God Speaks with a Purpose

God develops character to match the assignment he has for you. When God speaks, it is not just for conversation sake, but to reveal his purposes.

The moment God speaks is the very moment that God wants you to respond to him. The moment he speaks to you, it is God’s timing. We often believe that we have weeks or months to think it over, but when he speaks, he means for you to act NOW.

Sometimes it takes 25 years to come to a reality, like Abraham finally getting Isaac, the child of promise, but God had a purpose in that, too. Abraham needed to develop character before becoming a father, and the father of a nation.

As goes the father, so goes the next several generations.

God said that Abraham’s name would be great (Genesis 12:2) but he was not ready for that, so his character needed to develop. It is pathetic to see someone with small character in a big assignment. We often don’t want character from God, we just want the assignment.

We must prove ourselves faithful  in the small things to be trusted with larger things (Matthew 25:21). You are not investing into your abilities, rather you invest into a relationship. Do NOT bypass the relationship.

How often do we make these concessions:

  1. I will finish my plans and then fit God’s plan into my next available slot in my schedule.
  2. I will assume that since God already knew my plans, this new assignment can’t be from him.
  3. I will try to work out a way to do both what I want and what God wants.

God has a right to interrupt your life, if he is your Lord. When you received him, you gave him the right to help himself to your life anytime he wants. The servant never takes an order and then differs it to his own schedule, basically saying he’ll do it when he gets around to it. The Master would discipline that servant!

How long was it between David’s anointing as king and its fulfillment? Maybe 10-12 years. What God did was develop David’s character. How about Paul finding salvation and his first missionary journey? Maybe 10-11 years. The focus was not on Paul but on God’s desire to redeem the Gentiles.

Think about God’s purpose for YOU: It is for the sake of lost people that God calls you to join him and his purpose. It is for YOUR SAKE that God may take time to prepare you for his purpose. It is for THEIR SAKE, that you will allow God to work in your life.

Barriers to Small Group Growth

I always am on the lookout for teaching points regarding small groups, and here is solid wisdom from Rick Warren:

Did you know that you get a new skeleton every seven years? Your bone marrow is constantly creating new bone, and you’re sloughing off old cells so that your skeleton can grow with your body. For our church to keep growing, our structure also has to change constantly.

The only purpose of restructuring is to prepare a church for growth and to break through barriers. About 95 percent of all the churches in the world stop growing before they get to 300 people because they are structured to be at a size less than 300. It’s not the problem of the pastor or the people; it’s a problem of the structure.

We often ask the wrong question. The wrong question is, “What will help my church grow?” The right question is, “What is keeping my church from growing?” Growth is natural. All living things naturally grow. I don’t have to command my kids to grow; they just do it, if they’re healthy. If our church is healthy, then it is going to automatically grow.

A church becomes healthy by removing the barriers and balancing the purposes. There are 10 common barriers that keep our church from growing. The first six are:

Members won’t bring their friends to church: You can’t grow a church without guests. One of the reasons Christians won’t bring their friends to church is that they’re embarrassed or they think, “This is a church that meets my needs, but it’s not geared for my friend, an unbeliever, to understand it.” You have to create a service that is understandable but not watered-down.

People fear that growth will ruin the fellowship: Many churches say they are a loving church, but what they mean is that they are good at loving each other and not unbelievers. When members love their fellowship so much that they don’t want anyone new, then they’re not going to bring friends. The average member of a church knows 67 people, whether you have 67 people at your church or 6,000. If you only want to have a church of people you know, you’re only going to have about 67 people. The antidote to this barrier is affinity groups. The church must grow larger and smaller at the same time — larger through worship (weekend services) and smaller through fellowship (small groups).

Churches are driven by tradition rather than the purposes of God: Tradition is a good thing — as long as it works. Never confuse the message with the methods. The message must never change, but the methods have to change. If you don’t change methods from generation to generation, you are being unfaithful.

One of the most expensive and difficult things to do is keep a corpse from stinking. If there are programs in our church that died a long time ago; we need to give them a decent burial. Periodically, we should go through everything we’re doing and ask, “Should I reaffirm it, refine it, or do I need to replace it?” The hardest thing to give up is what worked before, but sometimes you have to stop it before it starts declining.

Churches are trying to appeal to everybody: Our church cannot be all things to all people. The moment we choose a style of music, we are going to turn someone off. We need to know whom our church can best reach in your community. Define that group of people, and then go after them.

Churches are program-oriented rather than process-oriented: A lot of churches think the goal is to keep the saints busy, and people are just worn out. Programs and events should not drive the church; they should fulfill the purposes. Where do we want to take our people in the next 10 years? Where do we want them to be different? Set a goal by determining your role — what God has called you to do. Once you know that, then you decide what programs best accomplish that goal.

Churches focus on meetings rather than ministry: When the number one qualifier in our church is attendance, then we are facing this barrier. It’s not all about the weekend; the weekend is simply the funnel by which you start the discipleship process. If Christianity is a life and not a religion, then it should focus on where we live our lives — at home, work, etc., and not at church. When we focus on meetings, we’re building a group of spectators. We don’t need more meetings; we need to meet more needs. You do that by turning every member into a minister.

The Purpose of Work

Many men feel that working is part of the curse, going all the back to Adam getting thrown out of the garden (Genesis 3:17, 18-19) but notice that Adam was commanded to work in the garden before the fall, when the world was still a paradise (Genesis 2:15).

They say that man has three basic needs in life: love, purpose and significance. Many times, humans attempt to find purpose and significance in work itself. In Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, Solomon details his search for meaning in a variety of projects and works of all kinds. Even though the work brought some degree of satisfaction in accomplishment, his conclusion was: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

The fact is, the curse made work laborious and difficult (which is what we often experience every day). But work is a blessed activity and the desired goal of work is found in this verse:

“So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here! No one will bring us back from death to enjoy life after we die.” (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28)

“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:28).

Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

So, why work? This brief video explains the real purpose of why we work…

Other biblical principles regarding work are:

  • Work is done not only to benefit the worker, but also for others (Exodus 23:10-11, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Ephesians 4:28).
  • Work is a gift from God and, for His people, will be blessed (Psalm 104:1-35, 127:1-5, Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, 5:18-20, Proverbs 14:23).
  • God equips His people for their work (Exodus 31:2-11).

The Christian attitude toward work should be like Jesus: “My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Work is of no value except when God is in it.

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Serve Before You Sit and Soak

I love the catch phrase, “Look for a place to serve before you look for a place to sit.” Once we find a place to sit, we tend to just sit there and soak it in. Since Jesus is our example of service, and he is the greatest example of servant leadership, we should be inspired to get serious about being proactive with our faith; to make an impact for the kingdom of God.

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:3-5)

Think about it: Washing feet was an act of service left to the lowliest hired servant or slave.

  1. How did Jesus’ bond with God affect how He treated others?
  2. Who would you nominate in our church for the “Mother Teresa” award, for selfless acts of service?
  3. What does Jesus know that the others did not (John 13:1, 3, 11)?
  4. How would foreknowledge of events have kept you from serving Judas?
  5. What are you holding on to, that which you don’t want Jesus to cleanse you (John 13:8)?
  6. How does being served help you become a servant?

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