New Life Groups Vision: The Frame Work

Other than the foundation, the next most important part of a home is its frame.  Without the frame, there would be nothing to support the walls or roof of a house.  The frame is the skeletal system of a house and is what provides structure and covering to the remaining elements.  Once the frame is in place, the utilities and the protective outer coverings can be added along with the doors and windows in their proper locations.  Then, the beautification process can begin – painting, flooring, furnishings, and décor.  Once all is in place, the house becomes a fully useful place to live our lives and spend our time, a place to rest, and to play, a place to laugh, and to cry.  The house becomes a home.

Like a house, New Life Groups needs a framework, something that will provide the structure and support that will ensure that we who serve within its walls are safe, are healthy, and are comfortable – able to take aim at our intended purpose. Continue reading “New Life Groups Vision: The Frame Work”

The Most Powerful Prayers are Prayers of Thanksgiving

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let’s face it, we do not and cannot know or understand everything about God.  We cannot fully grasp Him.  To say God is big, is a massive understatement.  Through scripture, spiritual experience, and relational connection with Him (and isn’t it wonderful that we can have such a relationship) we can gather a lot about His personality, His ways, His requirements, His plans, and so on.  And we should endeavor to do so; learning evermore the wonders of Him.  However, I would say that what we have and will learn about Him during our earthly lives is not even one one-hundredth of a percentage point of His fullness.  In reality, it should be considered an absolute unviable, and almost silly impracticality for a finite being to ever endeavor towards fully grasping an infinite God.  For it is an utterly infeasible impossibility to ever measure or understand the depth of His eternally existent capacity with our limited and sin-stained flesh.  To actually accomplish such a feat – if so doing was an actual capability –  would be far greater than holding the sum-total of the oceans water in a single cracked red Solo cup.

I bring this up to draw you contemplatively toward God’s greatness.  Certainly, we already know He is, but to meditate on this fact from time to time can do wonders for our faith – inspiring a fresh genuine awe within the secret places of our soul.

What we do know about God is that He is good and He is powerful.  I love the description C.S. Lewis uses in his book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Here, Jesus is presented allegorically as Aslan, “a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”  Susan, a young girl who has entered into a new and magical world through the backside of a cloths-filled wardrobe, is befriended by a number of talking animals with human characteristics.  One such character, Mr. Beaver, satisfies Susan’s curiosity as to whether this Aslan, the great Lion, is safe.  He tells her, “Safe? …Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is not safe, but He is good!  He is great!  He is might!  He is wonderful!  He is lovely!  He is the King!

The scriptures are full of stories and descriptions of Him.  They tell us, within the confines of our limited understanding, who and how He is.  Both in the written Word and in our lived-out faith we begin to see the limitlessness of His dangerous but good personality.  We see our smallness, our incapableness, our weakness, our brokenness enveloped and overtaken by His vastness, His marvelousness, His supremacy, and His absoluteness.  In it all we cannot help but to say, Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).

Our Knowledge of God should lead us to understand that His blessings aren’t simply limited to the golden nuggets we find placed in our hand, or even the burning coals that have been removed from said place.  They are also the unseen things He has guided us to or from.  They are the traps our feet have never found, and the encounters we’ve never encountered.  I am sure as we sit in His Holy presence, in our eternity yet unseen, we will be told many stories of thing we were completely unaware of in our earthly lives.  We will be awed in learning of how His grace and mercy truly guided us along the visibly limited path of our physical existence.

Therefore, I state a thought to consider.  Prayers of thanksgiving are the most powerful prayers we can ever pray.  New Testament scripture is full of thanksgiving statements from the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us.  They make it clear that what was, what is, and what is yet to come is to be seen, experienced, and expected in a faith-filled heart beholding worshipful gratitude.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:15-17

Thank you, Jesus!

Go Deeper, Grow Stronger

A Prayer for Group and Section Leaders

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’’

– Matthew 6:9-13

Heavenly Father, hallowed by your name.  You are mighty and you are glorious.  You are true, and you are lovely.  Thank you for who you are.  We are in awe.  You are worthy of our praise, worthy of our worship, worthy of our adoration.  God, you are worthy!

Jesus, in your mighty name, we seek your kingdom and your will over the lives of every leader serving in Section Community and in Groups here at New Life Church.  Lord, in all your sovereignty, will you lead them in their ministry and their care for others?  May their eyes and ears be fixed upon you; what you are doing and what you are saying.  May they follow in your footsteps and repeat what you are speaking.

Lord, bring them today their daily bread.  Whatever they need in life and in ministry today, Lord, would you provide it?  Will you touch their lives with your hand of provision?  In your faithfulness, will you meet them where they are at?  As they pour out the ministry within them, would you replenish them and fill their cup to overflowing?  Would you anoint them with strength, wisdom, and understanding?  Would you also lead them into timely rest?

Lord Jesus, if there is anything within the hearts of our leaders that is hindering their ministry, would you draw their attention to those things?  In your sweet counsel, will you guide them to a place of forgiveness and freedom?  Father, will you speak your words of life over them that they would walk in and with a grace filled presence?  May the knowledge that they are sons and daughters of the One true and living God ring ever true in their hearts and minds, resulting in the confidence that as forgiven and forgiving members of your household, there is nothing that can harm them or subdue the ministry which you are fulfilling in them.

Holy God, would you protect these leaders?  Would you guide their paths and keep them safe from the enemy’s traps?  Would you cover their heads, guard their hearts, and guide their hands and feet?  Lead them, Lord, away from all that can tempt them or entice them.  Would you deafen their ears to the voice of the enemy and remind them always that they bear the image of their Creator and that they carry with them the armor of the great and mighty God?  May they walk in the confidence that victory and vengeance belongs to you.  May they lean upon you, Holy Spirit, taking refuge in you, finding shelter in the shadow of your wings, and running to you in times of trouble.  Would you deliver them, Holy Spirit, from the evil one, and all his plots and schemes?

You are the King of kings and Lord of lords.  You reign forevermore.  We worship you, Jesus, and we say thank you for loving us as you do.  For being mindful of us.  For never leaving us, nor forsaking us.  May your blessing be upon us all, and in particular, may your blessing be upon the Section and Group leaders who faithfully serve, who courageously lead, who lovingly disciple, and who tenderly care for the members of your body at New Life Church.

We seek you, Jesus, that we may Go Deeper and Grow Stronger in our relationship with you.

In your mighty name we pray, Amen!  So be it!

While I Pass by In Safety

While I Pass by In Safety

“Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

Have you ever heard the old saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change.”?  Well, I believe there is a similar understanding when it comes to the spiritual opposition we face as ministers of the gospel.  I would word it something like this – if you haven’t encountered a dirty plot from the enemy, just wait a short while, it’ll come.

There should be a sign that is perpetually out in front of us that reads, “Ministers beware; traps ahead.”  Truth be told, as Ephesians 6:12 warns us, “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.”  This tells me the spiritual world is more influential than the physical, and if we are not mindful of this, we will find ourselves under the heavy hand of a ruthless adversary.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, said about the evil in our world, “One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin…Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is…I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil…’Yes, I do.’…If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, ‘Don’t worry.  If you really want to, you will.  Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.’”

My aim in this article is not to give elevated attention to our enemy or to evil in general.  Nor is it to give fear any credence or space to function in our hearts and minds.  Quite the opposite in fact.  My desire is to simply recognize that there is an opposition to all we do as followers of Christ and as leaders within the church and, to encourage our heeding the warnings found in scripture while standing in faith as we press forward into our callings.

As leaders at New Life Church within Groups and Section Community, I think it’s important that we remember that we still operate in a fallen world where sin and evil persist.  Our little isle of Christian comfort can lead us to forget that the enemy, as is read in this article’s opening scripture, is as real as ever and is in constant search for those who will give him space to work.  He is particularly fond of preying on those with churchy influence.

Therefore, in building on what was written last week in regard to intercession, praying on behalf of others, this week I want to point you to and encourage you in the prayer of Psalm 141, which is an honoring praise for God and a prayer for personal protection from that which the enemy uses to bring harm.  I encourage your reading and praying the entirety of the chapter, but in particular I want to share the final three verses.

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death. Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.”

David, the author of Psalm 141, new he was as weak in his flesh as any other person.  He knew that he was susceptible to evil’s inglorious ways.  He knew that there was a way that was far from God and that would ultimately lead him astray.  Thus, he prayed in anticipation of his enemy’s plans, in preparation for the encounter of evil traps and snares.  The goal?  To pass by in safety, without a scratch, or even a hint of sinful affect or physical impairment.  He knew his only hope was in the Almighty One and, thus, he pressed in.

1 Peter 5:8 also provides us a quick hint into our practical role in avoiding the enemy’s wiles.  It tells us to “Be alert and of sober mind.”  Essentially, we need to be vigilant in keeping our eyes and ears open for those things that can trip us up.  As well, to be sober minded means to ensure that we are always in a position to think clearly.  Sin clouds our minds, hinders our vision, deafens our ears, and impairs our judgment.  When we allow sin to linger in our lives, or even those elements of temptation that tend to lead us into sinful decision making, we are essentially opening the front door of our home to the very one that wants to steel our things, kill our lives, and destroy our property (John 10:10).  Sin builds on itself and will eventually lead us into deaths vice grip (James 1:15).  Sin will bring death to our ministries, to our hope, to our faith, and potentially even to our physical bodies.

Remember, you can “pass by in safety” if you remain “alert and of sober mind” and if you seek first the kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33) of the One who came to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10), who gave us freedom for freedoms sake (Galatians 5:1), and who leads us not into temptation but delivers us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13).  For “If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)

Go Deeper – Grow Stronger

On Behalf Of Others

Thousands of young men and women have descended upon the New Life Church campus from all over the country this week so as to encounter the Lord Jesus at the 2017 Desperation Conference. For three days our Desperation staff and DLA students are hosting these brothers and sisters in Christ, and as always we are witnessing the faithfulness of God as He draws close to those who are seeking Him.

 

Following the amazing experiences of this week we will clean up, turn around, and then welcome our very own New Life little-ones next week during our annual four day Kids Camp. Here, our kids will “engage in worship, games and activities, mission’s projects, small group discussions,” and they will partake in a number of other fun and exciting kids oriented activities.

Continue reading “On Behalf Of Others”