Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Romans 15

Verses 5-6, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Paul prays for unity among the followers of Jesus. He would not pray for this if it wasn't needed. If everything was going perfect and there were no dissenters and there was no conflict, then Paul would not have even brought this up. The reality is the same for today. People may expect and hope that everyone in the church will be perfect and there won't be any conflict, but there is. No one is perfect except Jesus. There is conflict because we are broken sinners in need of redemption.

Paul reminds us that it is God who gives endurance and encouragement. It is God who gives us a spirit of unity. So God equips us to be in unity, but it is still our choice. God gives us endurance through those times when there is conflict. God encourages us with His love and grace every step of our lives.

Here's where all of this leads...God wants unity for us as His children so that with one heart and mouth we may glorify Him. Unity leads to worship. The great commandment begins with love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. That's worship. The most important thing we can do is worship our heavenly Father. And He wants us to do it together.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Romans 6

Verse 18, "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."

Wow! I love that verse. I love the imagery that it inspires in me. I have been set free from sin. There was once a bondage that was in place in my life and in my heart to sin. I was a slave to doing things counter to the will of God. According to Paul I was "in slavery to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness." That was before I turned my life over to Jesus.

Now I have become a slave to righteousness. I am free from my old life. That is good news. The choice is now mine as to how I live. Will I live as a slave to my sin or will I live as a slave to righteousness? What do I really believe about my heavenly Father? I believe His love for me is perfect. I believe He wants me to live into the fullness of all that He has to offer. This seems so simple, it is, but it isn't easy. My natural tendency is toward sin. My heart wants God and more of Him. Unfortunately I don't always make the choices that honor God.

When I am tempted, temptation always comes before the sin, I must remember that sin is not my master because I am not under the law but under grace. I must live as a redeemed child of God. I have an incredible gift of salvation through Jesus. I must fully receive and embrace this precious gift.

Friday, April 24, 2009

John Maxwell's New Book

The Right and Wrong Picture of a Dream

I’ve studied successful people for almost forty years. I’ve known hundreds of high-profile people who achieved big dreams. And I’ve achieved a few dreams of my own. What I’ve discovered is that a lot of people have misconceptions about dreams. Take a look at many of the things that people pursue and call dreams in their lives:

  • Day Dreams - Distractions from Current Work
  • Pie-in-the-Sky Dreams - Wild Ideas with No Strategy or Basis in Reality
  • Bad Dreams - Worries that Breed Fear and Paralysis
  • Idealistic Dreams - The Way the World Would Be If You Were in Charge
  • Vicarious Dreams - Dreams Lived Through Others
  • Romantic Dreams - Belief that Some Person Will Make You Happy
  • Career Dreams - Belief that Career Success Will Make You Happy
  • Destination Dreams - Belief that a Position, Title, or Award Will Make You Happy
  • Material Dreams - Belief that Wealth or Possessions Will Make You Happy
  • Seasonal Dreams - A Short Term Target You Try to Reach

If these aren’t good dreams-valid ones worthy of a person’s life-then what are? Here is my definition of a dream that can be put to the test and pass: a dream is an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will, and emotions, empowering you to do everything you can to achieve it.

A genuine dream is a picture and blueprint of a person’s purpose and potential. Or as my friend Sharon Hull says, “A dream is the seed of possibility planted in the soul of a human being, which calls him to pursue a unique path to the realization of his purpose.”

Love this Blog Post From Seth

Seth Godin is right on the money...

We no longer care what you say.

We care a great deal about what you do.

If you charge for hand raking but use a leaf blower when the client isn't home
If you sneak into an exercise class because you were on the wait list and it isn't fair cause you never get a bike
If you snicker behind the boss's back
If you don't pay attention in meetings
If you argue with a customer instead of delighting them
If you copy work and pass it off as your own
If you shade the truth a little
If you lobby to preserve the unsustainable status quo
If you network to get, not to give
If you do as little as you can get away with

...then we already know who you are.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Romans 12

Verses 1-3, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

I think this is one of the most practical sections of scripture for me. First, I am to live out my salvation. As a matter of fact, that living out of my everyday ordinary life is an act of worship. I usually don't think of it that way, but it's true. Second, in the living out my salvation, I shouldn't look or sound like the rest of the world. It's my nature to do that so I need to have my mind brought into alignment with God's will. The reality is, my living out my salvation begins with what I believe. Do I believe God is sovereign? Do I fear God more than man? Simple, yet huge questions that will have an impact on what I believe and thereby what I do as I live out my salvation.

I want my life to have a greater influence on society than society has on me. I want the same to be said about Charter Oak Church and all churches. It begins with what I believe about God and then it becomes a lifestyle that permeates every aspect of who I am. I want to live for God's glory that He will be renown in this region and beyond.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Romans 8

Verses 38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

It is good to read these words on a regular basis. It is good to know that I am loved by God and to be reminded of it. If I were writing this I think I would add something like, "no running nor busyness can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Even in all my stress and anxiety, he loves me.

I am loved, you are loved by our heavenly Father. We are of immeasurable value to Him. Thank you God.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1 Peter 3:15

"But in your heart set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give you the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

Are you ready for hard questions about your faith in Jesus? Or is it just easier to get angry and walk away? You and I have hope, that hope is Jesus. The way of Jesus isn't easy and it isn't convenient. People along the way are going to ask why you and I believe what we believe. Do you know why? Can you answer that question authentically? Is it a part of who you are or do you just parrot some words back that aren't really yours?

As we share our faith and live our faith we will have the opportunity to engage with people who are not followers of Jesus. Your actions are much louder than your words. But when asked you better be prepared to give answer.

For some reason lately I have a greater conviction of what I believe and why I believe it. I am excited about what I see on the horizon. Greater things are yet to come!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Thursday, April 9, 2009

We're Ready

This morning I prayed for you.

The chairs are set up for this weekend. I spent sometime praying over those chairs this morning. I prayed for the place that God has prepared for you to hear what He wants to say to you. I prayed that your ears and your heart would be open.

I prayed for the person you are inviting to join you. I prayed for your courage to make that invitation. I prayed that person would say "yes."

We're ready for this weekend. Are you?

Learnings from Being Back on the Field - Part 4

This week I have been posting some things I learned when I played soccer this past weekend. You can scroll down to read the first three parts if you haven't read them. Today I want to look at part 4...

4. The team needs encouraged throughout the game.

No one wants to be criticized in the middle of the game. Everyone makes a bad pass, misses a shot way over the cross bar, or makes a bad defensive play. When someone does that, they know it. They feel bad about it. The last thing they want is for someone to point it out to them.
I think that as the game progresses and the players get more and more tired it becomes easier and easier to criticize instead of encouraging. It is so much better to hear positive affirmation throughout the game.

As I was playing the game I tried to find those times when I could encourage our team. If it was a good pass or shot or defensive stand I would call it out. If our goal keeper made a save we all cheered. In that moment, the whole team is happy!

Because we are all over 40 we play the game in quarters instead of halves. It gives us extra time to take a break. It is also a great time to encourage. We can talk about the good things that happened and seek to build upon them. Coming off the sideline should be the time every player is most juiced up -they have rested and they have been encouraged.

I know I need to do a much better job of encouraging in my day to day life. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the doing that I miss out on the opportunities to say "Good job!" It's not about just recognizing scoring the goal that wins the game. It's also about the passes and the defense that put the team in the position to score. The same goes for our lives. It's not just about those big moments, it's about all of those smaller choices along the way that led to the big moment. There will be many, many more smaller, integrity and character development moments in our lives than big moments. We need to find more ways to celebrate those and encourage into those moments everyday.

Luke 22:1-30

Verse 19, "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Verse 20, "In the same way, after supper he took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

The Last Supper - the bread, the wine - the body, the blood - broken, poured out

All of these images to describe a spiritual reality that is a holy mystery. I can only imagine what the disciples would think. Tuesday night we learned about the Passover and the meal that accompanies it. I would guess that is what the disciples believed they were going to the Upper Room to share - the traditional Passover. Little did they realize it was the night that none of them would ever forget.

Tonight we will gather around the table in groups of 12 to celebrate the Last Supper. We will break the bread and drink from the cup. We will remember. We will confess our sins. We will be forgiven. We will give thanks. We will prepare for Good Friday and look with expectation to Easter. I hope you will join us at 7:30pm.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Learnings from Being Back on the Field - Part 3

This week I have been posting some things I learned when I played soccer this past weekend. As a leader I always want to be learning. I want to have eyes that see and ears that hear what God is putting in front of me. I think I learned a lot from that soccer game. Today I want to look at part 3...

3. I want to score!
Everyone I know who watches sports wants to see their team score. When the Penguins are playing my son goes crazy when they score. When I watch the Premier Soccer league games on TV the fans go wild when there is a goal.

I have been a very competitive guy for most of my life. Over the years I have been told that I am even a bit over the top. It doesn't matter if I am playing or watching, I want my team or the team I am following to win. But because of being ultra-competitive over the years, I have tried to dial it back a bit recently. As soon as I stepped on to the soccer field on Saturday, that all changed back - I wanted to score. I played hard. I ran harder than I have in a very, very long time. The pay off was two goals and an assist. It was great and I want more. I can't wait to play in the next game.

This weekend is Easter. It's bigger than the World Cup or the Super Bowl or the World Series or all of them combined. This is a big deal for us. I am praying that people will give their lives to Jesus this weekend. I am praying that lives will be changed for eternity. I'm not just praying this for Charter Oak Church. I am praying this for every church. I am praying that God will grant us His favor, that the Holy Spirit will be poured out in such profound ways that people will be convicted of their sin, they will recognize the spiritual hunger they have in their soul, and that they will turn it all over to Jesus.

Every time there was an out pouring of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, they counted how many people became followers of Jesus. We will be expecting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit this weekend and we will be counting and celebrating those whose lives have been changed through a relationship with Jesus. I can't get enough of this! I am pumped up to see what God does this Easter.

Colossians 4

Verses 2-6, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

These closing remarks from Paul could be words that I could write to the people of Charter Oak Church today. We get a glimpse into Paul's heart and what is important to him. He wants the opportunity to share Jesus with others. He wants to do it well and in a way that makes sense to those who are listening. He wants to be influential in his circle of influence outside the church. He wants his words to build people up and encourage them.

As this Easter weekend quickly approaches I find myself praying very similar words. I want to proclaim the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus in a crystal clear manner. I want our doors to be open to anyone and everyone who who is searching, seeking, hungry, thirsty for more to their life than what they have been experiencing.

So I am asking anyone who may read this to pray for me, especially for this weekend. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book #6 - Refuel

Our staff is finishing our reading and discussion of Doug Field's book Refuel: An Uncomplicated Guide to Connecting with God. We have used it as our study guide through Lent.

Refuel isn't a deep book and if you were going to read it from cover to cover (I wouldn't recommend it) you could probably read it in less than an hour. What it does do is remind the reader of some core elements of what it means to do life as a follower of Jesus. The essence of the book is to equip people to stay constantly connected to God.

This is a good little book to read with a small group. It asks good questions, if you will really wrestle with them. There is even a website dedicated to this book. Check it out by clicking here.

36 Tips from Dr. Z

Every Tuesday I get Dr. Z's tips for life, here's this week's...

"TIPS FOR AN EXCEPTIONAL LIFE ... no matter what is happening in the world"

**Up Your Attitude
1. Remember ... no one is in charge of your happiness except you.
2. Remind yourself that even though life isn't fair ... it's still good.
3. When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself, "Today I am thankful for ________________ ."
4. Don't take your feelings too seriously. Act as if you're enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.
5. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up ... with a smile.
5. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, issues of the past, or troubling things you cannot control.
6. Focus on all the good around you ... at this very moment.
7. Each night, as you go to bed, tell yourself, "Today I accomplished _______________ ."

**Live Your Life On Purpose
8. When you wake up in the morning, complete the following statement, 'My purpose for this day is _______________ ."
9. Dream more while you are awake.
10. Write down your goals. You'll always accomplish more.

**Keep Things In Perspective
11. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
12. Before you panic with every problem that comes your way, ask yourself, "In five years, will this matter?
13. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present or mess up your future.
14. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
15. When you are feeling down, start counting your blessings. You'll be smiling before you know it.
16. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class ...but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
17. Time heals almost everything. So give TIME some time.
18. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

**Build Your Relationships
19. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch with them.
20. Call your family often.
21. Agree to disagree once in a while. You don't have to win every argument.
22. Make at least three people smile every day.
23. Forgive often. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
24. Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
25. Refrain from judgment. You have no idea what is going on in somebody else's life.

**Have More Fun
26. Watch more movies, play more games, and read more books than you did last year.
27. Clear the clutter. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
28. Smile more and laugh more. It puts energy back in your batteries.
29. Don't take yourself too seriously. No one else does.
30. Stop waiting for a special occasion. Burn those candles, use the fancy china, and wear your nicest things. Every day is special.

**Take Care Of Yourself
31. Take a walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.
32. Always make time for exercise.
33. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.
34. Buy a Tivo (DVR), tape your late night shows, and get more sleep.
35. Eat more foods that grow on plants and eat less foods that are manufactured in plants.
36. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds, and walnuts.

Learnings from Being Back on the Field - Part 2

Yesterday I started a series of posts on what I learned from being back on the soccer field playing in a competitive game for the first time since college. Yesterday I wanted the ball; today, I look at part 2 - Don't Hog the Ball.

2. Don't Hog the Ball.

As much as I wanted the ball during the game, I certainly didn't want the ball all of the time. Soccer is a team sport. As a coach I am consistently telling my players that when you don't have the ball and it is in your area of the playing field move into a place that you can receive the ball. It is so much easier to move the soccer ball up the field when you do it as a team instead of just one person trying to do it all.

The team we played on Saturday had a guy on their team who was really, really good. His foot skills were incredible. He would get the ball and dribble and dribble and dribble. But he eventually would lose the ball because he rarely if ever passed the ball. As the game progressed I even heard his own players mocking him because they knew he was hogging the ball and not being a team player. He scored one of their goals but they didn't really celebrate the way that I thought they would, especially since they were down by four goals.

I want the ball, but I don't want to be a ball hog. I want to preach the best message I have ever preached in my life this weekend. But I know that without the people on my team there is no way that this weekend would be happening the way we are planning. The music, the arts, the technology, the food, the children's and students' ministries, the First Impressions, the ushers, the money counters, the childcare workers, the facility's team, on and on it goes. Our team of paid staff and volunteers have been praying and preparing for this weekend. I know God is going to work in the most incredible way in people's lives. I am one part of this awesome team.

Here's the deal, we are all doing this, not that anyone of us gets praised or recognized, so that God gets all the glory, honor, and praise - God will be renown in this region.

Colossians 3

Verse 17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

What an all encompassing command. What if we put this filter on our lives? What would it look like if every single thing we did or said was done in the name of Jesus? How different would our world look? How different would our church look? How different would our personal lives look?

This is the heart of our Rule of Life at Charter Oak Church - "Do the next right thing." Augustine wrote, "Love God and do as you please." That is what Paul is writing here. Whatever I do (it doesn't matter if I am alone or with others), whatever I say (it doesn't matter if I am with people who are easy to love or who are difficult to love) I must do and say everything with the very heart of Jesus.

I have a long way to go.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Learnings from Being Back on the Field - Part 1

On Saturday I played in my first competitive soccer game since college. I hit 40 last year so I am now eligible to play in the over 40 league, or as my son calls it - the old, fat guys league. I would guess that I was the youngest person on the field.

Once the game started some things kicked in with me...

1. I wanted the ball. We had three guys sharing two positions so I knew I would be rotating out of the game every so often. That was good for my lungs, but it also caused me to want the ball even more. I don't think it was a pride issue. I wanted to be in the play, I didn't hog the ball when I had it, but when someone else had the ball I was always moving into a position the receive the ball.

Easter is this coming weekend. Officially its Sunday, but we have four worship services, so we begin on Saturday night. We have three teaching pastors at Charter Oak Church that can bring the Word of God like no body else. But you know what? I want to preach this weekend. I want the ball. Over the course of the last couple of months I have been trying to position myself to receive what God wants me to share this weekend because I want to be in the arena this weekend. I want to share the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus. It's not pride, it's a calling. It's not about me, it's all about Jesus.

More tomorrow on my learnings from being back on the soccer field.

Colossians 2

Verse 2, "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ."

Paul knew what he was supposed to be doing. He fully understood his purpose in life - encourage people's hearts, unite people with love so that they may understand the fullness of who Jesus is.

My purpose in life is to love every person that I meet, not just like them, but genuinely show the love of Jesus to them, and to equip people so that they can become more like Jesus - so that this region will understanding the fullness of who Jesus is. I want to love God, love each other, and love the world.

If love can become the driving force of our live,s the Kingdom of God will become known in an ever increasing way. That rests firmly on my shoulders and the people of Charter Oak Church for this region. We must live it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Colossians 1

Verses 15-20, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

Who is Jesus? This is Jesus. Read these words. Then read them again. Incredible.

Matthew 10

Verse 1, "He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority."
Verse 5, "These twelve Jesus sent out."

I love this chapter, but it also pushes me to my knees. Jesus calls his disciples. Jesus empowers his disciples. Jesus sends his disciples. A very simple process of what it is we are supposed to be about in our lives today as disciples.

The tough part comes in the reaction of people as we live out our faith. Jesus makes it crystal clear it will not be easy. There will be people who do not want to hear about the love of Jesus. As strange as that may sound, it is true. There are people within the church that will persecute those who are obedient to the calling of God. Sad, but true.

I have been called. I have the authority of God behind me. I have been sent out.

It's Holy Week. Let's get it on!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Best Email I Ever Read

Below I have copied the best email I have ever read. It is from our Director of Worship Arts, Bill Gates as he explains to key leaders what is happening at Charter Oak Church this Easter. It's long, but it's good. Way to go, Bill!

I want to make sure we're all on the same page when it comes to the Easter sermon series that Chris will be preaching. It's called "You Don't Have What It Takes". The sermon titles for this series are:

April 11/12 (Easter): "You Aren't Good Enough" Satan tells us we're worthless. God shows us our worth to Him through His sacrifice and triumph over sin and death. This is a great Easter message, but also deals with letting Satan beat us down and distort a true Scriptural view of ourselves through God's eyes.

April 18/19: "You Can't Handle It All" This is about stress, and how life tends to pile more and more stuff onto us, mainly because we believe our worth is found in more and more productivity, accomplishing more and more, and in the process, losing sight of what's truly important for us.

April 25/26: "You Can't Please Everyone" Don't we spend so much time trying to live up to others' expectations of us, and usually falling short? Instead, we should find out what God's plan for us is, and get busy doing that.

May 2/3: "You Can't Control the Future" Fear and uncertainty can mire us, and keep us from moving forward. We need to trust God for all that we cannot know, and in faith, do the next right thing as God leads.

Folks, this promises to be a GREAT series. It has a great Easter message, but at the same time, delivers a message that even unchurched folks can dig into. Who doesn't feel inadequate, or fearful about the future? Who doesn't wrestle with stress and the pressure to succeed? Who hasn't tried, unsuccessfully, to please those people in our lives who are important to us?

For that reason, this series is an "invest and invite" series - that is, we're targeting this series to be one that the people of Charter Oak Church invite their unchurched friends and family members to. I can't stress this enough! How often have you heard Chris talk about the 33,000 unchurched folks within a 5-mile radius? Well, this series is one of 2 or 3 series/year that we're targeting for invitation, so we can make a serious dent in that number.

The goal of the series is to give EVERYBODY who attends something to take home with them that will be of applicable use. The goal is to not overwhelm visitors with deeply theological concepts, while at the same time not "watering down" the Gospel message of Easter, and of God's desires and plans for us. You promise to invite people. We, as the staff of Charter Oak Church, promise not to overwhelm them or make them sorry they came.

To that end, this series has a "circus" theme to it. The CLC will be decorated to suggest that we're in a big circus tent. There will be a clown meandering through the lobby (not doing any tricks, just being there and greeting people). There will be balloon animals for the kids, between services. There will be a stilt/unicycle/juggler fellow outside between services. The schedule for these 'acts' is:

Easter: No acts at all
April 18/19: Balloon animals
April 25/26: Helium balloons
May 2/3: juggler/stilt/unicycle guy

All acts are between services, and will not distract in any way from what goes on in the CLC.

The snacks in common ground will be the usual fare, but with the addition of peanuts, or popcorn, or cotton candy, etc. Circus food.

First impressions people (greeters, information center folks, parking team) will all be wearing a SINGLE item of clown-wear - stuff like a big nose, or big sunglasses, or bigneckties or bowties, a bowler hat, etc.

And here's where you come in! You're part of the first impressions ministry, so we'd like each of you to wear ONE clown element as described above. Whatever you're comfortable with. Of course, if you're opposed to that, you needn't wear one. But if possible, we'd like the ushers to carry through the circus theme like the rest of the first impressions folks are. We have big neckties coming... Those might be good for you folks. :-)

Lastly, some of you might be wrestling with the idea of church with a circus theme. I hope to be able to explain our philosophy here. It's two-fold. First, we will preach the Gospel, and the truth of the Scriptures, this Easter, as well as every other weekend in the year. Second, we WILL reach the unchurched around us, and we will WOW them with how we do church at Charter Oak Church. They'll come and hear God's Word for them. All of us, churched and unchurched alike, will take home principles we can apply to our lives, no matter what station of life we're in. But additionally, those who aren't attending church will be greeted in a friendly manner, and impressed and challenged and even surprised by how we do church. Church can both honor the God of the Universe, AND be fun. That's what we're striving for. There are many reasons people don't attend church, but I doubt one of them is that it's just too exciting.

I truly hope you all are on-board with this. It's an all-out attack against the gates of the enemy. Take part and make this series unforgettable for all who pass through the doors. Invite people. It could very well be life-changing for them.

God is blessing Charter Oak Church. We're growing. I've never been so excited about a church in my life. I love my work here. I love the people here. In spite of the economy, giving is strong. God is calling us to new areas of ministry that will reach people like never before in this region. It's THRILLING! I hope you feel it too!

Matthew 9

Verses 10-11, "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

Verse 37-38, "Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"

Changed lives for eternity. Jesus doesn't want people to stay where they are, he wants them to move into a relationship with God through him. It doesn't matter who it is, everyone has immeasurable worth to God. EVERYONE. There are so many people in our region who need to hear this truth. I believe they long to hear it. So Jesus says to pray for people who will go out and invest and invite their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members to meet him right where they are.

That's what Easter is all about at Charter Oak Church, meeting people right where they are, no matter who they are and sharing the love of Jesus with them. I am asking God to do what only God can do in softening people's hearts to him. I am praying that people from our congregation will have the courage to invite those people in their circle of influence.

Then on Easter weekend I will share an incredible truth that everyone in this region needs to hear and it was for that reason that Jesus went to the cross and was raised from the dead.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Matthew 8

Verses 26-27, "He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'"

I think Matthew 8 makes a major shift. The Sermon on the Mount comes to an end in chapter 7. Now Jesus begins a portion of His ministry that makes me scratch my head a little bit. He heals a leper by touching him. That's a big no no in that society - but Jesus loves the man too much to leave him sick. I want to shout for Jesus on that one.

Then Jesus meets the Roman centurion and has an incredible conversation and we see the faith of a man that is even surprising to Jesus. Jesus turns around and heals the centurion's servant without even having to go near him. Then Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law and many others.

Then the whole cost of following Jesus part kicks in full gear. Jesus actually keeps His numbers small by talking about what it really means to follow Him. Interesting way to describe it, but the point is still the same - following Jesus is more difficult than most people think it is. Jesus knows what is on the way - persecution, pain, suffering, the cross. And it begin in the next section as a town full of people ask Jesus to leave the region.

What does all of this mean? Jesus even tells His closest twelve friends they have little faith. What does this mean for me? Following Jesus does not guarantee an easy and comfortable life. There are going to be awesome times of lives being changed for eternity, but there will also be times when people kick me in the stomach. Whatever the circumstances I must trust in God, be obedient to His leading, and love others with all I am and all I have.

Matthew 7

Verses 7-8, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

The desire of God is for us to bring everything to Him. I know I try to do it on my own. I don't have to, God wants me to bring it to Him and lay it at His feet and He will meet my every need. I have to remember that it all begins with seeking the Kingdom of God first, though.

I want to live in such a way that every moment and every activity I bring before God in some way. That may mean that I know the Bible so well that I filter decisions through a Biblical world-view. It may mean that I stop in all my running around and seek God's wisdom or patience about a situation. It may mean slowing down long enough and getting quiet enough to hear God's still, small voice guiding me and directing me.

God wants the very best for me, He loves me. Why do I still have trouble some times asking for His help?