Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fiery Arrows

I want to share a discussion with you today that came from my small group I call the "Tuesday Guys." We're concluding a really rich study through Paul's letter to the Ephesians and in his final remarks to the church in the town of Ephesus, Paul tells them to get dressed for battle. They were in a war and needed to be dressed to fight. They needed armour and it needed to be the very best equipment available. So, Paul tells us what the best soldiers have in their locker and how they gear up for the battle they face. Guess what, we're in the same battle!

It's important to know in all of this who the enemy is and how he fights. Paul says that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." I don't know about you but that creeps me out a bit. I'd rather fight against humans. Spiritual forces? Oh, my! Really? But Paul says we have everything at our disposal to stand against these evil forces and in Ephesians 6, he lists them. Check it out.

This morning the Tuesday Guys got stuck on two really cool parts of our armour; our shoes and our shield. For a Roman soldier, good shoes meant that he would be stable and mobile so he could stand and protect his ground. The shield was used to deflect fiery arrows that enemy would launch. So we asked, "What are those arrows that Satan and his forces sends at us?" One conclusion, lies. Lies that mislead and misguide us from our mission and from what is truly important. What lies? What are lies that we hear as men and as warriors for the Gospel?

Here's our Top 10. Would these make your Top 10?

1. You're not good enough
2. You’re not smart enough
3. God’s holding out on you
4. God’s is not good enough to you
5. I can do it myself
6. God is not near to you
7. He’s really not loving
8. Your sin is too big. If He really knew you… He would not even wouldn't like you
9. God would condemn or judge you if you were honest
10. You can earn God’s approval with your behavior. Keep trying harder

These are lies that Satan wants us to believe about God, but I think he also wants us to believe them about the relationships we have with each other. Read the list from both perspectives.

So,which lies do you hear the most? Drop me a comment and let me know. In a future posting, I'll share how the Shield of Faith works to deflect these flaming arrows shot from the pit of hell. Each of these lies has a corollary truth.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Growth is in Leading

"Growth is in Leading" was the subject title of an email that Rich sent to me last week. I opened the email and it's attachment to find a well thought out small group lesson. Rich had compiled two pages of verses on the Holy Spirit's role in our lives. His notes were clearly pepper through the pages as well as strategically placed highlights. This was an exercise that he was doing to prepare for leading his community group. I think he sent this to me because he simply needed to share his joy of learning. But, his learning was different than before. He was learning as leader. There's something much different about that, isn't it?

Rich is a guy who's also in one of the men's groups for almost a half dozen years. His growth has been fun to watch. Each time he encountered a life-issue, he would wrestle with God's principles of living. It's always a good wrestling, one that fights to understand God's best way of living.

I knew that Rich had the capacity in him to one day lead a group. After a several invitations to lead and one less "no thank you, Phil," Rich is now a leader. His first group, not successful in his mind. His second attempt, golden. God's given him and his wife some wonderful people who have come together "like family" (their words) in short period of time. They are loving each other well and pushing to understand the Truth of God's Word in their lives. I've been privileged to see Rich grow over the years, but this season of Rich's life is something different. He's growing because he's leading others.

What's up with that? What is it about leadership that accelerates our growth? Give me some comments or short stories why "Growth is in Leading."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Relational Fatigue

I'm a self-proclaimed small group junkie. Yeah, Ada Bible employs me to be that, but I'm confident I would still be involved in multiple small groups even if small groups were not part of my livelyhood.

Currently, I lead three groups. Two are men's groups. Group #1 is twelve guys who are leaders; budding leaders or small group leaders. These guys are tracking and want to know more on how God's Word impacts their relationships. Group #2 is 11 guys who are mostly new to the faith or are re-starting their walk with God. These are guys I coach baseball with, play football and softball with and lift weights with. They are friends who want to learn and grow. Group # 3 is a handfull of couples that have known each other for the past 15 years or so. We are all trying to have solid marriages and raise our kids well.

I love each and every person in those groups. I look forward to seeing them every week. I love to see someone really "get it," for the lights to come on to a biblical principle and for their lives to begin to change. There no better feeling, no better reward to leading a small group in my mind.

But recently, I've begun to feel tired, unmotivated, uninspired. Sin patterns began to creep back into the recesses of my mind and heart. I was coming to group unprepared and with less passion than before. Something was missing in my community. What wasn't working? Small groups were to be the place were my community would be filled with joy, encouragement and life change. Something was broken... at least from my end. I wasn't receiving what I set out to provide for each person in each group. I was leading but not experiencing community. I was holding back.

Friday night, group #1 had what we call "Man Night." This was our 4th one in the last 4 months. Man Night is guy food, beverages, bonfire, games and stories. Just the guys for the whole evening. And, the best part of Man Night... the stories. We have a tradition that in every Man Night someone will tell their life story. This usually takes well over an hour and afterward the other guys have a chance to ask questions, tell what they loved about the story and then bless the socks off the guy on the hot seat. We love to pull out how God has treaded Himself through that person's story. This Friday... another great story.

But it was after the story that were I was most impacted. It was 11 pm. Most the guys had left. Four of us remained contemplating going home ourselves. But, our host, who was the one who shared his story that night, asked us to sit back down around the wood stove and continue our chat. The conversion that ensued was rich, personal and very impactful. I began to emotionally bleed. It almost felt like I was complaining about life but I guess I was being vulnerable and honest about stuff in my life that I was keeping under wraps. I felt safe. I felt heard. I felt care for and challenged. I hadn't done this in a long, long time. The guys heard my weariness, they related and didn't judge.

Okay, I'm a small group junkie. I'm THE Senior Small Groups Pastor of Ada Bible Church, for heaven's sake. Why was this something that hadn't experienced in a while? Why at 11 pm in a buddy's garage when the crowd of guys had left did I feel ready to really share and seek out the care of my brothers? I'm involved in three groups. What had been missing for all this to build up and then spill out on my friend's garage floor?

I'll leave those questions for us to discuss. Tell me what you think!