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Archive for November, 2010

The thought of a pastor having a pastor can be hard for some people to grasp, but it seems like the most natural and appropriate relationship in the world to me.  It was a joy to host Pastor Scott as our guest yesterday.  For more than 13 years, I have looked to Scott as a pastor, mentor, and friend.  I am thankful for his leadership and wisdom, and I was excited by his message from yesterday.

As you are aware, Emmanuel Fellowship is a non-denominational church.  But, that does not mean we are un-connected, anti-relational, or non-dependent upon the influence of others.  Our local congregation is autonomous in that decisions affecting our church are made by our local leadership, but we have chosen to live by the Biblical principles we teach.  In a practical sense, this means that we as a congregation tithe ten percent of our income into ministries and missions around the world, and our leadership seeks out godly relationships and accountability.  I hope it is encouraging for you to know that your pastor has a pastor, and your pastor’s pastor has a pastor as well!

The primary framework for our church’s relationships comes through an organization called Summit Ministries International.  SMI is a connection of churches and ministries who have banded together to tend to the basic needs of ministers and ministries.  SMI provides an avenue for fellowship, vision sharing, cooperative mission endeavors, continuing education, and church assessments.

The point that I want you to consider is that no man and no church is an island.  Though each of us carries the final accountability for our actions, we were designed to live in relationship.  Each of us, pastors included, needs the benefit and the blessing of connecting with a spiritual vision larger than our own.  It is my sincere prayer that Emmanuel Fellowship Church is more than a place for you to attend.  I pray it is a ministry you can connect with.  I pray it is a place where fellowship, vision sharing, mission endeavors, education, and personal growth can occur in your life.  I know it is occurring in mine!

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  1. I am thankful to be part of a team of ministers who are amazingly energetic, passionate, and creative.
  2. I am thankful to be part of an elder board that is wise, prayerful, and hands on.
  3. I am thankful for an army of EFC volunteers who love children, greet, welcome, usher, serve communion, and work hard to make every church gathering a joy and a success.
  4. I am thankful for the building renovations this year that have given us room to grow.
  5. I am thankful for those who gave their hearts to Jesus this year.
  6. I am thankful for the weddings I was able to officiate this year.
  7. I am thankful for the healing we have experienced this year.
  8. I am thankful to serve on staff with my best friend, my wife.
  9. I am thankful to be where I am, doing what I am doing, and for the people I get to do stuff with!
  10. I am thankful that 2011 will be even better than 2010.  The best is yet to come!

Links

If you need more encouragement to be thankful in the big things as well as the small things in life, check out www.aholyexperience.com.  Blogger Ann Voskamp has a ministry of exhorting her readers to gratefulness.

Wanting to make an Advent wreath to mark the season?  How about Scriptures to read and prayers to pray with your children as you light the Advent candles?  Check out one mom’s ideas at http://www.amazingmoms.com/htm/christmas_advent.htm.

 

 

 

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An invitation is a powerful thing.

It means you have been accepted and included.  It means there is a place for you in the activity at hand.

I’ve been invited and uninvited to special events.  I’ve been thought of and forgotten.  I vividly remember the long walk home after I was asked to leave an event at a not so gracious hostess’ home one evening in college.

An invitation takes you from being a casual observer to an active participant.  It cuts through every potential barrier and puts you on the inside of the action.

One of Jesus’ greatest frustrations was the exclusive nature of the Jewish faith in his day.  Jesus gave this fiery rebuke to the teachers of the law:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”  – Matthew 23:13

But, you have been invited to the party!  The ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus are your invitation to participate in the abundant life.  The only limitations you have are the ones you have placed on yourself.  Nobody has the power to limit who you are in Christ.

My friends, God is doing amazing things among us.  It is an overwhelming joy to be a part of the transformation of lives and healing of the broken.  And you can be a participant, not just a spectator.

I invite you to take your next step in ministry.  I believe God is calling you to join in the work He is doing.  How will you respond to His invitation?

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  – 2 Peter 1:3-4

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The Bible is the foundation of the Christian faith.  It is our compass, our map, and our flashlight as we navigate the narrow path of life.  The Bible is the plumb line by which we discern truth and comprehend the will of God.

The Bible points us to the heart of God, yet for all of its value, many Bibles find themselves collecting more dust than fingerprints.

There are many reasons our Bibles can find themselves neglected, but I believe every follower of Jesus carries a genuine desire to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God.  The following are some personal and practical thoughts on developing a living relationship with God’s word.

DEALING WITH THE “DON’T WANT TO” – For one reason or another many people find themselves at a place of spiritual depression where they lack desire to engage the Word of God.  Two tools to dealing with the “don’t want to” attitude are:

  1. Evict the manipulating thoughts that steal the authentic joy of reading the Word.  This includes the end of accusers such as “ought,” “should,” and “more” in regard to Bible reading.
  2. Recognize this backward principle of God’s Kingdom: when it comes to Bible reading, the less you eat the less hungry you become, BUT the more you eat, the more hungry you become!  If your hunger has diminished through neglect, make the decision to force-feed yourself from the Word, and you will develop a hunger for more of God’s Word.

DIGGING IN – So you have an open Bible in your lap, what next?  Here are 5 simple tools I personally use to bring my Bible study to life.

  1. Read for the joy of encountering God’s truth.  Attitude is essential.  I choose to believe the promise of Psalm 16:11 when I encounter the Word of God, “You fill me with joy in Your presence.”
  2. Pray this simple prayer every time you open your Bible.  “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).
  3. Read with your friends.  My best Bible-reading friends are a highlighter and at least three different colors of pens.  Turn your Bible into a rainbow of your response and interaction with God’s Word.  I mark my Bible as if I were leaving a treasure map for my grandchildren to discover my heart through my interaction with God’s Word.
  4. Digest what you read.  Digesting is just as important as reading; it is how the nutrients of God’s Word begin to strengthen our hearts.  Pray over and consider what you have read.  I strongly encourage you to journal your response and your wrestling matches with Scripture.
  5. Talk about it.  Bring what God has taught you in secret out to the public.  You will be amazed at how what you just read this morning applies to what someone is going through this afternoon.  Talk about the Scriptures with your family, with your friends, and with your co-workers.  This is not about bragging on your devotional life, but a time to minister out of the overflow of God’s activity in your life.

DIGGING DEEPER – Along with the daily choice to dig in to God’s Word, you will develop a desire to dig deeper into specific subjects, teachings, and truths found in the Bible.

  1. View the Bible as a mine full of precious gems that reveal the heart of God.
  2. Seek to understand the context of the Scriptures you read.  Recognize the Bible was written by over 40 authors over the span of almost 2,000 years.  Begin to understand the various geographical, political, and social contexts of the Bible.  The Blue Letter Bible and Follow the Rabbi are two wonderful online sources for digging deeper into Scripture.
  3. Follow a thread.  Once an idea from the Bible grabs your attention, continue to chase after it!  Personal study of a fascinating topic can be one of the most invigorating tools to getting into the Word.  My father-in-law once spent two years preaching through the book of Ephesians.  I have found great joy in following threads such as: Pictures of Jesus in the Bible, Names of Jesus, Bible Verses About the Father, verses that include the phrase “But God,” Questions Jesus Asked, One Anothers in the Bible, and even The Begots of the BibleBeauty of the Bible by Peter Lopez is another great site for fascinating Biblical exploration.
  4. Take a Drink from the Firehose!  A wonderful way to dig deeper into the Word of God is to remove yourself from all time limits and distraction and enjoy huge chunks of the Scripture.  Taking a Saturday morning to read through the story of the Patriarchs or reading through the book of Revelation in one sitting are amazing ways of grasping hold of some of the bigger pictures that are often missed when we take small bites of the Bible.

The Bible is alive and the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to breathe life into your study of the Scripture.  Now go dig in!

 

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