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Monday, April 28, 2008

An Invitation To See God

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

A couple of years ago my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The three kids worked together to pull the event off. My part was the invitations. OK, OK – it wasn’t my part, it was my wife Pam’s part. (I can’t even draw a straight line!) Well, my wonderful wife had a ball putting her creative powers to work designing and hand-making the invitations to the party. They were really great and when people got them, she received lots of compliments.

When I receive an invitation, I have rarely found it to be a negative thing. We receive invitations to weddings, to birthday parties, to baby showers and a host of other activities. An invitation is an opportunity to celebrate something good. Because of this, most people are open to receiving an invitation.

Last week I wrote about CSCC’s commitment to live out BBCBalanced Biblical Christianity. As we live out BBC through the vision of CSCC of “Growing transformed lives through experiencing the truth, presence and people of Jesus” the idea of invitation is a critical element.

Each and every day most of us have interaction with other people. Whether we interact with many or few, our mission from Jesus is the same: make disciples. (see Matthew 28:18-20) Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Corinthians –

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, NIV)

Let me put it this way, the purpose of each of our lives is to invite others to see the glory of God. The way we do that is manifold. It depends on the person God puts in our path and the situation we find ourselves in.

Today I stopped to help a couple of ladies get their overheated car going. My parting comment was “I’ll pray for you that it all works out.” In the brief interaction I had with one of the women, it was apparent the broken down car was the least of her problems. I prayed that God would reveal His glory to this woman and her daughter. There was no time to present the Four Spiritual Laws, to invite them to CSCC, to even pray over their car. It was just one sentence that I pray sticks in her harried heart to nudge her closer to Jesus.

God puts people in our path every day that are so consumed with their problems that they can’t see God. You are there for a reason and that is to invite them to see life differently. A part of inviting others to see the glory of God is inviting them to be around people who are seeking God. Inviting people to your small group, a church activity, a worship service is all part of being an inviting person.

An invitation to see the glory of God is about as good as it gets. Don’t be ashamed or afraid. Go as far as the Holy Spirit leads you – no more, no less – as you invite others to see God’s glory. You might even see more of his glory too when you do!

With you in the journey,


PS – Do you have any “invitation stories?” Please tell me your story!

NEXT WEEK: How We Grow

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

Some More Thoughts on Forgiveness

Last Sunday Pam and I spoke on forgiveness. It is always a challenging one for me because it is a great opportunity for the Holy Spirit to tap me up side the head with the holy 2X4 about how far I have to go in this area.

One of the things I had insight into was actually a synthesis of the speakers from the marriage conference we hosted Saturday and the things Pam and I talked about. Dr. Henry Cloud, in a bit of a throw-away statement, mentioned that research has been done on people’s “self-talk.” Self-talk is the internal conversation we have going on in our heads. Everyone has their conversations – it only gets scary when you actually see someone who isn’t there and begin talking to them! Back on point – Cloud said that research has shown that 70% of people have negative self-talk. Seven out of ten people you meet during the day are complaining to themselves most of the day! And they probably are complaining to themselves about YOU!

When it comes to forgiveness, how we talk to ourselves makes all the difference. It is really difficult (read: IMPOSSIBLE) to forgive someone you are constantly complaining about in your mind. If we have trained our mind to constantly be negative we also will find ourselves much more easily offended. And face it – negative people are more offensive to others.

Alright – here is another synthesis. Gary Smalley was talking on Saturday about his book “Change Your Mind, Change Your Life.” I’ve read most of it and I was really challenged. The bottom line of Smalley’s book is we need to soak our minds in God’s truth by engaging in M&M – memorization and meditation.

Go back to the self-talk and forgiveness stuff. When we put God’s truth in our brain and constantly slosh it around between our ears, we change the way we think. When we change the way we think, we change the way we feel because emotions ALWAYS follow our thoughts. I have to be honest with you – I believe what I just said in the former sentence but I don’t like it. It puts too much responsibility on me. I want to be able to blame pretty much anything/anyone other than me for how I feel. I want my kids and my wife to be responsible for my happiness. Then I have someone to blame…other than myself.

So here is some counsel for you. If you struggle with being able to forgive, start memorizing some verses. Here are a couple of good ones to start:

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13, NIV)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV)

I’m working on these myself. My goal isn’t to just memorize them but for them to transform my thinking (see Romans 12:1-2). To that end I have been working on memorizing the 8th chapter of Romans. Anyone want to join me?

With you in the journey.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Living BBC

The Church is changing. It is sort of like the Oldsmobile commercial from a few years back that said “This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.” It was meant to communicate that the new Oldsmobile wasn’t stodgy and conservative like the one you used to know. This new Oldsmobile is attractive, fun and modern.

When it comes to the Church (big C – in particular the American Church) we are in a major shift about how people see and experience church (little c – local gatherings of Jesus followers). In many ways it can be summed up this way: Over the last 25 years there was a huge emphasis in the church on “Come and see!” Everyone was encouraged to come to a building to be taught, entertained, sung to, sung with, etc. Willowcreek Church (Bill Hybels) and Saddleback Church (Rick Warren) were the leaders of this movement that made a huge positive shift in how we do church and experience church.

The shift that is happening now is no longer “Come and see” but rather “Go and be.” There is a growing recognition that the Church is supposed to be a gathering of people being equipped to be sent out to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus to a needy world.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV)

A long time ago when I was in seminary studying to be a pastor, one of the great voices of Christianity of our time, Dr. John Stott, came and spoke at my school. I still remember the essence of his message. He challenged us to live out BBC. Dr. Stott, being from England, clarified that we weren’t to live out the British Broadcasting Corporation, rather we were to live out Balanced Biblical Christianity.

At Cold Springs Church, it is our intent to lead people toward BBC. We want to avoid the extremes in times of change like we find ourselves now, swinging wildly from “Come and see” to “Go and be.” I am convinced that BBC is about having both.

Let me remind you of the vision statement for CSCC: Growing transformed lives through experiencing the truth, presence and people of Jesus. We are deeply committed to long-term life change through faith in Jesus and we are convinced it happens when we experience truth (the Bible), presence (the Holy Spirit), and people (followers of Jesus).

Over the next few weeks I want to share with you how we see we can live out this Balanced Biblical Christianity so the vision of CSCC is fulfilled in us and through us. I will be sharing with you what it means to Invite, Give, Grow and Connect and how that has the potential to change your world!

Yes, we are in times of change. The Church has always been in a time of change as it has sought to live out the un-changing message and mission of Jesus Christ. But God doesn’t change, the Bible doesn’t change, the Gospel doesn’t change and Jesus NEVER changes. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8, ESV)

The mission of the Church and our church is to communicate this unchanging message to an ever changing world. I am committed to leading Cold Springs Church to do that the best we possibly can.



Next: What it means to be an “Inviting” person.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Trusting God In Uncertain Times

If you listen to the radio, read a newspaper or watch the news, not a day goes by that you don’t hear how bad the economy is getting. One trip to the gas station or the grocery store can make it so we feel the pain personally.
For quite awhile we have been living in very blessed economic times. That house we bought just seemed to keep increasing in value, everybody wanted us to borrow their money to live the life we always dreamed of. But no more; things have changed in the world around us – as they always do.

So, what does it mean to trust God when times are tough?

There is a little book in the Old Testament that carries a big message. Habakkuk was a prophet of God. He was someone God called to speak to his people during difficult times to help them remember that although things are difficult, God is faithful.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments." (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV)

The words to the song Habakkuk composed are a reminder that the greatest reality in the world is the faithfulness of God. “The Sovereign Lord is my strength…” is what Habakkuk invites us to sing about. God is over all things and he knows the details of the world economy and of my personal challenges. And he cares deeply for each of us, longing to strengthen us so we see his faithfulness and he receives glory.

Here are some things I have found are important to practice in times of challenge:
Stay close to Jesus. Time in prayer and reading the Bible keep me grounded in what is ultimately true. Talking to Jesus reminds me that he is always with me, no matter what.
Stay in relationship. Friendships with other followers of Jesus are a great source of support and prayer. True friends will both comfort us and challenge us to be stronger in our faith.
• Stay the course. Someone once said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light.” As you manage your resources, get a plan and follow the plan. For me, it has long been the 10-10-80 plan: 10% to God, 10% to me (savings), 80% to everyone else.
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:7-8, NIV)
• Stay focused. As followers of Jesus, we live for eternal things and we invest in eternal things. The health of the US economy is not a measure of the faithfulness of God! Nor is it a determining factor whether we generously invest in the things that are most important to God: people and the expansion of his Kingdom.
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33, NIV)
• Stay tuned. I hate to admit it, but most of the important and life-changing things I have learned have happened when life was the hardest. We think God abandons us in our pain but he is close to us during these times and teaching us valuable lessons. Are you listening?
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

Honestly, I think this is a great time to be the church. We have the most valuable, life-changing gift that anyone could ever receive. Now, more than ever, people’s eyes are being opened to the fact that the world has handed them an empty box wrapped in pretty paper. Jesus saves people and he changes their now and their forever. It is that gift Cold Springs Community Church is committed to continuously offering to as many as possible.