The prophet Daniel showed a tremendous commitment to God, even when it was illegal for him to do so. He challenges us to a greater commitment to God in our own lives.
Last Sunday I introduced the concept of four transformational relationships. My point was simple: if we will commit ourselves to growing in relationships with four "categories" of people--as defined clearly in and by scripture--we will be transformed.
The four categories (or areas) of relationship are: with God, with other believers, with neighbors, and with strangers. You can find more about these four transformational relationships, including my presentation outline and slides, by clicking the link. The actual presentation can be streamed or downloaded here.
Below the graphic I explain how to begin practicing, or living, these four transformative relationships.
Building off this outline, I recommend starting with your relationship with God. Because we are dealing with spiritual relationships (not merely social) our base point must begin with God. I suggest combining your regular worship attendance with a regular commitment to prayer and bible reading. You can begin simply: prayer can be either intercessory or thanksgiving, and your bible reading can be as little as one chapter each day. But begin. It's the beginning of this process and the time that you carve out for it that create the space for God to teach you and draw in to a deeper, growing relationship with him.
Next, I suggest that you focus on one of the other areas of relationship. Suppose you want to develop transformative relationships with other believers. The associated action for this area is mentoring relationships. One of the best ways to achieve this is to attend one of our bible classes on either Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. At the bible study you will be around other believers. You can then invite one or two of them to join you for coffee where you can discuss the lesson further or talk about your bible reading our spiritual growth. Look for others that you can share something with, but be careful to realize that this is a two-way street: you need to receive also, not just give.
You should be regularly participating in your relationship with God and in at least one other area. You balance this out with occasional work in the other two areas. For example, you can practice evangelism with your neighbors (biblically, your neighbors are anyone you encounter with a need) merely by being friends with and serving co-workers, family members, and even geographic neighbors.
In the bible (primarily the Old Testament), "strangers" refers to foreigners or those who pass through the land. Symbolically for us, "strangers" are those who pass through our lives. I recommend that we seek to serve them in order to leave the impression of God's love upon them. You can accomplish this by volunteering somewhere, walking your neighborhood and seeing what develops, or by some other way that puts you in contact with people that you will not see too often. Make it your goal to serve them in a gentle, humble, and loving way.
To grow spiritually, you need to take action. God calls us to action. Jesus told us to "go and do likewise (Luke 10:37). These four transformative relationships balance our spiritual growth and help us to grow and minister in the areas of relationship the bible instructs us in.
Please pray about how you should begin this journey...and then begin!
To grow spiritually, we need to regularly engage in four different areas of relationship: with God, with believers, with neighbors, and with strangers. This graphic describes these four areas by focusing on a core thought, a key scripture, a leading action, and several examples of each.
My personal view is that we should always be focused in our relationship with God and at least one other significant relationship in one of the other three areas. We can supplement this with ongoing activity in the other two relationship areas.
By taking action, we'll grow.
What do you think?
This is set of 4 bookmarks I'm handing out on Sunday as part of my sermon. Follow the link to find out more about the sermon, How to Find and Live God's Will.
To use the bookmark, download it and print it on cardstock. Then, use a paper trimmer to cut the sheet into 4 separate bookmarks.
In this funeral sermon, based on 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10, I reflect on what it means to be home with God.
Read the sermon below, click on the file link to stream the audio, or right-click the link and select "Save As" to download it.
"Going Home" ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
We know we are not at “home,” so we live in hope of “home” with confidence and faith that please the Lord.
We know we are not at "home" (2 Cor. 5:1-5)
In spring, trees bloom and flowers emerge from the ground. The growth is beautiful. Color returns to our yards and warms our moods after a long, gray, cold Michigan winter. As much as we enjoy springtime and the changes it brings, we know that these changes are not permanent. We know that they are part of a cycle, a cycle that turns season after season, year after year. Spring moves to summer, where long, hot summer days can result in withered flowers and scorched, dry grass. Summer gives way to autumn. In autumn, flowers die, trees lose their luster, leaves fall off, and the beauty that was seen in spring gives way to a barrenness that reaches from late autumn, all across winter, into early spring. The beauty of spring is temporary; it is a phase that is beautiful and wonderful while it lasts, but as they say of all good things, it must come to an end.
For Christians, life is a lot like these seasonal transitions. The beauty and wonder of our earthly life and in our early years gives way to fading glory as we grow older and experience the effects of aging. Yet, something calls to us within our lives, from an early age. Something beckons us forward, tells us that what we experience isn't all there is to life, that what happens to us now--how we grow older; how we experience the joys and pains of life; how we leave a legacy--is only a precursor to what happens to us later. Innately, we know that here on earth, in our mortal, physical bodies, we are not truly at home. Something within us groans and longs for our more perfect home.
This is why Paul teaches us "that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands" (2 Cor. 5:1). He's referring to death and what happens to us, not in our mortal, physical bodies but in our immortal, spiritual bodies. If we die, he says, or if we know that death is imminent, we also know that death is not the end. Death is not all there is. There is something more. There is a building from God. The "eternal house" Paul mentions is not a dwelling in heaven; it is the indestructible spiritual body God will give us when we go home to live with him. The superiority of this "house" is made clear by Paul's contrast to our physical bodies as a mere "tent."
For Christians, we believe it is God himself who places this knowledge within us. God's intent is for all--Christian and non-Christian alike--to have their mortality swallowed up by real life (2 Cor. 5:4). Real life, for Paul, is the eternal, spiritual life we share with God when he gives us our eternal house. We yearn for this eternal house. We want more; we know there is more. God teaches us there is more than what we experience now; that our deepest yearnings for something better are true. Paul says, "The one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Cor. 5:5). We know that God is faithful; we know that God has planted this hope within us because he has given us his Spirit. It's his Spirit within us--the same Spirit that serves as a deposit on our eternal house--that calls us closer to God.
It's this spiritual reality that our dear sister knew so well. She exemplified this attitude in her life. She knew 2 Corinthians 4:16 well--that "outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day"--and it caused her to live 2 Cor. 4:18 well--to "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." While this world was her home and she had many good memories and experiences in it, she knew it was only temporary. She was called to a higher home where she would turn in the tent of her temporary dwelling here for a house that would stand forever on the shores with her Father. One of my best memories of our sister was a common one. When we'd visit, she would often mention that she didn't know why God was keeping her around. We'd talk about that, and we'd offer different reasons why God was keeping her around, but it was that very question itself that showed that she knew something greater was in store for her. She knew that God was not finished with her, and that God would keep his promise to give her an eternal home.
so we live in hope of "home" (2 Cor. 4:16-5:5)
This is why we live in hope. Our own bodies and the world around us teaches us that what we see is temporary. So, like our dear sister, we hope in what is unseen. In the bible, hope is not a wishy-washy word in the sense we commonly use it today. We say, "I hope the weather is nice this weekend," or, "I hope we can get together soon," and we mean this in a wishful-thinking way. In the bible, "hope" is concrete. It is a noun. It is something specific that we grasp. In the bible, hope is the promise of God that we will live with him forever, that we will be resurrected and given permanent, immortal, spiritual bodies--eternal houses. We believe this by faith, not by sight, because what we see around us encourages us to think differently. But our sister knew better--she lived by faith--and through her example we learn to trust what is unseen, to trust God, the giver of hope, who gives us a promise of eternal life, a resurrected body, and fellowship with him (4:14).
with confidence and faith that please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-10).
So we live by faith. Our sight is eternal, focused on God who is the giver of all good things in life. We live in confidence; by faith, not sight, trusting God our Father; and aiming to please him.
Our sister knew 2 Corinthians 5:10 well--that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" to be judged for our earthly actions--and it caused her to live 2 Cor. 5:9 well--that we "make it our goal to please him."
Pleasing Jesus is, of course, the goal of our lives. It was the goal of our sister's life. In Hebrews 12, we learn that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. These witnesses are the faithful who have gone on before us, who have attained the reward God held out for them. These witnesses cheer us on as we remember their lives of faith. Their examples help to keep us faithful in following Jesus. We pass through life, moving towards Jesus, outgrowing our earthly tent and looking ahead to our eternal home, being surrounded by this great group of witnesses who have gone on ahead of us. We yearn for something better; they experience it. We long for home; they are home.
One of our sister's favorite things to talk about whenever anyone visited her was why God continued to keep her around for so long. She believed she had outlived her usefulness. We knew better. We knew that she continued to be a source of encouragement to many, and that God was very proud of her for doing so. Yet, her question also demonstrated the true desire of her heart--she longed to be rid of her earthly tent to receive the promised, eternal house from God. Now, she has finally received her heart's desire--she has gone ahead of us, preceded us, to wait for us to join her and God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in our true and permanent dwelling with God. She's home.
In this introduction, I outline Acts and develop six major themes that are in Acts.
Below, download a PDF of Introduction to Acts or read the document in this post.
Update (4/6/2010): Sermon MP3 -- The Baaaaad Shepherds
(click on the link to download or stream)
Good church leadership (shepherding) is godly, flock-focused, and selfless. On Sunday, we'll examine good and bad models of shepherding as seen in Ezekiel 34:1-16 and 1 Peter 5:1-5. In Ezekiel, God became disgusted with the bad shepherds who oversaw the scattering of his sheep. He took charge, and in doing so, showed how we are to lead and not lead. Peter builds on these thoughts in his letter.
At the end of the day, we are all shepherds to someone else. We may not be "elders" in the church, but we influence others. Let us learn from these passages how we may influence others in godly ways.
Use this sermon outline and the slides to help you prepare for Sunday. Please leaves some feedback.
This post continues my look at biblical leadership. Previous articles include Must All Elders Teach? and Biblical Leadership is Exclusive.
One of the words used to describe biblical church leaders in the New Testament is "overseer" (1 Tim. 3:1). Traditionally, we've understood the word "oversight" to refer to physical matters (the legal, financial, and operational concerns of the church) sometimes referred to as the ABCs--attendance, buildings, and cash.
While this emphasis has truth behind it, is has also led to an over-emphasis on physical things, meetings, and the "order" of/within the congregation. Relational shepherding has taken a backseat, sadly, in many of our churches. Sure, we may refer to our leaders as shepherds (instead of elders, overseers, pastors, or bishops), but they typically do less shepherding and more overseeing.
But what is oversight? In his excellent book, Emerging Elders, Ron Clark states that the role of the elders is to tie together both oversight and relational shepherding. Oversight is much more than administration; it is modeled on God's oversight of his people, Israel (in the OT), and seen in Jesus' leadership of people (in the NT; John 10).
Clark discusses four categories of oversight that he draws from God's and Jesus' examples of oversight: accountability to the God and the church (Ezekiel 34:10); awareness of people and movements within the congregation (Acts 20:28); visitation of members to identify problems and build awareness of ministry needs (Acts 20:31); and empowerment of members to grow in maturity and ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Oversight is relational. Certainly, physical needs and administration are part of oversight. Sometimes administrative tasks can be delegated to competent people within the congregation (deacons, perhaps) as an act of empowerment. Sometimes meetings are useful to discuss how to bring greater awareness of people's needs to the elders.
But oversight must begin and be maintained relationally.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? How else can elders engage in relational oversight?
This audio devotional, 2nd in a 3-part series and approximately 3 minutes long, looks at Hannah (mother of Samuel), how she remained faithful to God despite the negativity of her husband, and how the antidote to negativity and naysaying is commitment to God's mission.
This blog is for articles and book reviews. I post my sermons at my Sermons page, where you can listen to sermons online or download them in MP3 format.
Although I work for the Otisville Church of Christ in Otisville, Michigan, this blog represents my own thoughts and does not necessarily correspond to the views and workings of the Otisville Church of Christ.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.