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

Shining Jesus a Little Brighter

This is a guest post from one of our New Life Section Leaders, Paul Sherrill.

Last night I happened to glance at the thermometer as I headed to bed and I noticed that it said -11⁰. It has been a long time since I remember it being that cold. While that kind of weather usually keeps me inside more than usual, I was struck by the beauty of the Christmas lights as they glimmered off of the new snow. It seemed to make the lights almost twice as bright as they normally are.

As I stood there I thought about each of you and what an incredible gift you are to our section community at New Life. You have given of yourself in so many ways. You have served at our community parties, you have coordinated meals, you have prayed for those in need, you have created newsletters and Facebook pages, and so much more. As I considered these things, it reminded me of those lights, and I realized that what you do so well is help Jesus shine brighter to those around us. It’s almost as if He is shining twice as bright because of you. I am so grateful for each of you and all that you do, and I want to wish you and your family’s a blessed Christmas.

WHY and WHAT in Sections

Healthy teams. If you’ve been around “Section World” for any length of time, you’ve likely heard us use those words on more than one occasion. As we’ve been observing 28 different sections over the last two years, we’ve noticed one very important factor common to successful sections and that one factor is TEAM.

As a leader in a Section, you CAN’T lead your section alone. What does that look like practically? During any given Sunday, one person is likely to be able to interact with three different people — one before, one during, and one after the service. With most Sections having seating for 250 people, one person isn’t very effective at connecting with that many people. Over the span of one year, you still would only be able to connect with 150 of those individuals.. Leaders need a team of people to help in connecting with those within their Sections.

As leaders attempting to connect, care, and invite each week, we need others to join us. Ultimately, having a team of 20 people with the same goal of connecting, caring, and inviting will be able to reach 60 people on a given Sunday rather than 3, and at the end of the year, we could have collectively engaged in 3,000 conversations.  The need for a team doesn’t end there. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 indicates that every part of the body is important. Each of us bring our own unique gift, and we need each other to complete the body. We can’t be healthy as individuals in completing the task before us. It requires a team effort to be healthy and accomplish what God has called us to do in Sections.

This sounds wonderful, but how do we practically build these healthy teams. As Section Leaders leading a team of volunteers, there are a couple of things that I think will help. Continue reading “WHY and WHAT in Sections”

Section Parties: Food Themes

Let’s be honest: one of the best things about Section parties is the food.

A great way to get people excited to contribute a dish to your party is to have a food theme. People seem to have more motivation if they are working within a given theme. You help to narrow down the limitless options into a more realistic list of ideas, AND you make sure everyone feels a part of the event.

Here are a few examples of themes, and how to invite others to participate:

Mexican food. This is usually a crowd pleaser. Enchilada casserole, crock pot barbacoa, taquitos, or a personal favorite — sopapilla cheesecake. Even for those who don’t know a spatula from a spork, they’ll have the option to bring chips and salsa. Continue reading “Section Parties: Food Themes”