No matter your position in your career, you have someone above you to answer to. Even the wise business owner must answer to someone. It just so happens to be that “someone” is usually a consumer base consisting of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people. Within the church, we are ordered by the word of God to obey our leaders. In return, our leaders are held accountable for us. It is only through our obedience to our leaders that we are able to lift the burden they feel from having to guide a disobedient church. We are doing ourselves a great disservice by not obeying our leaders. After all, they are only passing along the word of God.
1. Within your role as a Christian, when was the last time you chose not to obey the leader of your church? Are there multiple accounts of this behavior? How many times have you obeyed?
2. During your times of disobedience, are you simply ignoring the requests of your leader, or are you openly defying the commands of the Lord? Remember leaders are simply passing along His word.
Challenge: After reflecting upon your times of disobedience perform the Jesus Prayer as a method of focusing your thoughts on Christ and asking for his mercy. Use any version you like. A simple method is to sit in a relaxed position, with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing. On every breath in say, “Lord, Jesus Christ, son of the living God.” Then slowly release your breath saying, “have mercy on me, a sinner.” Repeat this several times causing the prayer to become an endless loop. Attempt to repeat the prayer 100 times or more. Once you have completed the prayer session reflect on how your thoughts may have changed.
The church of God came at the price of his own blood - the blood that was shed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The church is the flock. Those who lead the church must keep watch over not only their flock but themselves as well. It is imperative the leaders understand they are the first line of attack for the enemy. Before a shepherd can protect his flock, he must first protect himself. For without a shepherd, the flock is left to wander aimlessly into the dangers of the enemy.
1. What would the church be like without leaders? Would it be possible to develop the same unity in the church without their hard work and dedication?
2. Leaders come to the church in many forms. What is your role within the church? You may not be a pastor, but are you a leader… a shepherd?
Challenge: If you are reading this, chances are you are part of the great flock that is Hillcrest. It is not the only flock, but it is our flock. It is our family, our church. When was the last time you considered playing a bigger role within the church? Have you prayed about it? Have you listened to what God is telling you when he says "go?" Challenge yourself to take the lead on something. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work within you and help you to become a leader.
God’s call to pastors is a gift to the church. Remembering the church is not a building, but rather a unification of individuals; the church is a flock of sheep in need of a shepherd. The shepherd has great demands from the flock: preach the truth, be persistent under all circumstances, and preach with conviction, warning, and appeal. As God’s speakers do his work, they are required to be patient and wait for results, as well as opposition. Not everything a pastor says is received with 100% approval. However, it is a pastor’s obligation to give an explanation and application of Bible doctrine, and not just recite Bible stories coupled with illustrations. Just as a pastor is obligated to preach and lead the flock, the church is obligated to support its pastor(s) and love upon them just as they love upon the church.
1. We often fall short of understanding the duties God has placed upon pastors. When was the last time you simply thanked a pastor for being God’s speaker?
2. Reflect upon a time when you may have disagreed with a sermon or a conversation with a pastor. Was your disagreement based upon interpretation of scripture, or was it your own conviction and guilt?
Challenge: Every year we have Pastor Appreciation Week. A week when we express our gratitude for their service, allow them the freedom to preach about anything they desire and usually prepare some sort of tasty treat. Our pastors love upon us daily. They console our failures and shortcomings, support us with joy and praise in our successes, and lend an attentive ear when we simply need to vent frustrations. The greatest show of gratitude a pastor could receive just may be following the lessons they teach. Your challenge is to devote yourself to understanding and following the lessons they teach us, just as we are called to do in scripture.
I know some of you reading this have been serving, seeking, and helping others for years, and I want to encourage you to continue! For those that may be new to this whole serving thing, I want to encourage you as well to just take that first step. In this passage it states that through Him we can do the good things he has planned for us long ago. He already has something in mind!! Maybe it is signing up for a service project, helping someone you work with that is in need, or being a friend to the classmate at school who is all alone. Many times it may seem scary and uncomfortable at first, but let me tell you it is well worth your effort. God will help you through any situation you find yourself in, He is just asking you to take that first step. You never know how much a kind word or act of kindness will mean to someone who does not experience that in their lives.
1. How does it make you feel knowing God already has plans for the good work you will do or are doing?
2. How can you take that first step or additional step this week?
Challenge: I know it is not always easy or comfortable, but God has promised He will help us through these times. If there is any way Hillcrest can help you in this journey, please let us know. We would love to come alongside you on this crazy and wonderful journey. He is calling us all to help and serve others, so let’s get out there and get started!!
2 Corinthians 9:8
As we move through our busy lives it is easy to be concerned with our schedules, our finances, and all the things we juggle daily. As you look at your life and examine if you can give, if you can take the time to serve others, it is easy to say I don't have enough. Not enough time, money, or room in a schedule and budget that is already stretched to the max. I have experienced this in my own life and I am confident you will as well - God will provide. All of us need to be in prayer as to the things He is calling us to do for His kingdom. It does not have to be limited to the church, it can be in your home, your workplace, your school, anywhere you spend time. If God is calling you to intervene or help someone, please answer that call. I know I have passed up opportunity because I was too busy, out of money that month, etc. The excuses are too many to list. If you answer the call, whatever you need will be provided.
1. Have you felt a calling to help in a situation, but have let it pass?
2. What have you learned since that may change your mind?
Challenge:It is so easy to get caught up in the business of life, where one day melts into another and it is easy to lose focus of what is really important. Be attentive and look for opportunity where God has placed you. I promise they are there, not always where we expect them to be, but exactly where God knows they are.
When I read this passage, I am reminded that God chose me first. So many times we focus on the fact that we are called to choose to follow Him. That is true - we must choose to follow Him and put Him first in our lives, but it is good to be reminded we are already chosen by Him. God has appointed us to go and produce fruit that will last, what a responsibility!! When I think of Hillcrest and the work that we together as a church have accomplished I believe we have done some good work that will last and am reminded there is still much to do.
1. What things are you doing, or would like to do, that you feel you have been chosen for?
2. Looking at the opportunities on the walls of Hillcrest do any of them speak to you?
Challenge: Take a moment and prayerfully consider what God has chosen you to be doing at this moment in your life. Maybe you already are doing it, and if so I encourage you to continue. If you need help getting started please let the pastors or any of the staff or elders know, and we can help you!
I have had many times in my life when I thought I knew what the future looked like, only to have it completely changed for the better! We think we know what our career will be, who our spouse will be, where we will live, and what our family makeup will look like. I have to say the best things in my life have been outside of my “plan” and have come about by following God's plan and leading. This passage states that we can make plans, nothing wrong with that, but allow God to change and transform those plans into His best for you. Don't be so set in your plans and expectations that you miss out on His great blessings for you.
1. How has God changed some plans you have had in your life?
2. What blessings would you have missed out on if you had not followed His plan?
Challenge: Think about the plans you have for your immediate and long term future. Don't get me wrong, it is wise to plan and have goals and directions so you are not just stumbling along through life aimlessly. The challenge is to allow your plans to change and be flexible enough to let Him lead you.
This passage is an idea that is talked about frequently, but can tend to be an idea that is easy to accept in the good times, not so much during the tough times. It is important to remember that our struggles and bad things that happen to us can be part of God's plan for us. We often emerge from hard times stronger and better equipped to fulfill His plan for our lives. Many times our experiences, good or bad, are used by Him to help others struggling with the same issues or blessings that we have been allowed to go through. Maybe God's plan for our future is different than our plans or ideas. Look at your life and the things that happen every day through God's eyes, not your own.
1. What things are happening in your life right now that He may be using to prepare you?
2. How could you use these struggles / blessings to help others?
Challenge: Many times our natural tendency when we are struggling is to try to fix it or escape it as soon as possible. Next time look at the issue or situation through God's eyes - how would He use the situation to bless others and help them - don’t just focus on how it is affecting you.