LESSONS from the GREATS – Session 1 – JB Lightfoot

Image

JB Lightfoot (1828-1889)

Lightfoot was one of the greatest Biblical scholars of the 19th century. He wrote numerous commentaries, the most commonly known were on Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, and contributed greatly to the English Revised version of the New Testament (which was released to the English public in 1881). However, despite his dedicated and decorated studies of the Word, he was widely known to be a Godly man, teacher of pastors, and preacher with the burden for souls. He was passionate about impacting his community for Christ.

When ordaining his interns into full time ministry, after a year long courtship, he would quote this to them:

Forget me, forget the ordination service, forget the human questioner. Transport yourselves in thought from the initial to the final inquiry. The great day of inquisition, the supreme moment of revelation, is come. The chief Shepherd, the universal Bishop of souls is the questioner… The ‘Wilt thou’ of the ordination day is exchanged for the ‘hast thou’ of the judgment day. This is good counsel for all of us, but especially for those who serve as ministers and who want to hear our Master say, “Well Done”.

That line struck me: The ‘Wilt thou’ of the ordination day is exchanged for the ‘hast thou’ of the judgment day, and questions started running through my mind. How much time do I spend on matters that have no eternal significance? Am I compelled to change the community and world around me? Or am I content just to live out a routine life void of impact and influence for Christ?

Here’s a question worth considering: Would I be ok with having a successful life, full of pleasure (like cars, houses, successful career, large bank accounts etc) if I had no impact on my community for Christ? Seriously… think about that. Would you be content to live out a life full of earthly pleasure but void of eternal impact?

Personally I don’t want to stand before Almighty God and have nothing to show for my life’s work other than fun vacations, fancy houses, and a fast car. We are designed for a greater legacy than this.

I was challenged by Lightfoot’s life to pray and ask God to USE me in a greater capacity to change the world around me. I was asking God to make me uncomfortable with a comfortable life, and give me the revelation; that the message inside of me is powerful enough to change the world around me. Join me in praying these life-changing prayers.

Let’s become a people unsatisfied with a normal life. A people who, like B.F. Wescott (Lightfoot’s friend) put it, are able to “choose between the important and the routine… and do the important”.

Praying with you,

Ryan Bradley


Frustration

We have all been frustrated with God, right?  It seems like the wrong thing to say or the thing people don’t want to admit because He’s God.  However, if we are being honest we’ve all been there.  So I’m going to be honest with you guys, that’s where I’ve been these past few days.  That point where it’s just like, “God, I don’t understand” or “God, why is this happening?” or “God, you don’t answer my prayers” or “God, you always shut these doors and tell me no”.  This is a frustrating place to be and we all wonder why this happens and why do we feel like this?  I challenge you to first think about busy you are.

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted among the earth”. Psalm 46:10

So step one in curing frustration with God is….slow down.  Take some time and just be with God, worshiping Him, and listening to Him.

Then another problem may arise.  I’ve asked God, prayed to Him, and spent my time with him and nothing is happening for me.  So, I think I must not be one of the people he blesses or I believe He tells only me “no” over and over again even though I’m not asking for bad things.  Well, check out this scripture,

“You ask and you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:3

Okay so the actual thing you are asking for may not be bad but what about your motives for asking?  I know these two verses have once again opened my eyes and fallen hand in hand with my frustration this week. Sometimes we are going so fast and get so entangled in the things we are doing, we don’t even take time to think about what we are asking for.  Rather, we just ask, ask, ask.  Then, when we slow down and re-evaluate WHY we are asking, we may figure out why we haven’t received or better yet, we discover peace in the waiting.


Without the Presence its POINTLESS

In ministry we get so caught up in EVENT preparation that sometimes we miss a critical aspect of our calling – SPIRITUAL preparation. Countless hours are spent in meetings discussing volunteers, presentations, flow of segments, food, and all sorts of other good stuff while we cast the most vital element aside – calling on God to move in power.

The reality is that we could put on the best show, with the best elements and the only accomplishment we witness is the people leaving entertained. We should not be satisfied with this. The objective for our labor is for people to leave ETERNALLY CHANGED, not merely ENTERTAINED.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s vitally important to remove as many distractions from the time we spend together, however without the presence of the Holy Spirit, it’s pointless. We must begin, and persevere with the most important facet of every event – PRAYER & INTERCESSION.

Through these two practices we call on God to respond to our faithful labor by sending His Spirit to move among us, as well as asking God to do what only He can do – breathe life into the hearts of His children. This is SPIRITUAL WARFARE, and victory is only attained through SPIRITUAL DEVICES. We MUST PRAY and set the stage SPIRITUALLY for an awakening of the soul.

Solomon understood the importance of PRAYER and the PRESENCE of God when the temple of the Lord was completed in 2 Chronicles 6 & 7. The temple was adorned with the most lavish amenities; golden statues, precious stones, lavish sets, and a host of magnificent things. Yet when all was completed he paused and PRAYED for the presence of God to fill the place. He grasped the notion that all these visibly stunning sets were merely the PLATFORM for the presence of the God.

Let’s remain focussed on the PRIMARY OBJECTIVE before we become consumed with that which is SECONDARY. Work hard, make it beautiful, but prepare aggressively for SPIRITUAL WARFARE! Hearts and souls are on the line

For the Glory of God, and the Good of others!

Ryan Bradley


Lessons of Leadership

I have been a leader in Christian ministry for less than a year and in that short time I have learned a lot about leadership. There are four specific truths that have influenced my role as a leader and my life.

 

#1 Leaders are Bold and Courageous

 

Everyone is looking to do something great, but they often lack the courage to do so.  It is when an individual steps out to do something bold that others follow their lead. People are looking for someone to take the initial step. As leaders, we set the tempo and people are going to follow our lead. We need to be bold and confident in our decisions, even if we are uncertain of the outcome. As leaders we need to be that person for two reasons:

 

a) If we aren’t bold, no one is going to want to follow us.  Who wants to follow someone who doesn’t believe in what they doing? People are looking for someone to look up too and to believe in. If we as leader don’t even believe in what we are doing, what makes you think anyone else will?

 

b) If we are the tempo setters, then people are going to follow our tempo. For example, people who follow leaders who are bold and courageous will be bold and courageous themselves. The leaders courage will overflow into his followers and his followers will represent their leaders boldness. 

 

Quick thought: What would happen if we as Christians really represented the leader we have in Jesus Christ? Could you imagine what would happen? The Bible tells us:

 

Isaiah 43:1

“But now thus says the LORD;

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you. O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine””

 

Matthew 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

#2 Leaders Are Firm

 

Leaders are firm and are set in there standards – standards that are set by God. Leaders are firm in the direction that the Lord is leading them and do not compromise what the Lord has promised us eternally for what is momentary, no matter the cost.

 

2 Corinthians 4:18-“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

 

#3 Leaders Understand Humility And Serve

 

I have learned that as a leader that either you humble yourself or you will be humbled. As leaders, there is no escaping humility and if you are never experiencing the two (humbling yourself or being humbled) then you are most likely leading in an unhealthy way. We as leaders need to realize that we are at most servants, despite our position. We are first, servants to Christ and second, servants to the church. We are not looking to people to serve us, but opportunities for us to serve people.

 

Jesus (our example) who was the highest of Kings and most perfect of leaders left everything to serve us.  Jesus traded His perfection in heaven and born into sinful flesh to be beaten, crucified and endure our suffering, so that we could be saved (Phil 2:1-11). As leaders we serve and sacrifice for the people we are leading.

 

Mark 10:44-45-“and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be a slave to all. ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.’”

 

Acts 20:35-“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

 

#4 Leaders See Potential In Who They Are Leading

 

The goal of a leader is not to make much of Himself, but to make much of God through others. This is work that can only be done by God Himself. Leaders long to see the glory of God revealed in the church through equipping others to live out their calling. This is what brings God His greatest joy. We see this in 3 John 1:4:

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

 

As leaders, we long and pray for the people we are leading to experience Christ and to actively live out their faith! We need not draw people to us, but rather send out others to share the message that God has revealed in us. We pray that God would reveal the message of Jesus, which was revealed in us by God, in us to others, and so on through others! Look at 2 Corinthians 5:19-20:

 

“19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

 

We learn from this passage that:

 

  • God is revealing Himself through us!
  • God is making His appeal through us!
  • We ambassadors of the King of Kings!

 

It is important that we humble ourselves so that the Lord can work in us and through us!

 

James 4:6-“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

 

These are four truths that I hope help you all as leaders in your church, work places, schools, marriages, families, and every area of your life.

 

I want to give God the praise for Providence City Church. If it weren’t for God putting me in this church, blessing me with my leadership role with the youth, I would not be where I am today. Thank you PCC elders, staff and body for investing in me and believing in me. I am learning and growing in ways that are going to affect my life forever. I love you!

 

Love in Christ,

 

David Marino

 

 

 


Unopened Packages

I love getting packages.  My kids love packages too.  It’s so funny to watch them as they scramble to the door when something is delivered.  Of course, an argument then ensues about whose turn it is to open the mystery box on the front porch.

What makes this event so exciting?  Truthfully, most of the time you can look at the return address and know exactly what’s inside.  Yet, you see that box on the porch and this leaping begins in your thoughts and you find yourself feverishly looking for scissors or a box knife.  You open the package and there it lies, that special gift from a relative, items you’ve dreamt of having and were finally able to order, precious supplies for your homeschool or ministry, or maybe an amazing birthday gift you are giving to someone important in your life.  Whatever it is, from the moment it’s delivered, to the moment it’s open, to that final moment when it’s used or given as a gift, there is an elation that’s undeniable.

God’s Word is like that for me.  It didn’t used to be, but that’s because I wasn’t reading it regularly.  Once I picked it up for real and began to dig in and read it on a daily basis, there was this undeniable excitement.  I really can’t get enough of it.  I mean these are the very words inspired by God and spoken by Jesus.  It is a book that speaks life into the most desperate of situations.  It lays there on my coffee table like an unopened package and my heart leaps as I pull it into my lap and open it.  As I open it, and no matter how many times I do, there is something new to learn or some new encouragement that speaks to me deep in my soul.  That’s right, it speaks to me because it’s the LIVING WORD.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Isn’t that amazing?!  How beautiful the Word of God is!

My prayer for you is that you look at your Bible from this day forward as an unopened package, just waiting for you to open and receive the awesome gift inside of it.  May your heart leap with the turn of each page and the reading of each precious word.  You won’t be able to get enough…I promise!


IDOLS

Today I just want to take and few minutes and talk about idols. I am part of a ladies bible study right now and we are doing a study called “No Other Gods” by Kelly Minter. I am realizing I didn’t know as much as I thought about idols, I didn’t even realize I had them, but I do.

I, like a lot of people, thought of idols as something statue-like or something people worshiped. But, I have learned this week in biblical terms it is something other than God that we set our heart on, that motivates us, that masters and rules us, or that we trust, fear, or serve. We could rename an ‘idol’ a “false God” or a “functional God”’.

Wow, I don’t know how that impacted you but it was definitely a game changer for me. So an idol doesn’t actually have to start off as something bad, but when we let it take the place of God as our motivation, or fear it instead of God, it begins to function as our God. Functional God = IDOL.

 

So it turns out I have idols. They are most definitely things that I fear, things that motivate me instead of God. But how do I get rid of these things? I would like to share one more thing from my book with you:

‘I want to close today by encouraging you in this way; having freedom from our idols begins by recognizing our own powerlessness against them. Apart from the power of Christ, we are unable to extricate ourselves from their hold. This is good news if we can accept the truth of our own weakness while accepting the gift of His strength.  He will do it.  HE WIL DO IT.


Putting Faith into Action: Party at a Trailer Park

In Anything, author Jennie Allen says, “At some point, our faith and our words must become our actions and lives.”  I believe the Bible tells me what God wants me to do, but I often read passages and choose to ignore them.  God has been challenging me to act on His word through the couples’ city group my husband and I host and through the city group I teach for middle school girls.  I need to step out and put my faith into action.

A little before this, I had been reading other people’s stories about serving those in need.  They sounded awesome, but I had my excuses for why I couldn’t do what they did. Most revolved around my small children and my lack of “free time”.  So God started moving.  He showed me over and over “that faith without actions is dead” (James 2:14-17, paraphrased).  God wants people who follow him to serve those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).  When we do, it is like we are serving Him and we will be blessed for it. 

After months of hesitation and more months of it just not working out, we finally started delivering food one Saturday a month for The Common Place.  This is an organization in our county that, among other things, provides a week’s worth of food to needy families each month.  Their goal is for those delivering food to develop a relationship with those who are receiving the food.  Through these relationships the poor are helped and the word of God is spread. 

We were asked to deliver food to four families in a trailer park literally 5 minutes from our house.  (I drive past this trailer park every time I take my children to the pediatrician and I am sad to say I didn’t even know it was there until that first Saturday delivery in April.)  Every month since, on the third Saturday, we have headed out to deliver food to these four families.  We talk a little.  We look at their kittens and meet their extended families.  We talk about how big our baby girl is getting and how strong our boy is.  It was honestly pretty easy and felt like we were doing something to make a difference.  One hour, one Saturday a month. Check.  But God wanted to challenge me more

We often discuss having a party for our friends.  (Don’t worry if you weren’t invited; it hasn’t happened in years, but we still talk about it.)  So this fall we were talking about it again when God issued His next challenge by leading both my husband and I to Luke 14:13-14.  In the ESV it says, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  There it was, what God wanted us to do: Throw a party for the people of the trailer park, not just the four families we know but their neighbors. (It’s okay if it sounds crazy to you. I thought it was a crazy idea.)

We spent at least a month avoiding actually doing it, but we finally jumped in.  We planned a cookout lunch after our Saturday delivery in October.  We dragged our City Group in with us.  (There is a limit to what two people with two small children can pull off without help.  Plus they were willing to be crazy with us.)  Between all of us we put together quite a feast and brought corn hole to play.  We had a good time getting to know these “neighbors” of ours a little better.  We were able to provide some healthy food and some of Jesus’ love.  Nothing earth-shattering but the whole process changed me.  I now read God’s word expecting to hear Him tell me to do crazy things to glorify His name and I am more prepared to obey.  I can’t promise not to have doubts and fears but I am taking those to Him knowing that if He can pull off serving with small children and He can pull off a party in a trailer park, not to mention all the stories in the Bible, He can do anything.

What is God asking you to do?  What have you read in the Bible that could change your life if you obey? If you aren’t sure, start by praying about this one. “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?  Even pagans do that” (Matthew 5:47 NLT).  Your story won’t be the same as mine, but following God’s call is great.  You will be blessed.  And you will glorify God in the process.

What’s your story of stepping out in faith and following God’s word?

Oh, and if you aren’t part of a city group (or small group at your church), join one.  When you decide to do the “crazy” things that it says in God’s word, you’ll want some people to help you out.

 

- Julie Cowan

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.