Archive for September, 2010

An Audacious Goal

This Sunday we kick off our new series, Jesus on Prayer, and we have one big, audacious goal for the series: We want to pray more in the next 3 months (individually and collectively) than we ever have in our entire lives.

Therefore, we’ve done two things to help you pursue this goal:

1. We’ve created a companion prayer guide book that will lead you into personal times of prayer, provide space for notes during Sunday sermons, and launch you into prayer as a group. These books are available for $5, so be sure to bring cash or check this Sunday. (Note: almost all Community Groups will be using this as their primary resource this fall). You can also download it here.

2. We’ve aligned our Community Groups with the sermon series to create a tangible environment to apply what you learn. The following community groups still have room if you’d like to join one (click here to sign up):

– Monday, 6:30pm – Brian & Angie Ring (Hunt Hwy & Johnson Ranch)
– Tuesday, 6:30pm – David & Ashley Cady (Recker & Ray)
– Wednesday, 7:00pm – Robert & Cheri Horn (Higley & Pecos)
– Thursday, 7:00pm – Doug & Linda Saul (Higley & Queen Creek)

Here are some other things you can do to get ready for this series:

Hope to see you soon!

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Weakness Leads to Prayer

Here’s another quote from Paul Miller’s excellent book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World:

We tell ourselves, “Strong Christians pray a lot. If I were a stronger Christian, I’d pray more.” Strong Christians do pray more, but they pray more because they realize how weak they are. They don’t try to hide it from themselves. Weakness is the channel that allow them to access grace.

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Bootcamps, Baby Churches, and Boys Becoming Men

One of the great joys of my ministry has been participating in the Acts29 Network, a group of churches committed to planting gospel-centered, reformed, missional churches. This week I’m in Seattle for the Acts29 National Bootcamp, where over 500 men will come to be trained, assessed, and encouraged. My role will be to help assess potential church planters, as well as spend some good time with a few guys that I’m bringing along.

The theme for this conference comes from the new book by Darrin Patrick, Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission. I haven’t read the book in its entirety, but what I’ve read tells me that it would be worth reading for any man — not just church leaders. Click here for the table of contents and first chapter.

If you think of it, pray for me this week that I’d be helpful to these men who are ready to make some life-altering decisions related to their ministry, and pray that God would raise up a continual generation of men willing and gifted to plant churches and keep leading the mission.

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Video: Beyond Update – Celebrating God’s Grace!

Yesterday was a great day for Second Mile Church. We had a really sweet time celebrating God’s grace and looking ahead to our next series, Jesus on Prayer (click here for yesterday’s message). Our people have really stepped up to pledge and give sacrificially, and the pledge commitments continue to grow.

Check out this brief video for the latest financial updates as well as the latest on construction.

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Praying in Jesus’ Name

I am getting really fired up for our next series, Jesus on Prayer, where we’ll look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Our goal for the series is simple but audacious:  As individuals and as a church, we want to pray more in the next three months than we ever have in our entire lives.

One of my favorite resources in preparation for this series has been Paul Miller’s A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World. Here’s a brief quote from this book that motivates me to pray:

Imagine your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has proceeded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: “I want to see the king.” Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, “Jesus. I come in the name of Jesus.” At the name of Jesus the palace comes alive. The guard snaps to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway into the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. “Asking in Jesus’ name” isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.

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“What If I Don’t Think I Can Give to Beyond?”

This is a common question that I have been getting over the last few weeks from committed people in our church related to their involvement in our Beyond Campaign. It takes a few different forms, but it’s essentially the same question. I thought it might be helpful to discuss it here.

At the outset, I think it’s important to note that this question often comes from people who are committed to Second Mile, who love our church, who give their time and energy to our ministry, and who invite their unbelieving friends to join us. I would guess that many of them also are regular givers, though I don’t know or track who gives. These are often owners, not just consumers. This is why this is such a point of tension and concern in these folks’ lives — they own the ministry now and they want to own the Beyond Campaign as well. But, for various financial reasons, they don’t feel like they can.

It’s also extremely difficult (impossible) to communicate publicly, whether written or in a Sunday sermon, in a way that addresses everyone’s specific situation. It’s a scenario primed for confusion. I hope that this post will minimize the confusion rather than intensify it…but we’ll see.

Here are a few thoughts on this question:

Some who think they don’t have enough money actually do. Some people ask this question because they have been devastated by the economy. They really don’t have money. Others ask it because they are committing resources to things that they could give up for the sake of the mission if they wanted to. This is why each person needs to evaluate his or her life individually and make their financial and giving decisions with intentionality (2 Cor 9:7).

Not all people who are in financial hardship are irresponsible stewards. While there are many people in our culture and church who are experiencing financial hardship because of greed and/or poor choices, there are plenty of others who have been good stewards, given generously, and tried to be responsible who have simply had difficult circumstances come into their lives. We must guard against assuming that financial difficulty equals poor stewardship.

There is a tension here that needs to be felt and wrestled with. We struggle with tension. We don’t like tough questions. We don’t like things that aren’t easily resolved. But the Scriptures are filled with tension, especially in this area of money. Consider the tension in the following truths:

Scripture says that we should provide for our families: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). This is serious.

Jesus commends a woman who gave all she had: “And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on'” (Mark 12:43-44).

Paul commends the Macedonians for giving beyond their means: “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:3-4).

Do you feel the tension?

Should we provide for our families or give generously? Both.

How does that work if, like the widow, the money I have to give is the same money I need to live on? I don’t know.

It’s a tension to be managed not resolved. That’s why I keep encouraging people to prayerfully seek godly counsel, follow the leading of the Spirit, and then do what God calls them to do.

One of the places this comes up is related to paying off debt vs. giving. I don’t think there’s a simple answer. Some say–motivated by faith–you should give and God will provide money to pay back debt. Some say–motivated by faithfulness–you should pay back debt first. Who is right? I don’t know. I’m not smart enough to issue a blanket statement that applies to everyone. But I love the questions, because they cause us to wrestle with this stuff and be intentional with our lives.

The gospel mandates that we give out of love and faith rather than guilt. Many in this situation are paralyzed by guilt. They feel like being in this place must mean that they are unfaithful or not committed. Others are overcome with the guilt of their past bad decisions. Here’s the good news: Jesus can deal with the guilt of past mistakes, and Jesus is not pleased with guilt-motivated giving. If you are feeling guilty over past mistakes, go to Jesus. If you are tempted to give motivated by guilt, either let Jesus change your motivation or don’t give. Throughout this series we’ve tried to be positive, talk about the vision, and celebrate God’s glorious grace rather than try to guilt people into giving. I feel confident that this is the right approach.

Most people can give something sacrificial. There should be very few people who give nothing. Most of us should be able to make some kind of sacrifice–no matter how small. My challenge to those who say they can’t give is that they should consider giving something. If $50 is sacrificial, give it–not because the $50 will make a huge difference in the campaign, but because it will make a difference in your treasure-following heart.

A lot can change in 16 months. We’ve been asking for a 16-month commitment to Beyond, with the hopes that we can have the project funded by the end of 2011. In the meantime, some will lose jobs and be unable to fulfill their commitment. Others will find work and be able to give more than they expected. Many will get unexpected money and will have the opportunity to give it (for example, I don’t know what speaking opportunities, weddings, funerals, etc. I will get — but those will be opportunities to give more to Beyond). If a person can’t give now, he or she should pray that God provides in a way that would allow them to give more later. This would be a way of trusting God to provide.

Don’t let not being able to give keep you away from the church or from these moments together. Some might be tempted to skip church the next few weeks (September 19 is Commitment Sunday) or months out of shame or embarrassment that they can’t participate. If that’s you, DON’T! We are a family. We flourish together. We struggle together. And we share these moments together.

What would you add? Other thoughts on how we should approach this?

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Since I am His Child, Change is Possible

Really enjoying Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life, which I’m reading in preparation for our next series, “Jesus on Prayer.” I like this quote from Miller about how God’s sovereignty brings us hope:

Many Christians haven’t stopped believing in God; we have just become functional deists, living with God at a distance. We view the world as a box with clearly defined edges. But as we learn to pray well, we’ll discover that this is my Father’s world. Because my Father controls everything, I can ask, and he will listen and act. Since I am his child, change is possible–and hope is born.

May we be men and women who press constantly press into our reigning Father.

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