Monday, January 29, 2007

"Church 2.0" Series - "The Power In Big And Small"

Last Sunday, we started this new series where we looking at the direction I think God is calling us to go in 2007. In a lot of ways it’s the original idea/vision from the beginning, but I think how we try to live it out will be different.

Last Sunday, I told you the story of how as a youth pastor, God began to lead me into thinking about what the church really was and should be.

In Acts 2:42-47 that the first church was devoted to 4 things:

1. The Apostles’ teaching (God’s word)

2. Fellowship (Being together)

3. Communion (regularly remembering Jesus’ redemption)

4. Prayer (Talking/communing with God)

We saw that the first church was a group of people who were walking through life together. They were friends! They were such good friends that they sold what they had and took care of any of the rest of them who were in need!

This group of friends did two things:

1. Worshipped together in the temple.

2. Met in their homes for Communion

Because of the what they were devoted to and the way they lived, it created a setting where God was able to add to their number daily! (verse 47)

We talked about the powerful experiences we’ve had with church and saw its meaning for us came from a combination of worship, the word, and fellowship. We saw that, from our experience of church, all of these are needed for the complete experience of church to be felt.

We need to be a connected group of people. I think God has “forced” us into this “house mode”, because he wants this to become part of our DNA! We can’t ever settle for just an event that happens every Sunday.

I really feel like we have to find a way to somehow keep this house-mode as a part of Pathway when we go back to our large gatherings.

I think I’ve figured out a unique way to do that and I’ll tell you about that in a second, but first I want you to see something…

There’s a passage in Hebrews 10:24-25 that’s usually used to remind people about the importance of “going to church”, and it’s ok and right to apply it in that way, but I’ve realized it the writer of Hebrews was actually encouraging the believers to keep meeting in house-mode. Listen to what it says…

23Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. 25And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.”

I looked up in some commentaries and discovered what he was talking about here was that some believer’s had stopped meeting together in their houses and were just meeting at the temple, cause they were afraid of persecution!

He’s tell them, “God can be trusted to keep his promise. We need to think of ways to encourage each other to keep living a life of love and good deeds, so let’s not stop meeting together in our homes, but instead keep doing it to encourage and warn each other as the end gets closer!”

Meeting in small groups in houses, is the biblical/historical way the church met in the beginning. That’s why it’s important for us to keep this as a major part of who we are as a group of friends following Jesus together.

But, we need more than just this house mode! We need to worship together in large settings and meet in small settings. Remember? That’s what they did in Acts 2:46! They worshipped in the Temple courts (large setting) and met in homes (small setting).

There is a strength in each mode that you can’t get in the other mode. They both have positives and negatives. Let me ask you guys….

What are the strengths/benefits about to large gatherings? Large worship experience, can grow larger, financially larger to be able to do pool money to do more things for God and in outreach to the community.

What are the negatives? Hard to really connect, less interactive, hard on people who have to set up and take down each Sunday.

What are the strengths/benefits about our house gatherings? Intimate, more interactive, less intimidating for some visitors

What are the negatives? It’s more distracting, limits growth, hard on people who live there, etc…

If we focus as a church on just the house-mode, we’ll have some negatives and miss out on some of the positives of the large gatherings.

If we only focus on the large gatherings and forget this house-mode, then we’ll have some of the negatives of the large gathering and miss out on some of the positives of this house-mode! We’ve got to have BOTH!

Before I tell you my idea of how I want to try doing this, I want to tell you one more thing

One of the other keys to these huge successful church planting movements that we talked about last week, that I’ve discovered was they were more decentralized.

Explain the difference in centralization and decentralization. There’s a book I just read called “The Starfish and the Spider” that talks about the power of decentralization. Examples: Talk about Aztecs, Ebay, and the ultimate example of the power of decentralization: Al Qaeda.

Another book ,I’m reading called “The Forgotten Ways” talks a lot about how the first church was very decentralized in the way in grew and spread!

There’s power in decentralization!

I think God wants us to move more toward decentralization, NOT completely decentralized but more decentralized!

I think that I need to give away more and more of Pathway Church, so it doesn’t all run through me/Sue. Not so we have less to do, but so that it makes things more organic and powerful!

None of you would wait for me or Sue to plan events in any area other area of your lives, or expect us to set up times for you to meet with friends. You’d just do it.

That’s the natural organic way out there in “life” and that’s the way we as a church need to be!

Here’s how I think we can combine the best of house-mode and the large gatherings…

I think God wants us to be what I’m calling Hybrid-church. We won’t just be “house church” or a “large gathering” church. We’ll be both!

We’ll be a church that realizes that the church is us, not a place or a time of the week. We’ll meet together in different house settings, small group settings and then come together in large gatherings.

Here’s what I’m beginning to envision us doing

I think that when we go back in to “public gathering” mode that we won’t meet every Sunday.

I think we’ll meet in house-mode some weeks and then meet in large public gatherings on other weeks. This way we can have the part about this that we love and need and we’ll have the part about the large gatherings that we love and need. We’ll be stronger with both!

If we lose this and just go back to meeting in a building somewhere that we’ll miss out on what God’s trying to get us to be and see! If we stay in this mode we’ll limit our ability to grow and limit what we can do.

Large = gives us strength, unity, focus

Small = gives us depth, community, people to cheer us on

House groups I’m imagining won’t try and to do all we’re doing here today.

They’ll take on the look and feel of the leader and the personality and giftings of the people who meet at that house!

  • Some groups might pray and hang out, eat and talk together.
  • Some might worship hang out, eat and
  • Some groups might have discussion time and pray.
  • Some might talk about the talks we have in the larger gathering and figure out how to live them out!
  • Some might read a book and talk about it together.

Whatever it is that these house groups do it needs to be simple and reproducible, because the purpose of these groups is to grow. You can only hold so many people in your house before you’ll have to start a new group.

Making it simple makes it easy for the new group to start and our church to keep growing!

What they need:

  • A place/Host
  • A leader (or two)
  • At least Two others.

If we just have these house groups, we’ll eventually just end up being a bunch of separate groups that don’t know each other or have much connection.

That’s why we’ll keep moving back to the large gathering setting. That’s one way we’ll keep our unity.

We’ll also stay connected through other ways: internet, events, and common interest groups.

In March, I want begin experimenting with this new concept. We’ll meet on March 4th like this, all together at my house and then we’ll meet the next week on March 11th in two or so small groups. Then on March 18th we’ll meet all together like this again. For the last Sunday in March we’ll meet in those two small groups again.

  • Talk about meeting in April at Mitchell Park. Move to 3 Sundays on for a series and then 2 in small group mode. (First Sunday “practice gathering”, the 2-Sunday series, end month in 2 Sunday house groups.)
  • Tell them we might meet at a smaller location instead of Mitchell Prk.
  • Tell them we can’t afford to meet in a larger location, even if we wanted to. This mode will help us to survive and still grow as a church. But, we’re not doing this just for financial reasons. It’s for strength! The finances we save from not meeting weekly is just a side benefit!
  • Some might sit around and have a meal and have someone share a devotional thought or what or God is teaching them.

Our church needs to be simple, organic and liquid to be who God’s calling us to be.

This is all going to be an experiment.

I have ideas on how it can work, but I don’t have every detail planned out.


I want us all to pray and seek God about this and get his direction. As we move forward and plan this stuff out I want to get your feedback and ideas on how to implement these ideas. I also want to get your feedback after we do the month of March. That way you can give more ideas from trying this hybrid mode of how we can tweak it and make it work best.

Close with communion. Remind them we’re imitating the first church in doing this together

Talk about Passover.

Close - How Will We Begin To Live This Out Right Away?

This new hybrid idea is in some ways more “dangerous”, there aren’t any churches I know of who are doing, so we’re heading down an uncharted “Pathway”!

But this will help us to live out the strength of the first church and these other great church planting movement in our day. I also think it’s the best way for our church to survive and grow to become all God wants us to be.

We’ll talk more together about ways to actually start fleshing out these ideas. I want and need your input, ideas and feedback.

But the most important thing we need is God’s guidance and feedback through it all!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

“Church 2.0” Series: “Rediscovering The Church”

On September 8, 2004 a group of 11 of us met together at our old house to start talking about starting a new church on the Peninsula.

There were just 7 adults (me, Sue, Glen, Paula, Aaron, Jen and Dave) and 4 kids (Jack Will, Dana, and Gabe).

Just about 2 years ago, on January 23, 2005 we met for the first time in a public gathering at Spangenberg Theater on Gunn High School.

We had friends, family from other local churches come that day, along with a missions team sent from NCC to help us with our first gathering. We had 48 people that day!

Currently in our house mode we have 27 of us - about 20 adults and 7 kids.

We’ve gone ups and downs like any new church does, but especially in this area that’s no shock! This is a really hard area to start a church in! (Some of remember I met with 3 church planters in two days who were from this area and had to close down or merge their church.)

But, after all of this, I really feel like we’re exactly where God wants us to be to see this church really become all He planned for us to be from the beginning!

I think that God has us in this current house-mode for a purpose. I think he has a transformation in mind for us.

But before we talk about this, I need to tell them the story of why I was inspired to plant this church.

When I started as a youth pastor and never wanted to be a lead pastor.

Gradually over time, I started to think about the idea of maybe becoming a lead pastor, but at that point I thought maybe I’d be one at the church I was at or another one that already existed.

I didn’t think I’d start a church! But that all started to changed when I was at one of the former churches I worked at.

You see I really liked the church. I liked the people. I liked the youth kids. I really liked working with Senior pasto and the other people on staff. But, I saw some of the stuff the lead pastor had to deal with that bothered me.

Some people complained when we wanted to move the organ. They worried about taking out the pews. They were bothered about things I couldn’t understand why they’d be bothered about!

That stuff started it all. It got me thinking, “How much of this stuff that everybody considers is so important to have church is really important to God?” “How much of this stuff people act like has to be there for church – really even Biblical?” (Not that it’s against the Bible just NOT in the Bible.)

I started to look in the Bible at the parts that described the first church. I wanted to look at it with new eyes and not picture what I thought church should look like or be like.

I looked in Acts 2:42-47 and what I saw was something I never noticed before. Listen and look at what I saw…

41Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church—about three thousand in all. 42They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer.

Did you hear that? There weren’t worried about pews, or how dressing up, or organs or whatever. They were devoted to 4 things:

1. The Apostles’ teaching (God’s word)

2. Fellowship (Being together)

3. Communion (regularly remembering Jesus’ redemption)’

4. Prayer (Talking/communing with God)

Listen to what they did as the first church in verses 43-47…

The Believers Meet Together

43A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. 45They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. 46They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity47all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

The thing that jumped out to me was that what this described was a group of people who were walking through life together. They were friends! They were such good friends that they sold what they had and took care of any of the rest of them who were in need!

The crazy thing is that God never TOLD them to do this! Just did it naturally because they were friends! That’s what friends do!

The other thing I noticed was that they did two things: (v. 46)

1. Worshipped together in the temple.

2. Met in their homes for Communion

Because of the things they were devoted to and the way they lived, God was able to add to their number daily! (verse 47)

Richard Halverson former chaplain of the senate said this about this verse…

  • “Multiplication is the result of conducive conditions in the community.”
  • “The emphasis was not on expansion; the emphasis was upon the conditions that allowed the expansion to take place.”
  • “Yet because of their relationship to Christ and to each other to which they devoted themselves, the gospel spread through them everywhere…”
  • “I saw evangelism as a natural outgrowth of fellowship and then Acts began to open up to me in a completely new way.”

I looked up the word church and found out ekklesia meant “called out people” it was the term they used for people called out of their society to be in politics. The Bible was talking about a group of people when it used the word church, not a place!

I started to think about some of my greatest and meaningful moments I could remember of church and I started to realize they were:

  • The teaching
  • hanging with friends
  • the worship/prayer experiences together.

I realized it was that connectedness that made my experience with church, so powerful!

If I didn’t have that the teaching and worship would still be good, but it wouldn’t satisfy. It wouldn’t fulfill my real emotional, personal needs.

If I just had the friends without the Bible, teaching, prayer then I would have fun but not the challenge and transformation in my life.

Let me ask you guys…

What are some of your best memories of church? Not necessarily ours only, but any church?

Through all this time and thinking it led me to this core value that I’ve tried to instill in us. We have to be more than a group of strangers/acquaintances who sit together on Sundays. We have to be connected – to be the church. We have to focus on the church as the people, not the place.

I started to wonder if maybe me and a lot of other Christ-followers had been thinking about church in the wrong way and focusing and emphasizing the wrong thing!

Last year I read George Barna's (church pollster) poll and it's leads my back to one of my biggest fears about church gathering (planting) and the church in general...

Barna's "update" showed what the "typical pastor" uses to measure the spiritual health of their church. He said this…

"In other words, the typical pastor measures the spiritual health of congregants by considering one or two numbers (e.g. church and Sunday school attendance) and a handful of vague impressions (what did exit comments suggest about people’s reaction to the sermon, how widespread was people’s participation in the singing, were there enough people who were sufficiently trained to enable the services and programs to operate smoothly)."

Notice something?

It's almost ALL "Sunday based"!

Typical pastors base how well they and their churches are doing based mainly on what happens on Sundays. You think I'm exaggerating? Barna found that...

  • "Pastors are nine times more likely to seek reactions to their sermon than they are to assess the congregation’s reactions to visitors."
  • "Perhaps most alarming of all, pastors were 21 times more likely to evaluate whether people showed up (i.e., attendance) than to determine whether people experienced the presence of God during their time at the church."

That reminds me of this post that I blogged back on July 31, 2005. Here’s what I said…

My biggest fear is that...

If we're not careful, our church -- and all of other churches -- can actually get caught up measuring the wrong things and become deceived about whether we're succeeding or not!

That can lead to a HUGE gap between how God perceives what I'm doing and how I perceive it. And guess who's perception is gonna be right? :)

I think God measures success by measuring the church (the people), not the service.
That's what I want to do.

I want to have powerful, applicable Sunday gatherings, but I don't want to deceive myself into thinking that means our church is succeeding!

These polls obviously show those measurements don't reveal if the church is succeeding or not. It just shows how the day went!

Think about it like this...
You wouldn't measure how successful a family is by only measuring how 1-2 hours of their day went on Sundays. That'd be CRAZY!

We have to come up with other ways to measure our real success!

This is what I said in my blog post from July 2005…

How do you measure a church's success? And an even more important question: What if the way we measure success is not God's way?

The usual way a typical church measures success is by it's services. If a lot of people come to the service and if the services are exciting, then we think we're succeeding.

But, was Jesus' idea to just set up services everywhere so people could come and learn and sing together? There's nothing wrong with these things and a healthy church can have these things, but is that ALL we were supposed to do?

Wasn't there supposed to be something more?
Didn't Jesus say something about making disciples?

  • Didn't he want us to reproduce servants, not just services?
  • Didn't he want transformation, not just education?
  • Didn't he want us to gather a group of people together who would walk with Him and each other through life?

Questions I ask myself:

  1. If our services become huge and exciting, but people aren't connecting, will God consider that a success?
  2. If our worship is "cutting edge" and I feel like my messages are really dynamic and powerful, but people aren't growing - aren't reaching others, will God consider that a success?
  3. If we talk about God and what we want to do for him on Sundays, but our church doesn't know God and we aren't doing anything outside of Sundays, will God consider that a success?

I'm not saying that a BIG church or an exciting service is bad. I'm not saying a small church or a boring service is good. I'm just saying it's possible to have a successful service and still have an unsuccessful church (group of people).

In some churches, there are large amounts of the people aren’t really connected to others who are a part of their church. They might talk for a few minutes during greeting time, but they don’t really know or feel a connection to that person!

I talked to one woman from a church I used to be a part of and she said something that shocked me… She said didn’t really have any close friends! She had been a part of that church forever - 60-70 years!

Here’s what I believe…
People connect best when they have a chance to be together regularly in different settings/activities. That’s why people usually connect with someone better after hanging out with them on a one weekend retreat, then after talking with that person over months or years of "greeting times" in a Sunday service!

That’s why we have connection time! I know you guys tease me when I try to get us to “connect” when people are already standing around talking.

I just want to mix things up. I want to have some CTs where we just hang and talk. I want other ones where we play games. I want others where we have discussions and some like we did today where we have people one-to-one.

Why? I want to help us go beyond superficial, small talk and get a chance to know/appreciate each other more. I don’t want us to be together for years and have relationships the depth of puddles!

I don’t ever want CT to be akward or forced. I just want to give us all a little nudge to maybe go a little deeper with our friendships. We won’t all be best friends. We won’t all be close or hang out, but we might find out some thing about someone and really feel more connected through CT.

I try to always give everybody a “heads up” about what we’re doing, so you can decide if you feel comfortable to come that day. I know each of us feel comfortable doing different things. I know some of you have requested doing small group time and others like just talking.

So, I give you a head up so you don’t feel ambushed or stuck. If you don’t feel comfortable with something scheduled for CT, then it’s totally cool to come at 10:30am instead.

But we need more than Connection Time! We need to meet like this in house-mode with others, so we can really have the chance to be the church.

I believe that even though we’re not exactly where I thought we’d be on our two year anniversary, we’re right where God wants us!

You know I’ve been reading a lot of different things and thinking about this meeting in a house phase and you know what I found out?

The greatest church planting movements around the world have happened when churches were “forced” into house mode!

What happened?
It became organic. People began really connecting, worshiping and praying to God together. They started bringing their friends and reproducing other house groups. And “God to their numbers” and these church grew to thousands!

In Acts 8, Persecution led to God’s purpose, which was the spreading of the church to the ends of the earth like Jesus commanded them to do in Acts 1.

I believe God “forced” us into this mode, cause he wants this part in the house has to become part of our DNA! We can’t ever settle for just an event that happens every Sunday. We’ve got to seek for more!

I believe God’s used finances to “force” us into this mode that he wants us to be in. I believe he wants this house mode to be kept as a part of who we are.

I’ll talk more about that next Sunday as we continue this series. Let’s pray…

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

“The Prize” Series Pt. 2


I want to start today by telling you a true story about a 15 year old boy named John Goddard. One day he heard his parents and some other adult talking. The other adult was telling John's parents about how miserable his life was and how much he had failed.

He said he wished he was John's age again and could live his life over and do some things differently.

When John heard the sadness in that man’s voice and it had a huge affect on him! He decided he was going to do something. He didn’t want to grow up to live that kind of life. He took out a pad of paper and began to write the things he wanted to do in his lifeall the goals he wanted to accomplish.

When he was finished he had 127 things on his list. He called it, "My Life List".

Today John is in his mid 70's, and out of his original 127 goals, he’s accomplished 111 of them over the last 55-60 yearsplus he’s accomplished 400 other ones he set along the way.

In case you’re thinking, “Big deal! A lot of people write down their goals and accomplish them.” You gotta realize something – these aren’t some small, “everyday” goals. Check out some of the goals:

He's climbed
Mount Kilimanjaro and he's climbed Mount Ararat. In fact, he's climbed every major peak in the world!

He took Marco Polo's route through all of
Asia and China.

He ran a mile in five minutes, he broad jumped 15 feet, and high jumped five feet.

He was the first person to explore the entire 420 mile length of the
Nile River (that was his number one goal!). When he was 15 years old, no person had ever done it, but that fifteen year old boy didn't know that, it didn't matter to him. He put it on his list and when he did it, USA Today named him the modern day Indiana Jones. He's been down not just the Nile River. He's been down the Amazon, down the Congo, and others.

- He's been to 122 countries and lived with 260 different tribes.

- He's explored the Reefs of
Florida, the Great Barrier Reefs and others...

- He's flown 40 different types of aircraft. Still holds civilian air speed records.

- He's read the Bible cover to cover.

- He's taught himself French, Spanish, and Arabic.

And those are just some of the over 500 dreams that John Goddard has accomplished!

What kind of goals have you set for your life? What kind have you set for this year?

Are they big or small goals? Are they hard or easy ones?

A person like John Goddard should inspire us to aim high!

I told you last Sunday that people have three problems as they start 2007:

1. They have no goals.

We just wander through life and end up where the storms of life throw them.

2. They have no plans to achieve their goals.

If you don’t have any plans on how you’ll achieve your goals than your goals are really just wishes.

The difference between a wish and a goal is this:

  • A wish is something you want to happen, but won't or can't do anything about it.
  • A goal is something you want to happen and you're willing and can do something about it!

3. They have the wrong goals!

They focus on the wrong goals – wrong priorities – and never achieve what God created them to be.

Over the last 2 Sundays, we’ve been doing this series I'm calling “The Prize”. During this series, instead of just looking at how to achieve OUR goals, I’m trying to help us look at some goals that GOD has for us in 2007.

Last Sunday we started by looking at some of the first goals that God wants us to reach. We can saw them in the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3.

I told you that Paul's the perfect person to learn about achieving God's goals for our life. He wrote a huge portion of the New Testament and he helped establish a lot of the first churches throughout the Roman Empire.

Paul did such a good job at achieving God's goals for his life that towards the end of his life he was able to say this in Philippians 4:7...

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

That’s why Paul's a cool person to teach us about achieving God's goals for 2007!

Today, we’re going to look at what he says in 1 Cor. 9:24-27. Paul is about to reveal how he viewed life. This view of life shows how he was able to live a life focused on God’s goals. Let’s look at I Corinthians 9:24-27…

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Paul starts out with a clue about how he thinks of life. He says it’s like a race.

What makes up a race? There’s a beginning. There’s an ending. There are winners and losers. Paul is saying that life is the same as a race in a lot of ways! There will be winners and there will be losers!

But the danger is that winners in life might be different than the ones we think of!

In Matt 19:23-30 Jesus shocks the disciples by telling them this…

23 “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"

Back then, people thought that rich people were going to heaven for sure. They thought wealth was God’s sign of who he favored! When Jesus said, “It’s hard for a rich man to go to heaven” the disciples couldn’t believe it! They thought, “If they’re not going then who is!?!”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 27 Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" 28 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother F84 or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Jesus is saying some people who we think are the winners in life will actually be the losers and some who we think are the losers will actually be the winners!

There will be people that get to the end of life and realize that they were running towards the wrong goal their whole lives!

In Mark 8:36-37 Jesus says it like this

36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Jesus is saying “You can win in the eyes of this world and still ultimately lose the most important thing – your soul.”

So we need to figure out…

How do you win the race of life? What’s the right goal to run towards?

The goal (purpose of life) is to know God and love God. That’s what we saw last week was Paul’s goal. He said, “I want to know Christ.” The side-effect from that knowing and loving God will be that you’ll be that you will love others, because God does.

To go through life without knowing God (without a loving relationship with Him) is to miss the whole point of living!

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he said, “The Greatest Commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second commandment is like it - love your neighbor as yourself!”

Loving God and others are the most important things in life!

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says…

1If I speak in the tonguesF32 of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,F33 but have not love, I gain nothing…

Then later in chapter 13 Paul says…
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Think about this for a second…

In heaven you won’t need preaching, you won’t need prophecies, you won’t need charity. Why? People will all understand it all. They’ll “know as they are known”. They’ll have everything they need. No one will be without!

But guess what you’ll still need in heaven? Love!

Relationships - Loving God and others now is our practice for heaven.

The sad thing is, that in our fallen state, we usually love ourselves more than we love God or others.

Self-love is one of the core, underlying things beneath every sinful and hurtful thing we do to God and others!

Bernard of Clairvaux and ancient famous Christian leader said…

"Four stages of growth in Christian maturity: Love of self for self's sake. Love of God for self's sake. Love of God for God's sake. Love of self for God's sake." -

Paul tells us to that there will be winners and losesr in the race of life, then he straight out says… “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” The word in the Greek that we translate as “run” is “a metaphor taken from runners in a race, which means to exert your self, strive hard / to spend your strength in performing or attaining something

Paul is saying put all your effort in life to making sure you win in life. Make it your goal to win in life!

Then Paul uses the analogy of people in the Olympic games again. He says in verse 25 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

The “Strict training” he’s talking about here is all about “having self-control”. It’s a picture of athletes, who in preparing themselves for the games abstained from unhealthy food, wine, and sexual indulgence.

People think of self-denial as saying No” to something, but it’s actually saying “Yes” to something more important!

We all want to be successful. We all want to be winners, but do you know why most people aren’t?

They don’t want to say no to the hard things you have to in order to succeed. They don’t want to say yes to the hard things it takes to win!

Why do successful people say no to the hard things and yes to the harder things?

You see, in their minds, successful people are saying YES to the greater things when they’re saying “no!” to the hard things! That’s what inspires them to do it!

I don't know if you've heard me talk about "The-Name-Tag-Guy” before, but he's a guy that wears a name tag every day (even has a tatooed of one on his chest) to make himself more accessible.

He posted something on his blog that has to do with what I’m talking about here. It's a post called "Do Whatever It Takes".

In researching for his fourth book, Make a Name for Yourself, he's been asking a lot of people to answer one key question: "How did you make a name for yourself?"

He says that the common thread among all the professionals he interviewed was that they said they "did what nobody else was willing to do.

They did WHATEVER it takes!

He says it’s kind of like Dave Chapelle, who wanted to be a comedian. He used to sneak into 21+ comedy clubs when he was in high school. He'd watch and study the crowds. He'd watch and study the comics. Eventually he became good enough to start performing at open mics every Thursday.

Also like Jimmy Fallon, who wanted to be on SNL. He used to record the episodes every Saturday night. He'd memorize and practice the monologues for his mother. Eventually he became so skilled at doing impressions that he became a regular cast member on the show.

Or like Tony Robbins, who wanted to be a professional speaker. He started giving speeches three times a day to every Rotary Club, every Kiwanis Club and every Chamber of Commerce in town. In two year's time he had 10 year's experience.
If comedians, motivational speakers and others are willing to do this to succeed, shouldn't we be willing to do this to succeed for God?

Do you see, that it’s all about what we consider the greatest prize?

We can choose the immediate, temporary prizes of this life as the greatest things or we can choose the gradual, eternal prizes of heaven.

Paul says it like this…
They (runners in a race) prepare themselves through training and self-denial so that they can win a crown made of Ivy! They do it to get a medal nowadays. They do all just for the recognition of people to say they are the best. It’s all temporary!

Paul says WE should do it because we’ll get a crown that will last forever. We’ll get God’s recognition. We’ll be praised by God.

What’s “The crown of life”? It’s the ultimate prize in life! It’s what the Lord has promised to everyone who loves him.

Because Paul wants to win in the race of life, because he wants that crown, he tells us what he does

26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Paul is saying he doesn’t just go through life without a purpose or goal. He’s not just like a boxer fighting against no one. His enemy is his own flesh (that part that wants to self-destruct). He says he beats that and makes it his slave (instead of being it’s slave), so he won’t end up disqualified after doing everything to help others know Jesus.

The way Paul’s talking in these verses would make sense to any athlete. They’d totally relate to what Paul is saying!

Let me ask you…
-How bad
do you want to win the race of life?
What are you willing to say no to?
What are you willing to say yes to?

Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t want you to think that winning the race of life is all about self-control and will-power. It’s not. You actually can’t win it that way!

There’s only one way to win the race of life. It’s by seeking God and running it with God. Only He can carry us through!

I want to close with this story
It’s story about an incredible Dad and his handicapped son. It’s an amazing story of a Father’s love for his son.

It’s from a story from Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly. Listen to Rick Reilly tell the story of a man named Dick Hoyt. Rick says this…

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a Wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and Pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back Mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester , Mass. , 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him Brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. ``Put him in an Institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the Engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. ``No way,'' Dick says he was told. ``There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a Llot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed Him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his Head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? ``Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the School organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, ``Dad, I want to do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described ``porker'' who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. ``Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. ``I was sore for two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. ``Dad,'' he typed, ``when we were running, It felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

``No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a Single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few Years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, ``Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?''

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? ``No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for ``the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world Record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

``No question about it,'' Rick types. ``My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. ``If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' One doctor told him, ``you probably would've died 15 years ago.'' So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass. , always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. ``The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, ``is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''

I want you guys to see these two for yourselves in this video. But, I need to warn you. This video is really emotional. I can’t watch it without balling!

That’s us! We’re helpless to save ourselves! We’re helpless to win the race of life without God! He wants to help us and carry us through, but we have to submit our lives to him and let him!

God’s the ultimate prize of life! Anything we ever give up for him will be worth it when we have him.

I want to encourage you like Paul did the Corinthians…

Run in such a way as to get the Prize!

Friday, January 12, 2007

2-Sunday Series: "The Prize" Pt. 1


I want to start today by telling you a story that shows the importance of keeping a goal in mind

On July 4, 1952, Florence Chadwick waded into the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island and began swimming toward the California coast 26 miles away. The day was cold and her attendants had to drive off sharks with rifles while she swam toward her goal.

Florence had already swum the English Channel twice and, if she could finish today, she would be the first woman to have swum both. But after 15 hours in the water, for the first and only time in her long-distance swimming career, she finally gave up and climbed into the escort boat.

They had tried to urge her on, but in the fog she couldn’t tell her how close she was to the shore. Because of this, she gave up and later found out she was less than a half mile from shore.

When she was asked by a reporter why she gave up, Florence said,

"It was the fog. If I could have seen land, I could have finished. But when you can't see your goal, you lose all sense of progress and you begin to give up."

On a warm, sunny day two months later Florence Chadwick swam the Catalina Channel, easily beating the men's record.

Why? This time she could see her goal!

Many people have three problems as they start 2007:

1. They have no goals.

We just wander through life and end up where the storms of life throw them.

2. They have no plans to achieve their goals.

If you don’t have any plans on how you’ll achieve your goals than your goals are really just wishes.

The difference between a wish and a goal is this:

  • A wish is something you want to happen, but won't or can't do anything about it.
  • A goal is something you want to happen and you're willing and can do something about it!

3. They have the wrong goals!

They focus on the wrong goal – wrong priorities – and never achieve what God created them to be.

Over the next 2 Sundays, I'm going to be doing a series I'm calling “The Prize”. During this series, instead of just looking at how to achieve OUR goals, I want to look at some goals that GOD has for us in 2007.

Today, I want to look at some of the first goals that God wants us to reach. We can hear them in the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3.

If you think about it, Paul's the perfect person to learn about achieving God's goals for our life. He wrote a huge portion of the New Testament and he helped establish a lot of the first churches throughout the Roman Empire.

Paul did such a good job at achieving God's goals for his life that towards the end of his life he was able to say this in Philippians 4:7...

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

See why Paul's a cool person to teach us about achieving God's goals for 2007?

Look at Philippians 3:10-14 and listen to what he says...

10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Let’s stop there for a second.

There’s something in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia about the book of Philippians I want you to hear before we look at next two verses. Listen to what it says about this letter to the Philippians…

“It is a simple letter to personal friends. It has no theological discussions and no rigid outline and no formal development. It rambles along just as any real letter would with personal news and personal feelings and outbursts of personal affection between tried friends. It is the most spontaneous and unaffected of the Pauline Epistles.”

What we’re reading is a letter from Paul to friends where he’s revealing the real “Paul” to them! He's writing as he says at the beginning of Philippians as a “fellow servant”.

And what does he reveal to these friends?

He says, “I want to know Christ...”

This is PAUL, the Apostle, the one so many look up to. and he says, “I want to know Christ...”

We have to realize something more and more in life…

Life’s too risky. It’s too easy to fall short of what we were made to be for us to settle for just knowing ABOUT God. We need to know him from experience!

When you’re going through a hard time it’s good to know about God, but it’s better to know God in the middle of the whole thing! That difference makes all the difference! (Show broken clippers box and mention you want to KNOW God when you’re on a flight with crazy turbulence like we were on two days ago!)

Look at what Paul tells the Corinthians about knowing vs. knowledge in 1 Cor 8:1-3:

F18 Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.

When Paul says “Knowledge puffs up…” he’s using a word in Greek that means just the general knowledge of Christian religion.”

General knowledge – knowing verses, facts - by themselves “puffs up”. It makes you feel smart like you know the “facts about life”. It fools us into thinking we’ve got it all under control.

But, Paul says love (relational connection with God and others) builds up. It gives us a real foundation to stand on.

It will be those relationships that will matter the most in life – more than any knowledge we discover!

But Paul keeps going! I love what he says next in verse 2 to humble any of us who think we know it all…

2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.

We think we know so much about God and life, but we can’t even comprehend how much we DON’T know!


It’s like Jack, my 5 year old, trying to understand Calculus! He knows a little Math, but there’s no way he could understand or do Calculus! He doesn’t know yet what he should even though!

But that’s not really the best example of what we don’t know about God and life!

There are things about God and life that we don’t know, cause we don’t even understand the things we’d need to know for God to explain what we don’t know about Him and life!!!!

Paul then finishes out this thought to the Corinthians in verse 3

3But the man who loves God is known by God.

We need to know about God – know about his wordhis promises, BUT, more than that we need to love him!

Love is based on experiential knowledge. It’s relational. That’s what we really need! That what God really wants! This is what Paul’s saying in Philippians 3!

This Apostle, who met Jesus on the road to Damascus, this man who suffered for Jesus – and who God revealed so much truth to says…

“I want to know Christ”. He doesn’t want to settle for less!

That should be one of our main goals this yearto know Jesus more than we did last year.

*Does anybody have anything they want to say add about knowing God and making it a priority for this year?

Alright let’s keep going…

Paul says this, which we expect him to say, but then he admits something that probably shocked the Phillipians as much as it does us to hear. Look at verses 12 and 13a...

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

You've gotta remember this letter is being written in the later part of his life – towards the end! And he says, “Not that I've already attained all this... I don't consider myself yet to have taken hold of it...”

He's saying, “I still haven't achieved it all yet. I still can't just relax and wait till the end!”

What I want you to hear today is that it doesn't matter if you're a new Christ-follower and just start following him today. It doesn’t even matter if you've been a Christ-follower for years!

The goal Paul is about to reveal applies to all of us!

What's the goal? You've already heard it, but maybe you missed it. Does anybody see it?

Paul says it in two ways in verses 12 and 14...

“to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” v. 12

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. V.13

Paul's goal – the thing that’s allowed him to live God's goals for his life – is to grab hold of the thing that Jesus had in mind when he died for him on the cross!

Don’t ever forget that Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection was a personal, specific thing.

He didn’t just do it for “whoever” would believe – a generic way – he had each person in mind when he died of the cross.

He died for them, because he loved each of them. He resurrected from the dead because he had a reason and purpose for each them!

Jesus had YOU on his mind during all of this!

Paul says he wants to accomplish the purpose God had for him when he saved him! Paul calls that “The Prize”! That goal helped Paul to finish the race so well!

We need to make that one of our goals for 2007.

We need to say, “No matter what else I do or achieve this year I want to KNOW Jesus more and come closer to that prize for which God has called me heavenward!”

Paul has a pretty simple strategy to accomplish this goal that will help us this year. Do you see it?

In verse 13-14 he calls it “the one thing I do”...

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus

He uses a picture that the Philippians would’ve understood to explain his simple strategy. It’s the picture of an Olympic runner leaning forward focused on one thing: the goal – the prize.

If you’re running in a race and you stumble for a second, you don’t go back and try to run that part again. No! You forget about it and keep running even harder towards the goal!

When we mess up and fall, when we sin what do we like to do? We like to go to “Instant replay” and keep watching it over and over again in our minds.

We want to take a “time out” go back and do it again. But, life doesn’t work that way!

No athlete that wins does that! When they mess up they do what Paul did: forget what’s behind and strain toward what’s ahead!


That reminds me of another man who lived his life in way:

Age 22 - failed in business

Age 23 - ran for legislature and was defeated

Age 24 - failed again in Buenos

Age 26 - sweetheart died

Age 27 - had a nervous breakdown

Age 29 - defeated for speaker

Age 31 - defeated for elector

Age 34 - defeated for Congress

Age 37 - elected to Congress

Age 39 - defeated for Congress

Age 46 - defeated for Senate

Age 47 - defeated for vice president

Age 49 - defeated for Senate

Who is this loser?

At age 51 he was elected president of the United States. His name is Abraham Lincoln. Throughout his life he went through more defeats than victories, but because he never gave up he won the highest office of the land!

Do you know what?

We worry and have guilt over sins God’s already forgiven and doesn’t even count anymore! We focus on failure that everyone else has forgotten about!

That’s the wrong way to live! We need to learn from Paul!

Remember the old Nike commercials? I want be like Mike”? We need to learn how to “be like Paul”!

How do you forget what’s behind?...

There are a lot of good things in life that I’ve done that I’ve forgot about.

Do you know how this happened?

I stopped thinking about them and after a long enough time I forgot them! I didn’t remember them till somebody reminded me!

I think the way forget about the failures, sins and all the other junk is to ask God and anyone else you hurt for forgiveness, forgive yourself and then STOP thinking about them! Stop obsessing about this stuff. Stop replaying it, reliving it and complaining about it!

Replace the past with what you want the future to be like! We’ve got to just keep pressing on towards the goal!

Can any of you think of any other ways to forget what’s behind? Or do you have something else to add?

Calvin Coolidge said...

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Make goals this year.
Make sure they’re not just wishes.

I just saw in the Washington Post an article that said most people don’t achieve their goals cause they don’t have a plan and they don’t have an accountability person.

Add prayer and action to that list and you’ll have a chance to really see yourself actually achieve your goals!

But, I want to encourage you (and me) to make our TOP goals: To Know God and to Forget what’s behind and then strain, press on – to grab hold of that prize – that reason that Jesus grabbed hold of you.