Archives For Ministry/Leadership

Pastors, how do we keep people close to Jesus when there are so many alternatives in the world? Some people try to build fences made of rules and standards that keep the “good” people in and the “bad” people out. The other option is to dig wells. What will you do?

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Here’s a parable I borrowed from Deb Hirsch,

(It takes place)…between a farmer and a Japanese tourist in the Australian outback. The tourist is taken aback with the sheer vastness of the outback and comments to the farmer that as far as he can see, he can’t see any fences. The tourist asks the farmer how he can possibly keep his sheep in without fences. The farmer replies that they don’t need to build fences, they just dig wells and the sheep don’t wander very far. (Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality)

There’s never been a greater need for followers of Jesus to dig wells with the true Gospel of Jesus.  It’s the only thing that will quench the thirst of the people in our city.

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. – Jesus (John 7:37)

…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. – Jesus (John 4:14)

The Gospel of Good Behavior

Pastor Jon —  August 13, 2014 — 1 Comment

In the last generation of Christians in America, on the heels of a time of great hunger and thirst for God, many churches, pastors, and leaders began to give people what I call the “gospel of good behavior”.

If you look back over the last 50 years, you’ll see this arc of messaging growing in popularity. The formula for success that many of these places began to ascribe to, was a focus on a “gospel” of how you need to behave, deriving prescriptive formulas for life like, “if you would behave this way, then your life would go well,” or “here’s three steps to thinking right, three steps to finding your purpose, four steps to having a good marriage, and five habits that’ll make you a happy person.” In general, the world began to watch as this “gospel of good behavior” began to take root. We found ourselves with big name spokesmen, and the Moral Majority, that began to gain popularity and platform to tell people that, you know, “We Christians believe there’s a right and a wrong, and if you don’t get on the right, you’re going to be left behind.”

“We Christians believe there’s a right and a wrong, and if you don’t get on the right, you’re going to be left behind.”

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And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the idols from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him – I Samuel 7:3

God is very interested in keeping his promises, and God is also very interested in the disposition of your heart.  When God made promises with the nation of Israel, He said, “You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  What God is saying to Israel is, “If you’ll do that – if you’ll put Me first in everything you do – if you’ll put Me first when you bring in crops, and you put Me first when your livestock multiplies.  If you’ll put Me first when you have children, if you’ll put Me first when you go to battle.”  God said, “If you put Me first in just the smallest ways – if you’ll put Me first in your life, I will multiply blessing upon blessing behind you, as long as I’m first.”

All throughout history, God has always called his people to make a decision about who’s going to be first in their life.  One of the problems that we find was happening in the nation of Israel is that they were in no way, shape, or form putting God first in their life.  What they did think was that they could put God in a box and take him out whenever they needed him to benefit their own agenda.  They began this pattern of thinking that, “Well, listen.  God’s in a box in the ark.  I’m gonna go do whatever I wanna do, and then when we need God, we can bring God in a box, and take God out of the box, and then God will do whatever we need Him to do.”  How many of you know you can’t keep God in a box?  We know we can’t do that, but I think maybe sometimes today we still try to put God in a box.

We probably would never articulate it that way.  And we may not even realize we are doing it, but how many of us have made decisions and choices to do life our way, and then when things crash and burn, we say, “God, where are you?”  Without making a conscious choice to do so, we seek to put God in this box of religious activities, then when we need Him to save us, we can pull Him out and ask for His help and blessing.

the Bible makes it really clear that there will always be competing desires in our heart.  The desire isn’t the issue; it’s what you decide to do that makes a difference.  Honor is a decision, not a desire.  A lot of people say that they want to do something, but they never do it.  A lot of people say they want to stop something, but they never stop it.  A lot of people say, “I wish,” but they never do.  The things you choose to honor are the things which will carry the most weight in your life.  The things you honor are the things in your life that you value, or consider important.  Choosing to love God first and highest in your life will inevitably demand that we make other things second.

You may find yourself at a crossroad, faced with a decision on any number of things; family, relationships, money. What you honor first demonstrates what you love the most. If you love God with all of our heart and soul and strength, it will be reflected by the choices that you make.

Bound Together by Faith

Pastor Jon —  February 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

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It is not the experience of Christian brotherhood, but solid and certain faith in brotherhood that holds us together. That God has acted and wants to act upon us all, this we see in faith as God’s greatest gift, this makes us glad and happy, but it also makes us ready to forego all such experiences when God at times does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not by experience.

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The History of His-Story

Pastor Jon —  January 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

Even before the Virgin Birth, Jesus was at the Center of God’s story.  The writer of Hebrews says:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1–2 (ESV)

At the church I get to pastor, there are many people who have recently come to faith in Jesus and don’t know the Bible stories that some of us grew up with.  On the other hand, a lot of us may have forgotten how all those Bible characters fit together… was it Moses on the ark…?  Understanding the heritage of the Christian faith helps us see the majesty of Jesus. Every story in the Old Testament is part of the picture that shows the world how desperate we need a savior, the Messiah – Jesus!

Here’s a little resource to help you put the pieces together.  Maybe it’s time to take another look at those books on the left hand side of the Bible and see Jesus at the Center.

Broad Biblical Timeline

If you missed it on The City, here you go!

Tozer Righteousness          Piper Hunger

As many of the Living Water family (and beyond) begin 7 Days of Prayer and Fasting today, I thought I would suggest a couple of resources that have encouraged me and hopefully will do the same for you. In addition to being great resources, they’re FREE! (Just click on the image and you will be directed to the PDF)

The first is “The Root of the Righteous” by AW Tozer.  Here is an excerpt:

The whole Bible and all the great saints of the past join to tell us the same thing. “Take nothing for granted,” they say to us. “Go back to the grass roots. Open your hearts and search the Scriptures. Bear your cross, follow your Lord and pay no heed to the passing religious vogue. The masses are always wrong. In every generation the number of the righteous is small. Be sure you are among them.”

The next is a resource from Pastor John Piper called, “A Hunger for God” specifically about fasting, I highly recommend it if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the purpose and value of fasting.  Here is an excerpt:

If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.

As we begin 7 Days of Prayer and Fasting my prayer for us is that of the Apostle Paul for the church in Colossae.

Colossians 1:9–14 (ESV)

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

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881px-Fasting_4-Fasting-a-glass-of-water-on-an-empty-plateFasting is a spiritual discipline that goes back thousands of years. Jesus fasted for 40 days before He was tempted by Satan and then began 3 years of powerful ministry that culminated in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven. Jesus expects that we will fast (Matthew 6:16) and those who do experience the richness that comes when we give something up to receive something better. This year I am inviting the Living Water family to join me in 7 Days of Prayer and Fasting to begin 2014.

Fasting is not just a physical discipline, more importantly it is a spiritual exercise. The story of Esau from Genesis 29 shows how he forfeited his birthright for a meal because he was hungry. The author of Hebrews warns against acting like Esau who was “unholy… who sold his birthright for a single meal. (Hebrews 12:16-17)” The lesson is that if our physical desires go unchecked, they will cause us to forfeit spiritual blessings.

Physics remind us that our trajectory will determine our destination. I believe that God wants to speak to you prophetically about His purpose and direction for you in 2014. Set the trajectory of your new year on Jesus so that you will find yourself in the middle of a promised future over the course of this year. This won’t happen by accident, now is the time to choose to make Jesus the center of the things that are important in your life.

At Living Water we will be fasting from Wednesday morning (January 8th) to Wednesday evening (January 15th). During those 7 days we will be praying for God to speak to us about specific issues and choosing to place Jesus at the center of everything in our lives. Here are some suggestions for this amazing time:

  1. In the days leading up to the beginning of the fast, begin to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about the specific areas you are going to pray about during the fast. Some suggestions might be; big decisions you have to make this year, financial priorities in 2014, your marriage or other significant relationships, cultivating a deeper walk with Jesus etc.
  2. Choose what you are going to fast. Fasting can consist of food or other things that we abstain from. The important thing to replace time in prayer, meditation, spiritual thought and conversation with whatever you are fasting from. There are some great resources online at www.livingwater.com/events/fasting.
  3. Pray for the rest of the church and leaders. One of the amazing benefits of fasting together is knowing that hundreds of other people from Living Water are joining together, praying for one another as we seek the Lord in 2014.

As we approach the culmination of a 5 year senior pastor transition at Living Water, it is no exaggeration to say that this is a monumental time in the life of your church. I hope that you sense the momentum that is building as we launch into this new season in the life of our church. I am confident that God has GOOD THINGS in store for you and me as we seek Him first. May God bless you as you choose to put Jesus in the center of every part of your life!

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Prayer and Practice

Pastor Jon —  October 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

So many of us want to advocate for change in our world. Over the weekend, we spoke about prayer as your most precious resource in this area. Never forget that every situation you encounter here on earth has a spiritual component. When you encounter a circumstance that you perceive to need a change, or when you feel embroiled in a battle for what you believe is right, remember God’s word to you (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh” and that your “weapons” when facing contentious situations are “not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Did you catch that? You have some DIVINE power available to you through the power of your prayers. That the God of our universe would equip and empower you with all that you need for the battles you face; that is no small thing. Look to the verses in Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 10-19, to know the “arsenal” of Heavenly resources with which to equip yourself to do the good you want to see in the world. Being, fully armed with all those things available to you, consider the people, policies and practices around you, and go be a wise and loving advocate for the things and people you value.