Monday, January 31, 2011

Integrity...Is It Really Necessary?

The book of Acts describes the early church and it's challenges. One of those challenges was meeting the needs of a growing church while keeping everyone happy at the same time.

Sound like a challenge?

That church needed a team (staff) to feed all the people who showed up hungry for the church dinner. There were tables and chairs to set up; food to be served; dishes to wash; trash cans to be emptied; floors to be swept, etc.

If you were the leader and knew you needed help...what traits would you look for in a potential member of that team?
  • Sharp dresser?
  • Smooth talker?
  • Clean fingernails?
  • Charming personality?
  • Award winning smile?
  • Hard worker?
Perhaps. Think about it...wouldn't you want someone with those traits to wait on you at your favorite restaurant?

But this is not what the early church based their decision on. In Acts 6 we are given the standard for leadership. In fact, we know this particular position to be the role of a deacon (servant).
  • Acts 6:1-6 1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists,[a] because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

God isn't impressed with how you look, how you talk, what you wear, what you can do and where you've been.

Personal integrity is the main issue.

What is integrity? 
  • An adherence to moral and ethical principles; honesty. (Random house dictionary 2011)
Integrity comes from within.  It's not something you have to parade around in front of people.  It is birthed from right choices, right associations, commitment to truth and unwavering faith.  If you have will be good.  If you don' will be a disaster.

We live in a day and age...even in the church world...where we base our opinions of people by what we see on the outside rather than what's on the inside of an individual. 

What do people know you by?

I promise the end you'll only want to be known as a person of integrity.  A person who spoke the truth, modeled the truth and embraced the truth.

Integrity will follow you around like a senior yearbook picture.

Day 21 Devotion 1-31-11

Increasing Prayer

James 5:16 “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Can prayer really make a difference? Can my prayers actually change things? Is it possible for the will of God to be thwarted because I don’t pray? These are legitimate questions. The answers you give them reflect the very foundation of your relationship with the Lord. On one hand, if God is Sovereign, He’s going to do everything the way He wants, so why pray? On the other hand, if He is waiting on my prayers to execute His will, then I had better get serious about praying really quick. How does His Sovereignty and my prayers go together?

God uses prayer to make the impossible, possible and the ordinary, extraordinary. Prayers make our efforts effective and help us to define God’s will more clearly. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets His people to pray.” Faithful praying releases the Holy Spirit to act.

Someone once said, “God does things when we pray that He does not do when we do not pray.” May today’s devotional be an inspiration for you to seek the Lord in prayer.

Prayer Focus

Thank God for hearing all the prayers that have been lifted up on our church’s behalf. Thank Him in advance for answering them. Pray God’s people at BFWC will pray more than ever before and that everything we do as a church will be labored over in prayer. And may that start with you! Make sure you have been and continue to connect with Him through prayer. What is He leading you to do now for Him and His ministry?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 20 Devotion 1-30-11

Sacrificial Faith!

Genesis 22:2 “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about”

Abraham had to wait 25 years before His promised son was born. By then he was 100 years old; his wife, Sarah, was 90. Yet God superseded the laws of nature to allow the birth of a child to an elderly, barren couple. They named their son Isaac, meaning “laughter,” for he brought unspeakable joy to them.

After Isaac had grown into a young man, God once again said to Abraham. “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.” The message continued, “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22:2).

Still believing, Abraham obeyed the voice of God and took his boy on that long, agonizing trip to the bleak slopes of Moriah. Though he did not comprehend God’s purpose, Abraham’s faith was not shaken. He complied with the instructions, placing his dear son on the altar and raising a knife to plunge into his only son’s chest. In the very act of lifting the knife to slay his son, God stopped him, commanded him to kill instead a ram caught in a nearby bush.

Would Abraham have gone through with it? Would the old man have actually killed his own beloved son? We need not wonder. Hebrews 11:19 provides the answer: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Yes, he would have done it, because he was already anticipating God to raise his son from death!

What an extraordinary story, which causes us to wonder, what could we possibly have in common with Abraham? Many things! As God spoke to Abraham, He speaks to you. As God called Abraham to a life of obedience, He calls you. As God tested Abraham, He tests you. As God called Abraham to a life of faith, so God calls you. As Abraham obeyed … so should you.

Prayer Focus

Think about the parallels between yourself and Abraham. If possible, identify some specific ways these are revealed in your life. Seriously! Just because this is a Bible story doesn’t negate the obedience God expects from us! Has God tested your faith? Did you pass? If He tested you again, in the very near future, do you have what it takes to say “yes” – before he even asks the question? Take a moment right now to say “yes” to God. Even before he asks… sincerely say, “Yes.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dear BFWC Family

Dear BFWC Family,

I trust you are experiencing great spiritual growth during this 21 Day Fast. Beverly and I have been praying for you and your family during this time and believing for an increase in your life.

Fasting isn’t a punishment…it’s a privilege. Fasting draws us closer to God and helps us grow spiritually. Fasting continues to be one of the most powerful weapons God has given us for our daily lives.

Beverly and I have been standing firm in our prayer that there will be a RELEASE from the bondage of sin; RESTORATION in relationships; RESOURCES improved in finances and increase; RENEWAL and supernatural healing!

This fast has been about our FUTURE and our FAMILIES! We have been believing for God’s direction and guidance in your life.

We are living in an hour that is PERILOUS. I speak with pastors all across this country that are dealing with issues that range from frivolous to devastating. My heart breaks as they share their problems, experiences and present circumstances.

I consider myself to be blessed to part of such a wonderful congregation at BFWC. Yet, we are not without our own trials from time to time. I CHOOSE to focus on the good and believe the best in everyone. I have often said “you’ll have to prove me wrong, cause I’m going to believe the best in you.” I STILL feel that way.

Beverly and I want you to know our hearts. Pastoring today is different than it was 10 years ago…even 5 years ago. We are dealing with so many issues today that have brazenly dared the church to oppose them.
  • Bad attitudes, lying tongues, character issues, integrity issues, fornicating spirits, social drinking, casual Christianity, gossip, laziness, deception, manipulation, Absalom spirits, Jezebel spirits, discourtesy, lack of etiquette, spiritual gypsies, Christian consumerism, personal preference versus Godly principles, etc.
These things alone are enough to drain you emotionally and if you’re not prayed up…spiritually. However, we choose to continue to forge ahead and BELIEVE.

I received a call this week from a pastor who shared the trials he was facing: increase of deaths, financial pressures, family issues, health issues, staff issues, etc. We prayed together and I asked the Lord to increase his life with rest, restoration and refreshing. His call was like many I receive.

As we draw near to the coming of the Lord, we must dig our heels in and refuse to allow the enemy to trip us up. Satan would love nothing better than to deceive the “very elect” in these last days. More and more we hear of people who have known the Word and have walked in the way of the Lord…stumbling, getting side tracked and forsaking spiritual protocols. BFWC…I implore you to not let this happen to you.

We believe in each of you! You have what it takes! You can reach your destiny! You can overcome your current obstacles!

However, each of us must make up our mind that we are not going to BACKSLIDE for anyone! We aren’t going to Hell for ANYONE! I encourage you today to:
  • Stay focused on Jesus … not man.
  • Lean on Jesus … not flesh.
  • Refuse to lie.
  • Refuse to stretch the truth.
  • Refuse to carry grudges, tell half-truths, manipulate others, get entangled with a web of deceit.
  • Refuse to gossip.
  • Refuse to blame others for your own issues and internal wranglings.
  • Keep your nose clean.
  • Speak words that edify.
  • Never entertain gossip about your brothers and sisters or your pastors/leaders.
  • Never allow yourself to be put in a compromising situation with the opposite sex.
  • Never do anything that will cause a young Christian or a non-believer to stumble.
  • Steer clear of relationships that are questionable.
  • Build yourself up spiritually so that you’re ready to minister to others 24/7.
  • Get up early and pray.
  • Read your Bible every day.
  • Pray in tongues every day.
  • Align yourself to the vision of your church.
  • Submit to your leaders.
  • Submit to your spouse.
  • Submit to one another.
  • Stay in church routinely…Sunday’s & Wednesday’s.
  • Position your children in church EVERYTIME the doors are open.
  • Lift the hands of your leaders.
  • Lighten the load of others.
  • Look for opportunities to minister.
  • Pray Ephesians 6 over your body, soul & spirit every morning before you walk out the door.
  • Kiss your spouse.
  • Hug your kids.
  • Determine to encourage at least one person each day with a card, text, call, gift, etc.
  • Take care of God’s house before your house.
  • Give God His time and He’ll give you time you didn’t know you had.
I share my heart with you this evening and believe in each of you! Our best days are before us. God has an incredible dream for BFWC. We are on track. Hand in hand we’ll walk toward our destiny. Let’s determine to do it the RIGHT way with the RIGHT spirit at the RIGHT time in the RIGHT place.

With great affection,

Russell & Beverly Hylton
Senior Pastors

Day 19 Devotion 1-29-11

Remember God’s Power

Joshua 4:7b "These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."

Joshua had instructed the people to carry large stones from the bed of the Jordan River and place them on the Canaan side of the river. These stones provided a memorial of God’s power, provision and purpose for the children of Israel. The Israelites would periodically return to this place, Gilgal, to express their gratitude for victories won in this new land. They were commanded to bring their children with them on these occasions.

Carefully read Joshua 4:19-24. When the people of Israel were obedient to God’s instruction regarding these twelve stones, it provided a great opportunity to teach and instruct the next generation. "He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’" (Joshua 4:21). A child’s natural curiosity opens the door for a parent to testify of God’s remarkable power. Parents should lead their children back to the place where God has demonstrated His timely provision. It may be a story, a place, or even a picture, but whatever it is, let them see it over and over again until it becomes a defining moment in their lives and a monument to God’s grace.

Gilgal was not just a pile of rocks. It was a powerful reminder of our indebtedness to God. The greatest heritage we can leave to the next generation is such a memorial of God’s goodness.

Prayer Focus

Take some time to reflect on some memories of God’s power and goodness in your life. Was it an event? A Baptism? A worship song? Message? Was it a special prayer time? Some special blessing? Remember Him.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sent or Went...that is the Question

America's culture has encouraged each of us to have an independent spirit. We are proud of our independence. Independence Day is to our nation, what the Day of Pentecost is to the church.

We are Americans with honest pride and humility. We are proud of our forefathers, who set forth the independence of these United States. However, I wonder how our forefathers would react, seeing our morally devoid politicians securing their positions, by voting for many anti-Christian laws, which I would assume they probably wouldn't condone in their own homes.

They've chased God away from our schools and institutions, claiming the separation of Church and State. But this doesn't mean that God should be ostracized. This is a Nation founded with liberty under God, without espousing any particular religion.

America must return to the time that there was honest pride and humility, which made our Nation, the number one Nation in the world. There was a time, when we idealized our founding fathers. Somehow, in the name of realism we subjected them to "out of touch". Why? Because we have lost our sense of values.

Let us be proud of our forefathers. Of course they had their imperfections, but nonetheless they could be looked to for guidance.

Let us be proud of our freedom; the freedom which flows from our obedience to God; from our willing adherence to His laws; from our discipline of self-control.

Today, our American culture celebrates independence and self-determination. These values are great when it comes to an entrepreneurial spirit. But when it comes to functioning properly in the body of Christ these values can be harmful.

I have never served in the armed forces (except the Army of the Lord). However, I have been taught through history and careful observance that every military branch of the United States has an established protocol.

Suppose, as a citizen of the U.S.; untrained by the military; on my own, I decide next week to go to Afghanistan to fight Islamic terrorists without the covering, protection, training or the strategy of the U.S. military.

Not only would my church think I was crazy, even the secular society would consider me to be foolish and unlearned.

Unfortunately, the way many of our brothers and sisters have "called themselves" mimics a Hollywood movie more than it does Biblical protocol. 

Even secularists understand there is something wrong with self-proclaimed apostleship for they make movies about these types of "preachers."

I receive phone calls all the time from ministers who want to share their ministry at BFWC.  I'm thankful to receive the phone calls.  However, some of the questions I ask them is:
  • Who trained you? 
  • Who ordained you? 
  • Who sent you?
  • Who's your father in the faith? 
  • Who do you submit too? 
If they say "God" I immediately know to steer clear.

A person who is "sent" will have the proper credentials, training, communication and protocol already established in their life. 

On the other side, a person who "went" without proper training, communication, or protocol with plans to do their own thing is usually a person who doesn't want to submit to anyone else or have someone over them telling them what to do.

Jesus prayed in John 17 a tremendous prayer to His Father before His crucifixion.  In this prayer Jesus constantly refers to the fact that He was "sent" or "given" things to Him by His Father to do the work He gave Him to do.  This shows He never called Himself to minister; Jesus needed to be sent or given ministry by someone higher than Himself for His ministry to be legitimate, even though He is the Son of God.

Friends, on this side of eternity we operate under Delegated Authority.  Until Jesus comes in the clouds of glory, we are called to serve under someone elses watchful eyes.  We never outgrow this.  We never reach a place of "ultimate maturity" that we no longer are accountable to another.

If the Son of God didn't call Himself into ministry then others who feel called ought to pattern themselves after His protocol for confirming the timing of a genuine call into ministry.  In addition, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 5:1, 3-6 that Jesus didn't call Himself into the priesthood; he waited until the Father called Him.  This was patterned after the Old Covenant in which a person could only serve as a priest if his physical father was a priest of the tribe of Levi from the priestly line of Aaron (Exodus 28:1). 

In essence, if we don't have a father who ordained us into the ministry (in the New Covenant this includes spiritual fathers) then we have a "bastard" ministry and have no biblical legitimacy to fulfill our calling.

Apostle Paul operated under this same protocol.  Even though Paul and Barnabas had already felt called by God into the ministry they didn't dare send themselves until the leaders of the church in Antioch also received a confirming word from the Lord to send them.  (Acts 13:1-2).
In another instance, Paul submitted the gospel of grace he was preaching (to the Gentiles) to the leading apostles of the Jerusalem Church (Peter and John) for fear his work was in vain. (Galatians 2:2;9).  This shows even Paul, the great apostle, needed the right hand of apostolic blessing to be considered legitimate.

Paul also shows it was part of the protocol of the early church that a person wouldn't preach or minister unless they were officially sent and, by implication, sanctioned by the church.  (Romans 10:15...How shall they preach unless they are sent?)

In spite of this knowledge, I've seen many start out with nothing more than a "leading of the Lord" without the training, blessing or sending of a local church body.  If a person cannot go through the grid of submitting to a process of biblical training, character development and theological and ministerial training in the context of a local church, then how can they be properly prepared to shepherd a flock under God?

Most of the time when someone has no personal submission to spiritual authority it illustrates a deeper issue within them of rebellion against God.  Jesus said that if we receive the one He sent we receive Him.  On the other hand, by rejecting the spiritual authority He sent then we reject Him. (Matthew 10:40)

In conclusion

I first received my calling from the Lord when I was 15 yrs old.  I later received my calling to full-time ministry when I was 21.  The first thing I did was submit my heart to my pastor, Rev. Ray Hylton.  Later I would be called to Indiana to serve in a local church as a youth pastor.  There, I would submit to my pastor, Rev. Leeroy Hill.  Again later, I felt called to pastor BFWC in Indianapolis.  I submitted to the counsel of my spiritual fathers, sitting under their tutelage and training till I was licensed for ministry.  I served faithfully and fully communicated my every movement under their watchful eye.  I was then sent to Indianapolis to pastor this wonderful church.

My point...I believe, because I submitted to spiritual authority from my spiritual fathers, our church has been blessed and I've enjoyed great freedom in that submission. 

I don't claim to be an authority on this subject, but I do believe I possess a special anointing to share this principle because I have walked in this and still do to this day.

I need the spiritual fathers in my life to confirm my work - even to this day.  I walk under their covering and as a result am able to model this with my own spiritual sons.

My life call is to make a generational impact.  In doing so, I desire to raise up "sons" (male & female) to answer their personal call, train them and send them forth.  Some will stay at BFWC to fulfill the vision of the local house.  Some will be sent forth into other regions to establish works.  Either way, they will remain covered with an apostolic authority.  This authority will not only provide them with blessing but also accelerated access into uncharted territory. 

The key is knowing how to operate in protocol. 

I would encourage anyone wanting to serve in ministry, start a church, preach, teach, etc. to first prove themselves in their local church under their shepherd.  If you cannot prove your pastoral calling with the blessing of a senior pastor in your local church then that is a good sign you will not be successful as the founding pastor of a new local church.

Day 18 Devotion 1-28-11

How Much Is Too Much?

Mark 14:3b “She broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head.”

The story of the Bethany anointing is one of the few stories of Jesus’ life that is contained in all four of the gospels. So impressive was this event that it was indelibly written upon the disciples’ hearts so they never, ever forgot this act of devotion. Mark uses it as a prelude to the passion events. It contrasts the hatred and rejection Jesus was receiving at the hands of the rulers and the people. This act of worship and devotion stood out as an act of love that the Lord deserved from all, but was only given by a few.

May this deed be received as a call to worship for us today. May this deed make us ask ourselves the question, “How much is too much?” This woman’s act set a standard of sacrifice, which none can better, but all can match. That alabaster bottle was worth a year’s wages. Plus, it was to be saved for the most important occasion of one’s life. What is the most extravagant thing you have done for the Lord? What can we learn from this Scripture?
  • Real love is always extravagant.
  • Extravagant love is always criticized.
  • Jesus always comes to the defense of and blesses those who are criticized for being extravagant in their devotion toward Him.

Prayer Focus

Pray the people connected to our church will love Jesus so much they will be extravagant with their giving of their time, talents, and treasures. Oh Yeah… and pray that the extravagance starts with you. Can you do that? What does that look like for you and/or your family?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 17 Devotion 1-27-11

Communication of God’s Goodness

Mark 5:19 "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you."

Jesus spoke these words after casting demons out of a man from Gadarene. His command was simple: Go and tell others what I have done for you. What a powerful reminder this gives us of the need to express God’s goodness to others—even in public settings.

All believers face the danger of forgetting "how much the Lord has done for us." Our spiritual journey is a great opportunity for us to strengthen and renew our appreciation to a good God. Communicating gratitude is important for at least two reasons:

1. It makes us more reliant on God.
  • Romans 1:21 tells of those who “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.”
  • Thankfulness occurs inwardly, in what our heart expresses.
  • Glorifying God happens publicly, in what our mouth confesses.
  • Public expressions of gratitude strengthen our commitment to God while counteracting our human tendency to self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

2. It has a profound impact on those around us.
  • Family and friends need to hear our successes are not of our own making, but we are beneficiaries of the goodness of God.
  • Read David’s words in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 to see how his gratitude set in motion a great celebration of sacrifice and praise among God’s people.

Prayer Focus

Following David’s example, take the time to identify some examples of God’s goodness in your life and then express your gratitude to God in the presence of a friend or family member today! Don’t delay. Just step up and do it. Go tell your family or a friend how much the Lord has done for you. You’ll grow… and be glad you did!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 16 Devotion 1-26-11

A Contribution or A Sacrifice?

Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Did you hear the story of the chicken and the pig who were walking together down the road? They came upon a beggar who was nearly starved to death. He hadn’t eaten in days. The chicken and the pig decided to help him. The chicken said, “I have an idea. Let’s fix him some breakfast - some ham and eggs!” The pig thought about that a moment and then said, “I don’t like that idea very much because it only requires you to make a contribution, but for me it is a complete sacrifice!”

As the Apostle Paul writes, he describes a turning point in his letter to the believers in Rome. He is finally giving an application to the truths he has been telling about in previous chapters. He is stating how we should respond to the knowledge God has procured our salvation and saved us from the wages of sin through Jesus Christ. He’s telling us to lay it all on the altar for God; surrender completely. Don’t simply make a contribution like the chicken, but sacrifice it all like the pig.

Prayer Focus

Pray that BFWC is a body of believers willing to totally surrender to God. Pray it all starts with you. What does it look like to surrender all? What might you need to sacrifice?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Serve Your Leader with a Pure Heart

Are you serving under someone else's ministry?  If so, your number one responsibility is to serve with a pure heart.  Ephesians 4 tells us that one of the gifts Jesus gave the church is the gift of a pastor. 

When you learn to receive and appreciate this gift, you will begin to experience the contentment, peace, joy, purpose and satisfaction that should be experienced in ministry.

Here are some guidelines:

1. Pray daily for your pastor
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:1 "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you."
  • It's difficult to have strife with someone you pray for daily.
  • As you pray the Word over your pastor, you can expect to have your heart knit with his/hers in the Spirit.
2. Learn your pastor's ministry
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:12 "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you."
  • A good leader will always take notes and learn from his/her pastor's ministry.
  • Not only will this allow you to store up some great Holy Ghost nuggets, but it will also show your pastor that you have respect for his/her ministry and desire to pull from their anointing.
3. Stay clear from all areas of strife
  • James 3:16 "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work."
  • As you assume a role of leadership in the church, you will probably have the opportunity to come across some people who are plagued by a critical spirit.
  • In Hebrews 12:15 we see that a "root of bitterness defiles many."
  • If God has called you to serve under this pastor, it is your responsibility and duty to remain loyal to his/her direction and vision whether you agree 100% with the way they choose to get things done or not.
4. Keep your pastor informed
  • Romans 14:19 "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."
  • It is critical that you keep the doors of communication open to let your pastor know what is going on in your ministry.
  • You should keep your pastor updated at all times on what you are doing. 
  • Don't fall into the trap of thinking your pastor doesn't care about what's going on with you or your particular ministry. 
  • However, remember that as you are focusing on the needs of your particular area, the pastor has the "whole picture" to be concerned sensitive to that.
5. Strive to fulfill your pastor's vision and not your own
  • Luke 16:12 "And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?"
  • You must get a revelation in your spirit, as a leader, that you are called to promote someone else's ministry, not vice versa.
  • You are called to be a servant and operate in the ministry of helps. (1 Corinthians 12:28)
  • Your dreams will only come true as you serve faithful where God placed you.

How To Handle Opposition

Mark 7:1-7 1Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. 5Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

1. Leaders have a constant companion.
  • It is opposition.
  • If you lead, you will have those who oppose you.
  • Be ready with answers for your critics, and do not let unjust or unwarranted criticism discourage you.
  • It is very important to be able to discern the difference between UNJUST or UNWARRANTED criticism and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism given by caring friends, which is valuable to every leader.

2. OPPOSITION will often come in the form of attacks on your people as in the case of our text.
  • The Pharisees sought to DISTRACT and DISRUPT Jesus by attacking His disciples.
  • Make no mistake about it – an attack on your followers is an attack on your leadership.
  • As you defend your followers, you do two things:
  1. First, you defend yourself.
  2. Second, as your followers see you standing up for them, their loyalty to you and to your leadership is greatly enhanced.
3. While it is important to defend and speak up for your followers in public, this does not mean that you turn a blind eye to their actions that need reproof and correction.
  • Followers do make mistakes.
  • Some mistakes are honest.
  • But some followers use their position to do bad things.
  • Both need correction; the latter needs rebuke.
  • In almost every circumstance, a leader will be wise to correct or rebuke followers in private or at least within an inner circle.
Note the way Jesus rebuked the disciples and the circumstances throughout the Gospels in which He did it.
  • Jesus did not directly answer the criticism of the Pharisees, nor did He directly criticize their man-made rules.
  • Instead, He dealt with the heart of the issue – man-made rules versus God’s eternal law.

4. Nothing in our text suggests that the Pharisees were wrong to establish certain traditions regarding ceremonial washings.
  • Those traditions were meant to remind the Jews of their inner uncleanness and the absolute necessity of approaching God with a clean heart.
  • But somehow that noble purpose had been twisted into an extrabiblical standard for judging others.
  • When Jesus called them “hypocrites,” it wasn’t because of their rules, but because of their judgmental spirit that contradicted the very point of hand washing in the first place.

  1. Responded to unjust criticism.
  2. Defended His disciples, and at the same time.
  3. Refocused the issue away from His followers and back on His critics.
Jesus did a masterful job of showing how a leader handles his critics without getting unnecessarily sidetracked.

5. You can't have opportunity without opposition.
  • One of the great tests of leadership is how you handle opposition.
  • Do you panic under pressure?
  • Do you get uptight, lose your temper, blow up, become discouraged, or give up?
  • Part of the job description of leadership is dealing with people who oppose you and your vision for the church.

Six Steps to Handling Opposition

1. Rely on God
  • Prayer
  • Release it to the Lord.
  • When you’re being ridiculed, you don’t suppress it, you confess it.
  • Don’t get caught up into name calling.
  • Instead of calling names…PRAY.
  • The greater the opposition, the more you need to pray.
  • Don’t take it out on other people; talk it out with God.
2. Respect the Opposition
  • Be prayerful and practical at the same time.
  • Guard yourself from danger.
  • It’s fine to lay in bed at night and pray, “Protect me from the burglars.” But you also need to get up and lock your door!
  • Petition without precaution is presumption.
3. Reinforce your weak points
  • Find the places you’re vulnerable in.
  • Place a guard on your heart in those places.
  • Good leaders know where they are vulnerable, and they reinforce that area.
4. Reallocate recourses, but don’t stop what you’re doing.

  • You have three alternatives when you’re being attacked.
  1. Give up.
  2. Leave your post and go fight.
  3. Build and guard yourself.
  • Leaders must build and battle at the same time.
  • You never leave your post to fight the enemy.
  • You could spend all your time putting out fires and never complete what God has called you to do.
5. Reassure people.
  • Rally yourself and your followers.
  • The task of leadership is to relieve the fears of your followers and reinforce their confidence.
  • When we’re under attack…the leader’s job is to raise people’s morale.
  • When you’re under attack, if the devil can get you to focus on the opposition, he’s won a major victory.
  • You either focus on the opposition or you focus on the Lord.
  • When you’re facing opposition, it’s your job as the leader to help your people “REMEMBER THE LORD!
6. Refuse to quit.
  • You must model persistence.
  • You are the last to give up.
  • You are the last to jump ship.
  • You refuse to quit.
  • Persistence is the ultimate test of leadership.
How do you handle ministry when the going gets tough?
  • The secret of success is to simply OUTLAST your critics.
  • There is nothing the devil would rather do more than make you stall on what God is calling you to do.
  • Don’t let him do that.
  • You’ve got to be PERSISTENT!

You’ll face opposition sometime in your ministry. How you handle that opposition will go a long way in deciding whether or not you complete the task to which you’ve been called.

Will you complete yours?

Day 15 Devotion 1-25-11

In God We Trust

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  

There are two ways people live their lives as they pass through this world – either remembering God or forgetting Him. They either acknowledge His presence and live their lives in dependence on Him, or they pay no attention to His claims on them and live a life on the basis of their own understanding and abilities. The worst tragedy and cruelest deception is the man who says feebly with his lips, “I trust God,” but an examination of his calendar and checkbook shows no difference between him and the man who does not make that claim. The question we must ask ourselves today is, “Do we trust God?”

The very nature of this question produces two possible meanings: First – “Can you ‘trust’ God?” That is, is He trustworthy? Can He handle the decisions and the problems in your life? Secondly – “Can ‘you’ trust God?” That is, do you have the ability to trust Him?

These verses reveal some important things about trusting God:
  • The matter of trust is an all or nothing thing. Notice how many times the word “all” is used.
  • The command to trust precedes the promise. Blessing comes after trust is expressed.
  • The promise is conditional. Unlike many of the unconditional promises in the Bible, this promise of direction is given only to those who exercise trust in God.
Prayer Focus

Pray your faith and trust in God will grow. Pray you will allow God to be in control and you will utterly depend on Him and desire His will be done. Pray the fruits of our deepened trust in Him will result in guidance from Him. Ask God to identify an area of your life where you need to yield to Him. Then give it to Him and look for His provision. Hey – we say we trust God. We want to trust God. And now it’s time to actually take that to the next level.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Result of Polls

Are you a Tither? (10% of your increase)

43 voters

Yes (37) 86%
No  (6)   13%

What Matters Most to You in a Church?

110 voters (multiple answers)

Music/Worship (63) 57%
Kids Ministry  (43) 39%
Preaching/Teaching (97) 88%
Outreach (49) 44%
Food, Fun & Fellowship (32) 29%
Nursery (23) 20%
Serving Others (60) 54%

Day 14 Devotion 1-24-11

Galilee Christians

Proverbs 11:25 “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

There are two seas in the Holy Land. The northern sea, called the Sea of Galilee, is one of the land’s most beautiful features. Fed by the Jordan River, it waters fertile valleys and helps produce a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Fishermen still search its depths, for food and profit.

This is the sea Jesus loved. He knew its waters, in stillness and in storm. On its banks, He taught many parables, spent many nights, and worked His miracles of love and compassion.

The southern sea, further down the Jordan River, is totally different from Galilee. Its air is filled with the stench of debris and filth. No man or beast will drink from its bitter waters. No children play along its polluted shores, for this is a lifeless sea. Its very name reveals its nature: The Dead Sea.

Both seas are fed by the same river. But why the stark difference? It’s because the Dead Sea has an inlet to receive the fresh waters, but no outlet to send them on. The fresh waters pour in... only to stagnate and decay.

Do you know people like this?

Our challenge, and our commitment, is to be “Galilee Christians” — giving out as freely and readily as we take in. For only by living in this way will we be as healthy and joyous as God desires us to be. As Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

As we give freely and generously to expand the ministry of our church, we are living out this lesson of Scripture. We are discovering the joy of the Galilee principle—not to mention the clear Biblical directive to be generous givers, let alone tithers.

Prayer Focus

Have you thought of yourself as a Galilee Christian? Or would you describe yourself as more of a “Dead Sea” Christian? What challenge do you sense God is putting on your heart? How will you obey that and express that in the form of a commitment? Is it time to share that burden of what God is placing on your heart?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 13 Devotion 1-23-11

Don’t Short Your Dreams

Genesis 39:2a “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered.”

In 1930, two young brothers named Dick and Maurice McDonald moved from New Hampshire to California to pursue the American dream of being successful. After a few failed ventures, they struck gold when they opened a small drive-in restaurant. By the mid-1950’s, their annual revenue was $350,000, and the brothers split $100,000 in profits.

You might think, yes, the rest is history. But you may be surprised to know the rest of the story. In 1954, a man by the name of Ray Kroc came into the picture. Ray Kroc saw potential the brothers did not see. In 1961, Kroc bought the exclusive rights to McDonald’s for the sum of $2.7 million – now with 21,000+ restaurants worldwide, the rest of the story is history indeed.

The lessons learned from this story are:
  • Don’t pull up short of your God-given dream.
  • Don’t allow someone to out-dream you.
  • Don’t allow someone else to finish your dream.

Christians look to Joseph as the role model for dreaming big. Genesis 39 holds important lessons for all dreamers. Some lessons in this chapter can keep us from stopping short of accomplishing our dreams are:
  • Know God is with us (verses 2, 21, & 23).
  • Know God is aware of our actions (verse 9).
  • Know God can make the bitter things in life sweet (verses 21-23).

Prayer Focus

Pray that we will pursue our God-given dream to the fullest potential. Pray that through the achievement of this spiritual journey we will become better Christ followers for the kingdom of God. Ask God to show you ways in which you have stopped short of His best for you. Ask for the boldness to identify and follow through with eliminating what is stopping you.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 12 Devotion 1-22-11

What if Everyone Does It?

2 Corinthians 9:13 “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”

As we look to the future, we see thousands upon thousands of people all around us who need Jesus. Some are falling away. Many, many more are waiting to be reached out to by loving people. Indianapolis and the surrounding communities continue to grow with thousands of new residents. Who will reach out to these precious souls with the good news of Jesus?

We must take on this challenge. We must invite them in and open our hearts to receive them with love and acceptance. But we have a difficulty that must be overcome: Our home is not big enough. We must have more space for more people. We must adjust what we currently have and make plans for our future move to bring more people into a relationship with God! How can we do this? First, by seeing this as a challenge and not a problem. This demands the right spiritual vision. In the days ahead, together, we are going to believe God will give us the insight — and the foresight — to do great things for His sake.

Prayer Focus

Today, think about a close friend, family member or someone you can see being reached with the Gospel — someone you are praying will one day worship the Lord with us at Bethel Family Worship Center. Pray about what it will take to get them in the Kingdom. Then envision them in a seat. Awesome isn’t it? Now envision about 500 other people at BFWC doing the same thing. Wow! Where will we put them? Let that simmer with you and God for a while!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Comparing Apples to Oranges

On more than one occasion I have said, "BFWC is not a perfect church but it's definitely a good church." 

Often, people who are looking for the "perfect church" become discouraged when they don't find it.

If you've ever transitioned from one church to another, you can find yourself comparing apples to oranges.

Each church is unique and carries it's own DNA and culture.  Adjusting to that new culture takes time and an open mind.  In fact, I share with new families at BFWC, "...see past where we are now to what we shall be, with you in the picture."

When I speak with new families, who have been very active in a previous church or have quality gifts and skills to offer, I encourage them to let their gift make room for them over the process of time.  Time is always the great leveler.

Honestly, we must "know one another" after the Spirit, for true ministry cohesion.  If time is not given, and restlessness sets in, then fruition of ministry opportunity is aborted.

Of course, many of these concerns are a non issue when you're discipling a "new convert" who has no previous church background. 

I do not want to sound rude...however, it is often easier to raise up a disciple from infancy for Kingdom Work than to try to "retrain" someone who has already "locked in" to a previous mindset.  The usual conversation from this person normally sounds like this " my old church, we did it this way." 

There's no harm in garnering ideas from a previous church or even new ideas gleaned in the field of today's methods.  However, if we continue to look back to "yesterday," we're really never free to forge ahead into "tomorrow."

If you're trying to adjust to a new church home, here's ten things I would do:
  1. Attend all the services that the church has to offer.  (i.e., Sunday, mid-week, prayer, etc.) You'll find that each service has it's own uniqueness and tailored qualities. 
  2. Attend for at least a month, so you can get a well rounded conception of the overall ministry of the church.
  3. If the church has multiple morning services, try attending each of those to see which is the right fit for you and your family.
  4. Ask questions about the church's vision, leadership, outreach, kids ministries, volunteer protocols, etc. to appropriate ministry coordinators.
  5. Research the church's website and find answers to questions you may have before you make an appointment with the pastor(s).  Take time to read through the churches doctrinal commitment and note any questions you may have.  Then, in that initial meeting, you'll have all your notes to pull from and have any unanswered questions resolved.
  6. Attend age and gender group events that pertain to you.  You'll find it easier to make friends if you attend fellowship opportunities where people are "fellowshipping." 
  7. If the church has a "new comers" class or something similar (i.e., meet and greet, etc.) avail yourself to that as well.  Usually you'll have a good experience and be directed to the "next step."
  8. Do your best to avoid comparing previous churches with a new one.  If where you were attending was so right, then perhaps you should go back there.  If not, then look for the good and expect the best in your new environment.  Even if you are disappointed with certain aspects, don't let it cloud your vision.  You might be the missing ingredient that they've been waiting for.  However, if you don't walk it'll abort what could have been.
  9. Be faithful in your attendance.  Allow the leadership to see your face continuously.  Before long, not only will they remember your name...they'll seek you out to make a connection.  Whenever the church is providing corporate worship or should be there.
  10. Make an investment of your time, talent and treasure.  As a believer you're already a tither (10% of your increase).  So don't let up, even in your new church home.  You'll find it's harder to walk away from that which you've made an investment.
Finally, I would encourage you to "buy-in" to the overall vision of the church before you "lock-in."  You'd be surprised at the amount of people who have shook my hand following their first visit to a service and say "this is where God told me to join" only to never see them again. 

BFWC is not a perfect church...but it is a good one.  I also believe our church isn't the only one God's using.  We're just one of many, good churches, He has birthed.

May I add one more thought?  If there's something you don't understand or agree with...before you rush to judgment...get to know the leadership of the church.  Unless you've walked in the spirit of that church and under that particular ministry leader for a good period of time, you'll not really comprehend the history behind a statement or the spirit behind the leader.

Assumicide has killed many would have and could have opportunities.

Alright...who wants an apple and who wants an orange?

Day 11 Devotion 1-21-11

Faith in Futile Circumstances

Mark 11:22 "’Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered.”

George Mueller hadn’t faced a situation quite like it. Before him were 120 orphans, expectantly seated at long dinner tables. But something at this mealtime tested the mettle of Mueller’s heart. On the dinner plates at that table was...nothing but water. Eager faces looked toward him, as if to say, “What’s for dinner?” But he didn’t know; the cupboard was bare and the icebox was empty. There was no milk, and no money to buy food or drink.

What was George to do? It didn’t take long for him to decide. He would do what he had done every other mealtime. He would instruct the children to bow their heads and join him in thanking God for the meal they were about to eat. He would praise God for the faithfulness of His provision. And so he did. Mueller prayed simply, directly, and with a heart filled with faith.

When the “amen” was pronounced, the plates were still empty. But as the eyes of those 120 youngsters turned again to the head table, a knock sounded at the door. One of the boys was sent to answer. A moment later, he called out, “Mr. Mueller, it’s the vegetable man! He’s got a lot of stuff for us!” “Coincidentally,” there were many vegetables that would spoil if he didn’t do something with them. While the vegetables were being unloaded, another person came to the door — the butcher! He had run out of ice at the end of a hot day and faced the prospect of awful, rotting meat. Could the orphanage use it? No sooner had he spoken the words than another amazing “coincidence” occurred. The milkman’s wagon pulled up, overloaded with milk and dairy products and needing desperately to do something with them!

Needless to say, it was quite a banquet that night. And it was the finest lesson in faith those orphans ever received. Would the same thing have happened had Mueller not prayed, believing God for His provision and thanking him ahead of time for it? We don’t know, but we do know Jesus said we have not because we ask not. And we know His will for us is to walk by faith, not by sight.

Prayer Focus

God is calling each person at Bethel Family Worship Center to answer a vital question: “Do you have the faith to trust God for His provision?” No matter what the circumstances are? No matter how gloom your reality may seem? Do you trust God to provide? Talk to Him about that right now. Spend at least 10 minutes (minimum) and share your heart about your faith in His provision. Oh yeah… and be honest!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tithing a Way of Life...(Part 4)

Tithing connects you to the promise.

Genesis 12:1-3 1Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: 2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

God is taking the initiative toward Abram and announcing the PROMISES of the covenant.  Notice that God does not do anything until He first makes the promise or covenant to do it.  God lays out His terms to Abram. 
  • I'm going to make you a great nation.
  • I'm going to bless you.
  • I'm going to make your name great.
  • I'm going to bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.
In verses 9-10, a famine takes place in the land causing Abram to journey down to Egypt.  In verses 14-20 an unusual thing happens.  His wife, Sarai, who is very beautiful, captures the attention of Pharaoh.  So Abram, fearing for his life, gives Sarai to Pharaoh, claiming her as his sister in return for sheep, oxen, asses, servants and camels.

Abram receives so many goods from Pharaoh that he now is considered wealthy.  After Sarai settles in the palace, God begins to plague Pharaoh's house.  When Pharaoh realizes that Abram has lied to him, he banishes Abram from Egypt, but does not take back all the goods given to him.
  • Genesis 13:2 reads "and Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold."
In chapter 13 God is dealing with Abram.  Then strife breaks out between Abram's herdsmen and Lot's herdsmen. 
  • Anytime you allow offense, bitterness, a wounded spirit, or hatred in your life, the covenant between you and God shuts down.
  • The bible says "a house divided cannot stand."  Abram begins to deal with the strife in verse 8 and separates from Lot.
Genesis 13:14-17 14And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 17Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

Again, God is taking the initiative to make a covenant with Abram.  In chapter 14:16, Lot and his household are taken captive as prisoners of war.  When Abram learns of Lot's captivity, he declares war.  "And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people."
  • As Abram's 300 men defeat the armies of these four cities, he is entitled to the spoils of those he defeated. (custom)
  • It is interesting what Abram plans to do with his increase.
Genesis 14:18-20 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.  And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. 
  • After the battle, Abram meets the high priest Melchizedek and they share bread and wine.
  • Melchizedek begins blessing Abram and Abram gives tithes on his increase.
  • Melchizedek blesses Abram again; thus, we see the reality of the covenant he made with God.
  • In chapter 12, the covenant was a PROMISE but in chapter 14 it becomes REALITY!
It is wonderful to know all the promises of God in the Bible, but there comes a time when we need more than just a promise.  We need to go from the realm of promise to the realm of reality.  We need to experience it, wear it, be hungry to taste it and see that the Lord is GOOD!

We must hear the promise and then
we must experience the promise!

Abram's promise became reality in chapter 14 but notice this:  If Abram had gone home with his increase and kept his tithe, then Melchizedek would have stayed home and kept his blessing.  The reason Abram got his blessing was because he want to "church" to give his tithe.

The tithe, in essence, becomes the covenant connector to the promises.  If there had been no tithe, there would have been no blessing.  If there had been no blessing, there would have been no receiving of the promise.

More to come...