Crosswinds’ 2025 Vision 2-5-18

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Peter Marshall wrote this prayer: “Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” Marshall is speaking of a God-given clarity for our daily living. For a church, vision is a picture of what they believe God has called them to become and achieve for His glory. We discover this proverb on vision in the Old Testament: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Prov 29:18). I think the translation The Message is helpful in this case. It reads: “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.”

Vision is a snapshot of the future. Crosswinds’ vision statement is: “Releasing the Church to reach our region and beyond.” We, as Crosswinds, ask God to bless our gatherings so we can be a blessing as we scatter throughout our region and the world. As a church, we are looking out seven years. We believe… The year 2025 will be a landmark year for Crosswinds as we see the Finger Lakes Region saturated with the love and message of Jesus Christ. By the end of the first quarter century of this new millennium, we will see the transforming power of God spread across this region like a wildfire. Children, teens, and adults will be met wherever they are in life and personally invited on a journey of a lifetime. We will see thousands of Christ-followers embark on a discipleship pathway that will encourage and equip them on their spiritual journey. Through an intentional leadership pipeline, we will see those who know God and gather as Crosswinds empowered to scatter throughout our region making Him known in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

Throughout our twenty-mile local ministry radius, there will exist hundreds of small missional groups, like spiritual lifeguard stations providing community, collaboration, and support. These groups will be accessible to every person in every community assisting them to live the life of freedom, fullness and faithfulness found only in Christ. These teams of fellow journeyers will collaborate with one another to share Christ’s love and message with those far from Christ, but so close to His heart.

To reach our local ministry radius and beyond we will have established an internship initiative. This initiative will serve, like a leadership fishery, where these interns can grow and be released to follow the dream God has given them and perhaps join the team of one of the dozens of Crosswinds’ campuses, church plants, and networks established with like-minded churches. The result will be beachheads in our surrounding cities and communities for Christ. Everyone in our region will have a repeated opportunity to experience the love of Christ and the invitation to receive Him as Lord and Savior. Those who choose to follow Him will be released to fulfill their God-given destiny.

We believe that God has also called us to share the love and message of Christ with those beyond our region, to the ends of the earth.  Therefore, we will trust God’s Spirit to allow us to spread beyond our borders, like a rushing river, by strategically training and sending ministers, pastors, and missionaries from our midst. We will also partner with mission agencies, both local and abroad, that share our desire to be a movement of God, establishing disciples and churches in other regions and parts of the world.

In short, Crosswinds is going to move from a church that is trying to add the next person to our Canandaigua ministry campus to building the kingdom through multiplication. We will be making disciples, establishing campuses, planting churches, and partnering with like-minded churches and agencies until we have reached our whole region and beyond with the love and message of Jesus Christ.

As Crosswinds let’s commit this vision to the Lord. I trust He will provide the way to fulfill this vision as we commit to partnering with Him. I ask the Lord to allow us to do more than support this vision, but pray that He will empower each of us to make it our very own.

Life-Marks 1-30-18

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Can you imagine being given a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle to put together without having a picture of what the finished product is supposed to look like? I would guess you could start by figuring out what the border pieces are and then fitting them together and start the process of filling in the puzzle. It is not impossible to finish a puzzle without the picture, but it is more difficult to do so.

I believe many a Christian is frustrated by trying to put the pieces together in their spiritual life, but don’t know the end goal. I have adopted Dallas Willard’s use of the word vim to describe three crucial pieces of spiritual formation. Vim is a noun meaning robust energy and enthusiasm.  The “V” stands for vision. The “I” stands for intention. The “M” stands for means. The means speaks of knowing the spiritual disciplines (i.e., studying and applying Scripture, prayer, service…). Intention addresses someone’s desire to grow. Vision speaks of having a picture of kingdom living. We need to invest time in the Bible and with godly people to begin to imprint such a picture in our mind’s eye.

Crosswinds have five measures or life-marks that we use to help us draft that picture of a fully devoted follower of Christ. We believe a vibrant disciple of Christ (1) reflects Christ character, engages in (2) sacrificial kingdom service, is (3) dependent on God’s Spirit, (4) sustained by God’s Word and prayer, and is (5) multiplying Christ followers. Although it is difficult to develop specific metrics to define when someone is consistently living within these realities, the list does provide a gauge of sorts that is helpful in determining whether or not a believer is heading in the right direction on their spiritual journey.

Jesus proclaimed: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Lk 6:40). John writes in his first epistle: “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). Obviously, neither Christ or John are challenging believers to repeat Christ’s unique salvific work on the cross but to mirror His faith, love, obedience, and self-sacrifice. Followers of Christ are to reflect His character.

Jesus calls His followers to sacrificial kingdom service with these words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). Christ explains that following Him entails self-denial by letting go of self-determination and replacing it with obedience to and dependence on the Lord as one, in partnership with Him, continues the ministry of Christ by sharing His love and message with others.

Jesus makes it clear in John 15 that union with Him is essential to being His follower. He declares: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Christ is not saying that apart from Him you cannot accomplish anything at all. After all, those who do not follow Christ carry on their ordinary activities, but we cannot produce spiritual fruit without being in union with Him. Disciples are dependent God’s Spirit.

The Scriptures clearly teach that we are to walk in the truth of God’s Word. Jesus explained: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn 8:31). They also teach that we are to: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). As we seek to master God’s Word, we discover that His Word begins to master us. As we pray, we discover that through prayer we release the resources of heaven on our lives so that we can live the victorious Christian life, a life of trusting God in all circumstances. A disciple is sustained by God’s Word and prayer.

The Great Commission makes it clear that disciples make disciples. Jesus proclaimed: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Christ followers are committed to multiplying Christ followers.

These measures or life-marks help us draft a picture of a fully devoted follower of Christ. They help us know what we are shooting for as disciples as well as for those we invest in as growing disciples. As we continue to partner with Christ as Crosswinds, I pray we will see the fruit of many becoming followers of Christ and bearing these life-marks.

Values 1-22-18

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My Dad worked for a food chain that prided itself on customer service and the highest quality of meats and groceries. He was a meat manager and one time a customer brought back what she claimed was spoiled meat from his store. He exchanged the meat, even though the tag showed it was from a competitor. His company valued customer care and it was on display every day through the decisions they made as a company as well as through each of their employee’s interactions with customers. I have seen many food chains closed down over the years, but the company he worked for is still strong and expanding. Partly, this is due to the company’s values.

Values are those things considered to be important or beneficial. Every company, person, and church has them. They may not be spelled out in a document, but if you watch they will reveal themselves. At Crosswinds we have five values that are spelled out that we desire to saturate everything we do. Whether it is a Crosswinds’ gathering or ministry venture we are committed to assuring that these values are expressed for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

Crosswinds values the Bible and prayer. We understand that apart from Christ we can do nothing of eternal value. Jesus explained:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

We understand that two of the best ways to be connected to Christ is through exploring and applying His Word, the Bible, as well as dialoguing with Him in prayer. We want to move into His preferred future for us. Therefore, we desire for all we do to be biblically and prayerfully rooted.

Crosswinds values making disciples. The mission of the church is to know God and make Him known. We are to be growing disciples as well as make disciples. A disciple is a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ committed to knowing Him and making Him known. Jesus gave His church this commission:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Therefore, we desire to connect all we do to being disciple makers.

Crosswinds values generosity. We believe that God is a generous God and that we are not any more like Him than when we generously give of our time, talents, treasures, and testimonies for His glory and the benefit of others. Jesus presents this insight:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Therefore, we desire that all that we do be exemplified by generous living.

Crosswinds values connecting timeless truths with our current culture. Understanding that God’s truth is timeless truth, but that we live in an ever-changing culture. We are committed to doing anything, but sin, to call and lead people into an active relationship with Jesus Christ. Prayerfully we ask for the wisdom of the men of Issachar.

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Therefore, we desire to be culturally relevant.

Crosswinds values expressing God’s love in all things. God is a God who is not only defined by love, but actually, Himself defines love. God loved us so much that He provided His Son that through His birth, death, and resurrection we can be saved and walk in union with Him (John 3:16). Even when we were far from Christ, He demonstrated His love for us by giving His life for us (Romans 5:8). John expresses our need to love others with God’s love so powerfully in his epistle:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Therefore, we desire to express extravagant love in everything we do.

Crosswinds’ five values are held so tightly by us because we believe they are important in our desire to glorify God and bring the love and message of Christ to others, to know Him and make Him known. God cares about how we do, what we do, so we do as well.

I am so thankful to serve alongside each of you. Let’s ask the Lord to help us embrace and display these values in all we do.

Discipleship Pathway 1-16-18

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Discipleship is more a pathway than a program. There is no doubt that churches that approach discipleship as a pathway are far more successful in making disciples who thrive in Christ. With this said, people’s faith journey is somewhat unique to them, but there are defining moments along the pathway that are familiar to everyone.

At Crosswinds we have a discipleship strategy that assists people to navigate the four movements of our defined discipleship pathway. Our approach consists of three steps, REACH, TEACH, and RELEASE. These steps or ministry actions are meant to help people move along the path from BELIEVE, to BELONG, to BECOME, and then to BLESS. This discipleship strategy and pathway deserve further explanation.

As a church, we are committed to pursuing holiness (dedicated to God, serving Him, and surrendering oneself to the Lord being conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit). While doing so, we will faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ. We do this in the hope that people will take the step to BELIEVE. Using a familiar imagery from the Finger Lakes region, the pathway leads us first to stand on the beach curious about Christ. This first step is a time of vulnerability with God and self.

Once a person has believed, receiving Christ and His gift of salvation, they head into the water where they find themselves standing ankle deep. This new person in Christ is broken before the Lord (has a leaning toward His will). It is here that Crosswinds is committed to TEACH them to live the life of freedom, fullness, and faithfulness found only in Christ. It is here that they learn what it means to BELONG to Christ and His church as well as BECOME the person they have been created to be in Christ. This movement from BELONG to BECOME moves a person from ankle deep to waist deep in the lake water. A becoming person is growing in Christ through dependence on Him.

Lastly, Crosswinds will RELEASE disciples to pursue their full kingdom potential as they BLESS others. This releasing looks like a person swimming in the deep fully surrendered to Christ. This life of surrender leads to ongoing growth and investing in others who find themselves in various stages of the pathway.

Such a strategy to help people navigate the discipleship pathway seems clean and straightforward on paper, but actually can be a little messy. People don’t always move through the path as expected and the work of reaching and teaching and releasing takes time and a willingness to take a chance on a person. However, as messy as it can be it is so worth the commitment. I am reminded of this proverb:

 “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Prov 14:4).

It is the strength of the ox that allows for plowing the ground that leads to producing crops. If you want the crop, you need the ox, and, therefore, need to keep the ox in a stable, which involves the unpleasant work of cleaning the stable. The point is that an empty stable may be clean, requiring no unpleasant work, but it won’t produce any abundance.

Discipleship can be a messy business, but we are called to make disciples. The fruit of people coming to Christ, growing in Christ, and thriving in Christ is worth all the effort. I know I appreciate those who took a chance on me as they led me down the pathway.

I consider it a privilege to serve alongside each of you. Together let’s commit to journeying through the pathway as we help others do the same. Let’s ask the Lord to continue to bless us as He continues to use us to bless others.

Holy 1-8-18

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I believe one of the most remarkable words in Scripture is holy. The Bible speaks of God as being holy. We are challenged to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We discover in the prophet Isaiah’s vision that two seraphim fly around the throne of God calling to one another “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3)!

Of all the attributes of God, His holiness is the most difficult to explain. Although we are created in God’s image, and we can share in many of His attributes, to a much lesser extent, such as love, mercy, and faithfulness, there are some of God’s attributes, such as His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence; we will never share with Him. Holiness is another attribute of God that we will never share with Him as an inherent part of our nature. We only become holy in union with Christ. It is imputed holiness. Only in Christ do we “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). It is God’s holiness that separates Him from all of His creation. God’s holiness speaks of His perfection and purity but is also the essence of His other-ness, His transcendence. When the Scriptures speak of God’s holiness, they refer to His being awe-inspiring as we look upon and consider His brilliance and majesty.

How are believers than to be holy as God is holy? Make no mistake; grace saves us through faith. The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by grace apart from our own works (see: Eph 2:8-9), while at the same time proclaiming that a saving faith will bear the fruit of good works (James 2:17).  The simple truth is that real saving faith allows the Spirit of God to produce fruits of righteousness in our life. These fruits are not the result of our own power or goodness, but the result of the Spirit’s workings in and through a surrendered believer as a new creation. Salvation in Christ makes one a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

I believe we discover in Scripture that the Lord calls and empowers us to be holy as He is holy in two specific ways. We are to reflect Christ’s character and commit ourselves to Christ’s purpose. As we continue to grow in Christ, the very fruit of the Spirit is evidenced in our lives. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Christ’s character is also manifested as believers are given the power to overcome willful sin (1 Cor 10:13). There is another way we are to be holy. As we continue to grow in Christ, we will desire to be used in partnership with Him to fulfill His mission of reaching people with His love and message. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).

To be holy is to be set apart. God is set apart from His creation as holy. Believers are set apart by God to reflect Christ’s character and share in Christ’s mission. Therefore, every believer is called to know God and make Him known. As we grow in the Lord, we become more like Him. As we continue to walk in step with Him, we participate in fulfilling His mission.

The word holy and the concept of holiness is remarkable. To ponder God’s holiness is awe-inspiring. To realize that believers have been called to be holy is humbling and drives us to ever-greater dependence on Him. No wonder the seraphim proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

I am so honored to serve alongside each of you. I pray that as we stand in awe of God’s holiness that we will each experience, in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit in our life, as well as, the joy of partnering with Him in fulfilling His mission. In this sense, may we be holy as our Lord God is holy.

Following the Spirit’s Lead 12-18-17

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I remember once traveling with a friend to visit his family who lived in Philadelphia. When we reached the city my friend’s dad became frustrated with all the one-way roads. Finally, he saw the house he was looking for, but it was on a one-way heading in the wrong direction. My friend’s dad took a deep breath and drove the wrong way on the one-way receiving verbal complaints from the people who lived on the street. Eventually we got to the house, but not without much difficulty and verbal assaults. When we arrived my friend’s dad grumbled, “We got here, didn’t we?”

I must admit that I have at times similarly traveled through life as my friend’s dad. I know that my destination is to spend eternity in paradise with Christ, but the journey of life that precludes that final destination is wrought with difficult roads. It is easy to get frustrated and decide to take shortcuts and head down the wrong way of a one-way to merely get through one more day as I head to glory.

Sure I make it a habit to ask for God’s leading. But, to be honest, at times it is more like asking God to simply bless my missteps of impatient wandering. A. W. Tozer wisely noted, “We can’t walk with the Holy Spirit unless we agree to walk the way He walks and go in the direction He’s going.” Here lies the key to rightly journeying through life. We need to walk by the Spirit and to do so we must be willing and commit ourselves to go in the direction He’s going.

The psalmist David proclaims, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psa 143:10). Our difficulty is not only reaching victory over our will but the ability to obey. Paul sends the Galatians this instruction:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:16-18).

The only way to live the good life is to yield to the Spirit. We are to invite the Spirit to both direct and empower us. We walk by the Spirit as we make decisions and choices according to His guidance, and acting in the power that the Spirit supplies. Notice that Paul acknowledges that the Christian life is a struggle – a war between our selfish desires and the Spirit. But, with the help of the Spirit, we can walk rightly. It is the Spirit working in a believer’s life that reveals that we are no longer under the law. As believers, we walk in freedom, but in that freedom humbly and lovingly follow the Spirit’s lead. Therefore, Paul describes being led by the Spirit as a sign that someone is indeed God’s child. He writes, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14). Paul declares that those who yield to the Spirit are those who truly belong to God’s family.

Today, I ask the Spirit to guide my steps. I proclaim my willingness to yield to Him and receive His direction and empowerment. I will not succumb to the temptation to take shortcuts. I ask Him to help me keep in step with Him.

It is an honor to do life with each of you. Let us encourage one another to live in total dependence on the Spirit. As we head down the road to glory, let us do so in a way that brings our Lord glory.

Practicing For Growth 12-11-17

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I enjoy playing golf. However, I have to admit I don’t get out but a few times a season. Needless to say, I am not very good. My typical routine is to mentally prepare myself to hit the ball straight, think through executing the proper technique, then hitting the ball into the woods. I try very hard to hit the ball straight down the fairway, but to no avail. Trying harder will not make much of a difference.

Good golf players take the time to practice and play often. A good golfer will go to a driving range and a putting green. They play round after round of golf. Their strategy is not simply to try harder, but to participate in the right practices to become better. It is an amazing thing to see good golfers put their skills on display.

I have noticed that many Christ-followers try to live the Christian life by simply trying harder. They get up in the morning and mentally prepare themselves for a day where they make all the right choices and say all the right things and then embark on the path of frustration littered with good intentions and regretful actions.

God has a better plan. Paul speaks to the believer’s strategy of living well in his first letter to the Corinthians.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

Corinth was very familiar with athletic contests. In fact, the Isthmian games were held every two years by the city. Paul desires for every believer to run the Christian race like a winner. He further explains that if athletes are disciplined to prepare themselves to compete for a perishing wreath as a prize, then how much more ought believers be disciplined to prepare themselves to live as those who will receive the crown of eternal life.

Here is the point. The victorious Christian life is not lived by simply trying harder. A simple strategy of trying harder will lead to frustration every time. The winning strategy is found in partnering with the Holy Spirit as one commits to practicing spiritual disciplines (i.e., prayer, bible study, serving, fellowship, generosity). In other words, we engage in appropriate spiritual practices with the help of God’s Spirit. The lives of such Christians are an amazing thing to see as they put the glory of God on display.

The key to becoming a successful golfer is not simply trying harder, but a commitment to engaging the right practices to prepare for the game. The key to living the victorious Christian life is not simply trying harder, but, by the help of the Spirit, exercising the spiritual disciplines. As we do this we will discover that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the fruit of the Spirit, with be evident in our life (see: Gal 5:22–23). When we walk in such a manner, we will experience the life of freedom and fullness promised by Christ to every believer.

It is my joy to serve alongside each of you. Let us encourage one another not merely to try harder, but be committed to living in union with the Spirit as we engage in the spiritual disciplines. Such a life experiences freedom and fullness in Christ.

On Change 12-4-17

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Change in life is certain. As we age we change. Circumstances change. If you don’t like the weather today just wait, it too will change. Change can be a tricky thing. We find ourselves in a comfortable season and we fear it will change. We find ourselves in a difficult season and fear it will never change.

The world is left looking for a steady in the midst of all the chaos. For the believer, we know that God is that steady. The Lord is always close to His own. The psalmist proclaims:

“You are the same, and your years have no end” (Psa 102:27).

There is no doubt that God is eternal. However, no matter how much time passes the Lord never changes. Therefore, His purpose never changes either.

If God was not good and just this would bring no comfort. But, God is both good and just. In Lamentations we discover in:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23).

Martin Luther offers this powerful insight:

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”

God’s love for His people will not come to an end. God’s compassion goes the extra mile, replacing condemnation with restoration. God is willing to begin anew every morning with those who chose to follow Him. Each new day brings with it another opportunity to experience God’s grace and faithfulness.

No matter what life might throw at us, God is the steady, even in the storm. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa 41:10).

God’s people have in Him reason to be fearless. The gods of this world seek to be strengthened and secured, but the one true God secures and strengthens His people.

We will change. Our circumstances will change. But, God will remain the same throughout all time and eternity. This truth is the source of a believer’s confidence. It is what allows the Christ follower to trust in Him no matter what the circumstances. God desires for us to learn to appreciate every day, no matter what it brings, as an opportunity to grow in confidence from the reality that with God we can handle anything.

It is an honor to journey with each of you. As we face changes as well as life’s challenges, let’s encourage one another to trust in our never changing God. He is good, and He is faithful.

Alert, Not Fearful 11-20-17

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The devil loves the denial of his existence. However, denying his existence does not make it so. Peter warns us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The picture we get here comes right out of a National Geographic episode. You can imagine some zebra drinking from a watering hole. They drink a bit but stop from time-to-time to see if a lion or any other predator is on the prowl. Suddenly an explosion of movement comes from some nearby bushes. The dazzle of zebra, which was on alert, spring into action and escapes being on the lion’s menu for lunch. This picture is not one dominated by fear, but a “sober-minded” understanding that an enemy exists that seeks to destroy them. Their watchfulness saved their lives.

Surveys inform us that the vast majority of people in our society, even many in the church, refuse to believe that the devil exists and that he plans to destroy them. Can you imagine a better situation for a predator than to have its prey deny his existence and his mission? The enemy has believers in his sights, and we ignore him at our peril.

Again, we don’t need to fear. John encourages us with these words: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b). But, we do need to be alert. We need to be prepared for our battle with the enemy. Our victory is secure. As Paul writes, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). But we must be clothed for battle. Paul instructs us, “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph 6:13). God provides us with His armor to protect, do battle, and by His strength win against the enemy.

The enemy wants to chisel away at your confidence. He wants to cause you to stumble and fall. He wants to screw-up your relationships and make you feel alone. He wants to deceive you into believing you are powerless. He wants to destroy your witness and even your desire to see others find the hope you have in Christ. Therefore, we need to be alert. This puritan prayer is appropriate for us to lift up to the Lord.

“O Lord, I bless thee that the issue of the battle between thyself and Satan has never been uncertain, and will end in victory. Calvary broke the dragon’s head, and I contend with a vanquished foe, who with all his subtlety and strength has already been overcome. When I feel the serpent at my heel may I remember him whose heel was bruised, but who, when bruised, broke the devil’s head. My soul with inward joy extols the mighty conqueror. Heal me of any wounds received in the great conflict; if I have gathered defilement, if my faith has suffered damage, if my hope is less than bright, if my love is not fervent, if some creature-comfort occupies my heart, if my soul sinks under pressure of the fight. O thou whose every promise is balm, every touch life, draw near to thy warrior, refresh me, that I may rise again to wage the strife, and never tire until my enemy is trodden down. Give me such fellowship with thee that I may defy Satan, unbelief, the flesh, the world, with delight that comes not from a creature, and which a creature cannot mar. Give me a draught of the eternal fountain that lieth in thy immutable, everlasting love and decree. Then shall my hand never weaken, my feet never stumble, my sword never rest, my shield never rust, my helmet never shatter, my breastplate never fall, as my strength rests in the power of thy might. Amen!”

The devil exists. God has struck him with a fatal blow, through Christ’s finished work on the cross. However, this side of paradise he still seeks to devour us. Stay alert and claim the victory.

It is an honor to do life with each of you. Let’s be watchful. With encouragement and prayer for one another trust God for the victory every day and in all circumstances.

On Discipline 11-13-17

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I gathered with a group of friends this morning for prayer. We come together monthly for this purpose. As we got ready to pray, we got on the subject of exercise. Each of us admitted that we don’t get excited to go workout, but feel the benefit when we do. It is worth the effort, but it takes discipline. Discipline is not a popular word, but necessary for us to flourish in almost every area of our life.

Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).

What does it mean to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?” Some mistakenly think it means to work for your salvation. In other words, work each day to earn your salvation. This is clearly not the purpose of Paul’s writing. We couldn’t do anything to earn our salvation before coming to Christ and aren’t required or capable of doing anything today that earns us the right to remain in Him. We, who believe, live in a saving relationship with God solely by placing our faith in Christ who died for our sins and resurrected for our salvation. Therefore, Paul is not writing about living in fear of whether or not we are accepted by God in Christ.

What then is Paul writing for us to do? Paul is writing to encourage us to keep in step with God. We are to live in union with Him. The “fear and trembling” is directly related to taking great care that we live a surrendered life in Christ. For our salvation to bear fruit, in the here and now, we need to obey the Lord in all things. The good news is that we don’t do this alone. God is working in us. God lovingly empowers and guides us in working out what we know to be true in our daily living.

This is where the spiritual disciplines fit into our walk with Christ. They are called spiritual disciplines because they take discipline. Time and energy are necessary to participate in these soul exercises. Richard Foster identifies twelve crucial disciplines divided into three categories: inward, outward, and corporate practices.

Disciplines of Personal Development (Inward)

  • Prayer – communicating with God (Matt. 6:9)
  • Meditation – focusing on God and his will  (Phil. 4:8)
  • Fasting – a reminder of the source of all nourishment (Luke 5:35)
  • Study – careful attention to the reality that God reveals to us, especially through Holy Scripture (Luke 2:46)

Disciplines of Service to the Body of Christ (Outward)

  • Simplicity – seeking God’s Kingdom first (Matt. 6:33)
  • Submission – placing God’s will above one’s own (Luke 22:42)
  • Solitude – withdrawing from the world to spend time with God (Matt. 14:23)
  • Service – supportive action toward others (Mark 10:45)

Disciplines of Service with the Body of Christ (Corporate)

  • Confession – acknowledging one’s sin with and to others in the community of faith (James 5:16)
  • Guidance – giving and receiving direction from others along the journey with Jesus (Acts 15:8)
  • Celebration – taking joy is what God has done (1 Cor 5:8)
  • Worship – giving God glory through attitudes and actions (1 Cor. 14:26)

These disciplines help us move our perspective from a naturalistic point of view to one in alignment with the Lord. However, they do take time and energy. There may be times when we don’t want to do what is necessary to grow in Christ and keep in step with Him. But, let me remind you that it is worth the effort so that we can flourish in Christ. We know that physical exercise is worth the effort. Similarly, soul exercises are worth the effort.

Let us encourage one another to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” while being mindful that we don’t do it alone. God is at work within us. We participate in these soul exercises so that we will be prepared to live in union with God and flourish in Him. It is such a blessing to be on this great journey with the Lord as well as with each of you.