The Christian life is meant to be lived out in relationships. Here are five key relationships for every Christ Follower:
Right Church | My On Mission Family that I pool my gifts, energy, and resources with for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
Small Group | My Circle of 8-12 friends that I grow with and care for on a regular basis.
Prayer Partner(s) | My smaller circle of 2-3 close friends that know my struggles and prayer needs
My Mentor / Spiritual Father(s) or Mother(s) | Someone ahead of me in the journey that I can learn from along the path of spiritual fruitfulness.
Mentee / Person(s) I am Discipling | Someone I’m ahead of in the journey that I can help along the path of spiritual fruitfulness
These relationships have been so key for me as a believer. Looking through this list, I see faces that make me smile. So many on mission friends that have shaped me at church, in small groups, close confidential prayer partners, spiritual fathers, and now people I get the privilege of helping to grow. Not sure where I’d be without these relationships.
If you’re missing out on one of these key relationships, ask God to direct you to or send you to the right church, a circle of friends, a prayer partner, a spiritual father, and/or someone to disciple today.
Relationships are the most important part of life. The ability or inability to get along with and influence people will determine our effectiveness at work, our fruitfulness in Christian service, and our legacy in our homes. So much is at stake. And we’re planting seeds through our relationships with the next generation. They are learning from us. God’s word has a great deal to say about relationships. At this point, I’ve found it better than any self-help book on the shelves. Our church is currently studying the book of James and we took some time to dig into what James says about relationships.
Three Roots of Great Relationships
A tree or plant is only as strong as its root system. And some roots are seen, but most are not. Great relationships are born out of something unseen by most. It’s the character traits that are in our hearts toward others. James points to three key roots that we must have to build and maintain great relationships:
1. INITIATIVE TAKING LOVE | “Love your neighbor as yourself” James 2:8; 15
This is a profound line from the Old Testament that Jesus commended, calling it the second greatest commandment. When we have needs, we work to have them met. When I’m hungry, I go find food. When I’m hurting, I go find meds. When I’m cold, I go find warmth. We take initiative to meet our own needs. Jesus taught that we should extend that to others we are in relationship with as well. The word for love is AGAPE, which is that initiative taking, self-sacrificing love that Jesus modeled for us in giving His life. He saw our great need and did what had to be done, to help us overcome our sin and death and separation from God. It’s a reminder that love INITIATES and SACRIFICES and FINDS A WAY to meet the needs of others.
One of the things I seldom hear truly on Mission Christians say is, “I would have helped but no one asked me.” To Be On Mission is to, out of love, be an initiator of ministry and service toward others.
2. COMPASSION AND MERCY | “Mercy triumphs over judgment” James 2:13
Why do we prioritize our own needs, loving ourselves? Because we feel them. They are dynamic and present. Having compassion and mercy means we feel the needs of others along with our own in a dynamic and present way. And Agape love leads us to react and serve and give and encourage.
But there is more to mercy than just a feeling. The definition: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Mercy means even when I know something about them or have something I can use against them or don’t really like them or have a right to hold a grudge against them, I still am willing to love them and show them grace. That’s what God, in Christ did for us, and that’s what he desires for us to extend to others.
3. WISDOM | “the gentleness that comes from wisdom” James 3:13
Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective. Relationships can entangle us in worldly, fleshly thinking like nothing else. That’s why anger, abuse, and division are so prevalent. When relationships get tough and dirty, we do too. However, if I could see God’s perspective, I could see the bigger picture, the possible solutions, the deeper reasons for the conflict and adjust my life to avoid the traffic jams and potholes of anger, abusive language, and division. And God’s perspective helps us know our place as well. We should approach all our relationships from a humble vantage point that says, “I’m flawed, you’re flawed. We all need mercy, grace, forgiveness. I might as well try to make life better and easier on people. We’re all in this together.”
Initiative Taking Love, Compassion and Mercy, Wisdom from Above. These three things applied to our relationships will bring about fruitfulness, effectiveness, and leave a legacy of peace.
Hear the audio of this study at Bridge Church HERE.
Some of my favorite pics from my personal Instagram feed for 2017. See them all HERE.
The book of James gives us some great truths about prayer.
- PRAYER WORKS! James 1:5
- Prayer works WHEN IT’S TRIED. James 4:2
- Prayer works when it’s tried WITH RIGHT MOTIVES. James 4:3
- Prayer works when done IN COMMUNITY. James 5:13-16
James also tells us about the power of prayer:
1. We can BE STRONG and ACCOMPLISH MORE through prayer. This is how the words “powerful in its effect” in James 5:16 can also be translated. Strength and accomplishment.
2. James puts one condition on prayers power: “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16. To gain full advantage in prayer, one must be RIGHT with God. This points to the need of a RELATIONSHIP with God through Christ. This is how we gain RIGHTEOUSNESS (see 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:18). Goodness is the best we can do, but RIGHTEOUSNESS is needed to get to heaven and to know all the blessings of life IN CHRIST, including a powerful, strong prayer life.
3. Prayer Requires Intentionality, Commitment, and Faith. James gives an example of the power of prayer from the life of Elijah. Elijah’s prayer actually changed weather patterns (James 5:17-18)! It’s a lesson in the endless possibilities of dependence upon God. As Jesus said it, “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
James says that Elijah prayed fervently or earnestly. This word proseuche is rich with meaning. Here are some ways that its definition and usage can be applied:
- pros means near of toward – prayer brings nearness to God
- seuche means vow or commitment – prayer is bringing our hearts near or toward God. Prayer should bring with it a heart of surrender and sacrifice and a commitment that says we are serious about our relationship, dependence, and usefulness to God.
- proseuche also denoted a real place. The word was used by Jews who lived in a city without a synagogue to mark a place for prayer gatherings. It also was used to describe an altar where people brought gifts prior to prayer and worship. Of course Jesus, encouraged or commanded the use of a prayer closet (Matthew 6:6).
Is your heart RIGHT with God? Do you have a PLACE for prayer? Do you believe in prayers power? Are you ready to give your heart to God? Then get after it, and expect to experience the powerful effects of prayer!
One of the books we gave away at last year’s Church Planting training events was Peyton Jones’ Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art. Peyton’s message to the church is to get out from behind the walls and take risk to share the Gospel. He shares many of his experiences from the field and also many great quotes and stories from church history. Find much encouragement to get started or refocused on the mission of Jesus out there, among the lost in our communities in Reaching the Unreached. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes:
- The future belongs not to churches that can draw a crowd, but churches that can penetrate one.
- Before the faith comes to others ears, movement must first come to our feet.
- The Holy Spirit is always with his people, but he seems to show up with special power when his people are out of their depth. That’s because the secret ingredient for the secret sauce of power is risk.
- We pray for more power from the Holy Spirit, but why would he pour himself on us when we continue to do nothing?
- We may long to experience more of God’s presence, but maybe we aren’t doing anything we actually need him for.
- Without the tuning fork of mission, the instrument of Christianity sounds off key.
- The current hour calls for humble, broken people, consumed with Jesus, and unimpressed with themselves.
- The litmus test of whether God is moving isn’t how many Christians you’ve crammed into a room, but the effect upon the lost.
- If you’re going to help someone stuck in the muck you better be willing to get dirty; if you’re going to help the broken you’d better be ready to get hurt because the jagged edges of a broken life are sharp.
- The church that weathers the future will be less dependent upon buildings, methods, and structure and more on natural missional engagements.
Connect with Peyton Jones, his podcasts, newsletters, etc. at https://peytonjones.ninja/. He’s always great with resources for church planter training and encouragement. Hope to get Peyton down to Louisiana in person for training sometime soon.
Beyond black eyed peas and cabbage, what can you do this year to guarantee…
- An endless source of strength
- Productive, fruitful work and life
- Resilience when pressure builds
- Success and prosperity
These things are promised to the person who delights in God’s word (Psalm 1:2).
1 How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
2 Instead, HIS DELIGHT IS IN THE LORD’S INSTRUCTION,
and he meditates on it day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams (ENDLESS SOURCE OF STRENGTH)
that bears its fruit in its season (PRODUCTIVE, FRUITFUL WORK AND LIFE)
and whose leaf does not wither. (RESILIENCE WHEN PRESSURE BUILDS)
Whatever he does prospers. (SUCCESS AND PROSPERITY).
Psalm 1:1-3 CSB
Delight means to see it as pleasurable or have a desire for it. Spending time in God’s Word can make an impact in your life. Make a plan and experience the strength, fruitfulness, resilience, and success that only God’s wisdom can bring.
- The Impact of Churches Under 100
- On Failed Church Plants: How Many Are There? And Why?
- Louisiana’s Healthy AND Growing Churches, Part 2
- BASIC MUD-OUT GUIDE FOR HOMEOWNERS
- Breaking the 50 Barrier in Church Planting
- The Final Week of Jesus – Chart / Reading Plan
- What is a DISCIPLE?
- Louisiana’s Healthy AND Growing Churches, Part 1
- Church Revitalization Tools
- Church Growth = Growing Friends + Growing Family
Looking forward to another great year of learning and growing. Lets stay connected. Follow the blog. Let me know your thoughts when you can.
If you are a follower of Christ, hopefully you’re asking, “How will I grow in my faith the New Year?” Intentionality is the friend of spiritual growth. A goal of mine is to read the Bible through each year. 10-20 minutes of reading each day will get you there. If you’re a believer, reading the Bible through is a must to give you the big picture perspective of the faith and of the book that is our guide for spiritual growth.
A few tips and tricks from my journey:
- I love using technology in Bible Reading. Youversion.com or the Bible App is my go to partner in faith development. Makes it easy to track, share, and be creative with images, etc. Also has a large variety of plans for every persons interest and needs.
- Last year, I used the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan which gives you 5 days off each month. Would be a good plan for busy people because of the 5 days of grace.
- I finished the plan early enough to get in the 40 Days through the New Testament Challenge here at the end of the year. Very challenging. 7-8 chapters each day. I’m a slow reader, and I like to highlight and journal through what I’m reading, so some of these readings took me all day! Very good challenge to take though as I am more convinced than ever that there is nothing more hope filled than the message of the New Testament.
- I’ll probably go back with the One Year Bible Reading Plan this year. I’ve finished it 3 or 4 times. It takes you through the entire Bible and the book of Psalms twice. Psalms everyday is good when your reading is in some of the meatier sections of the Bible.
- How do you make it through the meatier sections of the Bible? I like to use a Bible Handbook when I’m reading through hard to understand sections like the Major Prophets. My favorite is How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Pick up any Bible Handbook as a helpful read along through the Bible.
- “But I don’t always have time to read during the day.” Same here. At least once per week, I leave my house at 4:30am or so. This doesn’t allow me time to get my reading in. So, I use the Bible Apps audio feature and listen through my planned reading for that day. I’ve found balancing listening and reading to the Bible helpful. Most of the Bible was written to be read aloud by others. It helps bring some passages alive to hear it read out loud. Try it.
Get some of my other tips and tricks for devotional life HERE. And let’s connect on the Bible App to encourage one another this year.
If you’re new to Bible Reading, check out our little booklet How to Get a Grip on the Bible to get started.
With 27 Hispanic Church Plants since 2010, Louisiana Baptists have almost doubled the number of Hispanic Churches in our state through church planting.
Guillermo Mangieri, with Istrouma en Espanol in Baton Rouge, recently shared Four Realities Impacting Hispanic Ministry in the US with our Church Planting Network:
1. Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the U.S. – 50 million. And the U.S. has the 2nd largest population in the world.
2. Hispanics are receptive to the message of the Gospel.
3. 23% of the Hispanic population in the U.S. are under the age of 18.
4. The Hispanic population will continue to grow in the U.S. no matter what.
In Baton Rouge alone, there are 17,000 Hispanics. 4% of the population.
Are there Hispanics in your community that could be reached? Are there enough Hispanic churches and ministries to impact the growing population in your community? Let us know if we can help you assess your community and strategize to reach different people groups around your church.
Check out Dr. Daniel Sanchez’s book Hispanic Realities Impacting America for more info on Hispanic Ministry opportunities: http://ow.ly/6NJS30gCyao