What motivates you?  Does your devotional life propel your perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion, and grace? 

Are you daily admitting to the Lord that you are needy of His grace?  If so, how are you daily meditating on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Are you daily feeding on the restorative wisdom of His Word?

 Is your relationship with Christ more about responsibilities or love and worship? 
 Is your personal devotion rooted in humble, heart-deep confession?

Paul Tripp states:
 If you are in ministry and you are not reminding yourself again and again of the
now-ism of the gospel, that is, the right-here, right-now benefits of the
grace of Christ, you will be looking elsewhere to get what can only be found in
Jesus. If you are not feeding your soul on the realities of the presence,
promises, and provisions of Christ, you will ask the people, situations, and
things around you to be the messiah that they can never be. If you are not
attaching your identity to the unshakable love of your Savior, you will ask the
things in your life to be your Savior, and it will never happen. If you are not
requiring yourself to get your deepest sense of well-being vertically, you will
shop for it horizontally, and you will always come up empty. If you are not
resting in the one true gospel, preaching it to yourself over and over again,
you will look to another gospel to meet the needs of your unsettled
heart.

Is your ministry fueled by your own worship?

Is your ministry a privilege and a joy or a burden and a duty?


 
 
We serve whom we obey.

 Romans 6:16 (HCSB)
16  Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one
you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?
  • How am I consistently choosing to live as a  Christ-follower?

 
 
 
 
Christ is Risen!
The world below lies
desolate.

 Christ is Risen!
The spirits of evil are fallen.

 Christ is Risen!
The angels of God are rejoicing.

 Christ is Risen!
The tombs of the dead are
empty.

 Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are His forever and ever.

 - Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

 
 
In the cross we find a perfect reconciling of God’s blazing holiness, holy
justice, incomprehensible wisdom, omnipotent power and unfathomable
love.

Bob Kauflin
 
Reference: Worship Matters, Crossway Books, a division of Good News
Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org,
2008, p. 65.
 
 
Easter’s big “if”
  By Daniel Darling
Apr  16, 2014
 
What are we saying when we gather to worship on Easter Sunday? We are  actually saying something radical: that an itinerant rabbi who lived 2,000  years ago in a backwater town in the Middle East is actually God. But we’re
saying more than that.

 We’re not only saying that we believe Jesus was God, but that his life and  death and resurrection proved this. We’re saying that Jesus’ predictions of his future death and resurrection tell us that he was no ordinary
human. He was God in the flesh. 

We are not only upholding the apologetic of the resurrection, we’re not only  affirming that the historic Jesus did indeed rise again and was seen by 500 witnesses. We are saying that “if” this is true, then it changes everything about us, about the world and about what we think we know about God.

 We’re saying Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures, the  hope of Israel, the promised one who will not only satisfy God’s just punishment  of sin against humans. We’re saying that the fallen corrupted world, a world of
war and disease and famine and strife and murder and corruption will one  day be restored. We’re saying that the utopia we long for, the blessed,  beautiful world that we all want to see will one day happen.

 On Easter, we’re saying that “if” this is true, if Jesus was God, did suffer  the death for sin we should have suffered, if he indeed rose again, than death  is defeated, the invisible enemy was crushed and restoration is on the way.
Easter is a spring season: It reveals the first colorful shoots and seedlings  that point to a brighter day. It gives us hope that the world’s long winter  freeze has been lifted. Instinctively, we all long for a better world, we all  want things to change. We want personal renewal and corporate renewal.  But we all know that mankind, at his best, cannot bring this to pass. The 20th century marked the century of the most human progress. And yet, it was that century that arguably saw the most blood shed. So, by Easter, that’s what we are saying.

 Easter also says that creation itself--the world, the planet, the universe--will also one day be restored. The resurrection of Jesus Christ not only defeated death brought to mankind by sin, but it defeated the curse placed by sin on creation. Easter says that there is renewal around the corner. 

What we are saying at Easter is that there is a new Kingdom and a new king coming. We’re saying this new king is calling citizens of a new Kingdom, enlisting them in the immediate task of creating an alternate community, the Church, who is to be a window into the final Kingdom. These people, empowered by the king, live by a different set of values: the poor, the peacemakers, the virtuous, the humble, the forgiving, the courageous. But we’re saying more than this.

Easter says that God not only came to renew the earth, rescue humanity and reverse sin’s curse, but he came to offer personal salvation and access to God. By his life, death and resurrection, Jesus grants those who believe personal intimacy with God. Easter says that this access, citizenship in the new Kingdom, is not given because of merit or birth but by personal regeneration. Consider Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, the most religious man in Israel (John 3). Jesus said that this eminently religious and presumptively qualified man that despite his religious devotion and spiritual heritage, he too needed spiritual rebirth. He needed a new heart, a new allegiance, a new life. By putting his faith in Christ, Nicodemus and all who believe, become citizens of this new Kingdom.

 All of this is what Easter is saying. It is declaring the Bible’s beautiful  narrative: Life was once good and beautiful, how we all think it should be. It  tells us that man was created uniquely to image God. It tells us what happened to this beautiful world and to man himself. An enemy seduced humankind into rejecting the Creator. It tells us the consequences of sin: death, destruction,  evil–every imaginable horror. It tells us, though, that God already had a plan  to restore his creation and his people, through the death and resurrection of Christ. Easter tells us that the centuries-long desire for rescue-–the arc of the Old Testament–-was fulfilled in Jesus. It tells us that because of Easter, there is a better world coming.

 Easter is an invitation into this new world through faith in the king who died, was buried and then rose again.

 This, my friends, and not any other reason, is why we celebrate Easter. If this is true, it truly changes everything.

 
 
By Jessica Martinez, CP Reporter

April 15, 2014|7:59 am

About 800 to 1,000 Southern Baptist congregations cease to exist annually, largely due to a stagnant vision among the leadership and lack of impact within their communities, says a church planting director. However, church leaders say the closures are often the symptom of a greater problem.

"Churches are closing in large part because they have either become disconnected from culture and, or disconnected from Scripture. When this happens, life leaves the church," Joshua Hedger, director of Center for Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary, told The Christian Post.

Although the Baptist convention opened 1,300 new churches last year, Hedger says they are not gaining enough new ground and will rely on church planters to create a movement that will hopefully put an end to dying congregations. The church revitalization process usually involves new leadership taking over a declining church, who then implements a strategy on how to grow the congregation again.

"In some churches, a simple change in leadership and culture takes place," Hedger said. "Some fully shut down and allow a new church to take over their facilities, assets, and people. Others find themselves anywhere between those two extremes."

Dr. Rodney Harrison, a former revitalization pastor says part of the process is also addressing issues that the former leadership of a church did not deal with, such as "problems caused by members who embodied the works of the flesh."

"In these restarts, church discipline has always been a part of the revitalization process. The goal of discipline is restoration, however, since the process is painful, most churches in need of revitalization have not addressed the issue of members behaving badly," Harrison said.

He added, "The revitalization leader will generally need to focus on congregational health before engaging a coordinated outreach effort. Otherwise, the evangelistic efforts are akin to inviting someone who is spiritually in need to a church that is spiritually ill."

John Mark Clifton, pastor of a revitalized church in Kansas City, Mo., told CP that during the restoration process, churches also need to be open to having a younger individual with a fresh perspective lead them.

"In order for this to happen we will have to find ways to equip, empower and coach pastors to go to these churches and likewise these churches will have to be willing to accept a young man who will come with ideas and concepts that are perhaps different than theirs," Clifton said.

In 2012, the Southern Baptist Convention – considered to be the largest Protestant denomination in the country – counted less than 16 million members. It was the fifth year the denomination experienced a large decrease among its members. However, even with membership numbers declining each year, some church leaders object church revitalization, said Harrison.

"Although the material cost is often far less than planting a new church, the emotional and spiritual costs are high, for the aforementioned need for church discipline. For some, the threat of losing members to the rebirthed church is a concern. If a church has grown through transfer growth from the old church, it is understandable that members might return to their old church once health and vitality are restored," Harrison explained.

Clifton said the purpose of implementing a revitalization strategy is to give dying churches options that involve ministering to their communities and finding joy in serving once again.

"Each of these options will require the dying or declining church to change the way it sees itself and the way it conducts its ministry … as we do this, we can witness a real change in the trend of dying and declining churches in North America," Clifton said.

 
 
 
 
Why did this happen? Could I have prevented it? What will the outcome be? Do I have what it takes to make it through?

These questions are not wrong to ask. But it is wrong to have your heart captivated by them.

The problem with worry is that it forgets God.  It is God-forgetful.  God becomes small, weak, and nonexistent.  But is that true?  Is that what the Bible says?  Is God truly omniscient?  Is He Immanuel?   

1.   Why is this happening to me? I have no idea, but God does. And that realization should quiet all your fears.  This is not about you vs. suffering.  You are not alone! He has not abandoned you (Rom. 8)! 

2.   Could I have prevented it? Maybe or maybe not.  But that’s not the point.  God could have and He chose not to.  His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

3.   What will the outcome be? I am not sure, but God does.  Don’t focus on tomorrow, because today is full already (Matt. 6).

4.   Do I have what it takes to make it through? Of course not, but God wants to carry you.  He is your perfect burden bearer.  Don’t put it on your shoulders, but His. Run into His loving arms and find rest for your soul.

Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)
28  “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.
30  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Hebrews 4:16 (HCSB)
16  Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.

 
 
Good word as we seek to live life together for the glory of God: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/march/aged-out-of-church.html?paging=off