We All Have an Inner Gaius

I’ve recently taken a leadership role in Guest Services with my Church, Northpoint, here in Austin, TX. While I’d never considered serving Guests in the past, it came to my attention last summer that there was a need within Northpoint and, as He often does, God wouldn’t let me forget that need was there. I met with the Lead Pastor soon thereafter and joined the Leadership Team, where I get to work alongside some really excellent folks who love God by loving people​.​

CompassFor those of you who know me, this will seem like quite the departure from what I’ve previously done, but when considering new direction, it seems like I’ve been training for this for a long time without even knowing it. Funny how these sorts “coincidences” happen.

Speaking of “coincidences”, this morning I was reading and preparing to lead a wonderful team of volunteers at Northpoint in a few hours. It just so happens, my daily reading landed me right where God wanted me today, 3 John, reading a letter to one of the pioneers of Church Guest Services written by one of Jesus’ disciples, something I never realized existed, even though I’d read it before.

In the book 3 John, we get a view of what Guest Services looked like in the early church. The Apostle John, late in his life, wrote this letter directly to Gaius, who from context we can infer was in charge of hospitality for his local church. The letter contains several other points, but this particular part jumped out at me so clearly, I just had to share it.

While a lot of people talk about looking to the Book of Acts for how best to grow a Church in a biblical model, when it comes to Guest Services, it seems obvious this letter from John to Gaius has everything we need to know about serving those God sends through our doors.

In verse five and six, John writes:

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.  They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.

So, right here, we see confirmation directly from one of Jesus’ disciples that Gaius not only understood how important Guests are to the church, but how important it was to treat them right.

If we look to Matthew 10:40, we see Jesus’ words, confirming this:

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

And in Matthew 25:40-45 we see it from another angle:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

So we see how easy it is to understand the importance of serving our Guests to the best of our God-given abilities, regardless of our culture, time period, financial state or anything else that’s different today than it was in the first century.

Every week God sends countless people to the local church, most are hurting in some way, many are broken, all need a growing relationship with Jesus. If we can simply follow these guidelines, channel our inner Gaius and treat them as God would treat them, surpassing their expectations of what a Church experience should be will come naturally, and we’ll all be spiritually better off for it.

Thank you for all you do,

Mike

Posted in Be The Body, Encouragement, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, Northpoint, time with God | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Your Church or Leave It

About a year and a half ago, I had a few spiritual epiphanies that led to some major growth for me (after some painful, but necessary spiritual and mental pruning, which often precedes growth). At the time, I chronicled the discoveries on this blog. The main point of it was how we cannot grow, much less flourish, if we set ourselves up as the spiritual authority in our own lives.

Here’s a quick excerpt to recap:

…no good storyteller would take the reader down a path without lots of signposts and foreshadowing and God is the best storyteller of all.

In the course of the fortnight where this concept became the heaviest thing on my heart, I received an email from the Resurgence about the latest Church leadership coaching, entitled “Be Under Authority Before You’re In It”. Ok, Lord, I’m listening.

A few days later, Angie and I discussed Church membership and how our submission applied to it and she did some research on it, coming up with very authoritative articles from Matt Chandler and John MacArthur (It’s essential you are a member of your church! But, I’ll let you read those articles separately to discover why). Both articles contained very convicting quotes for this train of thought:

Matt Chandler: I was preparing at the time to preach through the book of Hebrews and “happened” to be in chapter 13 when verse 17 leapt off the page: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

John MacArthur: Living out a commitment to a local church involves many responsibilities: exemplifying a godly lifestyle in the community, exercising one’s spiritual gifts in diligent service, contributing financially to the work of the ministry, giving and receiving admonishment with meekness and in love, and faithfully participating in corporate worship. Much is expected, but much is at stake. For only when every believer is faithful to this kind of commitment is the church able to live up to her calling as Christ’s representative here on earth.

So, if I don’t submit myself to Church authority, how can I ever truly grow as God plans me to? How can I ever expect the Church to grow? How can I effectively witness to those inside the church and, more importantly, those outside it? And, ultimately, how can I say I’m truly submitting to Christ?

It’s not just about obeying Christ, but obeying the authority of the local Church. And, for those to work, the church you belong to must obey Christ as well, in all aspects.

So, as we start the next chapter of our walk, one that begins at the doorstep of Northpoint Church, I ask that you continue to pray for us, pray that we grow exponentially over the next few months as we take a sabbatical from serving, and learn to just be.

The reason this is once again on my heart is twofold: one, I feel I’ve finally, completely learned to submit to the spiritual authority God has placed in my life and secondly, I’m struggling with seeing some friends of ours doing the exact opposite.

I’ve always had a knack for leadership and teaching, but I’m at a loss as to how to help them discover the truth I’ve recently learned.

There’s an old saying where I come from “You can’t teach anyone anything they don’t already know.”

In essence, that boils down to the recipient has to believe what you’re trying to convey. And, just as I had no interest in learning that lesson years ago, I need to honor the timing God has for their growth as well.

But, that doesn’t mean I should sit idly by and watch and wait.

With that in mind, here’s the key truth I’ve taken from this over the last year or so:

If you refuse to submit to the authority of your local church, not only are you harming yourself, you’re harming the church and, what many may see as a bigger pitfall in this busy-busy-busy world we live in, absolutely wasting everyone’s time even attending that church or any of its functions.

If I refused to submit to the authority of Pastor Buck at Northpoint Church, I would be wasting my time going to church, wasting his time in trying to shepherd me, and sucking the positive resources out of Northpoint that God placed there to help the Church achieve the mission and vision he planted in Buck’s heart. In essence, I would be fighting against God.

Acts 5:33-39

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Thankfully, God humbled me, knocked the “ME!” shaped chip off my shoulder, picked me up, cleaned me off and set me straight. Which could have only had one of two good outcomes, either I submitted to Buck’s authority or I led my family to another church where I felt I could submit to that Pastor’s authority.

In this age of under resourced churches, “God tippers”, growing antipathy toward Christ and record numbers of people leaving their faith, don’t you think we should strive to be part of the solution, not the problem? For ourselves, our families, and our church.

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 23:6 Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

It taught me how much God really loves me, and helped me learn to make sure I wasn’t blocking that love by setting myself up as my own spiritual authority, eclipsing His light with my own ego. God wants us all to grow, blossom and flourish, we just have to stop blocking the Son.

Posted in Be The Body, Church resources, Encouragement, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, Men's Group, North Point Church, Serving Jesus, Soul Storming | Leave a comment

One for One Challenge 2014

Back in 2010, I put out this challenge to help us all grow, not backslide (our walk is like a down escalator, if we’re not actively walking up, we’re moving down). Since that was a while back, and we once again feel our spiritual edge dulling, I thought I’d repost it today with some updates. Here we go:

 

One for One Challenge: I Double Dog Dare You!

Last spring, Angie and I realized we were losing our spiritual edge. So we turned away from our normal means of nightly entertainment (TV or video games) and started watching online messages, or messages on GodTV (a channel on DirecTv that runs all sorts of Christian conferences, sermons, shows, etc) instead. What we found was after one month, our spiritual sword was sharpened once more and we were back to being on fire for God.Sadly, we got away from that after we moved, but thankfully, we’ve gotten back into it recently.So, here’s the challenge.Every weekday for the next month, I dare you to give up one hour of secular entertainment and replace it with one hour of “feeding yourself” with Christian messages.

For those who have no idea where to find such things, you can either tune into GodTV and record some in advance, or simply point your internet browser to one of the following links for a plethora of choices.

The Village Church: Messages From the Heart of Pastor Matt Chandler

Mars Hill: Sermons & Classes by Mark Driscoll, one of our generation’s greatest teachers

New Spring Church led by one of the funniest Pastors of all time, Perry Noble. Guaranteed to have you laughing. 
The REsurgence: Christian Leadership training from the Acts 29 Network.
LifeChurch.tv World’s Largest Online Church featuring a great teacher, Craig Groeschel

Palm Valley Church – Our original church home, led by the highly underrated Pastor Greg Rohlinger

Eagle Brook Church – our old church home featuring three wonderful teaching pastors.

Lake Hills Church – Great church in Austin, TX

North Point Church – led by Andy Stanley, another fantastic teaching Pastor.

Willow Creek – the Mother of all bible-based Churches, led by the amazing Bill Hybels.

So, starting today I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU to jump into the One for One Challenge.

P.s. If you know of somewhere that has lots of great messages and classes online, please pass the link along.

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Prepare to Share

As many know, Peter was the founder of the Christian church, from whence every other church from that day to this has sprung. Knowing what he would do, Jesus took a moment near the end of his time in the flesh, to relay a very important lesson to Peter, a lesson so many churches seem to be missing these days.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus teaching His disciples

Jesus teaching His disciples

Prior to this lesson, Jesus spent nearly three years training Peter and the other disciples to not only go out into the world and share the good news, but he modeled how to train those who received it. If you take a sampling of the churches around you, no matter where you live, it seems most fall into one of two camps: Share the gospel or raise up disciples.

If you look at a quick snapshot of Jesus’ time in public ministry, you can see he did both with an equal passion. He didn’t merely share the gospel with Peter and the other disciples, then turn them loose on the world to spread the message. Why not? Because he knew it wouldn’t work. Their mental and spiritual soil wasn’t ready. The world would simply snatch away what he put in their hearts. Read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.

Think of someone you know who has taken the gospel and turned it into a hundred times the initial blessing. That person had good soil, soil that was tended and nurtured by a gardener, so to speak. A mentor, a parent, a teacher, a shepherd, someone who helped them learn the teachings of Christ.

Now read the explanation of the sower’s parable: Matthew 13:18-23

How many of us live on rocky soil, or more likely, in the thorns? The world is overflowing with people who know about church, know about God, know about heaven, yet choose their earthly gods instead. The numbers just where we live are staggering. Some 87% choose to avoid church and pursue the world, even though we live in an area where the knowledge of church is a secret to less than 5%.

We worship our homes, our cars, our hobbies, our stuff… no wonder so many churches don’t want to teach discipling, because it’s hard to compete with all that and still grow your numbers. On the flipside, it’s easy to see why so many churches only focus on discipling at the expense of finding the lost sheep. The fear of what the world offers makes many focus too much on combating it in the hearts of those already in the church. The result seems to fall into two categories:

A church body of less than two hundred people whose faith is a mile wide and growing.

A church with faith an inch deep among a body of more than two hundred and growing.

Do you see the conundrum? Grow the numbers or grow their faith. I’ve heard from many, many people on church staffs across the country who are convinced you either can’t do both, or doing both is unnecessary and irrelevant.

Yet, Jesus did both, thought both were necessary and proved by his actions in a time when He was so unpopular he was put to death that both were extremely relevant to the world in which He lived.

It always boggles my mind how the viewpoint of evangelizing only could make sense to anyone. If all Jesus wanted us to do was go out and share the gospel, the bible would only need to be one page thick.

Read Matthew 28:16-20, otherwise known as the Great Commission

Many say that’s simply a command to spread the gospel everywhere. But, if you read verse 20, you’ll see it’s so much more. “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus commanded the disciples to do a whole lot more than spread the gospel. He taught them to follow his commands, to listen to his teaching, to learn how to be more like him.

Jesus knew we humans were too messed up with sin, too distracted with the world, too rooted in our rocky, thorn-ridden soil to simply just wake up one day and go out and share the gospel.

He knew his disciples had to be trained first, or else the mission (and Great Commission) would fail.

Think about the many possible careers these days. Could an average eighteen year old wake up one day and just go operate on people’s hearts successfully at the Mayo Clinic? Could a normal nineteen year old just walk into Apple and start writing code for the next iGadget? Could one simply decide to be the lead animator at Pixar one morning and make that happen with a simple spoken message?

No way.

It takes training, study and years of teaching to be able to do anything with great success and consistency.

Jesus knew this. He knew we needed to be prepared first, then sent out to evangelize. He knew one was irrelevant without the other.

Why don’t we?

Let’s return to Peter and see what he learned:

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

 

Please let this post greet you with love, and prompt your responses below with the same.

Posted in Be The Body, Encouragement, Evangelism, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, Men's Group, North Point Church, Serving Jesus, Soul Storming, time with God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Your Heart

(disclaimer: I know it’s been far too long since I posted on here and for those who were following this blog, my sincerest apologies. My work life has been nearly all-consuming since late 2012, so what little free time I have had has been given to my family. Thanks for understanding.)

“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”Matthew  22:15- 21

This morning I found myself with some free time and no family around, so I started watching a video from Palm Valley, our old church in Phoenix. It was a message Angie and I had watched live when it was recorded, but one that was very relevant to where our current church, Northpoint, is right now: entering a building campaign.

For a little more background info on this post, the topic of tithing and how many who call themselves Christ Followers actually tithe faithfully came up in our small group last week, and for those who know Angie and I, this is a hot button issue for us. Mainly, because it makes us so sad that so many friends, family and members of every church we’ve attended fail to get how important this really is.

While watching this message from Palm Valley, Pastor Greg said something that made two points in my mind click, and converge on the scripture at the beginning of this post.

Everyone pays taxes if they live in this country, even if it’s just sales tax. The money we use in our day to day lives is the property of the US Government, earned by us and spent by us, with various portions of it going back to the local and federal government. While I don’t think many enjoy it, it’s what’s required of US citizens.

“…give back to Caesar…”

Now, God gives us EVERYTHING we have, and commands us to give the first ten percent back. He doesn’t threaten to garnish our wages, or confiscate our property if we fail to comply, like the IRS does. No, he puts us on an honor system of sorts. He challenges us to test him on this, in Malachai 3:10, promising to meet our needs if we are obedient. But, like taxes, it is what’s required of us that follow Christ.

So, the US Government threatens to take what we have for not bringing money back to them, and we comply.

God, challenges us to test him by bringing it back to Him so he can pour out the blessings of heaven on us.

And, we ignore Him.

Anyone see what’s wrong with this picture?

Jesus commands us to give to the Government, what is the Government’s, and give to God what is God.

We do the first every day.

We ignore the second. Every day.

And, we all wonder why our communities, our states, our nation and our world is crumbling into depravity all around us.

We wonder why non-Christ followers think we’re all hypocrites.

Would you believe someone who raved about the company they worked for while they stole from it?  Would you respect a man or woman who told you to be faithful to your spouse while they cheated on theirs? Would you take financial advice from someone who was convicted of embezzling?

Following Christ is all about life change, not before you come to Him, but after. A life without Him is scary, which is why I believe so many cling to their wallet for security. But, once you’ve given your life back to the One who gave it to you, He holds you in His hand. He takes care of you and meets your needs.

Zach and Daddy_trainFor those who have children, think of how you meet their needs. Their piggy bank doesn’t. The gift card they got for Christmas doesn’t. You do. And you do it far more, and with far greater reward to your children than their meager piggy bank ever could. You don’t just buy them things, you love them, you comfort them, you heal their pains, you comfort their fears, you shelter their physical bodies, their minds and their souls.

The same is true of our Heavenly Father. He meets our needs; and does so in a way far greater than our bank accounts, investments, salaries or lines of credit ever could.

Please don’t let your closed wallet prevent your heart from opening to the blessing our Father has for you.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the local church), that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachai 3:10

 

 

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Seeing Orange

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Orange Tour with some wonderful folks from NorthPoint Church. While a lot of it was information I was already familiar with thanks to my friend and Kidmin rock star Cathy Harwick, the conference was rewarding and thought provoking.

For those who don’t know what Orange is, here’s a quick definition:

Red symbolizes the heart, located in the home.

Yellow symbolizes the light of Christ, beaming outward from the church.

When you combine the heart and the light, you get orange, a revolutionary movement to have Kidmin leaders partner with parents to help children build a mature faith in an environment of loving guidance.

I’ve been posting a few of the most memorable (to me) quotes from the Tour on Facebook, but thought it might be better to just compile them all here for everyone to read.

Quotes:

  • Most kids who leave the church do so because of weak, immature faith.

Think about this for a minute. Teenagers are leaving our churches in record numbers. Why? Because collectively we’re doing a terrible job of strengthening their faith in the finite amount of time we have with them.

  • Small Group leaders have about 40 hours per year with their kiddos to influence their faith, parents have about 3000.

Now imagine if all 3040 of those hours was used somehow, someway to model and teach them a rock solid faith in Christ? Imagine what that would do to the world around us? A world filled with all sorts of things that utterly fail to glorify God. In fact, the amount of things competing for our kiddos attention is an unending onslaught of unbiblical, anti-Christian thoughts, ideals and values.

  • For every one comment of encouragement we (and more importantly, our kiddos) receive, we take in seven bits of criticism every day. (Imagine if we could turn that one around?)

They followed this up with a really powerful statement:

  • The drops of encouragement throughout your day should outnumber the drops of criticism and judgment. If they don’t, the people in your life will suffer for it… and so will you.

And to add to that, most acutely, so will our kiddos. No child thrives if they’re criticized more than encouraged. There are no exceptions to that rule.

“Replenish others and you will be replenished.” – Proverbs 11:25

My favorite quote of the conference was this one, which I think needs no further commentary, so I’ll leave you with it today, and the hope it helps you encourage everyone in your life seven times more than you criticize or judge:

The best way for kids to know God’s love is to be loved by someone who loves God.

-Amen

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For Those Who Need Hope

That place inside you, you know, the place you don’t want anyone finding out about. The place where you hide the dirty things, the things you’re ashamed of, the things you wish never existed, the things you hope no one ever finds out about. The place you retreat to when you feel all alone, scared, helpless… hopeless…

You can invite God to that place. And when you do, He will come in and love you there, no matter what you’ve done, what you’ve experienced, what you’re hiding. Nothing you keep there is more powerful than God’s love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

http://www.exploregod.com/is-suffering-part-of-gods-plan-video

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