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2009 – Year of the Team

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In recent years at Saving Grace, I’ve taken to assigning a major “theme” to each year.  I usually choose the theme by taking a look at where we’ve been and where I believe the Lord is moving us.  I look at our strengths and our areas that need attention.  Then I pick one word that I think summarizes where we need to focus.  For the previous years, our themes have been:

2005 -REFRESHING (I felt we needed to take a breather, we were somewhat beaten up and tired at some failed attempts at purchasing land.)
2006 – FUNDAMENTALS (A ministry can only get so far on advertising “glitz.” What really grows a ministry long-term is the foundational ministry behind the scenes.)
2007 – STRUCTURING (realizing that to best provide foundational ministries in a consistent way that doesn’t burn out the staff and leadership, we need good leadership structures in place.)
2008 – CLARITY (We need to all be clear on what we are doing as a church, and thus the ministry strategy of “UP-IN-OUT” was born.)

So now we arrive at 2009 – a year of TEAM.

And we have good scriptural support from today’s Life Journal readings in Exodus 17 & 18.  In Exodus 17, when the Israelites were fighting against the Amalekites, the Israelites were winning when Moses raised his hands and the staff he had used to part the Red Sea and make water come from the rock, but would start to lose if Moses lowered his arms.  What was the solution?  Moses got help from his brother Aaron, and his brother in law Hur – a TEAM, you could say.  They held up his arms to ensure that Israel was successful.

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father in-law Jethro noticed that Moses was going to wear himself out and the people with him by doing too much work! (Exodus 18:18).  All of the people would stand around in lines waiting for Moses to help them discern God’s laws and deliberate in disputes.  Quite simply, Moses was hoarding all the work to himself!  What was the solution? Moses needed to form a TEAM.  Jethro suggested putting capable leaders in place as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens (Ex. 18:21).  That’s what Moses did.  Not only was Moses not exhausted, but the people’s needs were met more efficiently and the other leaders grew in their wisdom and knowledge of the Lord.

That’s what needs to happen at Saving Grace.  We need to concentrate on establishing more ministry TEAMS that can work together to accomplish the work of God’s Church.  In doing this, I believe that the ministry will be more of a joy to those who are in positions of both leadership and service.  When the workload is shared, not only will we be able to better minister to the spiritual needs of God’s people, but we’ll be able to enjoy the company and experiences of fellow leaders and servants.  In this process, we will each grow in our spiritual walk with the Lord, and God will be glorified!

I hope and pray you’ll be a part of the TEAM!

You Will Be My Witnesses

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Jesus said, in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

Being a witness for Jesus is the goal of my life.  It’s also a goal of Saving Grace Lutheran Church, and I pray it’s also a goal of yours.  That’s why I am excited that we will be having our first SERVANT EVANGELISM planning meeting of 2009 tomorrow night (Tuesday, 1/27)!

Servant Evangelism is a wonderful opportunity to do exactly what Jesus spoke of – be his witnesses.  How do we do this?  Simply by showing acts of kindness as demonstrations of God’s love to others.  When we do this we are witnessing to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us!

In today’s world, where people are more concerned about “what’s in it for them,” people take note when someone does something truly of a selfless nature, simply to be kind, helpful and generous to another.  When they see this action, they undoubtedly ask, “Why are you doing this??” (with astonishment).  To which we simply respond something like, “Because God loves you and so do I!” or “because my Lord has given me so much blessing that I just want to share it!” (responses vary).  Once people’s amazement wears off, they are left with a positive lasting impression that Jesus cares for them and so does His Church!

You can find out more about Servant Evangelism by visiting www.servantevangelism.com – Steve Sjogren’s site – he’s a pioneer in this ministry of servant evangelism.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us in this ministry!  May God bless our efforts to CONNECT PEOPLE TO JESUS this year!

Ask and It Will Be Given to You

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Scripture: 9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

Observation: The disciples saw Jesus praying, and one of them asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.  So Jesus gave the disciples a pattern for prayer that we call THE LORD’S PRAYER.  (By the way, we know that this was a pattern for prayer and not the only way that Our Lord prayed, since the Bible records other prayers of Jesus, that do not use the specific words of the Lord’s Prayer.)  Jesus then went on to give His disciples some motivation for prayer. He used a parable of a friend who is asked for help by another friend – suggesting that when asked, friends help friends.  He also uses the example of how a father gives to his children when they ask for food.  The point of these examples, Jesus makes clear in verse 11:13.  How much more will our Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

Application: So do I get to ask God for ANYTHING that I want?  Will he be forced to give me something simply because I ask?  We know that a friend won’t give his friend just anything simply because he asks and is a friend.  Likewise, a good father won’t give his child something dangerous, even if the child wants it.  So what sort of things will God give me when I ask?  What can I pray for and know that God will give me when I ask?  … Again, the answer is in Verse 11:13.  THE HOLY SPIRIT.  Whatever our heart’s desire, the need will be answered by the presence of the Holy Spirit!  I ask for God to make a painful situation go away – He sends the Spirit to comfort me.  I ask God to give me something I don’t need – He sends the Spirit to mold and shape my desires, such that they conform to His will.  Our good and perfect Father’s gifts are always exactly what we need.

Prayer: Father, when I pray, may my prayers be in line with your will, such that you are happy to respond.  And if what I ask for in prayer is not in accordance with your will, send your Holy Spirit to me to grant me what I need and change my heart in the process.  In Your Name, Amen.

One With Authority

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Scripture: “They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority” (Luke 4:32)

Observation: Jesus has just read from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue (Lk 4:16ff), and stated that the prophecies he read were fulfilled in Him!  The people, however, did not accept His authority.  They could not get past the fact that they knew Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. They neither recognized nor respected Jesus’ authority.  However, just a few verses later (Lk 4:31ff) Jesus taught people who were not from his home town and they recognized Jesus’ authority.  They saw something about Jesus that was different than other teachers.  What was it?  He spoke with AUTHORITY.  Jesus spoke the Word of God and people recognized it as carrying the weight of God’s power.  In fact, Jesus even drove out demons in their presence (Lk 4:33ff).  Yes, Jesus had authority.  What was the basis for that authority?  It was the Word of God.  This was in fact the power and authority that Jesus had just used to stand up against Satan’s temptations at the beginning of Luke chapter 4.

Application: Being in a position of authority myself, I’m keenly aware that just being in a position of authority does not always mean that authority is respected or even recognized.  It’s easy to fall prey to “operating in the flesh.”  Especially as a leader, it’s tempting to provide direction, give encouragement, cast vision and even solve problems by my own strength.  But ultimately, people do not and will not respond to that.  The only true authority is that which comes from God through His revealed Word to us.

Prayer: Lord, may I be like Jesus today.  May I speak your Word in the face of temptation.  May I speak your Word boldly, even when confronted by people who do not receive you.  And may your Word work powerfully in and through me, such that even the demons and forces of darkness flee.  In your Name, Amen.

The Christ Bell

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THE BELL
I KNOW WHO I AM
I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ.  (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3:20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31 -34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God  (2 Cor 1:21-22 )
I am assured all things work together for good  (Rom. 8:28 )
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3: 12 )
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God’s temple (1 Cor. 3: 16).   I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).. I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God’s co-worker (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1). I am God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected. (Phil. 1: 5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven (Col 1:14). I have been adopted as God’s child (Eph 1:5)

 Keep this bell ringing…pass it on 
‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you;
The LORD turn His face toward you
And give you peace…
Numbers 6:24-26

I hope this gives you encouragement, and “rings” true for you in the New Year!  God Bless, PA.

(Note: Thanks to Sheryl for sending this to me.  I do not know who to credit for the original work, nor have I verified all the Bible references.)