Sunday, November 30, 2008

Breaking Out - Leadership, by Lon Alderman

Acts 10:27-29
Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection...

Peter took the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. This act, which defied Jewish law, breached the "siege-wall" surrounding the Hebrews. Previously, the early Christ-followers held the Gospel of Jesus within the Jewish community. Peter went where no Jew had gone. He took the message of Christ outside the faith community. He led!

Acts 13:46-47
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
" 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'"

The breach in the siege-wall created by Peter's leadership became a pathway for Paul. Paul stepped through the breach and took the message of Christ to the Gentiles with tremendous zeal. Paul led, too!

Breaking out of the self-siege requires sustained, courageous, and zealous leadership.

Break out!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give Thanks!, by Rachel Smith

1Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Our music minister gave our youngest son a wonderful gift this Sunday. We have been in the market for a student size guitar and out of the blue, he gave one to our son. While this is an answer to prayer in helping us give our child something he wants in such tight economic times, it was also a lesson in thanks.

Upon hearing the news of the gift, our child literally leapt in the air. His face lit up. He ran to tell his brother. He could not believe his good fortune and wanted to share the news. He was excited and I was happy for him. He then ran for the sanctuary to thank the one who gave him this present. He had to. He just couldn't keep his feet still. He couldn't find the young man at first and started asking everyone, anyone, until he was directed to his benefactor.

This week, as we reflect on Thanksgiving and on the gift-giving season, I hope we all leap for joy, share the good news and run to the one that gives us all good things praising Him for all.

Thanks be to Jesus!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Breaking Out - Vision, by Lon Alderman

Acts 10:9-16
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Peter receives a vision reversing previously held rules regarding what Jews could eat. God made it clear that what was once seen as unclean is now to be regarded as clean. Next, the Lord provides Peter the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus with a bunch of Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews). Peter's vision encourages him to step out into this new territory, that is, to go to the home of a Gentile (which was illegal for Jews).

I was told this morning that the pastor of a church in my state spent years preaching about the vision of the church once every month. The result was that everyone even loosely affiliated with that church knew the purpose and hoped for future of it. I'm confident that it is not a coincidence that that church today is the fastest growing church in its denomination in our region!

Who are we? What do we do? Where are we going? How do we get there? The answers to these questions must be answered regularly and communicated clearly. If the church doesn't answer these questions, then there is confusion of purpose! Without a clear purpose, churches default to trying to keep the church exactly as it is, which leads to siege!

A clear and shared vision is required to break out of a siege.

Seek the Lord!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Breaking Out - Defiance, by Lon Alderman

Acts 10:9-16
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Even the early apostles faced a siege of their own making! They believed that the only people "clean" enough to hear the Gospel of Jesus were those already in the Jewish faith. God expands Peter's understanding through this vision of clean and unclean food. [I'll try to come back the role of "vision" in breaking out.]

Immediately thereafter, God presents Peter with a perfect opportunity to break out of the siege.

Acts 10:19-20

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."

Peter went with them. Peter went where he wasn't supposed to go! Peter went to the house of someone outside the faith! Peter defied Jewish law. Peter broke out!

Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Peter defied the rules that maintained the siege. The Holy Spirit moved. And, the siege was broken.

What's maintaining your siege?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oswald Chambers on Siege

I read from Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest", almost every day. I couldn't help but notice the "siege" theme in what I read this morning. Instead of relating it to you, I've decided to simply share it. Surrender!

. . . fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ . . . —1 Thessalonians 3:2

After sanctification, it is difficult to state what your purpose in life is, because God has moved you into His purpose through the Holy Spirit. He is using you now for His purposes throughout the world as He used His Son for the purpose of our salvation. If you seek great things for yourself, thinking, "God has called me for this and for that," you barricade God from using you. As long as you maintain your own personal interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely aligned or identified with God’s interests. This can only be accomplished by giving up all of your personal plans once and for all, and by allowing God to take you directly into His purpose for the world. Your understanding of your ways must also be surrendered, because they are now the ways of the Lord.

I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. I should never say, "Lord, this causes me such heartache." To talk that way makes me a stumbling block. When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. Doing this creates for me my own cozy "world within the world," and God will not be allowed to move me from it because of my fear of being "frost-bitten."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breaking the Siege, by Lon Alderman

Pheaney commented on yesterday's post:
Let's say hypothetically we see the self-siege happening to our church. How do we change it?

First, if I had the answer to this question, I would be a VERY popular guy! The problem is complicated and somewhat peculiar to the individual church; however, I believe that there is a general principle that may apply in every case. It is the application of the principle that would take on unique characteristics.

Mark 8:34-35
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Letting go or surrendering our life to Christ is the way that we gain real life, eternal life. Is it possible that for a church to "save [its] life" it must "lose" or surrender its "life"? In other words, what if the church would put its very "life" on the line; risk every gift?

I know of a church that determined to save the money that had been given them. They said someday a rainy day will come and then we'll need this money to survive, so they "buried it". In the current year those "safe investments" lost over $250,000! Think of the ministry that could have been "risked". Think of the money that could have been "thrown away" on feeding or clothing the poor.

The "gifts" a church may possess might not always be money. However, if the church is still open then I'm confident there are gifts there. Every church needs to take those gifts and completely surrender them to Jesus and see how He directs. I'm confident that the directions in which Jesus guides us to invest our gifts will be contrary to the ways, or patterns, of the world (Romans 12:2)!

William Barclay
If a man has a talent and exercises it, he is progressively able to do more with it. But, if he has a talent and fails to exercise it, he will inevitably lose it. If we have some proficiency at a game or an art, if we have some gift for doing something, the more we exercise that proficiency and that gift, the harder the work and the bigger the task we will be able to tackle. Whereas, if we fail to use it, we lose it. That is equally true of playing golf or playing the piano, or singing songs or writing sermons, of carving wood or thinking out ideas. It is the lesson of life that the only way to keep a gift is to use it in the service of God and in the service of our fellow-men.

Break the siege!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Self-Siege, by Lon Alderman

Matthew 25:18
But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

William Barclay wrote, "the useless servant buried his talent in the ground, in order that he might hand it back to his master exactly as it was. The whole aim of the Scribes and Pharisees was to keep the Law exactly as it was. In their own phrase, they sought 'to build a fence around the Law.'”

Back in the days of knights and fiefdoms attackers would often "lay siege" to an enemy's castle. A siege is "a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling the surrender of those inside". By cutting off the flow of supplies, the enemy would starve out those in the castle.

I have spent a lot of time around churches that are in the process of dying. One sad fact is that many don't realize that they are in the process. They perceive their sacred duty as keeping the church alive by keeping it just like it was. As time moves forward and the world around the church changes, the very fence they construct to preserve the church becomes in essence a siege wall. Eventually, those in the church are starved out.

Jesus teaches us to take risks with the "talents" that He's given to us! After all, religion is nothing without a little adventure!

Have a great adventure!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pastor Appreciation, by Lon Alderman

1Thessalonians 5:12-13 (The Message)
And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!

October was “Clergy Appreciation Month”! This is the time of year that we are reminded to pray for and appreciate our pastors.

Frankly, I don't know why we have to set aside a time for something we should do every day! It's the same with Mother's Day, Secretaries Day, and Veterans Day. We should appreciate mothers, secretaries, and veterans every day!

My passion is the encouragement and equipment of church leaders. Church leadership is challenging and regularly thankless.

If you really want to “overwhelm [your pastor] with appreciation and love”, try some of these:
• Provide a meal for your pastor and the pastor’s family
• Put together a work crew to winterize the pastor’s yard
• Send your pastor a note of encouragement
• Volunteer to assist your pastor with a project around the church
• Commit to praying for your pastor
• Send the pastor and his family on a week-long vacation

How do you encourage your pastor? Send me your good ideas at: or comment on this blog!

Overwhelm your church leaders this week!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Work, by Lon Alderman

Hebrew 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

This passage has challenged me deeply over the years! After all, I've worked for some very, how should I say it, interesting bosses. Scripture teaches submission. Man, that can be a tough lesson!

Christ submitted to the authorities. His submission, even to death, allowed the turning point for all humankind to happen. His submission led to the cross and to our salvation! Christ's submission had purpose!

In Matthew 16:24, we are called to "pick up [our] cross and follow [Him]". There is a purpose in God's decision to place us where we find ourselves. Our responsibility is to submit and allow God's purposes to be fulfilled.

Bring your boss some joy!

The Rich Life, by Lon Alderman

Luke 11:15-21
Then [Jesus] said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

The world screams at us to store up our treasures so we can live a life of leisure later in life. We place our hope of the rich life upon those retirement years. To make this happen, we expend every ounce of our life working. Sadly, how often do we hear of people that don't live to see their retirement? What then has all their effort gained them?

Jesus suggests an alternative. He teaches that we should be "rich toward God", instead of "stor[-ing] up things for himself". Living a life rich in God gives us the real rich life! We don't have to wait for retirement to enjoy His rich life. We can have this real rich life now!

Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Invest your life in a rich life found in Jesus Christ!

Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.