I found this blog and thought it would be good for our church to read. Check it out:
There are moments when I am heavily deceived.
We all have a bend towards this mindset though we may not verbalize it. “If I could make this amount of money” or “if our relationship could just work out” or “if I were only a better person.” These are the type of pacts we make with ourselves which eventually lead us to despair. Living in the fallen world is hard at times, especially when we strive for what is only a mirage. A mirage keeps those who thirst for water panting for the day they’ll actually find it in the wilderness.
Why do seemingly good things in our lives produce temporary satisfaction?
We perform good deeds and want good gifts, and that is okay. I’ve been a part of the vanity myself, believing that people or things can make me happy. Our problem begins when we don’t reach our goals and the result hits our identity in it’s core.
“He said that he would marry me, but he broke my heart a month later!”
“The company told me that in a few years I’d get a major promotion. It’s been 6 and I’m not even sure we will be open for business next year.”
“The doctor keeps telling us that we are healthy enough to have kids, but it never works out.”
Fill in the blank with your biggest recent letdown. Marriage, jobs, and kids are all wonderful things, but what happens when the Lord takes our deepest desires? Anger? Depression? Unhealthy thoughts about self? While human emotion isn’t’ sin, it certainly reveals it. All of a sudden, the promises of man were our refuge and not the promises of God. We were shaken and our house on sand floated away. Suddenly, we are angry with God for not giving us what we wanted when, in fact, He is only saving us from ourselves.
On the contrary to our church attendance, leadership, and overall good reputation, God exposes our selfishness. The spiritual issue requires major reflection. We are easily fooled by the great mirage of this life: believing that the world can give us what only Jesus can – life!
Imagine your house floating away and you’re on the shore just watching it (Matthew 7:24-27). All the time you spent making it look pretty, the money you spent making sure it was safe, the hard work you put in making sure something like this wouldn’t happen. Then it happens. Our idol has been ripped from our finite, feeble hands.
The truth is, there is nowhere else to go that will be safe for you. What you have invested in Monday through Saturday has failed and your identity has been crushed. Though Jesus offered a better way, we chose to do our own thing.
And what about those of us who have always had our way? We have never experienced what it feels like to have something dear to us be taken away, only to be exposed before God. We know our hearts better than anyone else’s, but the Lord knows all. John Piper asks in a sermon,
“When has someone ever said that Jesus is all satisfying because you drove a BMW? Never!”
When has someone rightly proclaimed the goodness of God because of the temporary gifts that He gives us? My uncle gave me a gift for Christmas at 9 years old, and I didn’t say thank you. Instead, I grabbed the finely wrapped package from his hands and opened it before I could take a full breath. I didn’t notice how he wrapped it, or how he tied the bow. I didn’t think about him not having any children and how he went out of his way to buy this gift. I had no mind for the giver – only the gift. This is American Christianity.
How God breaks us of a love for the world is by doing just that– breaking us of it. Bringing forth a storm to show that our home was never built on the Cornerstone, if we are so lucky. Our Father revealing to us that the mirage is just a mirage is hard to embrace, but liberating.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:5-7)
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:16-17)
God loves us enough to take away good possessions so that He would receive glory. This makes some Christians uneasy. “This thing isn’t about me?” you may be asking yourself. Because of the good news we have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Because His sacrifice we are free to serve Him (Romans 6:18). Speaking to a Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob,
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Jesus is not telling this woman to fast from water. He is telling her where to find life! He knows that we were made for God, and God is the only One who can restore and satisfy our souls.
Jesus is inviting those of us who have attempted to build our own kingdoms and have failed miserably. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
A mirage keeps those who thirst for water panting for the day they’ll actually find it in the wilderness. So, why do seemingly good things in our lives produce temporary satisfaction?
There is this incredibly gaping hole inside of us. We feel the weight and pressure of it, therefore we fill it with whatever we can get our hands on– jobs, spouse, kids. When it’s all said and done, we are still thirsty for more. Our desires to be whole and full are true desires, but they are only fulfilled by Christ.
The promises of man drain us, but the promises of God give us life (Deut. 8:3). It’s refreshing to be reminded of these truths when I cannot see them for myself in the mirage. A great way to fight the temptation of loving our gifts more than the Giver is to join a fight club!
At Redeemer, there are three layers to our gatherings. Sunday gatherings, gospel communities and fight clubs. Although each of these gatherings are different, they are all equally important for one’s growth in Christ, community, and mission. Beginning or joining a fight club is an essential way to grow in your faith and learn how to fight sin.
These are small groups of 2-4 men or 2-4 women who regularly meet to fight for the faith in the Gospel. The temptation of our hearts is to replace the Lord with His gifts, even when we don’t see it we’re doing it!
Pick some people, set a meeting time, and get down to business! There are few things more sanctifying than a friend who loves you deeply enough to ask, “What has been stealing your affections from the Lord this week?” Together, we can seek the Lord and fight our way through the mirage to see Jesus for who He truly is– the Living Water, our all-satisfying Savior.
Children’s ministry is vital to The Vine Community Church. Most young families who visit The Vine are looking at the quality of 2 things: our worship service and our children’s ministry. And, I believe that all of us can work together to help our children’s ministry be all that it needs to be for God’s glory and the good of our kids and families at The Vine.
In case you haven’t noticed, we are growing like crazy and our children’s ministry is currently like holding onto a kite in the middle of a hurricane! We have so many kids (praise God!), and we want to serve our kids and families well! We just need more help. But, I believe that asking for more help is not going to motivate you to serve in children’s ministry. I believe that people respond to vision. So, I want to lay out the vision behind the children’s ministry here to get you fired up about a vital ministry where you can grow as a Christian, grow in community, grow in your ability to share the gospel and dive into the mission field called children’s ministry!
To lay a little ground work right off the bat, let me first tell you what children’s ministry is NOT:
- It’s not a spiritual drop-off service. children’s ministry is not the primary means of discipling kids. That is the parents’ job and children’s ministry does not take the place of parents. Children’s ministry is a secondary developer. We work alongside parents, partnering with you in this great task.
- It’s not just babysitting/childcare. We do want to take care of people’s kids, but our primary goal is to make disciples.
- Children’s ministry does not exist to simply teach values/good morals. We don’t want to raise Moralistic Therapeutic Deists (see Soul Searching by Christian Smith). We know that apart from Christ good, moral people still go to hell. Instead, we seek to have a gospel-centered children’s ministry, teaching kids that faith alone in Christ alone saves and transforms our lives.
Now, our vision for Children’s Ministry. The vision is simply the same vision of The Vine: 4 God. 4 People. 4 The world. So, let me break it down for you.
Children’s ministry exists 4 God
We want to be for God more than we are for anything or anyone else! We want our lives to worship Jesus and we want to teach and model that for the kids at The Vine. We want God’s word to govern everything we do in children’s ministry. We want to make God known to the next generation.
Judges 2:10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.
 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
 The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
 The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
If you are involved in Children’s ministry, you get to love children that God has made in His image. You get to teach them that they were created to know Jesus and worship Him and love Him and live for Him. What could be more satisfying than having the opportunity to teach kids what is eternally important and encouraging parents to do the same?!!!
Children’s ministry exists 4 People
We are 4 Children, 4 families, 4 Parents.
God has ordained that parents be the primary disciplers of their children.
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.* 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
We want to help parents do this!
Another way that we are 4 people is that we are building community within our church body:
- The best way to get to know families in the church is to get involved in children’s ministry. As you receive kids on a Sunday, you get to meet not only the kids, but also their parents! And, in my experience, if you love my kids… you love me. That’s how most parents see it. If you care about my kids, you are on my team and I love you for it. If you want to get plugged in at The Vine, get involved in children’s ministry and have fun meeting parents and loving on their kids.
- As parents are dropping off their kids on Sunday mornings, our job as volunteers is to be better than a Wal-Mart greeter. We want to be joyful, introduce ourselves, try and learn parents’ names and let them know how excited we are to have their kids. We do this knowing that this is how we will be growing in community with other families at The Vine.
- As you serve in children’s ministry, you also get to know other volunteers. You’ll get to know those you serve alongside very well by teaching, playing, changing diapers, being silly and having a blast with kids together – you’ll get to know one another fast!
Children’s ministry exists 4 The World
We get to teach our children that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached to all nations. We get to teach them the importance of missions – local and international. We get to teach them that they don’t just get to know Jesus but they get to share Him with others!
So, we want to embrace this vision – 4 God, 4 people, 4 the world – not only in our church and not only in our lives, but also in the children’s ministry as we teach the next generation about Jesus.
How you can get involved:
- Ask a volunteer on a Sunday morning for the card to fill out to let us know you want to get involved or simply talk to our Children’s Director, Jessie Smith (email@example.com) or our Family Pastor, Tyler Hicks (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- We will need you to fill out a background check before you can get involved.
- Know that we won’t just throw you in the deep end. You can come in and get your feet wet first, serving alongside an experienced volunteer.
- We are looking for more help on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights.
I pray that God continues to grow our church and bring more and more families to serve. And, I pray that God gives those of you reading this a hunger and a joyful burden to serve our families by serving their children in our church.
Glad I get to serve you!
In our efforts to become wiser, sometimes it seems like 1 step forward and 3 steps backward. Proverbs is filled with one verse after another that gives us sound, Godly wisdom. One of the verses that I have been pondering on for the last week is Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
I can relate to feeling literally sick when I have lost hope for a certain situation. So, in an effort to try to be the hands and feet of Christ, let’s look at this verse and be someone who can give hope.
How do we share hope with the hopeless? I must be honest, sometimes when I look at the hopeless, I think maybe they just deserve it. However, when I have felt hopeless, I am thankful I serve a God who is long-suffering and patient with me.
Currently, I am in Belize trying to lend a hand in a few situations where some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are about to give up hope. As I look around in this nice, quiet room where I escaped to gather my thoughts, I see countless books and studies that have been passed out to try and assist with the side affects of poverty. Honestly, there are well over 200 books and studies here! It would be fantastic if each book or study donated came with one caring person who could invest some time.
As a Christian with an unending source of wise, Godly literature to access for a plethora of different problems, it seems very clear right now. Most often what people in turmoil need is help, the kind that has a loving, caring body attached to it. Yes, let’s study and show ourselves approved. But, when someone is in need, unless we can step up and be there for that person, perhaps we shouldn’t offer advice or the latest “how-to” book.
God sent His one and only Son. I am so thankful he didn’t just send us the latest DVD series on how to be saved from a lifetime of darkness. I am challenging myself, as well as you, to reach out to those who are hurting and give them our time and our love. Let’s spend some time in prayer after we hear of those hurting. None of us are wise enough to know how to effectively deal with the problems this world dishes out on us BUT we serve a God who does.
Jesus is center, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is King. It is all about Jesus. Or is it? As Christians we say these things inside and outside of the church knowing that in Christianity we serve Jesus. But how often in our day to day lives do we actually filter what we say or do through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
As we grow as Christians it is very easy to lose focus of the mission given to us by our king “….go and make disciples…” (Matt 28:19) Instead, we replace our focus and time with the petty things of life and “church.” In our busyness and pursuit of our own agenda we begin to focus on the process, instead of the person “Jesus.” “Go and make disciples” is just something the bible says and the preachers preach it’s not something we actually have to do right? Wrong! Jesus precedes our mission statement with:
“…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:18-19
Jesus makes a point to tell us that ALL authority has been given to him. The magnitude of this statement is something we overlook. His authority over all people, all places, all things, authority over our lives, authority over our children, authority over our circumstances, authority over every star in the sky and authority over every speck of dust on the earth!
The summation of ALL authority is much bigger than any of us can even comprehend. So much higher than the heavens and so much lower than the depths of the sea. Yet we tend to dumb it down to “well he was only talking to the pastors and leaders in the church so that’s their job to make disciples” “that’s their responsibility to carry out Jesus’ commands.” The reality of this statement is that this is a job for all of us to do, and all of us are doing it, but the question is “how is it going?”
As husbands and fathers our families are our first mission field, our wives and children are our first disciples. I have to ask myself often “how well am I doing?” and sometimes the answer isn’t always what I know it should be. The petty things in life distract us from our first mission. How we desire our lives to appear in the sight of others and our own selfishness can take the place of Jesus’ command to make disciples. We strive in American Christianity to appear as if we have it all together. Our picture perfect family, our straight A student, our gold medal winner, our new vehicle, new home, etc. etc.
The result is that this perception of American Christianity and its behaviors will eventually bleed over into all other area’s of our lives, including how we view and love people. The longer we live this way the harder it will become for us to recognize and repent of the things that have become common place in our lives. The disciples we make at home, our children, the ones who see everything we do will inevitably be affected by this. If they see us putting the world and all of its wants and desires first they will eventually follow suit and feel it’s okay to do so.
We are called to be more than just good people who represent a perfect Christian life and a good church. Instead we are to show we are a fallen imperfect people who rely daily on Jesus. When others see us they should not see our vain attempt at perfection but rather Jesus living in us. Then when the name of Jesus leaves our lips, it is not viewed as a weakness in our witness but rather, the power by which our witness flows.
Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the God man who is so much more than a poor Galilean peasant in need of our acceptance. As if Jesus has ever NEEDED anyone to accept him. This is Jesus! The one who has authority over ALL of creation and whom we profess to serve.
If we truly serve him and not ourselves it will be evident by the way we speak of him inside and outside of the Church. We will filter our decisions through his word. We will make him a part of our friendships, meetings and conversations. We will not be ashamed to use his name as part of our daily conversation, and will always keep him at the center of our daily mission and purpose.
So I leave you with this question “how’s it going?” I ask this not to guilt or shame you, but to encourage you to ask yourself what I ask myself daily. “How are you doing?” What are some things we can do to put Jesus back at the center of our lives rather than ourselves?