Monthly Archives: January 2013

James – The Cause of Sin

Peninsula Community Church
January 27, 2013
James – The Cause of Sin

James 1:9-15 “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits” “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death”

James interjects into this passage a reference to one’s standing in life by way of their economic condition. What he infers is that we need to have a right understanding of who we are. He insinuates that there is a tendency in the lowly brother to miss out on what has been given to them. They can be so focused on what they do not have they fail to see or comprehend how much they truly have. The result is that they live a depressed and despondent life. James is calling them to be exalted in whose they are, who they are, and what is available to them in Christ.

On the other hand, those who are rich are reminded that their confidence rests not in what they possess and but in God. The problem is that because they lack for nothing; too often there is no need for them to trust God for anything. This came to light when I was talking with a missionary just a few days ago. He stated that he sees a heightened level of faith and trust in God in the countries he serves because of what they lack physically and financially. When we boil it down, both wealth or the lack thereof can be a test of one’s character and can be a measurement of where one puts their trust.

In preparing this message, I came across a couple of interesting news articles. The first was a report that one in three lottery winners are broke within five years. Those who win larger amounts have a 10% greater chance of having to file for bankruptcy within five years or less of them winning the money. In a November 28, 2012 article, Forbes magazine made the following observation. “Far more often, it seems, money doesn’t buy happiness in this context any more than it does in others.” Take the case of Evelyn Adams. She beat the odds by winning the New Jersey lottery twice in 1985 and 1986. She collected a total of $5.4 million. The problem is that she totally blew through the money because of her out of control spending habits, bad investments, gifts to family and gambling. Today, she is completely broke.

William “Bud” Post, a 1988 lottery winner, died broke in 2006. What happened to his $16.2 million Pennsylvania lottery winnings? He spent it on houses, cars, boats, an unsuccessful family business and a twin-engine airplane (even though he didn’t have a pilot’s license). Within a year, he was $1 million in debt, his former girlfriend had successfully sued him for part of his winnings, and his brother tried to hire a hit man to kill him.
A third story I found was in the Toronto News dated 2008. A woman won $5 million in the lottery, but somehow she kept her financial dealings hidden from her husband. Her husband had no clue of what she was doing with all of their money as she was handling both his money and her money. He, being a medical doctor and extremely wealthy in his own right, became suspect of his wife’s dealings. When he did not get the answers he needed, he killed her with a lethal injection of a deadly cocktail of drugs. Surprisingly, after her death he found that they were broke and had a overwhelming amount of unpaid bills. The sad part is that he had to borrow the money for her funeral. At 71 years of age he is now on trial for murder.
These trials only speak to one small segment of life but trials come in all sizes and shapes. Trials seem to come to disrupt our lives and unsettle us. It is for that reason, James continues to discuss the subject of facing trials. We can learn much from this passage:
The first thing we learn is that every trial is met with a level of temptation. Any significant change in our existence can be a test and in every test that comes there is an opportunity for temptation. These changes can be physical, emotional, financial, or spiritual. Regardless of how the tests we face come to us, they will tempt us toward positive responses or they will tempt us toward evil responses. More specifically, James notes that testing can lead us to a crown of life or it can lead us to death. It will move us toward God or it will move us away from Him. Trials by their nature change us and shape us forever. We will either exhibit a greater faith in Christ and we will be stronger as a result of the trial or the trial will get the best of us and we will face some form of death as a result. It may be that we become less trusting, more cynical or down right rebellious but there will be a death.

One difficulty in translating this passage is that the translators of the Bible used two different English words, one for “trial” and one for “temptation,” while the Greek uses the same word for both. While the same word is used, the word can have different nuances of meaning depending on how it is used within the context of the discussion. This idea is similar to the Chinese use of the alphabetical symbol used in their language for the words “crisis” and “opportunity.” It is the same symbol, but it is how it is used that makes a difference. It can be a moment of crisis or it can be a moment of opportunity. Here we see that testing can grow us or it can kill us.

A second lesson learned here is that no one causes us to sin; we sin because we desire it. James make a critical doctrinal statement in this passage. He states that God cannot tempt us to sin. Why is that? For God to tempt us to sin would run counter to His character and who He is. So, where does temptation come from? James states that temptation comes from within man and is rooted in his desires and his wants.

To explain this Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, stated that we must not confuse the cause of sin with the occasion of sin. The cause of sin is our desire but the occasion noted here is the trial. The test in school does not cause us to fail the test but we fail because of what is lacking in us. Keller uses the example of people that abuse children. He states that those that are abused often become abusers. It is a proven fact that what we hate in others we become ourselves. However, regardless of how we have been treated in the past or regardless of the damage done to us; these things are not an excuse for sin and therefore should not cause us to sin. The real cause of sin is the war that goes on within us. It is a brought on by the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Because you are a creation of God and you have Christ in you can stop sin by way of your thought process and by partnering with the Holy Spirit. We all have free will. We can choose to sin or we can choose to deal with the sin. Remember that while God allows testing to come into our lives He never tempts us to sin. We sin because of the attitudes and lusts of our hearts that go unchecked.

We must understand that we only do what we most desire to do. It is for that reason that we must take responsibility for our actions. One way to illustrate this is a situation that could take place on your job. Suppose the boss wants you to lie big time to cover a mistake he made or else you will loss your job. If you choose to lie, the fact is that you wanted to keep your job more than you were concerned about lying. You always do what you want to do. You sin because you desire it and are drawn to it.

A third lesson from this passage answers the question, “Why are we tempted to sin?” James uses a sexual metaphor to describe how sin enters the heart. He states that one is seduced by sin when he is drug away by his evil desire. When we fail to resist the draw of sin in our hearts there is a subsequent conception and a birth. He continues the analogy by stating that the grandchild of this relationship is death.

EPITHUMIA is the Greek word used here for “evil desire” The general idea realized in this word is that the essence of sin is an over desire for things. It is not that we want bad things but we want things too badly. It is our “over desires” that seduce us. This may be food, sex, money or any other healthy thing that we desire without using good judgement and self control.

In the Old Testament a word picture that is often used for sin is the idea of spiritual adultery. Therefore, sin in the Old Testament was not seen as just breaking the rules but it was seen as an act of adultery. It was seen in the Israelites rebelling against God and going after other gods. The picture that is painted in this is that sin comes because people are seduced into the arms of another lover. It is not that they are dissatisfied with their spouse but the other person too often makes them feel more secure, more needed and more of a man or woman. They need the strokes and the adoration from the other lover and they fall for the oldest trick in the Bible; deception and doubt.

Tim Keller stated, “Sin begins when something becomes the author of your self esteem.” It becomes a fatal attraction for us because we trust whatever that is but it can become a fatal attraction. All sin tends to start like that. If there is anything that is added to Jesus for our happiness, we are in trouble. Here in James the word picture given us is the idea of lust. To be honest lust is not just wanting bad things but it is wanting things badly.

Sin is conceived within the heart but it will grow and become full grown if we do deal with it sufficiently. Sin begins as a seed within the heart. The seed gives birth to actions that would not normally define us. Have you ever noticed that we lie most often because we want security and we are afraid that people will find out who we really are and that they will not like that person. What is giving birth to the lie? A fatal attraction to career, job, success, self esteem, or money. Fear is the seed.

If you think the answer to avoiding sin is to just say no; you are wrong. If it were that easy we could just say no and all would be well. It has been said that the way to break the hold of a beautiful object on the soul is to show it something even more beautiful. Jesus must become the passion of our hearts. If we put our lives into the hands of anyone except our spouse we are setting ourselves up for trouble. If we say, “You make me feel…..” We are in trouble. My people have forgotten me was the cry of God’s heart.

What do we do then? We must realize the thing we go after may not be a woman. It could be our job. It could be our love of sports. It could be our love of shopping. It could be the love of money. It could be many things. Whatever fatal attractions we have, we must let them go and fall in love with Christ again. How do we do that? We get into the Word and allow the Word to permeate our hearts. For those who are married or have been married, do you remember what it was like when you were dating your spouse? You could not see any other person though the room was filled. You did not want to be with anyone else but that one person. You spent hours talking and relating with them to get to know them better. Too often, however, we fail to continue to keep the relationship fresh and alive. Christ desires that of us. He wants us to draw close to him. He loves us.

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Book of James – If You Lack Wisdom – Ask and You WIll Receive

Peninsula Community Church

January 20, 2013

Wisdom from God 

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  

People do dumb things. A man in our church in New York was cleaning his gutters and windows one spring. He was having trouble reaching one of the windows because his ladder was too short. To resolve the issue, he decided to put a picnic bench on top of a picnic table and then put the ladder on top of the picnic bench. I am sure that you know the outcome already but after he put the bench on the table and the ladder on the bench; he climbed the ladder. All went well until he found that he could not reach the corner of one of the windows so he leaned over to reach the outer edge of the window. That was just another bad decision in a series of bad decisions. It was at that moment that chaos broke lose. The ladder slipped on the bench and the bench slipped off the table and he began to fall. As he was falling, he said that it was in that moment that he realized how dumb this decision was. The amazing thing is that he only received a broken arm in the fall.

Another man related this story to me. He was a cross country tractor trailer driver and had been on the road for a while and was getting hungry. He looked over his shoulder and realized that his lunch was sitting on the bed in the truck’s sleeper compartment. He came up with the idea that he would put the truck on cruise control, stand up in the cab and reach for the bag. The problem was that the bag was just out of his reach. So, in a moment of total stupidity he let go of the steering wheel and quickly grabbed the bag. It was in that moment that he realized that he had let go of the steering, that he was traveling 70 MPH and he had a full load of sugar on his truck. It was also in that moment he realized how dumb that decision was.  

Believers do spiritually dumb things too. James shows us that one of the dumb things we do is try to navigate through the trials of life without asking God for help. We take things into our own hands without considering God’s purpose, plan or Word but without God we make a mess of things. For one, we will not understand the purpose of the trial and we will miss the positive results that come from successfully navigating a difficult situation. Remember that it is in our trials that we understand ourselves better and we understand God better as well. 

As we look at this passage, there are four key things we can learn. 

First, James says that if you lack wisdom, ask and you will receive it. This verse must be read in context with the previous verses to understand the true meaning of James’ admonition. When you are facing various kinds of trials, there is at your disposal the ability to ask for wisdom to know how to navigate these issues. The fact is God wants us to successfully navigate the difficulties of life but He also recognizes that we need to ask for divine intervention. It is here that James suggests that one of the best ways to secure divine intervention is to ask God for wisdom. It is important to note that He is calling us to do the asking as wisdom is not a given for us. There are some things that God will do for us without asking but here we see that we must pray for wisdom and we must do so regularly.  

The idea presented in the verb “to ask” is the idea of continually asking. This is the same tense as the word “ask” in Matthew 7:7 where Jesus states that when we “ask we shall receive,” and when we “knock it shall be opened,” and when we “seek we shall find.” Each of these verbs carry the idea of continually doing something. Therefore, the request for wisdom is not a one time deal but requires that we continually seek God for wisdom. 

To fully understand wisdom, we must understand that wisdom is a process of right thinking. The goal must be to think the way God thinks and not settle for our own thinking that is removed from Biblical truth. The truest form of  wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10). This is the beginning of wisdom as the fear of God is foundational to all wisdom. The fear of The Lord does not push us away but draws us to him with grateful hearts and with minds that anticipate answered prayers. 

Second, we must understand that there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is understood as the gaining of information while wisdom is understood as the appropriate application of the information obtained. While we have an abundance of information,  the problem is that we lack appropriate application of the information. For example, the man who placed the ladder on the bench and the bench on the table had correct information in that this would give him the right height he needed but if he had appropriately applied the information he would have been warned of the possible effects of making such a move. 

We are living in the information age where there is an abundance of information. There is no lack of information because of the internet, the availability of books, TV shows and magazine articles. I recently spoke with my family doctor about this. He stated that one of the most challenging issues he faces today is that people have such access to all sorts of information they often come to him with some sort of self-diagnosis. He stated that while some are good diagnostics, most are exaggerations and misdiagnoses based on false information. 

While there is much knowledge in the world, what is missing is godly wisdom. In James 4, two types of wisdom are evaluated. There is earthy wisdom and there is wisdom that comes from above. It is this spiritual wisdom that James calls us to ask for. For knowledge to be useful, wisdom must be applied. The problem is that most of the world uses its knowledge based upon the wisdom of the world and ignores God’s plan. Man thinks that he is as good, or better than God, or doesn’t believe in a supreme God at all. 

Third, we see that God gives wisdom generously and without reproach. If we ask, he will give us the wisdom we need without holding anything back. He is a generous God. We ask and He gives. There is no end to His ability to supply and meet needs. The thing we must understand is that he uses a variety of avenues to send His wisdom to us. It can come through experience, through counseling with others, through advice given by way of professionals who give us appropriate advice and wisdom comes from the Word and by way of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts.

God also gives wisdom without reproach or judging. The term reproach means to have shame or insult. Regardless of the reason for the need to request wisdom, God gives wisdom to those who ask without shaming or insulting the requesting the wisdom. He does this even when we make bad choices and have self-inflicted trials. God wants us to ask and He generously and without shame or insult gives wisdom. This is so different from what we tend to do. When someone id facing a trial or they have made foolish choices we attempt to belittle or lecture them. God does not lecture, he gives generously and without shaming you. 

Fourth, James explains that we must ask without wavering. We cannot be double minded in our approach to asking God. I am reminded of a woman who called me one day and stated that she had already spoken to her psychiatrist, her doctor, her case worker and her other pastor and wanted to know what I thought about a particular issue. I told her she would have to chose one as each were given her different counsel. 

To be double minded is to have a divided heart. We want to trust God but also want to trust non biblical and non godly avenues for gaining wisdom. The problem that exists is that we lose faith and trust altogether. James warns that when we start to see things from God’s perspective we should believe what we see and not doubt. A person who says they have faith in God, yet doubts God’s ability, power and plan, are in essence putting their faith in both God and in worldly wisdom. Such a person is truly double minded and they should not expect to receive anything from God!

We cannot rely on God and the world’s wisdom. We cannot ask God for wisdom and then reject His plan and His response. I worked with a pastor who came to me for counsel about pastoring the church he represented. I would give him counsel and he would agree to it but when we would meet again he would share that he did the opposite which created more conflict. We do this to God as well. He gives us counsel but we reject the counsel and life gives us more conflict as a result. 

God offers us wisdom today, will you accept it? Where do you need wisdom? Got a big decision coming with your career, your marriage, or your kids? God wants to help. He has wisdom to offer. Remember what James says. If you want wisdom from God, you’ve got to ask! If you ask, he’ll give it.

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Passing the Test

Peninsula Community Church
January 13, 2013
Practical Faith For Endurance

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

As we look at this passage, we should note that James does not use the usual pleasantries nor does he waste any time on the usual introductions. Instead, he goes to work presenting the message that was on his heart. He knew the people he was writing to were facing severe religious persecution and they were facing an extreme set of circumstances.

As we review this passage, we must realize there are two types of trials. There are those trials we bring upon ourselves and there are those trials that come from an external source or circumstance. How do self imposed trials come? Self imposed trials occur when we disregard God’s word or we live in disobedience to the commands of God. Disregarding God’s word and disobedience causes one to face unnecessary trials and tribulation. I don’t understand it but for some reason some Christians seem bent on asking for trouble. They rebel against the divine standard and when life takes a turn for the worse, they complain to God about the “trial” He sent them when in reality it is a trial of their own making. For that reason, those who sow seeds of disobedience shouldn’t be surprised when sprouts of discouragement and despair appear. The trials you cultivate through rebellious behavior can yield a very different and disastrous outcome.

James begins by stating that we should “count it all joy when we face various kinds of trials.” As you might guess the word “count” is an accounting term which means “to evaluate.” The idea presented is that we must evaluate which side of the ledger we will post the trials of life. Will the trial be an asset or will it be an expense? Will we allow God to use the trial as an opportunity to grow us to be more like Him or will we become bitter and angry? This decision is a function of the mind. It is here that I am reminded of the words of Isaiah. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). When we look at hardships from God’s perspective and place the proper value on them, we can rejoice in the beneficial outcome, even while experiencing pain. Humanly speaking, trials hurt; but from the Lord’s point of view, they help us grow in the understanding of ourselves and of God. How you respond to problems in your life will reflect who you are and where your faith is. They will reflect your attitudes and what side of the ledger you are placing the trials of your life.

To “count it all joy,” may seem like an impossible task to some but we must recognize that there is a difference between joy and happiness. It should be noted that the root word for “joy” in the Greek is the same root word for “grace.” Joy is a mindset established by the work of the Holy Spirit. Joy is a gift of grace to those whose heart and mind are focused on the One who can bring all joy and peace. After all joy is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Happiness on the other hand is an emotion triggered by circumstances. It describes that bubbly feeling you get inside when everything is going your way. If I were to give you a million dollars this morning with no strings attached, you would most likely experience an emotional happiness. While a million dollars may make you happy for a while, it does not bring permanent joy. Joy is more than an emotion; it is a life-changing mindset. Joy is a deep, abiding sense of well-being that can sustain you even if you lose a million dollars. Therefore, joy is unmoved by one’s circumstances.

When we understand the difference between joy and happiness, we will understand that we do not have to face trials as victims but can do so with purpose, wisdom and an overcoming spirit. Circumstances can rob one’s happiness but it cannot rob one’s joy. Trials will obliterate our happiness but trials will enhance our joy. Why, because we understand that joy is a God-given supernatural attribute of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we choose to walk in the supernatural grace. Someone has said, “Our attitude will determine our altitude.” How and what we think will determine the effect of joy on our lives. When we consider this, we must recognize that God is calling us to navigate these things with patience and not passion. We are not to pray so much to have the affliction removed as much as we should pray for the wisdom on how best to use the trial for our growth and to make the right use of the trial we have been given.

Trials test our faith and this testing produces steadfastness in our spirits. The testing of our faith produces in us a steadfastness that is unmovable and unshakeable. Tony Evans says this about trials. “Remember in school when the teacher announced that you were going to have a test? If you have accepted your assignment, studied the material and prepared properly, the result of the test was a foregone conclusion: you received the reward of a good grade and advancement. If you’re prepared, your trials and preparation provide you with an opportunity to “strut your spiritual stuff” so to speak.”

When circumstances turn against you and the deck seems stacked in favor of the enemy, it is just as though God is saying, “Clear your desk and grab your pencil. Here comes a pop quiz.” God wants to know the same thing that your math teacher wanted to know: has the information that he gave you to study been assimilated? Better yet God wants you to know that you have assimilated the information given so you will remain steadfast in whatever comes. The fact is, exams make people nervous. Trials cause pain but there is nothing like the rush you feel when you know you’ve scored big.

James says that trials will produce the effect of steadfastness and patience. To let patience have its perfect effect means that we must not lay down our pencils halfway through the exam. Even if you have answered each question correctly, quitting at the halfway point limits your score to 50%, an F at most schools.

We do not stop in the middle of the test but we complete it. The Lord gives us a precious promise in I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation [test or trial] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” God made you. He knows when enough is enough. The trials you face will be appropriate and within your power to endure. James stated “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

The result of allowing trials to have their work in us leads us to understand that we are being perfected in Christ, that we are complete in Christ and that we lack nothing. We are empty and lacking because we fail to apply what God has taught us and allow the truth of God’s word to penetrate every area of our life. Life is perfect, complete and satisfying when we trust God. Why is this? It is because God looks at your situation today, breaks through your wall of trials, invades your experience and single-handedly turns your circumstances around. That’s life.

It could be that job you have been looking for or the desire to see your unsaved spouse or family member come to know Christ. You’ve prayed for years that they would become the man or woman God wants them to be. Faithfully, you applied the principles of submission and love. Then, suddenly, your stubborn spouse, son, father or sister confesses his or her sin and seeks a Savior. That’s life. There are few experiences on earth that match the excitement of seeing God turn trials into triumph, but that transformation is a process, not an event.

We must remember that it takes the fire of the furnace to produce hardened steel. Only the intense pressure of the earth can create the precious diamond. Only our trials can produce the kind of Christian character God wants to build within us.

When God wants to drill a man, And thrill a man, And skill a man;
When God wants to mold a man To play the noblest part,
When He yearns with all his heart
To create so great and bold a man That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways How He ruthlessly perfects Whom He royally elects.
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows, converts him Into trial shapes of clay Which only God understands, While his tortured heart is crying, And he lifts beseeching hands.
How He bends but never breaks When His good He undertakes.
How He uses Whom He chooses, And with every purpose, fuses him;
By every act, induces him To try His splendor out.
God knows what He’s about.

You may be here today and you may be facing intense trials. Know this, God knows where you are. He knows your needs. He has a plan to strengthen you and cause you to survive but not just survive but grow in His grace and His wisdom.

Let’s pray.

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Focusing on the Future

Peninsula Community Church

January 6, 2013

A Focus on the Future 

This morning I want us to focus on some of the goals we have as a church for this year. I want to remind some and inform others that our mission statement is “PCC exists to turn irreligious people into Christians and Christians into fully devoted followers of Christ.” For me, when we speak of irreligious people we are talking about the non-churched and those who have not committed their lives to Christ. If that is our vision then what we do as a church must be focused on bringing the non-churched into the church and the nonbeliever to Christ.That is why each event we host always has as it’s primary function the invitation to bring new folks into the church to expose them to a church that is not hung up on legalism and false teaching but also a church that is preaching the Word; without compromise or apology. It is for that reason, we encourage you to share your faith with others.

As we consider the goals for PCC, let us focus on Habakuk’s writings in Habakuk 2:2-3. He stated, And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.  

This passage has much to teach us about vision and while I cannot share in great depth let me make a couple of observations about this passage that will help your understanding. The first thing to notice is the vision God gave to Habakkuk came from a time of prayer and seeking God. Too often churches make drastic changes to how they function and do church without ever spending time in prayer. Habakkuk knew he had been called to be the leader but he also knew that he best leadership would come from praying and seeking God for His direction. Through Him God sent a vision to the people of Israel. While God speaks through the leadership of the church God, the leadership must never lapse into a spirit of pride where they reject anyone being able to hear from God for the future of the church. Additionally, this does not mean that others cannot be involved or should not be involved with formulating the vision but there must be a a leader or leadership who serves as a focal point to understand and cast vision. If there this does not occur, there could be multiple visions in competition with one another which can create chaos and confusion and as we know God is not the author of confusion. Know this and let me make this clear, I believe that God can use each of you to shape and mold our future and our vision here at PCC.

The second observation about the passage is the term used for vision. The Hebrew word for vision is  CHAZON which indicates “a revelation from God which is received by inward intuition.”  CHAZON represents not only the vision but it also represents the goals that it takes to bring the vision into existence. John Maxwell said this about vision. “Vision is foresight with insight based on hindsight. Vision is seeing the invisible and making it visible. Vision is an informed bridge from the present to a better future. Vision is a picture held in your mind’s eye of the way things could or should be in the days ahead. Vision connotes a visual reality, a portrait of a preferred future.” 

Let me pause for a moment and ask you “What is your vision? What are you dreaming of that is not a reality right now but you have a picture in your mind of what things could be?” Perhaps it is a family member who needs Christ. Perhaps it is a personal goal. For me, it is finishing my degree. It is seeing this building filled with new families and children who would to take the journey toward being fully devoted followers of Christ with us.

The third observation from this passage is that the CHAZON or vision was to be written plainly. This can mean two different things. For one, the vision must be written in such a way that it is easily transferred to everyone. This also means that if someone were running they could still read the vision and understand it. The goal is for the vision to be simple and it must be easy to understand. Andy Stanley has stated “vision pre-decides for us. The clearer our vision gets, the fewer things we do and the easier it is to say no. It’s gotta be simple, it’s gotta be portable, it’s gotta be repeatable. It has to be transferable. For vision to happen there must be systems in place. It is establishing these systems that can cause us the greatest problems. Sometimes the vision is simple but the systems we put in place are more complicated than they ought to be. Too often we complicate the vision that God intended to make simply. 

I remember one of the church’s where I was a staff member that we spent hours trying to figure out how to state our vision. At every staff meeting for a year we would spend hours trying wrestle with the vision. In the end, we never fully developed the vision. Why? We were trying to complicate it. If you look at most churches that are successful today, they do not have pages and pages of vision but they have one vision that they can be articulated in one or two sentences. They may have many goals to accomplish the vision but the vision is simple. Let me remind you that our vision is “PCC exists to turn irreligious people into Christians and Christians into fully devoted followers of Christ.”

The fourth observation is that the vision of God takes time to be fulfilled in its entirety. The problem we have is that we live in an instant culture where we want everything now and have lost the ability to wait patiently. In our waiting, we must not lose heart and we must not try to force the birth of a vision before its time. Remember what Isaiah 40:31 says. God gives strength to those who patiently wait for the vision to unfold. In my life there have been times where I have faced frustration because I did not think a vision or a goal had been fulfilled in the time I thought. In my frustration, I thought I could help God out and what I caused was a premature birth of the vision. Instead of being strong and healthy, the vision had to be placed on life support and often the vision died because of what I had done. However, when I have waited on God I have been amazed at the outcomes. 

With that said, let me share some goals we have for PCC for 2013. I will begin with a couple of personal goals each of us should have individually.

To begin with, I want to challenge everyone at PCC to read through the Bible this year. In the foyer you will find a read through the Bible map to help you accomplish this goal. For some, you may already have your plan in place but this will be for those who do not have a tool to help them. I encourage you to buy a notebook and after you have read the scriptures for the day, record your thoughts, the lessons learned and the actions to be taken. Share these thoughts with others so that you are growing in the Lord together.

I want to challenge everyone to make a list of people to invite to the church this year. Perhaps these are some people you have invited before but keep inviting them until they tell you to get lost or they come. Think of some new folks that you have not invited yet to join you on a Sunday for the service. One option for you is to invite them to join you for the service or special event and then take them for a slice of pizza or a lunch somewhere after the service. Be patience with those you invite and don’t use guilt or false pretenses to get them to come to the church. You see how we get people into the church is what we will have to continue to do to keep them in the church. If we use gimmicks to get people in the church, we will have to use gimmicks to keep them there. The best way to get new people into the church is to genuinely invite them and love them in the process. On the back of the insert, I have provided a place for you to list your potential invites.  

I want to challenge everyone to consider sharing your faith with at least one person per month at a minimum this year. Now, I would trust that this would become a common occurrence in your life but we must begin somewhere. Perhaps there are some people you have been praying about sharing your faith with them. If so, place their name in the area provided on the back of handout. Spend time praying for the people you have on the list. Set aside a specific time every day to say a prayer for those on your list and then look for ways to invest in their lives. Invite them to dinner. Look for a way to meet a need in their lives. Have them at your house for a game night. The opportunities are endless and the results are priceless.

I now would like to share some ministry oriented goad for the church. Let me begin with one goal that we had last year that has not come to fruition the way we thought it might. Most of you know we had a desire to launch Connect Groups this past fall but have placed that on hold for now for a number of reasons. For one, we had several of our potential leaders unable to serve at this time due to health issues, work schedules, family needs, and so forth. Although we are not officially launching the ministry I would encourage you to invite folks to your home not as a Connect Group but just as a time of fellowship and having a chance to get to know one another. This is one of those areas where we thought we were ready but we have faced many obstacles. I am convinced that at the right time God will help us launch the Connect Groups and it will be awesome. This is one of those things where we must wait for God’s appropriate moments.

Now to some goals we can achieve. I would like to see our men’s and women’s ministry revamped this year. I know Michelle could use some help in planning and executing activities for the women of our church and I could use some help with the men’s ministry. So if you are interested in providing some help see either Michelle or I and we can discuss how you can be involved. I know for me I could use someone or a group of guys that could plan some of some of our activities such as breakfasts, retreats, and outings. 

I would like to see us prepare the space in the nursery and toddler room for the future growth we are going to experience and must experience in this ministry. One of the needs we have here at PCC is to attract younger families but we will never do that if we do not have the ministries in place these families need that will lead them to consider this their church home. For example, I would like to see us finish the mural that is the nursery. We are working on the carpet reinstalled and then cleaned. We are working on getting the area staffed with trained people.

I would like to see us revamp the children’s ministry area so that we have the latest technology for them to use. I would like to see us design the room so the children would want to come to church and they would want to invite their friends. Let’s paint the walls. Let’s setup a viewing center with a wide screen monitor. 

I also believe it is time for us begin to plan a youth group ministry even though we are still about two years away from needing that. We need to plan now for what we will be later. 

There are a number of other items we have but time will not allow us to present every one of them but I have included them is a Goal Setting brochure in the foyer.

As we close let me ask you are you with me on these things? This vision cannot be just the vision of the leadership team. It must “our vision” or else it will never work. Would you join me this year? We need everyone on board to help us accomplish these tasks. I believe we can do it.

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