Purpose Driven Life Session 3 Questions

After a break to do another study centered on our church’s desire to serve others, my community group went back to reading “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren this week.  In Session Three we offered some challenging questions to supplement the reading.  I think these questions are worth all of our consideration as followers of Christ.  (The quotations are from the “Purpose Driven” book.)

 

1.      What do you think of when you hear the term “you were created to become like Christ”? 

2.      How does the statement “God’s ultimate Goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development” strike you?

3.      How do you interpret “abundant life”?  What does that mean in your life?

4.      If “God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do” are you better or worse off if the opposite is true?  Is your heart better than your actions? 

5.      What is the deepest desire of your heart in a spiritual sense?

6.      What are some markers of spiritual growth from your own life? 

7.      How much control of your life does God have?  What areas do you need most to yield to Him?

8.      How faithful are you at reading God’s Word? What keeps you from reading it more?

9.      “What has God already told you in his Word that you haven’t started doing yet?”

10.  “What is one dark area of your life that you can now look back upon and see spiritual growth?”

11.  Are you currently closer to the calm or closer to the storm?

12.  How do you resist temptation?

13.  Do you need someone to hold you accountable in an area of temptation? 

14.  Are you old enough to realize you can’t do it on your own and you won’t get there overnight?

15.  “In what area of my spiritual life do I need to be more patient and more persistent?”

Operation Serve Community Investment Links

Today some 800 people at Grace Community Church celebrated God’s love by sharing it with the community of Clarksville.  It’s wonderful to see people get the vision of Operation Serve each year.  It really is about sharing God’s love with others.  Nothing less.  Nothing more.  Lots of people will be sharing their stories over the next few weeks.  Here’s a few links to help you understand what God is up to.  

 

The Leaf Chronicle did an article. Read it HERE.

 

Buddy Bartels took some great pictures as usual.  See them HERE.

 

Nate, our 17 year old, did a great job of capturing the day.  Read his thoughts HERE.

 

Hope to hear your stories too! 

7 Ways to Make Your Prayers More Effective

There is a king in the Bible who when I have thought of or studied prayer, I have often come back to him. The king is a man named Hezekiah. Hezekiah ruled over Judah and he was a good king. He tried to honor God in everything he did and because of his faithfulness, God honored Hezekiah greatly.

Hezekiah became the target of warring nations. The king of a rival nation to God’s people, Assyria, decided he was going to try and take over Hezekiah’s kingdom. Yet throughout it all, Hezekiah consistently used the same battle plan. He went before the Lord in prayer and followed the Lord’s commands. Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This man knew how to pray and pray in a way that got results.

Some time ago, in a message at Grace Community Church we looked at one of the recorded prayers of Hezekiah to see what we can pull from it. To understand the prayer we should know that the Assyrian nation was stronger than Hezekiah’s nation. They would have easily been favored in a war. The Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against Hezekiah with his own people. It scared all Hezekiah’s people to death.

Hezekiah heard about it and went before the Lord. God assured Hezekiah everything would be ok, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up. They kept taunting and taunting, throwing threats towards Hezekiah. They sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah that basically said, “The Assyrians are tough and they are coming for you next.”

What do you do when you are backed into a corner about to face something bigger than your ability to handle? Well, Hezekiah received the letter with all the threats and began to pray.

Now find a Bible and read 2 Kings 19:14-19 (Or click on the passage to read it online.)

What can we learn from listening in as Hezekiah prayed?

First, Hezekiah got alone with God. There is corporate prayer like we do at church, and there is prayer where a few are gathered, but probably some of the most effective prayer time of your life will be the time you invest alone with God.

Second Hezekiah’s prayer was Immediate. It wasn’t an afterthought. It was prior to making his plans. We are so geared to react that it’s hard for us to go first to God. He may be second or third or when we get backed into a corner and have no choice, but as a habit we need to make God the first place we turn in our lives.

Third, Hezekiah’s prayer was Open and honest. Hezekiah was transparent before the Lord.  I love the imagery here in this prayer story of Hezekiah. He took the letter, went to the house of the Lord, and spread it out before Him. I get this visual image of Hezekiah, and this letter…laying it there on the table, and saying, “Okay, God, what now? What do I do next?”

Are you in a tough spot right now? You may just need to get you some note cards right down all the things you are struggling with….lay them out on a table…then say, “Okay God, here are my struggles…I can’t do anything about them. What now?”

Writing your prayer requests before God is a great idea for 2 reasons.

a. It helps you remember to pray for them.

b. It helps you to watch as God answers. We get more answers than we realize if we only ask.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Honoring, humble and respectful of who God is.  Hezekiah knew his place as king….and he knew God’s place in the Kingdom. Hezekiah was king of a nation and that is an important job, yet Hezekiah willingly humbled himself in prayer, because he knew his place before the King of kings.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Bold. He said, “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD…” Hezekiah had the kind of relationship with God where it wasn’t a surprise when Hezekiah showed up to pray. They talked frequently; probably throughout the day. Because of that relationship, Hezekiah didn’t wonder if God would be there when he came before Him. He knew he could ask God to act on his behalf.

The more you grow in your relationship with God, the bolder your prayers can become, because the more your heart will begin to line up with God’s heart.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Dependent. In verses 17-18 he prays, “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.” Hezekiah knew he was out of his league facing the Assyrians. From the way I see that Hezekiah responded to life, however, I don’t think it mattered the size of the battle Hezekiah was going to depend on God.

Finally, Hezekiah’s prayer was certain…Because it was based on his personal faith and trust in God.  In verse 19, Hezekiah prayed, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

Hezekiah had a faith in God that allowed him to pray with confidence. You need to understand that faith is always based on the promises of God. Some things God has promised to do…some He hasn’t. God has promised to always get glory for Himself and always work things for an ultimate good. He hasn’t promised to rid everyone of cancer or to heal every bad relationship.

(That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for everything. We don’t know His will, but we can’t guarantee God to do that which He hasn’t promised to do.) Sometimes we get upset because God doesn’t do something we asked or wanted Him to do but the fact is He had never promised to do it.

Hezekiah knew God had promised to save His people. He knew God had placed him in the position of authority over them. He had confidence that God would do what He had promised to do. Hezekiah trusted God to be faithful to His word so he was willing to act in faith.

What situations are you dealing with today that you know you are helpless to do on your own and you desperately desire God’s answer?

Get alone with God, spread your problems out before Him, honestly, humbly and boldly and dependently on God; and then allow His will to be done, as you wait for His response.


Happy Anniversary Grace Community Church

Happy Anniversary to

Grace Community Church

 

Today our church celebrates 3 years since the day we launched. You can learn more about the church HERE.  God has done some incredible things in each of us who were a part of this from the beginning.  We have purposefully attempted not to be motivated by numbers, but we cannot deny that God has allowed us to enjoy life with lots of people.  He’s attracted hundreds, really thousands, of people to the church and in the process we have truly had front row seats to some modern-day miracles. 

 

About a year ago I surveyed our staff and our original 11 core families and asked them what they felt were the reasons for our success.  Of course the obvious answer is God, but I wanted them to help us think through the things God has led us to do that has worked. 

 

They gave lots of answers, but there were some consistent themes that could easily be summarized into 5 main areas: 

 

Relevant

 

Authentic

 

Simple

 

Excellence

 

Relationship building

 

Happy Anniversary Grace!

How to Hear God’s Voice

Every believer wants to hear from God. We want to know “Is this God?” “Is this what He is telling me to do?”

We often listen for the grandiose voice of God and sometimes God speaks that way, but many times God is more subtle than that. Often God speaks through those quiet moments, through other people, and through life’s circumstances. In a crowded world of noise and life distractions sometimes it’s hard to understand what God is saying. How do we take the circumstance of life, as mixed up and confusing as they can be, and figure out what God could be saying to us?

Here are some guidelines to hearing God speak through the circumstances of life.

Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word. God will never contradict Himself. He will never speak to us through our circumstances in a way that will contradict His written word.

God uses people to confirm His voice. God often sends people into our path to confirm His will for our life. People who attempt to follow God with their life can help us to hear from God.

Recognize that God operates from a plan. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Rick Warren has sold millions of books telling us that we should live our life with a purpose…God’s purpose.

Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan. When trying to hear from God through the circumstances of life, we should not try to make a decision on one event or set of circumstances. Circumstances may or may not be God speaking to us. We should look at our life over a span of months or years. Jeremiah 29:11 indicates that God has a definite plan to proper us and give us hope. When we look at our life over time we will be able to see what God has been doing. When the circumstances of life consistently line up over time with God’s overall plan it is possible that God is trying to speak through those circumstances.

Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV) “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” The common sense thing to do when everyone opposes you would be to leave, but Paul knew the circumstances were not indicative of God’s will for his life. Sometimes our circumstances may look gloomy, but we haven’t heard the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God.

Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV) As followers of God we will spend our whole life trying to discern the will of God for our life; listening for His voice. If we desire to hear from God through our circumstances we must intently listen for the voice of God. Hearing from God is not always easy. When life is coming at us we cannot seem to understand what is going on, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for clarification. We should feel free to ask, “God what did you mean by that?”

Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes. We limit God to this finite world when we fail to remember He is an infinite God. When we are trying to discern God’s voice through the circumstances of life we should consider how what is happening around us fits into God’s eternal plan to save a lost world from destruction and to mold His children into the image of His Son. God’s primary activity will be in these areas of our life.

Hearing from God is critical for the children of God to know God’s will for our life. Our mission is to learn how to hear His voice. We must listen intently and carefully for His voice through the crowd of noises in the world in which we live. Thankfully God has not given up on us, but is still speaking to His people today.

Help for Hurting Pastors

I need to share my heart with you about a ministry God continues to bring to me. 

 

For a couple years I’ve owned the domain name hurtingpastors.org.  Right now it points to the online ministry I’ve had for years called Mustard Seed Ministry.   The decision to purchase this domain, however, was out of a desire to help those who struggle in the ministry; which from my experience is most of us at some point in our career.  Pastors and ministers struggle with burnout, temptations, finances, relationships, conflict, and often just from being in unhealthy church or ministry environments.  Sometimes their pain is mild, but many times the struggles are major and at risk is one of God’s servants.  The Kingdom suffers because the equippers of the saints are unhealthy.  I want to help. 

 

Pastors who are hurting may need financial advice, counseling, rest, accountability, career advice, wisdom, re-energizing and encouragement and sometimes even correction in a loving way.  When they receive guidance and strength they are able to better serve the Kingdom of God and God gets the glory. 

 

As with many of the ministries I have been involved with, when you have a passion for something or God places something on your heart, you tend to find opportunities to use the skills God has given you.   It seems like every week I run across another hurting pastor.  The time to act is now. 

 

Well, with the help of my good friend Tony Hill, who just happens to share my heart in this area of helping pastors, we’ve decided to take another look at this domain name. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be adding resources to the site and re-launch it.  If you have ideas or know of resources, please let me know.  You can comment here or email me at ron.edmondson@gmail.com. 

Encouragement to Stay Faithful Today

This morning on the radio we looked at Psalm 119.  I love the heart of the Psalmist. It seems from reading that he has had a taste of the goodness of God and of following His ways and he is vowing to never walk apart from a life of devotion to God again.   That’s the heart I seek.     

                                                    

Look at the words of the Psalmist and see his passion. 

 

Psalms 119:33-38

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.

Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.

 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;

preserve my life according to your word.  

Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.  

(NIV…emphasis mine)

 

Yet the Psalmist had apparently lived long enough to know himself.  He would make a vow, but then normalcy would set in again and, if not careful, he’d be right back to living to please himself again.  He dreaded that return to the mundane Christian experience.   

 

Continue to look at his words:

Verse 39-40

Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.

How I long for your precepts!  Preserve my life in your righteousness. (NIV….emphasis mine)

 

It reminds me of what happened to Jonah in the belly of a fish.  He cried out to God with a heavy realization of what truly is valuable in life:

 

Jonah 2:8

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  (NIV….emphasis mine)

 

God, help me today not to sacrifice your grace for the seemingly glamorous temporary pleasures and trappings of this world. 

Conviction Attained on Vacation (I’m Still a Work in Progress)

I like the fact that God still has me under construction and that I’m not afraid to learn.  That part of me was beneficial recently as God had a good lesson for me to learn about my true heart.

As you may have seen from other blog posts my wife and I spent a week in the Northwest and Canada.  We visited all the beautiful scenic places that most tourists do in that part of the world.  I had a somewhat convicting experience at a specific visit to Lake Moraine, Canada.  This is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I have been many places, but nothing captures God’s creation glory any more than this place. 

Of course, one thing that comes along with such scenic beauty is that it is well known for scenic beauty.  People from around the world come just to get a glimpse of what the place has to offer visually.  On the particular day we went to Lake Moraine there must have been thousands of tourists, cameras in hand, lined up for a chance to take home some of the beauty.  It seemed at the time that there were more Asian people proportionally than any other group of people. 

I hate to admit this, because it proves there is still shallowness in my heart, but an evil thought went through my mind while standing lakeside waiting for my wife’s photo opportunity time.  I thought to myself, “Why are all these foreigners taking up all this space when I’m trying to get a picture?”  That’s when my foolishness became apparent to me.  I realized that I, too, was a foreigner.  I’m not Canadian, yet I was taking full advantage of the benefits of the Canadian National Park system.  I was no different than the Asians who were there.  We were all visitors to a country that was not our own. 

That experience has hopefully taught me a valuable lesson about how I treat people who are “foreigners” in my own country.  I hope so at least. Do I see others as an inconvenience to me, depending on how “in the way” they are of my doing what I want to do?  Or do I see people as God sees them; as His creation, with equal access to the throne of God through His Son Jesus Christ? 

Okay, I’ve been convicted of prejudice inside of me.  If you are still reading at this point, now would be a good time to take the focus off my shortcomings and consider your own. 

Monday Morning Encouragment

The Psalmist David cried out, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” (Psalm 25:1-2) 

As you begin another work week, perhaps you, like me, would like to see God be God! Why not pray this prayer? “So, okay Lord, the rest is up to you. Do your thing! Make it happen! I’m counting on you. This is your week. Don’t let me down! May it be, (and I be), all you would have it/me to be!”

I don’t intend to sound irreverent, but isn’t that what we want? Don’t you agree that is basically what David was asking for in this Psalm? He wanted God to do His part as David did his. 

Think of it this way; we are to put our trust in God and God alone. We are to give Him priority in our life; above all else! We are to rely on Him and look to Him to supply all our needs. We are to abide in Him; literally allow Him to take up residence in our life, as we rest in His tender, loving care and He guides us through each day. He is to be the source of our strength and the desire of our heart. We are to let Him be the Lord of our life.

But, then, we want Him to respond to our commitment, don’t we? We want Him to protect us. We want Him to shelter us from those who would seek to do us harm. We want Him to heal our hurts and dry our tears. We want Him to grant us success, peace and joy. We want Him to keep us from the shame and persecution of our energies. We want God to be God; don’t we?

If that’s true then on this Monday, let’s actually do it.  Let’s let God be God! Let us wholeheartedly, unashamedly allow God to take over our activities, transform our hearts and minds into moldable instruments of His wonderful grace and glory. Let’s allow God to show off His best in us this week as we submit humbly to our Maker and wait on Him to supply all our needs!

(I know; that’s much easier to write than to do, but it’s my goal.  How about you?)

My Humbling Experience Today

Today I had a humbling experience. I’ve learned that humility is an art.  Pride is easier to attain than humility. Throughout God’s Word He tells us how much He hates pride. 

 

I have worked all week on my message for today, just like every week I’m up to speak. It wasn’t a difficult message.  We have been mirroring our children’s ministry all summer, so the passage was already laid out for me.  Today’s story was the resurrection; a message I’ve preached many times before. I could probably tell you most aspects of the story without my Bible in hand. The challenge is to bring freshness to a story most people think they already know.  I decided to go simple; realizing that because of the newness of our church that there are many who aren’t familiar with the story. 

 

I put together a scripted, verse-by-verse account from Luke 23.  Yesterday I did my final edit. What normally takes me 3 or 4 hours on Saturday to edit my Sunday message took only about an hour. I left frustrated with myself thinking it was a horrible message, but frankly I didn’t know what else to do with it at that point.  I went out to eat with friends last night complaining to the guy who is also in the ministry that I didn’t want to do this message. It just wasn’t that good.  I woke up at 4 AM this morning ready to scrap the whole thing and start over, because I didn’t feel it had anything to offer people.  I made a few changes, but really walked into church thinking this would be the worst message I’ve ever done at Grace. It’s still summer, I thought, maybe I wouldn’t scare too many people off and we could rebuild next week.  I even shed a few tears of frustration before I went on stage. 

 

Within five minutes of beginning today I knew I was no longer in control.  I’m not saying I had a great message; it may have still truly stunk, but I left knowing God used it in someone’s life today.  That’s a humbling, incredible, wonderful feeling.

 

It reminds me of a story told years ago about a young pastor fresh out of seminary who showed up to preach his first sermon at his first church.   He was so confident, but his message simply bombed and he knew it.  He walked off the stage deflated. A senior deacon in the church gave him some great advice, “If you had went up on stage the way you came down, you’d have come down the way you went up.” 

That’s a good principle for me to remember every week. 

 

Thanks God for allowing me to work for you and thank you for humbling me today!