Archives For Worship

By Chuck Kelley

This week the United States will be voting in one of the most important presidential elections we have ever had. Christians across America are praying about this election and calling others to pray. Our instinctive expectation when we pray is for God to intervene in the circumstances and situations we bring before his throne. It is proper and appropriate to expect God to respond when we pray. We must never forget that he responds in the way he deems best and that his response may often be different than our desires. Whatever God’s response, the act of prayer is itself a pathway to joy.

Prayer is a petition we present before God — never directions we give to God. However, knowing that every time we pray in accordance with biblical guidelines, God does hear and does respond, is a promise that should bring joy to the heart of every believer. Prayer becomes our passage into a front row seat to see God at work. It is our assurance that we are living in his grip and are a part of his unfolding purposes. Christians with the…

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WorryBrett Eastman and I are working with a growing number of churches at Lifetogether Ministries to help them produce their own video-based curriculum and grow their small group ministries successfully. As we watch churches take big steps forward for the Kingdom, we also see the enemy at work. Divisive church members, staff setbacks, and a variety of other things seem to surface. For the record, Brett and I are not causing any of this trouble. But, there is an enemy who doesn’t like to see churches make bold moves in connecting and growing their people to reach others and serve their communities. For all of my friends who are struggling today, I’d like to share one of the most popular posts from my devotional blog over at http://galatians419.blogspot.com. If you’re worried and stressed today, I hope these words encourage you.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27

We can’t add anything to our life by worrying. We might even shorten our lives by worrying.

When we worry about something, we put ourselves through the same physiological state as if the event was actually…

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You’ve been a church visitor at some point, right?

Ever heard something you wish you didn’t hear, right off the bat?

I’ve got a few that nobody really wants to hear. Some I’ve heard personally. Others I’ve heard as they were told to someone else.

10 Statements Church Visitors Never Want to Hear

1. Our pastor isn’t normally this _____.

Insert whatever you want in this blank: loud, obnoxious, offensive, long-winded. If you have to explain part of your pastor’s style because you know that outsiders won’t like it, you’ve got a problem. Talk with your pastor about that.

2. We’re full. Sorry. 

Always have a backup plan. Always. If someone sees that your service is full once, they’ll deal with it. But they probably won’t come back if they don’t see a plan you have in place.

3. What are YOU doing here?

Never say this. Never. Your shocked, open mouth reveals your judgmental spirit…at least in the eyes of visitors. When you say this, all they can think is, “God couldn’t really love someone like you.”

4. You can’t serve now…you’ve got to be a member…

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lovePastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.

I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.

Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view.

Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this:

“Father, I love you and you love me. I love these people and you love these people. Love these people through me. This is not an audience to be feared but a family to be loved. There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear.”

Let me suggest some practical ways that you can demonstrate your love:

Memorize names. Remembering names shows that you’re interested in people. Nothing sounds sweeter to a second-time visitor than hearing you use…

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Guest column by Jennie Allen

Surrender

“God, we will do anything. Anything.”

Zac and I climbed into bed on a completely average night two years ago. We were pretty tired. We just laid there looking at the ceiling, with only small firework fantasies of what God might say. Zac took my hand and spoke the simple words we had been processing for the past few months but had not yet been ready to say.

God had been opening our eyes to how precious our temporary lives were and how numbly we were moving through them.

We were over it. We were over building our lives. We were over houses and cars and cute Christmas cards. We wanted something; we couldn’t put our finger on it. It was burning in us. We had loved so many other things more than God.

We were ready to do anything.

Everything Changed

In two years, everything was different.

Our family had grown with the light of a dark-skinned, busy, passionate boy. I had thought we were laying down our lives for him, and instead he breathed life and joy into us.

I had a job — a pretty demanding one where I poured out words…

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One of the most powerful aspects of small groups is the opportunity to offer prayer requests, to pray together, and then to see how God follows through on those prayers.  It’s amazing to see how God works over three months or six months or a year.  Prayers get answered, situations change, hearts change – your group sees God work in mighty ways.

Just as powerful as the group dynamic of prayer is the impact that a praying leader can have on his or her group.  A praying leader ministers to the group not only by showing how much he or she cares about their needs but also by modeling a life of prayer.

As with most things, becoming a small group centered on prayer doesn’t just happen.  Here are 7 tips on how you can minister to your small group through prayer:

  • Dedicate the last half hour of each bible study to “personal prayer needs” time.
  • Write each member’s prayer requests down on 3×5 cards.  Bring the cards to every study so you can check back on their requests.
  • After the requests are given, pray immediately with your group.
  • Set up a prayer-partner…

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Like many of you I have been watching and enjoying this quadrennial sporting event.  We’re glued to the tube, not only because there are few other good TV options, but also because there is something about the Olympic spirit that also touches our spirits.  Watching the world’s top athletes at the top of their form encourages each one of us to be “the best me I can be.”  This year, instead of just dreaming about your physical potential, consider these 4 spiritual questions as well.

How is my team participation?  My favorite Olympic events are the ones that are played together. No matter how great the individual effort, the team depends on the ability of the individuals to play well together. God did not intend for us to live individual spiritual lives either.  He gave us the church not only so that we might worship together, but also that we might do life together!  The Bible describes the church as a body: “Together you form the body of Christ and each one of you is a necessary part of it.”  Ask yourself: “Am I living my spiritual…

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“I believe that God is directing me to ____________________.” How do you handle that in a small group? Whether the group member feels led to quit his job, move to another state, or end a relationship, how do you help your group member discern the truth?

From the very beginning, God has been in relationship with people. Today, we’re not walking in the garden with God in the cool of the day or getting inspiration to write new books of the Bible, but God does speak to us. The question is how do we know that it’s actually God and not wishful thinking or indigestion? Here are some tests for what you might be hearing:

1. What does the Bible say?

As followers of Christ, we believe that the Bible is God’s Word. All truth is God’s truth, certainly. But, any direction attributed to God must square up with God’s Word. God isn’t going to contradict Himself. That wouldn’t make any sense.

Let’s say your group member feels closest to God in nature, so he feels led to quit his job and spend more time…

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Don’t just do something; stand there.

Better yet, kneel there. Be there.

It’s easy to switch the verbs in the old, accusatory challenge to do something — anything — rather than stand around. Lots of preachers, speakers and writers invert the familiar phrase to encourage us to slow down and be still. But it’s hard for us action-oriented Americans to stop and just be. Inaction, even for a moment, seems lazy, unproductive, even weird. We should be multitasking.

Stillness? It’s a little scary.

Yet stillness is where we meet God. To be His heart, His hands and His voice — IMB’s overarching theme for 2012 — we must lay aside the sound and fury of our ceaseless activities, our personal priorities and our very selves to encounter Him. We need His heart to make a difference in the world, not our divided, selfish hearts. His hands do the healing, not our powerless hands. His voice cuts to the core of searching souls, not our meaningless chatter.

“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me,” Jesus says. “For whoever wants to save his…

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Don't Believe the RumorsPastor, you will always have critics, and you will always have fans. At the end of the day, you need to have the guts to believe neither, but rather to allow your affirmation to flow only from the truth God has declared about you in His Word.

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Praise Holy HandsAnswer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1 (NASB)

Lord, we’re desperate for you.  We’re bunched up in confusion, moving by impulse and fear, flitting here and there like a frenzied flock caught in the wilderness of the far country.

We are here! We are here!

We know you hear; you’ve heard us before; you’ve swept in like shock and awe and saved us from our hopeless paralysis.

Do it again, O, Holy One; we are desperate for you. How long will you make us wait?

And you speak to us God, saying, “Yes, how long? How long must I wait while you wear my grace and peace like some cheap cloak bought at the secondhand store? How long must I wait while you chase after worthless things, like birds pushed by a winter’s wind?  How long must I wait while you live out a lie because you think you’ve found the truth in something – or someone – other than me?”

Oh God, I hear your heart. You set me apart; yet,…

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By Russell D. Moore

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

It is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize, though, that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have…

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