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RSS Robot last won the day on May 28 2019

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  1. It’s hard to believe how much has changed in the three months since we entered 2020 and our church began the theme “Reaching Forth.” The theme phrase comes from Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” But when I chose it back in the summer of 2019, I had no idea how our life routines would be interrupted in the spring of 2020 by COVID-19. Here were are now, many of us under shelter-in-place orders, thinking about “reaching forth”! Let’s remember though that the apostle Paul penned these words while under Roman imprisonment, most likely house arrest. So if you feel that you are under “house arrest,” trapped in your own home, or if you’re wondering how you can make real progress during this period of waiting, I’d like to suggest eight daily activities: Thoughts for Your Daily Schedule: 1. Rise on schedule. Set an alarm, and get up and dressed. It will set the tone for your day. 2. Reach out to God. Study His Word, worship Him, and give thanks for your blessings. 3. Exercise. Take a walk, do an in-home exercise program….keep moving. 4. Work in place. If you’re working from home, finish projects and commitments; stay accountable. If you’re home but not working, choose a project to tackle—perhaps something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. 5. Reach out to others. Stay in touch with neighbors, the elderly, and your church family. 6. Minister grace to your family. Make this a time when you draw closer to one another, giving one another grace. (I preached on this topic Sunday evening. You can watch or listen to the message here.) 7. Discipline your media impact. Limit your screen time; govern content biblically. If you watch the news all day, you are likely to become anxious and depressed. 8. Rest. Physically, get sleep. Spiritually, rest in the all-wise, all-good sovereignty of God. View the full article
  2. Very few things challenge your efficiency and process like a nation-wide crisis. In this bonus episode of Spiritual Leadership Podcast, I discuss seventeen efficiency management principles that I have been reflecting on and asking the Lord to help me to use. I hope they will be an encouragement to you. If you cannot see view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  3. In the past two weeks, as COVID-19 has worked its way across our nation, it has turned our lives upside down. No one has remained untouched by the effects of this situation. From job losses to quarantines to social distancing, no one’s life is the same as it was two weeks ago. Even school children have had significant changes as their schools have transitioned to online learning and, in many cases, Mom or Dad are now working from home. And in the midst of this, the difficulties we already faced remain. I think of people in our church family going through chemotherapy right now and others dealing with various health, family, and personal trials. In a time of difficulty that seems to take over so many aspects of your life, it is easy to lose your bearings and spin your wheels in worry or distraction. Sometimes, however, we just need to go back to the basics. Here are five musts every Christian should do today: 1. We must believe. God has a purpose for allowing this virus and all the changes it has brought with it. I believe He is working in ways that are far greater than we can see. His love for us has not changed, and His promise to work all for our good and His glory remains. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.—Romans 8:28 2. We must pray. Worry is often a signal that we are not casting our cares upon the Lord as we should. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the outcomes of COVID-19 is a renewed prayer life among Christians? Pray for God’s protection, your family, your church family, your pastor, those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions. Pray for missionaries depending on financial support. Pray for God’s purposes to be accomplished in your life. Pray for opportunities to serve others and to share the gospel. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7 3. We must rest. If we’re worried and stressed, we won’t have the clarity to make wise decisions, and we won’t be ready or able to help others. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is get a good night’s sleep. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.—Psalm 127:2 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.—Psalm 4:8 4. We must eat well. It’s easy at a time like this to load up on unhealthy foods. The whole nation is trying to stay healthy by avoiding a virus, but we’re not all being as careful to stay healthy by eating a balanced diet with nutritious meals. We could literally make ourselves sick while we’re waiting for everyone to get well. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31 5. We must encourage others. There is someone near you right now who is having a harder time than you are. Ask God to lead you to them. Ask Him to bring to mind others you can encourage and to provide opportunities to share the gospel. Don’t wait for an organized church event to share the love of Christ and the gospel of Christ. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.—1 Thessalonians 5:11 Sometime down the road, COVID-19 will be behind us. But right now, in the middle of it, is when we will determine if it will be a time when we fell apart and lost focus…or if it will be a time of growth in our faith, prayer, health, and ministry to others. View the full article
  4. Our world is gripped today in health concerns related to Covid-19. Yet, God has called us, as spiritual leaders, to lead through these moments of crisis. How should pastors, in particular, lead through these moments? In this episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, I’d like to share with you some principles God has blessed in my life over the years as we have faced challenges and crises. I pray these truths will help and encourage you: If you cannot see view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  5. For many Christians in America, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was something happening “over there” just a few weeks ago. And now this weekend, many of us are holding services online because we can’t physically assemble as normal, due to social distancing. Truthfully, though, churches in the first century and even around the world today have faced challenges related to large assemblies, often due to persecution. Their example—as well as dozens of passages in the New Testament—reminds us that the church is so much more than an assembly.* As I teach in our new members class here at Lancaster Baptist, the church is not a building, but a called out group of people. We are the church. Now, more than ever before, we have the opportunity to function as local church bodies, even when our times of assembly are different than normal. Now, more than ever before, we have the opportunity to function as local church bodies, even when our times of assembly are different than normal. Click To Tweet The local church does so much more than assemble. Below are eight specific functions every member of every local church can participate in: 1. Pray—God invites us to bring every need we have to Him in prayer, and in this moment, we have many needs to bring to Him in prayer. But don’t just pray for yourself—pray for one another in your church family. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.—Philippians 4:6 2. Witness—Christ specifically commissioned the local church to share the gospel everywhere—in their communities and around the world. With the social distancing concerns of COVID-19, our efforts in sharing the gospel may be different than normal. But we are still called to do it. Perhaps God will give you an unexpected opportunity to talk with a neighbor or co-worker about salvation and eternity. Perhaps you can inclose a gospel tract in a bill you mail out or share your testimony on social media. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.—Acts 1:8 3. Carry one another’s burdens—This is a time for churches to reach out to widows, elderly members, and those with underlying health conditions. Although we need to follow the recommendations for social distancing, this doesn’t mean we can’t help others. Buy and deliver groceries for a widow. Reach out with a phone call. Ask God to help you bear someone else’s burden. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Galatians 6:2 4. Fellowship—Local church fellowship has always been around shared doctrine. This fellowship can’t be large gatherings right now. But it can be a phone call, text message, or note in the mail to let someone know you’re thinking of them. Fellowship can also happen online. Beginning this Friday at 10:00 a.m. (PT), I’ll be hosting a weekly online prayer meeting for our church family. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—Acts 2:42 5. Follow Christ as disciples—When Christ called His disciples, He gave them no expectation of ease or comfort. In some ways, the next few weeks will be a test of our discipleship. Will we continue to follow Christ in the midst of a global pandemic, even without the weekly physical meetings of the church body? And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.—Luke 14:26 6. Worship—What an amazing time in history we live in to have the availability of so many venues for online or live stream church services! And yet, in some ways, it may be more of a test of our priorities than ever before to make those living room streaming moments a focused time of worship and spiritual growth. As you remotely assemble with your church family around screens, be sure to give your attention and your heart to the worship and preaching of God’s Word. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.—John 4:23–24 7. Give—God has designed the work of the local church to be carried out through the grace-filled giving of His people. Even through times of crisis, the work of the local church—both locally and around the world through missions—must go forward. So give faithfully. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…—1 Corinthians 16:2 8. Serve—You may not be serving on a greeting team, helping as an usher, singing in the choir, or teaching a Sunday school class this week. But that doesn’t mean there are not opportunities to serve those same people. Perhaps think of five people you ordinarily see as you usher, and call them this weekend to see how they are doing? If you are a small group or Sunday school teacher, reach out to every member of your class to check on them. …by love serve one another.—Galatians 5:13 We are right now in a moment of great opportunity for local churches to be the church. Let us pray, love, give, and witness with patience as we look to Jesus! *Several years ago, I wrote a Bible study curriculum on the New Testament functions of a local church. It is titled Real Church, and Striving Together Publications is offering a free download of the leader guide through March 21, 2020. View the full article
  6. These next few weeks are going to hold changes for all of us as our communities work through the challenges posed by COVID-19. In the midst of these uncharted times, we who know Christ, can still proactively practice faith. And even when our world is turned upside down, we can trust that God is in control and that He is working. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.—Psalm 46:1–2 With that in mind, here are seven activities that can help you make the most of this God-ordained time: 1. Pray—Take time to cast your every burden on the Lord every morning and throughout the day. Parents, take time to pray with your children and to spend time with them around the Word of God each day. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your boss or co-workers. We can worry, or we can pray. 2. Help—Help a senior or a widow. Perhaps this means just dropping something at their doorstep, perhaps writing a note or a card. I’m thankful for the deacons of Lancaster Baptist who are checking in on nearly one hundred widows throughout these upcoming weeks. All of us should jump in to help those who have special underlying needs at this time. 3. Read—If you’re quarantined or otherwise spending more time at home, this is an excellent opportunity to enrich your life through reading. 4. Love—Love your family. Be kind to your neighbors. Encourage your coworkers. Reach out to your friends. 5. Worship—Most churches are finding creative ways to assemble through live stream venues or smaller gatherings. (Lancaster Baptist will be doing services via live broadcast at lbclive.tv. A schedule of the services is available here.) Although your church’s normal schedule or meeting location may be disrupted, make worship with your church family a priority. 6. Continue—The local church is so much more than just an assembly (although it does include assembling). But even when assembly times are unusual, you can still participate as part of Christ’s local church body as you pray, serve, give, and reach out to others. 7. Plant—A time like this is an opportunity to plant seeds. Just as many of us will plant seeds in a garden in the upcoming weeks, fully expecting a harvest later, so we can use this unusual season to plant seeds of prayer and kindness. Be sure you’re using this time to sow, because God will bless faithful labor for Him. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”—Galatians 6:9 View the full article
  7. Dear Lancaster Baptist Family, God has been so good to us, and I am thankful that He is always in control! I also believe that prayer truly makes a difference in needy times like these. In light of the Coronavirus/COVID-19, I wanted to give a few updates regarding our church services. We are thankful that at this time, there are no cases of the Coronavirus here in the Antelope Valley. We have consulted with Mayor Parris and local health officials and are continuing to follow their recommendations. With these things in mind, I wanted to share our updated schedule for this week. Sunday morning—In order to comply with the 250-person gathering recommendation from the Health Department, we will meet at 10:00 a.m. in our Connection Group locations this Sunday morning. Although we’ll not meet in the main auditorium, we’ll be making each Connection Group location a live stream venue, and I will be teaching the classes via this technology. (If you do not normally attend a Connection Group, click here for a list of locations.) This will be a very important gathering. In addition to our morning message, I will be explaining how we will communicate with the church through these next weeks or months of the Coronavirus challenges. If you have an underlying health condition or, because of your age, have concerns for the current virus epidemic, or if you are a caretaker of someone who may be vulnerable to the virus, let me encourage you to join us from home via live stream at lbclive.tv. Sunday night—We are not canceling our 5:00 service, but we are changing the location. Rather than gathering in the main auditorium, we are encouraging you to gather with your family or a few friends and watch the live stream services from your home. You can do this by going to lbclive.tv. This will be a special service as we all gather for the first time in our homes to watch, listen, and grow spiritually via live stream. We’ll give you more information on Sunday morning about this special opportunity. Wednesday night—Until further notice, our Wednesday evening service at 7:00 p.m. will be conducted as a live stream venue. Join Pastor Chappell for these special services online. Additionally, you will have an opportunity this Sunday morning to register for these services and receive extra updates along the way. Additionally, here are a few things I want our church family to be aware of going forward: Always—As always, all of our campus facilities, including childcare locations, are deep cleaned after every use. We have recently placed additional hand sanitizers throughout the property. We also encourage you to follow standard hygiene practices to stay healthy. These practices include washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding contact with sick individuals. Live Stream—Each week, we will be notifying our church family via email and text regarding the church schedule. Every service of our church will be live streamed at lbclive.tv, and all services will have a downloadable outline. We are establishing a help desk line should you need help with this technology. You can access this by calling 661-946-4663, ext. 2190. Online giving—Although the next few weeks will likely involve unique formats and scheduling of our services, the ministry responsibilities, both locally and around the world, will continue. Let’s be faithful in our giving, whether that be in person on Sunday or electronically. (You can give securely online at giving.lancasterbaptist.org or through text at 661-250-6982. You may also mail a check directly to the church at 4020 E. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster, CA 93535.) Member Needs—If you have a question about the service schedule, have a need related to a ride or delivery of food related to the Coronavirus, please call our church office at 661-946-4663. We’ll have someone available to answer questions during normal office hours, and our church will do our best to help in any way we can. Of course, always feel free to reach out to your adult connection group leader as well. Updates—I’ll share more thoroughly on Sunday morning special ways our staff is putting together to help our church family stay connected and updated through this season. Anytime, however, there is a change to our service schedule, we’ll be sure to post it on the church website as well as on Facebook and Twitter accounts. Let’s continue to pray for one another as well as those who have been affected by COVID-19. I’m looking forward to our services this Sunday and to sharing with you the unique opportunities we have for both worship and ministry during this time. Remember, Jesus told us in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Although this is a challenging time, we who know Christ can keep our confidence in Him! Your Friend, Paul Chappell Pastor P. S. This would be a great time to download the church app for push notification updates. This app is available in both iOS as well as Android platforms. View the full article
  8. I’ve spent a lot of time this week hearing from advisors, listening to our leaders, and considering the spiritual and practical implications of COVID-19 virus for our church, school, and ministry. I’ll share more thoughts on Sunday via livestream at 10am as well. I ask you to read this post carefully and prayerfully, and premeditate your response as a follower of Jesus. Also, consider sharing this email. We want to make sure our whole church engages in a godly response to our present situation. How do Jesus-followers respond to hard stuff? 1. Jesus-Followers Respond Prayerfully and Hopefully Our church family has studied much recently (during our emotional health series) about biblical responses to fear and worry. You might be encouraged by some of those messages of hope. We’ve also recently studied God’s strength. We belong to a good God who promises to meet our needs. In this, I encourage you to be at rest psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. You are no less secure in Christ than you were a month or two ago. The gospel is designed for times like this. This is when our hope matters most! I encourage you not to descend into divisive, political, or pointless rhetoric and not to be captured by the rampant panic, fear, and conjecture. Rather be prayerful and be hopeful. How can we pray? Please pray for those impacted by this illness. Pray for those at risk, those who are sick, those who are fearful and anxious. Please pray for medical professionals and governing leaders who are under much stress, long hours, and intense public scrutiny. Pray for lost hearts to turn to Jesus. Pray for God to protect our nation, our region, our church family, and our ministry. Finally, pray that hearts will open to the gospel. (In that light, I am meeting with a small group of men at 8am tomorrow at our church just for prayer. Feel free to join us if you would like to pray with us for a short time.) “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6) 2. Jesus-Followers Respond Missionally and Intentionally As I’ve studied various leaders’ responses online and elsewhere, I have been struck by the absence of gospel intentionality. I’ve heard many pastors concerned about their church’s financial giving. I’ve heard only two mention the potential of gospel ministry in times of crisis. I’ve heard none mention concern for how this virus will impact members of the church family either in health or in financial fears. The first century church was resilient because of the resurrection. They viewed hardship as opportunity for the gospel. Indeed, the rapid expansion of 1st century Christianity was a result of believers spreading the gospel in response to crisis. God often uses fear to help people see their need for Jesus. People around us are scared and this is no time to panic. It’s time to speak. It’s time to let others know of the hope that is within us. My friend, Pastor Josh Teis well wrote, “Take one minute—imagine what it would be like to not believe in an omnipotent God. Imagine the terror and uncertainty that so many are feeling tonight. Could this be our moment? Could this be our chance to demonstrate true peace and genuine faith to a world in panic?” Let us pray together that God will help us speak the gospel into a fearful world! Only Jesus ultimately resolves fear. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15) 3. Jesus Followers Respond Lovingly This is not a time to hoard, but a time to serve. This is a time to unify for the purpose of loving others. Who do you know that is vulnerable? Who do you know that is afraid? How can you serve and help to care? Would you be willing to grocery shop for a widow or high-risk neighbor? Is there someone God would have you help to serve or bless or comfort. Likely, within your reach, there is someone God would call you to love. As a church we want to help team up those willing to serve with those in need of help. If you are a part of our church that is at risk or in need of help with something like a trip to the store or child care, please contact the church office. If you are willing to be a helping hand in this way, please email derrick@ebcnewington.com so we can coordinate these needs. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14) 4. Jesus-Followers Respond Practically and Reasonably Because of the possibility of overwhelming our health-care system, our governing leaders have asked us to limit public gatherings. This pains us all, as Sunday is probably our favorite day of the week! And yet, I believe it is wise and responsible to heed the direction of those God has placed into leadership. Regardless of your personal persuasion as to the nature of this threat, it is wise to be cautious and to act responsibly as a church family. (Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13) Here’s our plan for this weekend. (Beyond this weekend, we will be communicating on a week by week basis regarding future scheduling of services and events.) Sunday Worship—We will livestream one service at 10am at the church with our worship team, our pastoral staff, and a full Bible message. We encourage you to gather your family or even consider gathering with one or two other church families to engage in the livestream together from home. We will promote this service as an online event called “Fearless—Finding Real Confidence in Crisis Moments.” We encourage you to share and invite fearful friends and unbelievers to engage in this service and simple gospel presentation. People are looking for a hopeful message right now, and we want to speak into that cultural need. You can find the livestream at https://ebcnewington.com/live/ or on our church Facebook page. Our pastoral staff will be responsively engaged on the livestream starting at 9:45am, so jump on early and join the “good morning” conversation. (The service video will continue to be available after the service so you can share with others.) Our staff will also be responsive to phones and church email during the service time. 5. Jesus-Followers Respond Patiently, Flexibly, and Faithfully Like you, I have no clue how this will develop or how long it will last. I ask you to pray with me that it will pass quickly. That said, it is impossible to know about the status of future events except on a week to week basis. Please stay connected with email and church social media accounts and website for the most current announcements and information. We will postpone our Vision Offering and reschedule it after this crisis has past. Personally, I have prepared my offering and am excited to give it to the Lord’s work at the right time. I pray you will be seeking the Lord’s direction in this as well. Finally, when it comes to provision, both for your family personally and for the whole ministry, we are all tempted to fear. I encourage you to remember—God’s got this! He’s got us. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added…” (Matthew 6:33) Keep Him in view. Sometimes He provides weeks or months or even years in advance, but at other seasons He provides day to day or week to week. Whatever He chooses to do, be at rest in His protective promise. He will care for you, and He will care for us. In fact, it’s going to be exciting to see just how He will show Himself real and trustworthy to each of us in these times. I know this, it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18.) As for me and my house, we will continue our regular giving patterns in love and trust. Being that we are not gathering, I encourage you to engage in giving online, text to give, or feel free to drop your offering by the church any time the office is open. I know God will continue to be faithful to us and through us. For more information about giving options during season, visit https://ebcnewington.com/give/ 6. Jesus-Followers Respond Calmly and Confidently In closing, pray that God will lead us forward, calm our hearts, and sustain our needs. Pray that He will use us to be loving light as darkness grows. Pray that He will intersect our path with seeking and fearful hearts. Pray that He will make us courageous and confident to share the hope of the Gospel in the midst of such hopelessness. I love you. I will miss gathering on Sunday. I can’t wait to see how many of you engage on livestream, and how many of our friends will do the same. God is at work around us and in our world. We are His, and He has called us for “such a time as this.” May we not shrink from our calling, but step into it with real faith! Let me know how I can serve you! Your friend, Pastor Cary “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:” (Hebrews 6:11) “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13) View the full article
  9. In recent days, we have been wisely encouraged by medical professionals to practice social distancing to help avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Social distancing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) involves “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance.” The idea is to exercise caution and “put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.” This advice is challenging for any community with schools, businesses, and other gatherings. It is especially challenging to those of us who are believers, because assembling, discipling, baptizing, and even partaking in the Lord’s Table, as Christ calls us to do, cannot be done effectively when our paradigm is on social distancing. How is the church to function during a crisis like this? How do we resolve the tension between being cautious and being faithful? Here are five ways: 1. Leaders must communicate. Let your church family know what you are doing as a church in response to a crisis, and let them know how they can help. Our church staff has been closely following the CDC recommendations as well as those of our local health department. I sent an email to our church family this week communicating these steps and asking for their help. (The letter is also posted here.) 2. Leaders must be willing to adapt the ministry schedule. We must be ready and willing to postpone or cancel special events. (For instance, our ministry made the difficult decision to cancel the Spiritual Leadership Conference Asia for this very reason. We did our best to thoroughly explain the steps that led to this decision to those involved.) Another way to adapt the ministry schedule would be to create smaller venues for worship and teaching if the need comes to your community. 3. Churches must use technology. Churches today have the ability to easily live stream their services through various venues, including Facebook Live. Live stream can help members who are home sick, avoiding spreading their symptoms to others. Be sure as a church to communicate the live stream availability, especially if you are going to have a churchwide service by way of live stream. This is also a helpful time for churches to have online giving options and to communicate those to the church family, educating members that whether we assemble in person or not, our worldwide gospel mission continues. 4. Churches must pray. During a time of crisis, prayer should always increase. I think of when Peter was in prison in Jerusalem during a wave of persecution that had just seen James beheaded. Acts 12:5 records, “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” This is a good time to organize prayer teams, perhaps through adult Bible classes or the deacon ministry. Prayer can also bring peace to our hearts when we become fearful. Philippians 4:6–7 admonishes and promises, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 5. Members must remain connected. During a time when people may be leary of social interaction, we can certainly contact our widows, absentees, and Sunday school classes by way of telephone or text visitation. It is imperative that a church stay in touch one with another during a time of social distancing. The local church is “one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5). Although it is true that we, as believers, find ourselves in a challenging moment to minister in a society that is practicing social distancing, we need not be discouraged or fearful for the ability of the church to continue. For Christ promised, “…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus prophesied that there would come times when “…great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences…” (Luke 21:11), so the current situation certainly does not take Him by surprise. As Christians, rather than responding in fear or giving up on our responsibility to minister to one another and continue to proclaim the gospel, we should be wise and proactive. And we should be so committed to our mission that we can be flexible and adaptable in finding ways to carry it out. View the full article
  10. Resurrection Sunday is not only a time to celebrate the gospel; it is also a great opportunity to share the gospel. There are very few days of the calendar year that offer as great an opportunity to invite someone to church and to share the powerful truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with them. In this new episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, I sat down with Gabriel Ruhl, our executive pastor, and we discussed how to prepare for a great Easter weekend. Specifically, we noted that for our Easter outreach to be effective… 1. Our reach should be intentional. 2. Our schedule should be flexible. 3. The truth should be central. 4. Our invitation should be relatable. 5. The experience should be enjoyable. I trust these thoughts will be a blessing to you and your ministry as you prepare to celebrate and share the life-changing message of the gospel with your community. I pray this podcast will be a blessing and an encouragement to you. If you cannot see view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  11. According to my plans, I was supposed to be preaching in the Philippines today and hosting Spiritual Leadership Asia Conference next week. A few weeks ago, however, I was disappointed when we had to make the difficult decision to postpone the conference due to the coronavirus. (Read a detailed explanation of this decision here.) There were thousands of pastors, missionaries, Bible college students, and ministry leaders from over fifty countries who were registered to attend the conference. I, along with many others, had been praying that the Lord would use this conference to make a sizable impact across Asia for the sake of the gospel. The 10/40 Focus Nations, which we were targeting through this conference, includes over 5.3 billion people across the continents of Asia and Africa, a vast majority of whom have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel. It is a region that is home to all of the alternate religions, intense spiritual warfare, much persecution, and a scarcity of Christian workers and resources. Since the postponement of the conference, however, we see another—perhaps even greater—opportunity to impact this region of the world with the gospel. And that is through the power of prayer. We are asking Christians around the world to partner with us in a week of prayer, March 8–15, 2020, concentrated on the spread of the gospel throughout the 10/40 focus nations. Who knows but that the difficult cancellation of the conference may be a tool God uses to renew the fervent prayers of multiplied thousands of His people for those who have never heard the gospel? If you have a heart for missions and a heart for souls in this region, we would like to invite you to partner with us in this week of prayer for the 10/40 Focus Nations. Here’s how you can be a part: 1. Sign up. Visit the conference website to sign up for daily emails with five specific prayer points each day. You will also receive computer and phone screensavers, that can serve as prayer reminders throughout the week. 2. Set your phone alarm. We are encouraging people to set an alarm for 10:40 a.m. or p.m. as a daily reminder to a season of fervent prayer. 3. Invite others. Share this blog post or the signup link with others, inviting them to join you in this coordinated prayer effort. If you are a pastor, consider engaging your church family this Sunday in a commitment to pray with us. Join me in a week of prayer for the 10/40 focus nations. Sign up here: Click To Tweet 4. Pray. God promises us in James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Please pray with us that the Lord will raise an abundance of labourers to take the message of the gospel throughout this region of the 10/40 focus nations. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.—Matthew 9:37–38 View the full article
  12. Spiritual leaders desire that Christ would be lifted up and glorified in all things, especially through their ministry in the local church. That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever.—2 Peter 4:11 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.—Ephesians 3:21 But how specifically does that happen? What choices do we as spiritual leaders make that magnify God’s glory? There are many, but below are seven specific ways we can glorify God in our ministry. We glorify God when we… 1. Die to Self This is what John the Baptist so humbly pointed out. He must increase, but I must decrease.—John 3:30 We can say that we want God to be glorified one minute and then make self-serving, self-promoting choices the next moment. But giving God glory requires a conscious choice to die to self. Giving God glory requires a conscious choice to die to self. Click To Tweet …I die daily.—1 Corinthians 15:31 2. Discover Our Identity in Christ Death to self should lead us to the experience of a renewed joy in the fullness of Christ. We are “in Christ”…and that changes everything. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20 What does our identity in Christ include? Here’s a shortlist: In Christ… I am accepted (Ephesians 1:6). I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15). I have been justified (Romans 5:1). I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1). I have been redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14). I am complete (Colossians 2:10). I am free forever from condemnation (Romans 8:1–2). I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21–22). I can find grace and mercy in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18). I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15:1–5). I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 2:6). I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12). The more you remember who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will reflect your true identity. As Christ’s life then lives through you, He is glorified. 3. Develop Fruit for Christ One of the ways Christ’s life flows through us is when we abide in Him, our vine. As we remember our source of power and sufficiency is only of God and as we draw near to Him, we pray for fruit, and we become bold in our witness. The result of this is that we bear fruit…for the glory of God. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit…—John 15:7–8 4. Discipline Ourselves to Plan Many of us are good at having great dreams of big things we can do for God’s glory. But we’re not always as good at creating a plan and disciplining ourselves to live by it. I believe God is glorified when we pray Ephesians 3:20 prayers. But we should remember that He often uses us as His instruments to do “exceeding abundantly above.” God is glorified when we pray Ephesians 3:20 prayers. But we should remember that He often uses us as His instruments to do “exceeding abundantly above. Click To Tweet Discipline and diligence enable us to serve God in ways that He blesses. After all, a dream without a plan is only a wish. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.—Colossians 3:23–24 So plan your week. Plan your day. Set goals, and plan how you will reach for them. And when the inevitable slump kicks in after the adrenaline of planning has worn off, stay the course—remembering that you are doing it for the glory of God. 5. Disturb Our Comfort Zones It’s easy to get into a predictable rut of ministry. This rut usually includes spiritual lukewarmness, apathy for souls, and a lack of discipline in our personal lives. If this describes you, ask God for a renewed fervency that will pull you out of your comfort zone to serve for His glory. Stir up the gift of God. Rouse yourself for action. Ask God for a renewed fervency that will pull you out of your comfort zone to serve for His glory. Click To Tweet Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God…—2 Timothy 1:6 6. Demonstrate Commitment to Christ When we face difficult days and the temptation to throw in the towel, we can remember that perseverance glorifies God. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.—2 Timothy 2:3 Jesus Himself endured suffering, and He calls us to look to Him and run our race with patience. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2 When we face difficult days and the temptation to throw in the towel, we can remember that perseverance glorifies God. Click To Tweet 7. Deflect Praise to Christ Incredibly, when God blesses our labor for Him, we are sometimes tempted to take the credit. If pride didn’t keep us from abiding in Christ, witnessing, reaching past our comfort zone, or remaining committed through difficulty, it can still creep in at the moment of a God-given victory. How do we defeat this pride? We start by remembering that any blessings or goodness are not of us but come from God alone. But more specifically, we proactively praise Christ for what He has done. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.—Ephesians 1:6 That in all things He might have the preeminence.—Colossians 1:11 And remember that God inhabits the praises of His people. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.—Psalm 22:3 So give Him glory, honor, and praise! View the full article
  13. The gospel itself is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). But for those of us who have believed the gospel and received Christ, the gospel has life-changing implications. And for those of us in ministry—which should be every Christian, even if not in a paid, vocational position—the gospel is our very motivation. “For the love of Christ constraineth us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The classic chapter on the gospel’s implications of ministry is 2 Corinthians 4. Through both instruction and personal testimony, Paul tells us in this chapter how we are to live as gospel ministers and what gospel ministry looks like in the trenches of daily service. This chapter is rich, and I would encourage you to read it in its entirety…multiple times. But for this blog post, we’ll just look at the first five verses and from them draw five implications of gospel ministry: 1. Faithful like Jesus Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;—2 Corinthians 4:1 How is it that gospel ministers can determine not to “faint” or give up, in spite of the obstacles?They have received God’s mercy, and it enables them to continue in steadfast service—like Jesus. In fact, looking to Jesus enhances our faithfulness. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.—Hebrews 12:2–3 Looking to Jesus enhances our faithfulness. Click To Tweet 2. Separated from deceit But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness…—2 Corinthians 4:2 Gospel ministry isn’t about tricking someone into salvation. Even as we use the term “soulwinning,” we know that we don’t “win someone over” to Christ. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit who uses His Word to bring conviction that wins souls. We are simply the mouthpiece. And since the gospel itself has power (Romans 1:16), we can renounce all “dishonesty” and “craftiness” as we present the gospel. This is what made Paul’s ministry so powerful. He simply preached the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:23). Remember, however, that the “power of the gospel” goes with the “afflictions of the gospel.” Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;—2 Timothy 1:8 Some of the “things of dishonesty” and “walking in craftiness” of ministry in our day comes in the form of churches unwilling to give a forthright answer or take a solid position on the moral issues of the day. Don’t be ashamed of the “stigma” of being a Bible-believing, truth-preaching, gospel-proclaiming minister. 3. Sound in the Word …nor handling the word of God deceitfully—2 Corinthians 4:2 What do we do instead of handling the Word of God deceitfully? We divide it rightly! Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15 It is the Word of God—not our clever phrasing—that has power to convict hearts (Hebrews 4:12). Thus we must study God’s Word diligently and use it faithfully. This is why our church has committed that every aspect of our ministry—from children’s ministry to adult connection groups—must be based on Scripture and on equipping our church family to know and apply God’s Word. Our goal in church ministry is not simply to have coffee and activities, but to ground people in the Word of God. If you want to have gospel-driven ministry, know and use God’s Word. If you want to have gospel-driven ministry, know and use God’s Word. Click To Tweet 4. Living the truth …but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.—2 Corinthians 4:2 Paul’s lifestyle matched his message….and those he ministered with and ministered to knew it. To Timothy, he wrote, But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,—2 Timothy 3:10 And to the church at Corinth, he wrote, For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.—2 Corinthians 1:12 Thus, on both ends of Paul’s ministry—those joining him in service (Timothy) and those who received his ministry (Corinth)—saw Paul living the truth he preached. Our lives can be a manifestation of the truth, or they can obscure the truth. 5. Spreading the gospel But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.—2 Corinthians 4:3–5 It may seem obvious, but a gospel ministry is one that actually spreads the gospel. It is not simply a ministry in which the people in it believe the gospel and talk about how to live the gospel, or a matter of simply attaching the word gospel to everything we do. In fact, we could say that a determining indicator of if you are living a gospel-centered life is if you are living a gospel-sharing life. According to the verses above, it is a contradiction to say that our lives are centered on the gospel if we are not actively sharing it with the lost. It is a contradiction to say that our lives are centered on the gospel if we are not actively sharing it with the lost. Click To Tweet Gospel ministry takes place when we share the gospel with people and then help them reshape their lives according to the gospel’s implications. View the full article
  14. Any view of Christian ministry that doesn’t take the opposition of Satan into account is a naive view. He is, after, all the primary enemy of every Christian leader (Ephesians 6:12). But Satan has many weapons in his arsenal, and he uses them with great subtlety. This is why Ephesians 6:11 warns us, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” So what are some of the weapons Satan aims at spiritual leaders? We could name many, including some of the more obvious ones such as financial or moral failure. But even those are usually not the beginning place of destruction. Below are seven pitfalls that all of us easily fall into and need to guard against: 1. Wrong Focus We know—and readily say—that there is only One who is worthy of our focus. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2 But we easily take our eyes off of Him, don’t we? We so easily shift our gaze to other people or even to the work of the ministry. I’ve been guilty of both…and I know that both are unsatisfying and unsustaining. In Jesus, we find our example (Hebrews 12:3, 1 Peter 2:21) and our acceptance (Ephesians 1:6). He is our life (Colossians 3:4). 2. Hurry I’m not speaking here of a fast-paced day, but of a disordered life. After all, there is a difference between scheduled tenacity and unplanned idiocy. When we get to the point where we are living from one cyclone to the next, we lose any sense of rhythm or rest in our spirits. We even lose the ability to plan well and get sucked into the tyranny of the urgent. Sheer hurry and busyness is not the sign of productivity and spiritual health, and it can be counter-productive to it. Sheer hurry and busyness is not the sign of productivity and spiritual health…and it can be counter-productive to it. Click To Tweet We rarely hear God’s voice in the rush of life; it takes time and intention to be still and listen to Him. Be still, and know that I am God:—Psalm 46:10 3. Worry Some of us are by nature “problem solvers”—which is another way of saying that we see details and can easily become distracted and burdened by what isn’t going right. Some of this is legitimate. I think of when Paul said, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). But there is a fine line between care and worry. And we need to daily cast our cares upon the Lord. Always remember that God never called you to bear His responsibilities…and He offers to carry your burden. God never called you to bear His responsibilities…and He offers to carry your burdens. Click To Tweet A few years ago, my daughter gave me a small plaque that sits on my nightstand and reads, “Give it to the Lord and go to sleep.” It’s good advice. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.—1 Peter 5:7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7 4. Comparison Comparison will kill you every time. Not only does it lead to pride or discouragement, but it is usually based on a false perception of other people’s reality. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.—2 Corinthians 10:12 God gives each of us different responsibilities and opportunities. When we compare to others, we miss the joy in how God is using us. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.—1 Corinthians 3:6 God gives each of us different responsibilities and opportunities. When we compare to others, we miss the joy in how God is using us. Click To Tweet 5. Skimming Spiritually As spiritual leaders, we are constantly exposed to the Bible, often through our own preaching, teaching, and counseling. Between this constant exposure and the hurry of life and ministry, it is easy to get to the place where our own devotional life is nonexistent or surface. But spiritual fruit and a walk with God are not sustained by skimming spiritually. God calls us to seek Him. This takes time and intention. It involves genuinely seeking His face through His Word and in prayer. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.—Psalm 63:1–2 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.—Psalm 27:8 Spiritual fruit and a walk with God are not sustained by skimming spiritually. God calls us to *seek* Him. Click To Tweet 6. Lack of Solitude Solitude is a chosen time of separation for the refining of your soul. And it is one of the best ways to combat the hurry addiction we so easily get caught up in. Even Jesus—in His busiest seasons of ministry—needed time alone with the Father and put a priority on carving out solitude. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.—Mark 1:35 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.—Matthew 14:23 Wise spiritual leaders create rhythms of solitude—daily, weekly, and perhaps quarterly as well. Wise spiritual leaders create rhythms of solitude. Click To Tweet 7. A Critical Spirit Leaders who are out of sync spiritually—often due to one of the six areas listed above—will develop a critical spirit. It may be manifested internally toward one’s self, family, co-workers, or church; or it may be manifested externally toward the culture at large or random strangers. If we don’t have rest in our own spirit, we’ll simply be looking for something to criticize. Additionally, unguarded discernment can become a judgmental spirit. While we are called to be discerning (Philippians 1:9–11), we are also instructed to trust God to be the judge. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.—Romans 14:10 How Well Are You Fighting? What makes these enemies particularly insidious, is the way they encroach upon our lives without us even noticing. Take a moment then to look over this list again, and rate yourself on a scale of 1–10: Wrong focus Hurry Worry Comparison Skimming spiritually Lack of solitude A critical spirit Do you see any of these gaining ground in your life? If so, don’t be discouraged. But recognize the enemy, and fight it! View the full article
  15. One of the great joys of pastoring is officiating weddings for the members of our church. It’s a special blessing to me when two young people who grew up at Lancaster Baptist Church fall in love, desire to serve the Lord together, and ask me to perform their wedding. Another blessing is when I have the privilege of conducting the wedding for the son or daughter of those I united in marriage twenty or twenty-five years ago. But as special as a wedding day may be, it is not the marriage. It is only the beginning of a marriage. And whether or not that marriage will be healthy and growing over the years has much to do with the continuing practices in which the couple engages. Whether or not a marriage will be healthy and growing over the years has much to do with the continuing practices in which the couple engages. Click To Tweet As a pastor, another privilege I have is helping couples who are struggling in their relationship to find help in the pages of God’s Word. Marriage counseling is not as exciting or approached with the joyous anticipation of a wedding. And often (although not always), couples come to the point where their relationship is no longer healthy because they are neglecting the continuing practices that make a marriage strong. We could list many of these habits or practices, but the three below are core. As a husband, these three are ones I have to continually work at; they don’t come naturally. And as a pastor, these three are ones I have consistently seen as key to building or rebuilding a healthy marriage relationship. 1. Surrendering to the Lord A union of two selfless people is made of two surrendered people. A union of two selfless people is made of two surrendered people. Click To Tweet Surrendering to the Lord is the beginning place of being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and being filled with the Spirit is an absolute necessity for a Christ-centered, God-honoring marriage. A marriage where two people live by the dictates of their flesh is a selfish relationship, with each spouse demanding (vocally or in silent exception) their way, their rights, their gratification, regardless of what that means for the other. But a marriage where two people are surrendered to the Lord and walk in the Spirit is a Spirit-filled relationship, with each spouse ready to serve the other. This kind of surrender to the Lord is not just a one-time decision (although it starts there). It is the daily dying to self and yielding to the Holy Spirit. And the best part of it is that regardless of what your spouse does, you benefit when you surrender to the Lord. Not only will your marriage be stronger than it would be if neither of you were yielded to Christ, but your relationship with the Lord flourishes when you walk with Him in the practical, daily discipline of surrender. 2. Yielding to your spouse Because of the instruction directed to wives in Ephesians 5:22—“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”—some Christian husbands assume that yielding to the other is a one-way street. The verse prior, however, says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Husbands are to provide leadership in the home, and in any healthy relationship, the person who is not the leader submits to the person who is. That is the context of verse 22. But in any healthy Christian relationship, marriage included, both parties delight to serve one another and to submit to the desires and needs of their spouse. That is the context of verse 21. In a healthy Christian marriage, both the husband and wife are making dozens of daily choices to yield to one another. To not have to win an argument, to not have to prove who is right, to serve the other before they serve themselves, to listen, to care, bear one another’s burdens…to yield. In a healthy Christian marriage, both the husband and wife are making dozens of daily choices to yield to one another. Click To Tweet 3. Forgiving one another A good marriage is made of good forgivers. A good marriage is made of good forgivers. Click To Tweet Too often, however, couples gunnysack offenses committed by the other. Then, when there is a repeat offense, the other spouse pulls out past offenses (verbally or internally) to emphasize why the offender is unworthy of forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, is not something we offer because the other person is worthy. It is because we have been forgiven. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). The potential for relationship-corroding bitterness is real. This is why God commanded, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19). Like surrender and yielding, forgiveness is not a one-time requirement for only the greatest of offenses. It is practiced in the daily decisions of a Spirit-filed Christian who chooses to forgive for Christ’s sake. And it’s one of the strongest elements of a great marriage. The healthiest marriages are not made in a moment. They are forged over years by couples who practice the daily disciplines of surrender to Christ, yielding to one another, and forgiving as Christ has forgiven them. The healthiest marriages are not made in a moment. They are forged over years by couples who practice the daily disciplines of surrender to Christ, yielding to one another, and forgiving each other. Click To Tweet View the full article

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