Serving

Spiritual Leadership

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

The God-life is a journey, and we’re all traveling it together. Everyone needs spiritual leadership along the way. Are you seasoned in your relationship with God? Be a spiritual father for those following behind you.

1. Discussion 

1 John 3:1 [NIV] “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

It’s God’s love as a Father that sets the example for us, and as the Holy Spirit changes us more and more into His image, we should live out that love as an example to those following us in this God-journey.

Q . Who in your life best exemplifies God’s love put into practice?

Q . What are some actions – visible in your life – that reflect God’s love to others? 

2. Challenge

2 Timothy 2:1-2 [NLT] “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”

Spiritual fathers are responsible for instructing and even disciplining, those who follow them along the way. It’s not just a job for pastors, it’s a job for every believer.

Q . Have you been through the NEXT discipleship process, either as a student or a mentor? If not, why not?

Q . What would our church look like if every mature believer invested in one person to mentor spiritually? How might that change the spiritual strength of Abundant Life?  How might that impact our community?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for the spiritual father(s) who helped you to the point where you are now in your relationship with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to connect you with people you can look up to, and with people who can learn from your example.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

The God-Father

1. Power Verse

Joshua 1:5 “For I will not leave you. . . I will not fail you or abandon you.”

What’s Up: “God The Father Will Never Fail!”

As a family, write down a list of things that the “perfect” father would be or do. Write everything down, even if you know that what your child suggests may not really be what a perfect father would do (for example, “A perfect father would give me everything I want”).

2. Discussion

Once the list is completed, go back through it and discuss each item. Ask your children if the item really is something a perfect father should do. Some of the things they include should definitely stay on the list, such “a perfect father will always provide for his children.” Some things, though, should be removed. 

Q. Why did you include these items?

Q. Is there such thing as a “perfect” father?

God, as our Father in Heaven, is all of the things a perfect father should be and even more. Earthly dads have limitations, but God doesn’t.

Read the following scriptures that describe some of the characteristics of our Heavenly Father.

Matthew 28:20 “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ announces the Lord. ‘I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.’”

Psalm 121:3-4 “He won’t let your foot slip. He who watches over you won’t get tired. In fact, he who watches over Israel won’t get tired or go to sleep.”

Psalm 24:1 “The earth belongs to the Lord. And so does everything in it. The world belongs to him. And so do all those who live in it.”

Job 42:2 “I know that you can do anything.  No one can keep you from doing what you plan to do.”

Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With people, this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.’”

3. Challenge

Even though earthly dads aren’t perfect and may sometimes fail us, God will always do what’s best and right for us, and He will never fail us.

4. Prayer Focus

Pray that God will surround your family with godly people who will reflect the characteristics of our Heavenly Father to your children.

Leading in Worship

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Worship changes you. Standing in God’s presence, singing together, hearing from the Holy Spirit… it should leave a lasting impact long after it’s over. How much it changes you, though, depends on how much you engage.

1. Discussion 

Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

The way you as a parent, grandparent or mentor engage in worship will help define the norms and expectations for future generations, whether you’re actively teaching it or not. Kids learn by example.

Q . What were worship services like when you were a child? How were they different from today? How were they the same?

Q . If you attended church with your parents, what do you remember about how they engaged in worship? What effect do you think their engagement had on how you experience God’s presence today?

2. Challenge

2 Corinthians 3:18  “Our faces then are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him.  This change in us brings us ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

God wants us to engage in worship with excitement and awe, soaking in every moment in His presence. When we do, it not only changes how we experience Him, but it sets an example for others to follow.

Q . How would you describe your feelings about worship at church? 

a. Can’t wait for it to start. 

b. Can’t wait for it to be over.

c. Could take it or leave it.

Q . If you worked to change your level of engagement, what effect would that have on the way you experience the Holy Spirit in church? How might it affect the people around you?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for giving you access to His presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to draw you into deeper levels of engagement in worship, so you and the people who follow your example can experience Him more fully.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Follow the Leader

1. Power Verse

Mark 10:43 “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.”

What’s Up: “I Will Lead Others To Jesus!”

This week, we conclude our series called, “Stand Out!” As Christians, it’s important that we stand out from the world and from culture. We must be different, and one of the greatest ways we can be different and stand out is by being a leader.

2. Discussion

Read: Acts 6:1-7  

“In those days the number of believers was growing. The Greek Jews complained about the non-Greek Jews. They said that the widows of the Greek Jews were not being taken care of. They weren’t getting their fair share of food each day.  So the 12 apostles gathered all the believers together. They said, ‘It wouldn’t be right for us to give up teaching God’s word. And we’d have to stop teaching to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven of your men. They must be known as men who are wise and full of the Holy Spirit. We will turn this important work over to them. Then we can give our attention to prayer and to teaching God’s word.’ This plan pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen. He was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas were chosen too. The group also chose Nicolas from Antioch. He had accepted the Jewish faith. The group brought them to the apostles. Then the apostles prayed and placed their hands on them. So God’s word spread. The number of believers in Jerusalem grew quickly. Also, a large number of priests began to obey Jesus’ teachings.”

Q. Why did they need help?  

Q. What did they do about their need?

Q. When the new leaders came to help with the food ministry, how did it affect the church?

3. Challenge

In this world, it’s easy for kids to see adults as leaders, but not actually see themselves as leaders. But kids CAN be leaders – and more importantly, Godly leaders! God has called all of us to be leaders in this world, leading others to Jesus.

Q. What are some ways you can be a leader at home? What are some ways you can be a leader at school?

Q. How can you lead others to Jesus? Godly leaders have a good reputation, practice self-control, seek peace rather than drama, and always follow Jesus’ commands. If we do those things, we can really STAND OUT for Jesus!

4. Prayer Focus

Ask your kids if they would like to commit to becoming a Godly leader. Pray that they will have a good reputation, practice self-control, always seek peace, and follow Jesus’ commands no matter what.

Heading Home

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Today is January 29th and currently it is early in the morning.  Our bags are packed and we are about to head over to the airport here in Panama for our return home.  This is the fourteenth time I have faced this departure morning and I feel once again the unsettling duality in my emotions.  There is a part of me that can’t wait to get home to my wife, children, and church family.  But there is also a very real sadness that always accompanies this departure.  I know that I speak for the whole team when I say that every year we leave a little more of our hearts here in Panama.

Every year we learn more about the people that God has blessed us to know here.  This year was a huge step in that direction for me as it was the first year that I could really communicate with many of them without the help of an interpreter.  I spent most of this past year studying Spanish at a nearby community college and practicing with Spanish speaking friends in my church and via Skype.  This ability to finally communicate has given me a much greater understanding of the Ngobo people as well as my Panamanian friends.  While that is a wonderful reality, that familiarity heightens my sadness at leaving them.

I have attempted through these Panama blogs to give you some sense of what it’s like to be here and the things that the team has been experiencing but there is so much that can’t be communicated.  There are Holy Spirit moments of connection and revelation that always accompany this trip for me that I just don’t have words to communicate them.  There are people and faces and places that have deeply affected who and what I am and every time we depart it’s hard.

Before I sound as if despair is overcoming me, which it can’t, there is also a deep sense of both gratitude and awe at God’s direction and guidance.  Last night, I was thinking about all of the intersections that God orchestrated to bring me to Panama.  From the first time I met Kenton Moody on a flight to Amsterdam, to my friendships with Kirk & Yvonne Jones and Julio Valdez, God has been steering me deeper and deeper into this work.  My life has been greatly enriched by these days every year here and already I’m making plans for next year’s trip.

In the meantime, there are an abundance of the unsaved in the river bend.  We have a goal of baptizing a thousand new converts this year at our two campuses!  There is more Spanish to learn, people to disciple, staff to develop, classes to teach, and buildings to build.  The 350 days or so until we come again will fly by and soon we’ll be on our way back.  Next year, I’m excited to bring my ten year old son for the first time so that this can start to get in his blood as well.

Until then…  Te amo Panama.  Voy a regresar en el tiempo de Dios.

Hey if I learned it, so can you!  Look it up.

Bendiciones

Love, to the Full Extent

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Today we are looking at John chapter 13 and one of the most powerful pictures of the heart and attitude of God.  This chapter opens with Jesus washing the disciples feet.  I love the way that the New International Version reads…

John 13:1 (NIV84)  It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

It’s that phrase at the end that always jumps out at me… “he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  What was it that Jesus did to demonstrate the extent of the love that he had for his disciples?  He washed their feet.  If it weren’t enough that the creator of everything came to earth in human form, lived a sinless life, and is preparing to die for our well-being; now he is stooping to wash the dirty feet of those who follow him.

Washing feet was a common practice in the time of Jesus.  When a guest came to a home, the master of the house would have the lowest of his servants wash the feet of the guest.  If there were several guests, then the servant would wash all of their feet.  It was a gesture of both welcome and honor but one that would not be done by the master of the house, but rather the lowest ranking servant.

I have no doubt that the irony here does not escape you.  Here is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings washing feet.  It is this reality that causes Peter to object.  Peter believes in Jesus.  He believes him to be the Messiah, the Savior of Israel and as such Peter does not want Jesus reduced to washing feet. All of these men who sit in a line watching Jesus kneel before the first of them and begin proceeding down the line have some sense of awkwardness as their teacher, their leader, their Lord begins to wash their dirty feet.  It must have been a very awkward and yet moving moment as they begin to see the Kingdom of God different than they thought it to be.

Now all of this is truly amazing to me.  However, there is another thing going on that is even more amazing.  Remember that phrase in the NIV,  “he showed them the full extent of his love?”  You may be tempted to think that Jesus washing their feet, in the servant’s role, sums that up but there’s something more.  Have you seen it yet?  There’s a truth here of such magnitude, which opens up a treasure of knowledge so rich that I suspect you could spend a whole lifetime examining it and never exhaust all that it would teach you.  Are you ready for it?

Ok, here we go.  You are sitting across the room watching this scene unfold.  Jesus has the men all sit on a bench.  His back is to you and the men are facing you.  Jesus is moving from the first to the last from left to right.  Someone in the twelve is first and someone is last.  Jesus washes the first ones feet and starts to move to the next one.  You glance down the line and examine the expressions on each of their faces.  Your eyes move from face to face.  Remember what you know that they do not….  Did you see it?

Somewhere in that line is Judas.

Jesus knows that he will be betrayed unto death by this man, and yet… he still washes his feet.

That’s the full extent of Jesus’ love for mankind.  While our sin made us vile, Jesus still loved us.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)  …but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus loves you and I enough that even when we are far from what God requires, his love still reaches to us.  Even in our betrayal of him, he still loves us.  Do you still think you can run away far enough from God that He won’t love you.  You can’t!  The extent of his love for you is just too great!

Blessings

Serving

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I was reading Romans chapter 1 this morning and I noticed what I believe to be an intentional progression in the titles that Paul refers to himself by.  Notice verse one of Romans chapter 1 where we read…

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.  Romans 1:1 ESV

Do you see it as I did?  Paul refers to himself first as a servant of Christ, then an apostle, and lastly a person who has been set apart for the gospel of God.

Often I reverse that order.  As I contemplate all of the aspects of being a Christian I must confess that the ones I appreciate the most are those that speak to my rights, privileges, inheritance, etc.…  I was once lost, but now I am found!  I was once blind, but now I see!  I was once an orphan, but now I am an heir of God and co-heir with Jesus!  I’m headed to heaven where I will rule and reign with Him!  Wow I love all of that!  It’s wonderful being set apart for the Gospel.  While I realize that this is certainly not the context that Paul had in mind when he said that he was set apart for the Gospel, it’s what I like thinking.

After being set apart I am a pastor!  I’m the guy!  I get to make the decisions!  My name is on the stationary!  People don’t call me by my first name because I’m the pastor!  People hang on every word that I say.  People buy CD’s of my sermons and read this blog!  Wow, I must be important!

After all of that has been covered and I have been sufficiently appreciated, recognized, and edified… I am a servant?

I hope you see the humor in the above statements.  However, it’s really not very funny is it?  Service should always come first.  Service is the predominate guiding principle of our Christianity and spirituality.  None of us have a greater right to boast than did Paul.  His education, experience, and reputation made him a truly great tool in God’s hands and yet he himself used servant as his first title.

Today I set as my goal to not be a better Pastor, but a better servant.  I think working at the first will take care of all the rest.

Blessings!