission is synonymous with evangelism, and evangelism is highly programmatic. They focus on training individuals through evangelism training programs, apologetics, and use of evangelistic tracts. What’s wrong with learning evangelistic presentations, memorizing apologetic defenses, and using tracts?

1. Evangelism-driven mission is often answer-based and heaven-centered.

These churches train individuals and teams “How to present the gospel” in a brief period of time. Typically, these programs look for the person being evangelized to offer a specific answer. For example, “If you died tonight and stood before God and he said: ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?” Notice that the questions are answer-driven. The goal is to get someone to say the right answer and to believe the right facts, like “Jesus died for my sins.” What we need is less belief and more faith.

In his new book, The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox makes a helpful distinction between belief and faith. He writes: “We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us, but we place our faith only in something that is vital for the way we live.” We can believe without it making a difference.

Many Americans believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but it makes very little difference in their lives. They possess mere belief. This mere belief undermines the gospel. What we need is faith. Moreover, mere belief in the right answer baits people, not with Christ, but with heaven. It is heaven-centered, not Christ-centered. In evangelism-driven mission, Christ is subordinated to the treasure of heaven, instead of heaven being subordinated to the treasure of Christ. The goal is heaven, not Jesus. Answer-driven and heaven-centered evangelism leads to nominalism and distorts the gospel. Evangelism-driven mission can undermine, not advance the gospel.

2. Evangelism-driven mission can be defensive and fact-oriented.

Training in apologetics has its place; however, when our approach to non-Christians is driven by apologetics, we very often reduce people to projects. Apologetic mission can foster too much defense and too much offense because it aims at the head to the exclusion of the heart, to change someone’s mind, but not their lives. Just because someone agrees with our facts and embraces our logic doesn’t guarantee true conversion. We need to be prepared, not only to defend the faith, but to love people intelligently. Most objections to the gospel have existential and personal roots. If we can get beyond the arguments to the idols of the heart, we can show just how tremendously superior and satisfying Jesus is to whatever they love, desire, and pursue most!

3. Evangelism-driven mission is often outdated and fails to contextualize.

The methods used are often prepackaged and outdated. Evangelistic programs falsely assume that our listeners still understand the meanings of sin, Christ, and faith. But very often, they hear something very different, like legalism, moral teacher, and mere belief. When we fail to express the gospel in context and vocabulary that our listeners can understand, we fail to share the gospel. Christ dated and contextualized himself to all kinds of people so that his message would make sense and connect with their deep needs for redemption. Using packaged illustrations and methods assumes a one-size-fits-all, but the Incarnation reminds us that the gospel is much more personal and dynamic.

4. Evangelism-driven mission is individualistic.

This approach to mission trains individuals, not communities. It reduces the gospel to a conversation between two people, without focusing on embodying the gospel in communities. Statistics have shown that individuals are consistently converted to communities before they are converted to doctrines. Our methods are often doctrine-driven and individualistic.

Jesus prescribed a kind of communal evangelism in John 17, where our community is so redemptive and rich that it points people to Jesus. Paul called for a distinctive discipleship in churches that set the community of faith forth as an example, as salt and light in their cities, attracting others to them. Individualistic evangelism doesn’t create community because it doesn’t convert people to the church. It aims at converting individuals to a set of answers and to heaven. Evangelism-driven mission has very little to do with the Jesus of the Church, the Head of the Body.

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