Friday, January 28, 2011


 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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.”  - Matthew 28:16-20 NIV. 

I was reading the Great Commission again tonight and noticed something I had never seen before.  While I had read the Great Commission many times before, I had not recognized the significance of two verses.  Verses 16 and 17 are ones we don't include a lot in the Great Commission, but they are critical to understanding the nature and atmosphere of Jesus' instructions of the Great Commission.  In verse 16, the disciples (only 11 since Judas was dead) obeyed Christ's command to go to Galilee to the mountain he told them to go to.  Now, when they saw Him after His resurrection (verse 17) THEY WORSHIPED HIM!  It says some doubted, but look at the significance of this - the church was commissioned to make disciples in the middle of a worship service!  In the midst of the disciples hearts of worship Jesus proceeded with His plans of commissioning the church to make disciples.  Doubt was present, but it didn't disqualify them.  They worshiped in the middle of their doubt (what a message to us).  Soon, the disciples would soon receive power (Acts 1:8) to be witnesses, but now was the time of their commissioning. 

While the Gospel is central to everything, presenting it was not the first step to building the first church. Yes, Peter preached the words to repent and 3,000 souls were saved, baptized, and added that day.  But before that happened, the worship by the disciples created an atmosphere where God could send His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  This power was given to be witnesses.  Worshiping Jesus before Peter even preached (Acts 2) ushered in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The church as it was (a few disciples) grew closer to God ( in worship), presented the word (evangelism), and then it grew (saved, baptized, and added).  Did you see the pattern?  Few-worship-evangelize-many.  We wonder why sometimes our outreach is stale and evangelism efforts are lacking.  Where is the worship that prepares the way? If you don't worship Him in private, you won't profess Him in public!  If your countenance, attitude, and character do not reflect Him in the secret, don't be surprised when they don't produce results in public!  You can't work up what He is not working in.  It is not enough to sit under the word in public - you have to be IN the word in private!

We forget all too soon what worship is really all about.  God's glory!  We get so technical sometimes.  Now, don't get me wrong - we should plan, prepare, study, practice, etc. so we create a worship service pleasing to the Lord.  We should put in blood, sweat, and tears to create the best worship environment possible for those we are leading.  We should take leading seriously, not loosely.  God works in order, not chaos.  We should give Him our best during our service preparation.  But if it turns into mere mechanics and methods, we have lost focus.  We can get so strategic that we worship ONLY so our local church will grow. Yes, our church must grow in worship, but worship, foremost, is meant for His pleasure, not for just the pleasure of those in the congregation.  Yes, some in the congregation may or may not like the style, song selection, or service order.  But have we stopped to consider, "How does this sound to You, Oh Lord?  Master, are you pleased with my heart and actions?  Is this pleasing to You?"   Here's another example.  We sometimes worship the perfect transition, getting a bigger rush when it goes smooth rather than getting excited that God is honored.  Another thing we do is "worship" the emotions and reactions of those in the congregation more than the thought of Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father because He is pleased with our worship.  We forget the main thing - He is worthy and desires our worship. Worship expresses worthship.  What our focus, attention, and resources are directed towards is what we worship. 

Worship happens before we ever pick up an instrument.  It doesn't even begin with the voice - it begins with the heart.  It begins in the Word.  We don't read the Word - it reads us!  We don't worship Him for our benefit, that is selfishness.  We worship Him first for His benefit, that is sacrifice!  We do what makes Him happy, not what makes us happy.  When you strip away everything - lights, video, just about anything powered by electricity, buildings, ambiance, technique, transition, musicality, atmosphere, environment, style, preference, etc. and all you have left is your spirit and soul, naked before the Lord - worship is in its purest form.  How wonderful it is to embellish and accentuate worship with all the things I just listed.  We should try and incorporate as many things and senses possible in the worship experience.  But you can have all of those and not worship.  It is in the secret place where worship takes place.  Behind closed doors, the heart of the worshipper and the Lord must unite.  We should be romancing Him, surrendering our will and desire to His.  The Bride of Christ must become so intimate with Christ that she is ready to receive her Lover uninhibited, becoming vulnerable and open in a passionate expression of devotion so that He, in turn, can impart to her the power of the Holy Spirit to be the church and bear witness of His glory.  Here, is where the two become one.  Here is where Bride and Groom consummate the holy union of marriage - in worship. It is here where He and we are most satisfied.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Courage of Daniel

Daniel was a man of great courage. In Daniel 1-6 we read about Daniel's courage to stand up to three tyrant Kings - King Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s son), and King Darius. For the first two, Daniel interpreted dreams and told them of their future downfall because they did not follow God. When it came to King Darius, Daniel would not obey commands to stop praying to God.  Daniel was thrown into the lions den. Here is something that may surprise you - Daniel's courage didn't come in the lion's den. It came before the lion's den.

When we think of Daniel, we think of how courageous he was while in the lion's den. Every illustration I've ever seen drawn is of Daniel in the middle of the lion's den.  I've never seen an illustration of Daniel standing before the kings. Why?  Spending the night with the ferocious lions and coming out unharmed sounds more courageous. 

But here is the strange thing - the Bible gives no insight to his night in the lion's den. It just says he came out unharmed. What the Bible does give us is over 150 verses before the lion's den about how courageous Daniel was. He told mighty kings that they would fall because of not following the true God.  He stood up in the face of evil men and proclaimed God.  He could care less of being promoted by the kings (even though this happened). His courage was developed and displayed before kings and a nation.  Big deal if his courage was displayed before animals. What kind of testimony is that? Who were the animals going to tell? Now, I'm not belittling Daniel's courage during this time or the scriptures.  I'm simply saying that if he had not displayed courage and faith in God before men, he would have never lasted the lion's den.  God didn't see fit to explain the night of the lion's den in great detail. Scripture doesn't give the play-by-play of what happened that night. What God did see fit to explain was what Daniel did that led up to the lion's den. God's word tells us of the courage Daniel had before men. These men, in turn, told of Daniel's devotion and love for the Lord. These kings saw God's mighty power displayed and knew He alone was Lord. The lions told no one (well, I'm sure the men that accused Daniel of wrong who were thrown into the same lion's den were trying to explain their way out of their situation to the lions - oh wait, the Bible says that when they were thrown into the lion's den they were devoured before they hit the ground. Guess the lions didn't hear it from them.)

It is kind of like this. What if I didn't have courage to stand up for the Lord and serve Him before men for years? Then, one day, I survived a ferocious lion's den.  All that would be good for is a TV spot on "When animals didn't attack" and an impressive story to tell your grand kids.  But that didn't demonstrate Godly courage and faith. Godly courage and faith are demonstrated and lived out among men - especially those in opposition to the Lord. Daniel lived wholeheartedly for the Lord and wasn't afraid of the Kings or what they could do to him.  Daniel told the kings about their near end and how God would never end.  He prayed and sought God at all times. He was in holy awe and reverential fear of God, not man. The point of the story is not the lion's den - it is Daniel's devotion the Lord in how he courageously lived out his faith!

Most of us would like, in theory, a lion's den experience. Now that would show everyone how courageous and devoted to God we are. Right? That would show the world our faith in God.  But here is my question? What are you doing with the days leading up to the lion's den? What if the lion's den experience never comes for you? Here is what is guaranteed:  the many opportunities to stand courageously for the Lord before men. Those opportunities occur over a lifetime. The lion's den was one night. 

How are you living out your faith day-to-day? Are you courageous before men? Are you telling the truth of God's word and sharing your faith in Him in the presence of real men who desperately need Him?  Or, are you deceived, waiting for the lion's den that may never come?  And, if it does, you won't stand up for Him surrounded by "lions" because your lifestyle didn't demonstrate it prior to being thrown into the lion's den.
Live your life daily in courage and faith for the Lord. Stand up to those who oppose Him. Trust in Him to protect you.  Speak His word with boldness.  Then, when the lion's den comes, you'll not be afraid.  If God was with you many times before, He'll be with you in the lion's den.  Daniel's courage came in the 150+ verses before the lion's den. Our courage comes the same way.  Have the courage of Daniel. The Bible says, "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion." - Proverbs 28:1.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grace To and With You

My pastor asked us last week in staff meeting how we are enjoying the grace of God.  Great question - tough to answer in a few words though.  I started studying "grace" in scripture and found something very interesting.  Paul began most of his letters with the words, "grace be to you" and he ends his letters with "grace be with you" (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Corinthians...) Why the difference in wording?  Isn't grace "to" us and "with" us the same thing?

I believe that when Paul is beginning his letters he is acting as a vessel to flow God's grace into the reader's lives. Grace is coming from God, through Paul, to the reader - us.  When he finishes his letters the grace has been imparted to us and now must be with us as we put our bibles down and go on about our daily lives.  One way we enjoy the grace of God is in how it is given to us when we read or hear the Word.  We extend the grace that is now with us to others.  They, in turn, should do the same.  The grace "to" and "with" should be a continual process.  We cannot just hear the Word and discard the grace that was imparted.  It should empower and ignite our souls, spurring us to actions of grace extended toward those around us.  It must remain in us - with us- working through us. 

God's grace is not just something we know but also experience!  Grace isn't just a topic in scripture to be studied.  It is a bountiful treasure - a fountain of pleasure.  Sure, our spiritual lives were initiated when grace was granted to us, but our lives and calling are sustained and energized by the continual filling of grace within us!  Apart from the on-going, life-giving, soul-satisfying, sin-destroying grace present within us, we cannot live a triumphant Christian life.  We need not only the grace of God imparted to us through His Word, but also the Grace of God extended with us throughout our daily lives.  Grace be to and with you always!

No Longer Slaves Of Sin

Let me rant for a second about sin and the Believer:

I sometimes wonder how someone who calls himself a devout follower of Jesus can knowingly, willingly, and seemingly pleasurably continue in sinful actions.  I understand the hooks of sin and the snares of Satan, but I know the redemptive nature of the Lord even more "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).  The Good News of Christ is that we can be delivered from the grip and power of sin (1 John 1:7).   It was the Apostle Paul, who said, "I will not be brought under the power of any" (I Corinthians 6:12). The NIV renders it, "I will not be mastered by anything."  Sin is not our master - Jesus is!  How can one say that Christ's cross has fully redeemed them from the bondage and yoke of sin and simultaneously hold on to sinful lusts and wicked ways?  How can one love Christ and sin at the same time?  How can we not settle any bitterness, offense, immorality, etc. if we truly believe and adhere to the supernatural power of Christ's redemptive work on the cross?  We desire to be pure, clean, and refreshed by the Spirit.  Intimacy with Christ is cherished and anticipated.  The separation that sin creates grieves us and our pursuit for oneness again with the Lord motivates us towards repentance and restoration.  We who are in Christ desire freedom from sin.  We can have it!  After all, 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it".  We walk in the Spirit so we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

One thing is for certain though about sin: the longer you continue in it, the greater the chance of it hardening your heart. Hebrews 3:12-13 says that we should, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."   Ezekiel 36:26 says God grants us a heart of flesh instead of stone when we are saved. Those who are saved should be running away from sin instead of towards it. We should be embracing the ways of the Lord instead of embracing the ways of the flesh.

I think about those who at one time trembled in awe and holy fear when they heard God's Word. When Scripture was read or preached, they melted under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They lived a life that begged God to search and know them. They were quick to repent and confess sin. Every sermon, they believed, was directed at them. Every scripture was a bulls-eye at their heart and motives.  They were once people who listened patiently and intently to the Spirit. These people now play around with sin like a mad-man playing Russian roulette. They toy with sin like it cannot harm them and even when it does they are momentarily saddened but not eternally convicted. Soon, even the sadness subsides and they are numb to the Spirit's conviction and prompting to repent. What happened? They now sit through sermons and the reading of Scripture untouched, unmoved, and unrepentant.

They have lost the holy awe and Godly fear they once possessed.  Sin has hardened their hearts.  If they had Godly fear, it would quickly reveal that their heart is slowly growing hard.  They presumptively set boundaries for their pet sin, affirming they wouldn't let it take them beyond certain limits.  They attempt to tame the beast. They put a collar and leash on the monster foolishly attempting to choke it under control.  The truth is they have only enslaved themselves and have come even closer to searing their conscience. They die spiritually more and more each day.  If only they would humble themselves, repent, and return to their First Love.

They have embraced contentment and complacency. Conviction of the Spirit is a sign of salvation. Complacency and contentment with their sin marks their unregenerate soul.  When a true Christian sins, it makes them miserable until they confess and repent.  The vile poison within must be vomited out.  Someone who says they are saved while willing participating in sin and refusing the Spirit's conviction should wonder if they are in the faith. Why don't they forsake sin instead of the Lord? Galatians 6:1 says they should not continue in sin to gain grace.  They should take the salvation test of 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” When you look at this verse, it is horrendously frightening to assume one can be saved apart from Lordship. Saying Jesus is Lord precedes salvation.  Living out Lordship also proceeds salvation.  In reality, Lordship permeates those in Christ.  It radiates and illuminates their lives.  Obedience is the mark of the believer (Colossians 2:6).  Romans 10:13 goes on to say those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. We are saved unto Lordship. There are not two classifications of Christians - those merely saved and those who sell out for Lordship. Salvation is intertwined with Lordship. Change to be like Christ is the desire of the believer. Sin no longer satisfies - it repulses. Sin not just convicts but leads one to repentance.

When Jesus said come follow me, repentance is a given - we automatically turn and repent.  To follow Christ is to loath sin. When Christ asks us to come and follow Him He shouldn't have to beg us to give up sin. We eagerly and joyfully trade in the wretchedness of sin for the serenity of salvation.  For example, when you ask someone to "come here" you don't have to say to them, "turn around and come here".  The "turn around" is implied and understood.  When you say to them, "come here" they automatically turn around.  When Christ calls us to come to Him we lay down sin and pick up His righteousness.  Repentance is necessary to follow Jesus.  We who claim the name of Christ cannot abide, rest, live, or snuggle up with sin any longer. How can we who died to sin live in it? (Romans 6:2). We consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ (Romans 6:11). We who are in Christ are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18).

We who are saved do not enjoy things like gossip, hate, envy, and greed. We hate to miss church and fellowship with other believers. Petty excuses do not keep us away. Obstacles that stand in the way of our discipleship challenge us to pursue with adventurous faith the Christ we desperately desire. We strive to listen to the Word at all cost and especially do not skip out on the message when the preacher is preaching - after all, it is aimed at us - we need it personally. We desire the Word and cling to every Scripture.  We eagerly await the next time we can engage in fellowship and devour the Words of the Lord. We passionately long for prayer and worship. We run from sin, knowing the devastating enslavement and demolition it brings. We run to Christ, knowing the fulfilling freedom and sustenance He alone can bring.

I pray that the Lord returns the joy of His salvation to those away from Him, those who are not saved, and those bound by sin.  I pray that the Holy Spirit quickens them with true repentance and brokenness over their sinful state. I pray that they see themselves as sinners in need of a Lord and Savior. You can be free from sin!  “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Joshua's Humiliating Loss

One thing about sin - it will find you out.  Just ask Achan.  In Joshua 7, Israel had just come off of a tremendous victory at Jericho.  They had won their first battle towards inheriting the Promised Land.  But they would soon suffer a humiliating defeat at Ai.  How could this happen?  Didn't God want them to succeed?  Didn't He say that they would win the battles?  Here are several reasons why Israel lost the battle at Ai. (They went on to win at Ai after they dealt with the sin - Joshua 8).

1.  They disobeyed a direct command from God.
God told the Israelites not to take anything from their victory at Jericho.  But Achan had stolen some things and hid them under his tent.  You know you are wrong when you try to hide your sin.  You cannot hide sin - it will find you out (Numbers 32:23).  You cannot directly disobey God and expect to have victory in your life. 

2.  Achan was concerned about immediate satisfaction instead of inheriting the Promised Land.
God had promised Achan (as well as all of Israel) great things, but he could not wait for them.  They had to have their great things now.  Question: "How can you enjoy something buried in dirt under your tent?"  You can't touch or see it.  You can only hope someone doesn't find out about it.  Sounds satisfying to me!  Yet many try and achieve satisfaction that way.  God's best is ahead - don't rush the process.

3.  They were overly confident in themselves.
Instead of sending out the full army to deal with Ai, they only sent out about 3,000 men.  Because of this, 36 men were killed and the rest of the army ran for their lives.  After God does something great in our lives, we too must not let our defenses down or stray from God's plan.  We cannot get too self-confident and cocky in our own accomplishments - the battle is the Lord's, not ours.

4.  Joshua was deceived.
Joshua did not listen to the Lord's plans (Joshua 7:13) and clearly the Lord was not with them in this failed attempt to conquer Ai (7:12).  They had come up with their own plan and sent out only part of the warriors.   I'm sure these warriors were not as guarded and ready based on the spies report of only a few people inhabiting the land of Ai.  Joshua had not prayed to God about this plan - he just went along with it.  This is a long way away from where he was before Jericho was defeated (Read Joshua 5:13-15). We cannot just go along with any old plan.  We must be about what the Lord told us to do.  We must pray through the plan all the way to victory.
5.  They did not deal with sin until after defeat.
Achan's sin was not dealt with until after they lost to Ai.  They had lost their ongoing emphasis on dealing with sin.  This happens when you become self-confident.  Why does it take failure for us to deal with sin?  Why don't we deal with sin before it leads to failure?  Why does failure cause us to repent?  Why not a holy fear of God instead?

6.  They thought a "little sin" would only hurt the one who sinned.
After all, no one would find Achan's buried treasures.  After things cooled down, he would dig them up and enjoy them, right?  No one knew - that is right.  But God did.  And it killed 36 men and compromised the whole nation of Israel.  Instead of winning the promised victory at Ai, they lost in humiliation.  Sin never affects just you.  It always reaches beyond the dirt of the tent to the lives of the whole nation.

7.  They tried to be religious.
In Joshua 7:6-9 they fell on their face before the Ark of the Covenant, tore their clothes, stayed till evening - all the marks of feeling guilty.  Haven't you seen people do this?  When things go wrong in their lives they turn back to God, get in church and cry at the altar?  Joshua even put on ashes.  He then went on to whine about his problem and wish he had never crossed the Jordan river.  God told him (v. 10) to stand up and stop being religious.  God told him to deal with the sin in the camp then they would win.  We too must stop being religious and deal with the sin in our camp.  Then, we will win the victory.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

7 Things to Keep Leaders Fresh

I love being a pastor.  I am totally motivated by my calling.  I thank God that he counted me faithful and put me into the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12).  But leaders can get into real trouble fast. Leaders who are called or feel overwhelming passion for the ministry should remember these things:

1.  We tend to remember that we are Christians but forget that we are human.  We can't do everything.  Yes, the Holy Spirit's supernatural power will allow us accomplish more than we ever dreamed possible, but forcing things to happen or running off of human desire alone can wreck us.  Humans need rest.  Humans need replenishing.  Humans need resources. You are not above taking a sabbath. 

2.  Leaders must lead and are expected to lead even if the desire is not always there.  Others are looking to us are expecting us to use the ability and desires ingrained into our makeup.  That can be overwhelming and daunting at times.  You just have to remember who you are in Christ not who you think you are in you!  We must remember to rely on the Holy Spirit.  We must be in the word daily.  One thing about being called into ministry - you cannot escape who you are - it follows you wherever you go - it is what you think about 24/7. 

3.  Another danger is coasting on your past successes.  You start to just imitate the past instead of innovating the present and future.  Because of time crunches, demand, need for rest, etc. we step away from challenges that used to pump us up.  Don't back down from challenges or use experience only to meet them.  Call out to God to help you and invigorate you with the creativity you need to meet the demand He has set before you.

4.  Leaders tend to work on everybody's problems but their own.  Get those areas of your life that are out of control under control and watch your leadership expand.  Jesus went away to fast and pray - you have to also invest a lot of time in this.  Jesus took 40 days one time.  You can't work out your own hangups and issues in 5 minutes. Let the Holy Spirit work on you!  Leader's never clock out.  The drive is always there to do the work of the ministry.  Make sure you are being refreshed.

5.  Leader's cannot stay the same - they must grow.  Staying the same in your spiritual walk will not let you meet the demands that come your way.  You'll be faced with the pain and frustration of coming up short in helping people if you are not growing and sharpening your skills as a leader.  You won't change until the pain of staying like you are is bigger than the pain of changing.  Resource - find books, people who are doing it better than you, etc. 

6.  You must fight for your family spiritually.  You have to stand in the doorway of your home and beat back the things the world and Satan try to throw at them.  Leaders tend to find themselves fighting for everyone else's spiritual success and neglecting their families.  Listen, the people you lead love you, but normally are not fighting for you like you fight for them.  That's your responsibility.

7.  Leaders must be hungry.  Now there are some great old ideas and techniques that simply never grow old.  But many times old ideas won't get it anymore -even great old ideas.  You must be fresh.  Listen to the Holy Spirit for this.  Like I said before - resource!  Don't let your ministry flatline.  Let it beat vividly as you pump new ideas and fresh revelations into it as the Holy Spirit gives them to you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Last 5 Books I Read...

There are some really good books out there right now.  Here are the last 5 I have read:

Sun Stand Still:  What Happens When You Dare To Ask God for the Impossible by Steven Furtick - this book is all about audacious faith  - I especially love his Page 23 Vision.  Furtick has one of the fastest growing churches in America in Charlotte, North Carolina.  In only 4 years, they are over 6,000 strong (seeing 5,000 saved and baptized in their existence). 

The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He doesn't Exist by Craig Groeschel - I know tons of people like this - been there myself at one time.  There are people in between non-Christian and Christian - Christian atheists.

Plan B:  What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?  by Pete Wilson - You can't control what life throws at you sometimes, but God can work in the midst of your breakdowns.  Living God's will for our lives is essential to staying inside His plan for our lives instead of our own.

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan - Chan just resigned from his church and word is he is moving to an unknown country is Asia to get out of the limelight for a while.  I hope he still writes and teaches in conferences while on sabbatical.  Chan describes how the western church has treated the Holy Spirit like He has been in retirement.  Great book on the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Church That Never Sleeps: The Amazing Story That Will Change Your View of Church Forever by Matthew Barnett - not a new book (2000) but a great story of the Dream Center (Los Angeles), an abandoned 400,000 sq foot building Matthew Barnett took over and now uses to house hundreds, feed thousands, train thousands in the workforce and ministry and impact downtown Los Angeles.  I've been there (2000).  It was amazing then and has grown tremendously since.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Serving Kids Like Christ Did

I had a great time serving at church tonight in our preschool ministry.  Our Life Group served and my wife and I kept the toddler class.  What a great time of serving and giving ourselves away so parents could enjoy their Life Groups and grow in their walk with the Lord.  I am so thankful others do this for us as well!  I'm thankful that my Life Group stepped up to the plate, loved those kids and families, and knocked it out of the park!  When we serve each other, it is a true picture of Church.  Each part does its share.  We didn't just keep kids - we ministered to families - we were the Church - we loved on and helped kids get closer to Jesus.  Our group had a blast and loved being with all the kids.  How could anyone call it simply childcare or nursery - it was fulfilling ministry! 
It wasn't without it's challenges - it never is! There is difficulty in anything worth while.  There are obstacles and roadblocks you never saw coming.  I know not everyone is called to children's ministry, but everyone is called to children.  Jesus loved kids.  The next time I hear someone complain it is their turn in the nursery I just may throw-up.

I saw the people serve tonight and fulfill 1 Peter 4:10, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."  Thank you Harrison Life Group for being faithful stewards of God's grace and serving others with the gifts He has given you!

Let me tell you some things about three convictions I have about children's ministry:

If you want young families and kids in your church, you must make them priority with the money you spend on them.  My kids love certain restaurants and certain stores.  Why?  They are kid-friendly.  They spent money on attracting kids.  It catches their eyes.  It serves us as parents.  It provides them a fun environment.  We went to Disney World two years ago and are going back this summer.  Why?  Disney spent tons of money making it a place kids love.  I love it that our church spends money making kids ministry fun, relevant, and creative for kids!  If you have three things that need money in the church and you can only choose one, you always choose the kids and families.  I love it that we have great plans now to expand, refresh, and refurbish a ton of our preschool and children's ministry to make it a place that screams "WE LOVE FAMILIES AND KIDS".  Like Jesus said, let the little children come to me (Matthew 19:14).  Those kids just didn't show up that day.  They came with their parents, possibly their grandparents.  These parents didn't put their kids in a room away from Jesus so the real ministry could happen.  Jesus didn't say, "get that snotty nosed crying kid out of here."  He said "welcome".  He placed his hands on them and blessed them.  These parents brought them to the very presence of Christ!  Parents don't bring us our kids to babysit.  They get that all week.  They bring them to experience Jesus.  We must bring our kids to the presence of Christ each time they step foot inside the church.  Bring on the kids!

Speaking of fun, the second thing you need if you want young families and kids in your church is fun.  I've always said if all you tell kids to do at church is to be quiet and sit down then that's what they are going to grow up to do - nothing.  Church should be fun.  Children's ministry should be fun.  I loved playing with each new kid who came in tonight.  Some were apprehensive and cried at first - it just happens when you are barely 2 years old.  But as I got on the floor and played with them with toys or an activity, they moved from crying to smiling.  We set the attitude of the room tonight.  I love teaching and doing crazy stuff with 4-6th grade Kids Church on Saturday nights.  For every object lesson you have, you need a game.  Or, why not teach the Bible with a game.  "Fun" and "Church" don't go together in some circles.  We must do everything possible so kids don't grow up and hate church.  Coloring pages and Kool-Aid won't cut it anymore.  We must make it a fun place.  We must find out what games and actvities they love and do them.  We must make church the highlight of their week!  My kids love coming to church.  We don't drag them, they ask us when they get to go!  I pray my kids never lose this.  I pray we never lose this as a church. 

Lastly, we have to do more than babysit.  Kids have to learn something about Christ every time they come to church.  Popping in a movie is the easy way out.  Here are the two biggest questions parents ask at the end of a service - "Did you have fun?" and "What did you learn?"  These two go hand in hand.  Kids need to say, "I had fun when we learned this about the Lord."  Kids need to learn about how to be disciples on their level.  They need the meat of the Word, packaged in a relevant way, in portions they can digest.  We don't keep kids - we disciple them!  What kind of disciples do we make when we complain about having to serve them!  Wouldn't it be silly if we complained when more adults come through the front door on a Sunday morning.  Wouldn't it be silly if we as pastors complained about having to prepare services for them?  We should desire no less for the kids.  Jesus said whoever welcomes one of these kids welcomes Him (Mark 9:37).  Did you catch that - when you welcome a kid - you welcome Jesus!  Jesus also said you would would not lose your reward if you serve them snacks (Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41). 

I challenge other Life Groups to step up and serve in the preschool area on a Life Group night.  I challenge others to get involved in AWANA or kids church.  You'll join the few who get to say, "What an honor to serve.  What a joy!  What a difference I made tonight in the lives of kids and families."