Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Building One Another - Vol. 10, No. 24

Dear Friend,
 Yesterday I realized I was following a car whose license plate said, "His W1ll."

I thought, "That's nice" and drove along until it hit me that at this moment in my life I was actually following His Will!

As we flowed along a pleasant suburban street it was fun to think about that.

Until the driver chose to drive below the speed limit for awhile and I wanted to go faster than His Will.  I chewed over the times I have wanted to do just that!

The pivotal moment came when the driver signaled a right turn at a stop light.  Was I going to drive straight on to my destination (home) or follow His Will?

I followed His Will.

Another driver inserted himself between me and His Will.  I thought about other times I have permitted that to happen.

As I finally drove home along a route that was unfamiliar to me it was good to realize that the Lord who loves us more than we love our next breath has a will for our lives that is good and wonderful even in the moments that are the most challenging for us.

May you find joy as you follow and trust in the will of our good Lord!

“We know that all things work together for good*for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28*
With joy - E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2011 E. Stanley Ott
 *Scripture from the NIV
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Transformational Defining Vision, Part One

A few years ago, the church where I serve adopted our church vision: Worship God, Prepare Disciples, Serve the World.  It is similar to the Acts 16:5 Initiative focus of glorifying God, making disciples, and meeting human need.  Since most of us in churches are starting a new program year, I thought it would be helpful to revisit the vision and see how it is playing out in three areas: our personal lives, our ministry teams/groups, and in our congregations.  In three blog entries, I’m going to ask a series of questions that I invite you to pray about and to act upon from the standpoint of where your congregation is.  In this article, I invite you to reflect on these questions in regard to your personal life.

In Personal Lives:

            1) Are you taking time to glorify God in your own life?  Are you attending worship
                        services on a regular basis?  Are you taking time to worship God daily?
                        Are you reading the Bible and spending time with God?  Are you inviting
                        others to worship with you or to attend a worship service with you?   What
                        worship service in the last six months really got your heart pumping in
                        God’s holy presence?

            2) In what part of your life are you being prepared as a disciple?  Are you in a small
                        group, a study group and/or a church school class?  Are you not only reading the
                        Bible but also studying it?  With what portion of your life are you devoting
                        and developing mature faith in Jesus Christ?  Who are you inviting to walk
                        with you in discipleship?  Who are you discipling in the Christian walk?

            3)  How are you meeting human need?   How do you offer service in Christ’s name to
                        others?  When is the last time you participated in a service ministry of the
                        church or in a community organization?  To what form of mission is God
                        nudging you to pursue?

It might be overwhelming to read all these questions.  You may have answers to some of them and not to others.  I encourage you to pray about these questions and, then, to write answers to them in a journal or record them in the notes section of your smart phone.  Later you can go back and see what movement you have made, with God’s help.  Perhaps the vision doesn’t fit with where you are in your personal life.  You may want to form your own vision.  Whatever your vision is, God gives all of us opportunities to glorify God, make disciples. and meet human need every day.  It’s a vision that offers us a great adventure in faith. 

Vital and energized people create vital and energized churches!  That is what God has called us to be and d0.  May we reflect our love of God in the way we personally live and fulfill God’s vision.

In Christ,

Anne Clifton Hebert

Saturday, September 3, 2011

God Sized Vision

“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations were around us were afraid… for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.”  Nehemiah 6:15, 16

Nehemiah’s calling was bigger than his ability.  The scope of what God wanted to do in his people was greater than that people’s treasury.  What people though impossible, God accomplished through weary people in fifty-two days.  What the church needs is God sized vision.

It was about a year ago that I was moved to begin to pray a very specific prayer for the congregation I serve.  As I looked at all of the activity of our congregation, I saw a lot of hard work coming to fruition.  People were joining the church in impressive numbers.  The congregation had unanimously approved the search for an associate pastor of family ministry.  Our bottom line was well in the black.  Ministries were going well across the board.  Attendance was up in every facet of church life.  There had been very positive “same-minded” discussions around where we were headed as a church.  I was very busy planning, teaching, leading, and visioning toward a bright future.

Then, in a time of prayer and reflection one morning I was overcome with conviction.  I had been busy and prayerful concerning things within the ministry over which I had a lot of control.  Most of my prayers involved God using me for His purposes in the life of our wonderful community of faith.  Never one short on vision, I saw God answering those prayers faithfully.  But with this wave of conviction I was moved to pray in a different way.  I felt God was moving me to begin praying for something over which I would have no control.

Books I had read, passages of scripture, and a sense of smallness flooded my conscience at once as I became aware that I ought to be praying for something much more significant than what God could use me for.  I was used to being pretty specific with God about what I wanted Him to do through me.  But here I was, at a loss for words, as I was moved to pray for God to begin an awakening that at the end of the day couldn’t be credited to good leadership, a healthy budget, creative preaching, or a forward thinking session.  I was moved to begin praying that God would do something that only God could get credit for; something beyond my ability to vision or bring about.

I had no clue what I was praying for.  This prayer was unattached to programs, facilities, music, or events.  I could not see what I was asking for God to do.  It was pleasantly humbling to discover that God doesn’t need me to bring about the awakening he laid on my heart to begin praying for.  I found myself saying, “Lord, you might not need me for this, but I want to see it when it happens.”

One of the dynamics of the Acts 16:5 Initiative is creating a hope-filled expectation of God sized activity in and through your congregation.  If the hopes and expectations of a church are pastor sized or session sized, then we are expecting far too little of God.  Nehemiah’s vision was a God sized vision.  And at the end of the day God got the credit and the glory, even from His enemies.

Grace and Truth,

Scott Castleman