Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Preparing For Worship: Personal Ministry

(Continuing the thoughts begun three weeks ago on Sunday worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through our lives during the week.)
How can we make gathered Sunday worship a place celebrate, instead of a place to get “filled-up”? How can the week between Sundays become a positive impact on our lives, rather than a drain on our lives?

We have discussed personal worship and God working in me. Now, allow me to state that gathered Sunday worship should be a culmination of God working through me throughout the week.  Here are some ideas to make that happen:

Our Personal Ministry: We should all minister directly during our interaction with people (see below). And, we should also minister indirectly through prayer. When someone shares a need with us, and when God makes us aware of a need, stop and pray. Don’t “send good thoughts and prayers”, but rather boldly go before the Throne of God and pray, crying out to Him in behalf of that person.

Our Ministry Community: We all have ministry communities. Our small groups, Sunday school class, ministry team, and even our families are great “communities” to have an effective impact on people during the week. As a group, look for and find ways to provide spiritual and practical ministry in the lives of others, and then go minister together!

Our Spontaneous Ministry: Here is our direct interaction with people that God puts in our path. Do you see someone struggling with a “load”? Help them (open a door, carry a box, comfort a crying child, etc.). Do you see a person without enough money to pay for groceries or a meal? Pay for it. Don’t simply go through your day, rather go through your day looking for opportunities minister!

Taking Risks Of Faith: God will put personal and spiritual needs on your heart as you encounter people. When you sense and see these needs, take a risk of faith and speak with them to encourage, and even pray for them. A great way to begin a conversation with a stranger who God has put on your heart is, “Excuse me, but I am a person of faith. Would you mind if I prayed for you?”

Doing these things will give us reason to celebrate in gathered Sunday worship. Imagine entering a gathered worship service being so full of joy because God used you during the week to minister to others… Begin every day looking for ways to minister, and then go and minister! Lead Well!

(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)

If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it in your Facebook timeline, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Preparing For Worship: Personal Victory

(Continuing the thoughts begun two weeks ago on Sunday worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through our lives during the week.)

How can we make gathered Sunday worship a place celebrate, instead of a place to get “filled-up”? Often we come to corporate worship feeling down, defeated, and empty, looking for filling.
Life is hard, and a lot of times we let it whip us. I believe that gathered Sunday worship should be a culmination of God working in me throughout the week. Here are some things I do:
Praying For Needs In My Life: Often we tell others our “prayer requests” because we like to talk about ourselves. We want people to have pity on our difficult lives. But how many of us really dig in and go before the Lord, and spend time praying for our needs? It’s easy: Pray for your needs. God will answer, we’ll see victories, and have something to celebrate!

Taking Steps Of Faith: Without faith it’s impossible to please God. We can take small and big steps of faith every day as we read what God’s Word says, as God gives us direction, and as we live it out. Being know as a person of faith shouldn’t mean we go to church. It should mean we live our lives by faith, trusting God in everything, every day.

Studying God’s Word: This is different from our daily personal worship time discussed last week. By daily studying God’s Word we learn a biblical worldview, over our culture’s worldview that we tend to live by. Also, daily studying God’s Word teaches us how to live a life of faith. (I study God’s Word in the evenings.)

Becoming Less “Me-centered”: If we’ll honestly look at our lives, we tend to be very me-centered. (Listen to your conversations, read your social media posts, see how often we turn someone else’s story into our story.) It takes effort, but we can change our thought patterns and action patterns to become less me-centered, and more God-centered and other-centered.

These simple steps, exercised daily, will produce victories in our lives. And those victories give us reason to celebrate in gathered Sunday worship. What else can you do during the week that allows God to work in you that gives cause for celebration? Lead Well!

(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)
If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it in your Facebook timeline, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Best Preparation For Worship: Worship

(Continuing the thoughts begun last week on Sunday worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through our lives during the week.)
How can we make gathered Sunday worship a place to celebrate, rather than a place to get “filled-up”? How can we become more vibrant Believers who worship out of personal fullness, instead of people who are desperately seeking to get our "Sunday fix"?
I believe that gathered Sunday worship should be a culmination of our personal worship throughout the week. Here is what I personally do each week:
Daily Time Alone With God: This is worship time (for Him), not bible study time (for me). I begin my day using God’s Word to worship, praise and pray, and to give all off my attention to Him, not to me (my needs, my wants, my troubles). Instead of asking of our Daily Time Alone With God "What can I get out of it?" we should be asking "How can I give to the Lord?"
Listening To Worship Music: What better way to spend my driving time, running and workout time, manual work time (mowing, etc.), and “down” time than worshipping the Lord musically. These times have become valuable opportunities to focus on God's greatness, rather than listening to a popular song. This draws my heart consistently to God and who He is. Music that doesn’t exalt Him pretty much stays off my playlist.

Sabbath Preparation: We can learn from much the Hebrew people. On their sabbath day, they worship from sundown to sundown. Their rituals are designed to maximize their worship experience. Years ago our family adopted a Simplify Saturday Evening lifestyle, where we use Saturday evenings to prepare for Sunday worship: Minimal social commitments (we have learned to say "no" to invitations), a relaxed/stress-free atmosphere at home, practical Sunday preparation (choosing of clothes, locating Bibles, etc.), and early to bed (well-rested worshippers worship well).

Worshipping To Prepare For Worship: My Sunday mornings begin with worship (just like the other days of my week). I don’t wait until I enter the Worship Center to begin to worship, but I worship in preparation for worship, and on the way to worship. Yes, there are practical things to do that day, but my focus is on the Lord.

These simple practices have worked well for me in making gathered Sunday worship a culmination rather than a "filling-up" place. And if you notice, they all involve my attention on Him, rather than my attention on me. What can you do during the week in your personal worship to prepare for gathered Sunday worship? Lead Well!

(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)

If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it in your Facebook timeline, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Corporate Worship: Fill-up Or Pour-out?

A lot has been said about gathered corporate worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through Believer’s lives during the week. I believe every pastor and worship leader’s heart desire is for gathered worship times to be vibrant and spirited, full of heartfelt praise and intimate worship.
For many Believers, gathered corporate worship is a place to get “filled-up” rather than a place to celebrate. We come empty, rather than overflowing. We are looking to receive, rather than looking to give. (I even worked with a worship ministry member in the past who called gathered corporate worship her therapy, because she spent her days between Sundays empty and lifeless.)
Have you ever felt this way? Do you find yourself entering a worship center with other Believers hoping for a touch from God, instead of entering abounding with praise?
Too often we find ourselves struggling during the week. The pressures of life, the weight of parenting, the stresses of the workplace, the burden of difficult relationships all contribute to emptying us of life rather than making us full of life. We feel loss, failure, insignificance, and defeat.
We cry out to God, but many times we feel like He isn’t listening. We “try to do better”, but find that our efforts are not enough. We pour out our hearts to a close friend (or with everybody on Facebook), but many times they turn it around and make it about their own struggles, rather than offering us significant solutions.
What can we do to change this? How can we live lives to the fullest, so that we can hardly wait for gathered corporate worship? (Not so we can be filled, but so we can let out the praise to God that is building inside of us.)
I will be spending the next few weeks in this space sharing biblical and practical solutions to help us become more vibrant Believers who worship out of personal fullness, instead of people who are desperately seeking to get our "Sunday fix". Watch this Blog for more. Until then… Lead Well!

(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)

If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it in your Facebook timeline, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Check Your Time

As we move forward in this new year, God’s Word has a great encouragement for us. Ephesians 5:15-16 says: Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
There is a lot of great encouragement in these short words. In them, we are reminded to be careful, be wise, be diligent, and be aware.

   Be careful: We must take ownership of our lives. We must know every step we take, every word we speak, every action we do, and every thought we have. Any of these without care or restraint is a huge waste of precious resources.
   Be wise: We must be responsible for our own wisdom. Gone are the days of juvenile mistakes and foolishness. We must evaluate every step, word, action, and thought and make sure it is exercised with wisdom.
   Be diligent: We must be constantly and consistently pursuing God's vision and calling on our lives. When we step, speak, act, and think, we must live out our purpose, rather than simply go along with everyone else.
   Be aware: We must question everyone and their motives and calling. Everyone else, unless they are fully committed to God’s Word and His Presence, will be prone lead us into futility.

Our lives are too precious to God for us to simply be driven along by the influences around us. He desires for us to have purpose, and to live that purpose out with every step, every word, every action, and every thought we have.

Do we realize that time is limited? We only have so much time on this earth. We only have so much opportunity before a door or window will close. We must seize every moment and every opportunity.

As we move forward then in this new year, may I challenge all of us to ask ourselves: Am I being careful, wise, diligent, and aware, or am I allowing myself to drift along haphazardly? Lead Well!

(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)


If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it on your Facebook status, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends. Subscribe to regular postings of this Blog on the top right of this page.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Finding Real Joy in 2017

Where do you find your joy? From your circumstances? Your family? Your job? Your bank balance? Your church? Your vacation? Maybe from your ministry?
All of those things have the potential to become “un-joyful” and let us down: Circumstances change. Families disappoint. Jobs become tedious. Bank balances drop. Churches don’t do things the way we want. Vacations end. Ministries become stale.

Let's take a step back. If we're honest, we allow our consumer-driven culture to influence us in the ways we seek joy. We look to possessions, conveniences, latest & greatest gadgets, wi-fi speed, food, favorite team win-loss record, and a host of other "things" our culture tells we need to have to supply our joy.

But let's even take another step back and see how our "me first" culture influences us in our quest for real and lasting joy. We are looking to fulfill our happiness, our joy, our needs. We want it for us, and we want it for us now.

Where can we find true, full, and overwhelming joy? In the Presence of God. Consider Psalm 16:11: You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Notice that the Psalmist isn’t referring to a quick prayer of desperation when things don’t go our way. Rather, he says You make known to me the path of life. Finding Joy in God’s Presence is a continual pursuit on the path of life. It’s not a quick-fix bandaid when things don't go our way.

Notice also that the Psalmist points us to God’s right hand as a place to abide, rather than a place to find quick fixes. Instead of looking to see what is in God’s hand for us, we need to climb into His hand and rest.

The fullness of joy is only found in the Presence of God. We can't over-explain this truth. We can't make it what it is not. We can only accept that true joy is only found in the Presence of God.

And that true joy, found in the Presence of God, isn't there for the fulfillment of our needs and desires. Rather, it is a benefit of continually walking in God's Presence. We should seek to consistently walk in God's Presence simply because that's what we were created to do. LeadWell!

(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)


If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it on your Facebook status, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends. Subscribe to regular postings of this Blog on the top right of this page.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Presents All Year Long!

When I was six years old my father died. I don't remember much about that year, but I do remember spending the summer after his death with my only uncle and aunt. Uncle Al and Aunt Becky "took me in" during a difficult time for this young boy.
Later that year, my aunt and uncle visited my mom, sisters, and me for Christmas. I had just turned seven, and was very excited about their visit. The previous summer had forged a strong bond between my uncle and myself.

When they arrived, I helped my uncle unload his car. It was filled with Christmas presents! I remember carrying into our house armload after armload of presents. As I carried them in, I would look at the tags, and saw gift after gift that said "To: Bradley". It was going to be a great Christmas for me!

Imagine my disappointment when opening gifts on Christmas morning, most of the ones tagged "To: Bradley” actually read "To: Becky". You see being only seven, I hadn't learned to read cursive writing yet, and I thought Becky was Bradley.

I did receive some nice gifts from my uncle and aunt. I got over the disappointment of less gifts than anticipated. Life went on.

As Believers, the opposite is true. We have been given the greatest gift of all: Eternal life through Jesus. But we have been given many more gifts, and we don't take them: New mercies every morning, a guarantee of all of our needs met, help in solving problems, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living inside us... God's Word is filled with the gifts that He has given us.

Imagine how disappointed God is because He has given us so many gifts, and yet we leave them under the tree, unopened.

May we receive what God has given us everyday, and live lives of faith and victory because of all that the Lord has given us!

(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)


If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it on your Facebook status, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends. Subscribe to regular postings of this Blog on the top right of this page.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Without A Home At Christmas

There were two times in recent years where I was a man without a home. Call it transition. Call it between places. Call it what you want.
One time our family was in the process of moving to Florida from Maryland. I was joining the staff of a church to help while its pastor was gravely ill. My wife and daughter had already moved down there with our "stuff".

I stayed in Maryland because my current church was keeping me on for a few months to aid in the transition of my responsibilities.

I rotated staying at three different friend’s houses in Maryland in their guest rooms. All of my “stuff” that I didn't load onto our moving truck was crammed into the back of my Mini Cooper. Because I was a man without a home. 

I worked three-and-a-half days in Maryland, and three-and-a-half days in Florida, commuting via air between the two places. I did this for three months.

Another time, I was helping a friend start a new business in South Florida, while my family remained in Northwest Florida. I slept on my son’s couch in Ft. Lauderdale, stayed in a friend’s condo, and stayed in a room on the church campus where I led worship. I lived out of my suitcase and Mini Cooper. I visited my family as much as I could. I did this for a year.

Both times I was without a home was during the Christmas Season.

That was my story. It reminds me of the story of another man without a home. He began his life being born in a borrowed feed trough in a borrowed cattle stall.

He once said of himself that he had no place to lay his head.

He traveled a lot too. Not so much commuting, but rather purposeful journeys on foot to be involved in people's lives.

All of his clothes weren't crammed into the back of a Mini Cooper, but rather were worn on his back.

This same man without a home gave up his life so I could have a home in heaven. I am grateful.


(You can receive this Blog every week via email by entering your address on the top right.)

If you like this post, you can re-post it, 'share' it on your Facebook status, 'Tweet' it, or forward it to your friends. Subscribe to regular postings of this Blog on the top right of this page.