David and Goliath

“And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” – 1 Samuel 17: 2-11

This is one of my favorite Bible stories. It is a climactic combat, winner takes all competition where the hero is the underdog. It pits the big guy against the little guy. The little guy triumphs and goes on to even greater glory. What’s there not to like about this story.

The Philistines have entered into Israelite territory looking to increase their territory and also to place the Israelites in subjection to themselves. The Philistines are feeling pretty confident about their chances. And the reason for their confidence lies in a champion that has risen, quite literally, among them. His name is Goliath, a name that has ever since then always been associated with someone who is tall and large in stature. With Goliath as their champion, the Philistines believe they will win the battle.

That is how the army of the Israelites saw it too. Goliath has had the desired effect on the army of Israel. Israel has allowed themselves to be intimidated by this Goliath. And no wonder. Look at the details we are given about Goliath. He stands over nine feet tall. This guy is two feet taller than Shaquille O’Neal. This guy would not even have to jump in order to put a basketball into the basket. All he would have to do is reach up and slam it home. He is no skinny giant either. He is strong. He has to be strong. Look at the armor that he wears. The coat of armor that he wears to protect his chest and back weighs 125 pounds. The point of the spear that he threw weighed 15 pounds all by itself. So, judging from the description that you have of this guy, this is not a guy that most people would want to battle with to the death. No wonder no one in the army of Israel was willing to step forward and say, “I will take this guy up on his offer and fight him.” He was huge and intimidating. And the Philistines used him well to gain the psychological advantage.

The rest of the story is found in 1 Samuel 17: 41-51:And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand. When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.  And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it.

Remember what the Bible says, “Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” Greater is He, meaning Jesus, who is in me; than he, meaning Satan, who is in the world. That is who we have to fight with us and for us. That’s who David had at his side and why he won the battle.

Discussion Question:

  1. Are you afraid of anything? What is required to get rid of fears? Do previous encounters make us stronger and less afraid in the future?
  2. Why was David so confident that he could defeat Goliath?
  3. Is being the underdog a disadvantage? Are disadvantages really advantages when God is involved?
  4. Are there challenges you faced in the past that prepared you for more important challenges later? Can you trace a gradual strengthening of your faith?
  5. Pray and ask God for the courage to face up to your fears.

Without Fail

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your wordsand blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” – Psalm 51: 1-6

Wouldn’t it be great if we could meet David? It would be an extraordinary experience for sure. If we only had a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor. Even a few minutes with him would be great. Why? Because he killed Goliath. He killed lions and bears. He was a man after God’s own heart. He fled when he was the rightful king. He showed grace to Saul. He loved his son Absalom when Absalom wanted him dead. And finally, out of his lineage came our Savior, Jesus Christ. David was a biblical rock star.

But as with the case with so many larger than life figures in the Bible, David also had some items in the negative side of the ledger. He committed murder and adultery. In fact, David had struggle after struggle. Many of those struggles were his own fault. He sinned greatly, like many of the people we cherish in Scripture. Yet, he discovered that God is gracious beyond what he deserved.

Throughout the Bible, God used people in spite of, and after their greatest of failures. Simon Peter preached his greatest message and had his greatest ministry after he denied the Lord. Samson sinned against God, yet he slew more Philistines in the end of his life than he had during his entire ministry. Abraham lied, yet he was used by God. There are many others that we could add to this short list. But these are sufficient to show that the Lord can take those who have failed in the past and that He can still use them for His glory today, and into the future.

Paul was on his way to Damascus to find Christians to arrest and to take them to their deaths. He was filled with hatred and wanted nothing more than to completely destroy anyone or anything connected with the name of Jesus Christ. Yet, in spite of all this, the Lord was able to change this man and to use him for the glory of God.

God can do the same thing in your life and mine. He can take us, with all the baggage that we carry, and He can use us for His glory. We all bring certain liabilities to the table. Some have the tendency to stray from the truth like Abraham. Others are filled with pride like David. God is able to take us exactly where we are, change what needs to be changed and then use us to further His kingdom.

Despite David’s sin, he was always a man after God’s own heart. People would always judge him for his actions, but God always loved him for who he was. And he loves us for who we are and in spite of our failures or shortcomings.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Everyone has shortcomings, failures in life. The question is do these failures or shortcomings keep us from being used by God?
  2. What prevents us from being used by God?
  3. Why as Christians do we continue to make mistakes and why do we struggle to confess our failures?
  4. Sometimes we live in our own little stories of life rather than God’s story. What does this mean and how does this hinder us from being part of what God is doing in the lives of others.
  5. Pray and ask God to help you use your gifts to further His kingdom.

A Matter Of Time

“And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” – Genesis 17:15-19.

In Genesis 17, God promises Abraham he would have so many descendants that they’d be too numerous to count through a son born to him by Sarah. (Genesis 15:5 and Genesis 17:16). First, it didn’t seem logical. Sarah and Abraham were old. Sarah was 90 and Abraham 100 when Isaac was born. Then it wasn’t very timely, at least from Abraham’s perspective. God made the promise approximately 20 years before Abraham and Sarah had Isaac. And it certainly was not without challenges. Abraham and Sarah had tried to “help” God keep his promises by finding a solution. Abraham slept with Sarah’s servant Hagar and had a son.

Regardless of logic, time or interference, God kept his promise—exactly as He promised.

Have you ever been praying and waiting and praying some more? It’s easy to get stuck when we look at our circumstances and the calendar. Time passes and God has not “fixed” it yet. Have you ever got to the point where you assume the answer is no and develop your own solution as Abraham and Sarah did? The fact of the matter is that God’s timetable is a whole lot different than our timetable. Yet we know that God is God. He keeps His promises. We can trust Him. We can rest in the assurance that God keeps His promise and He keeps them in His time, exactly as He promised. Unfortunately, it is rarely (should I say never) in our time. While I’m still waiting, however,  I can hang on to the fact that in God’s perfect time, He will keep His promise.

Psalm 91:14-16 says, “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Genesis 15:1-3. As this chapter opens, Abraham expresses his frustration to God that he doesn’t have an heir. What needs do you have that have yet to be fulfilled?
  2. Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness (v. 6). Do you believe that God is true to His word? In what ways does this affect how you trust Him with the details of your life?
  3. Read Genesis 15:8. Abraham asks for confirmation and God responds with a ceremony affirming His commitment to Abraham. How has God confirmed or demonstrated His faithfulness to you?
  4. Pray and ask God for the faith to wait, trusting God and His plan.

Put To The Test

“ After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” – Genesis 22:1-8.

In a story that can be called unusual from just about any perspective, Abraham is tested by God. If you grew up in the church you have heard this story many times. God tells him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham goes about doing just that. You can read the story in Genesis 22, but to give you the Reader’s Digest version, Abraham never does it. He doesn’t sacrifice Isaac. He gets close, too close I’m sure for Isaac’s liking. But an angel calls off the test before Abraham has to decide to obey or disobey.

Hebrews 11:17-19 (TLB) says: “While God was testing him, Abraham still trusted in God and his promises, and so he offered up his son Isaac and was ready to slay him on the altar of sacrifice; yes, to slay even Isaac, through whom God had promised to give Abraham a whole nation of descendants! He believed that if Isaac died God would bring him back to life again; and that is just about what happened,  for as far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was doomed to death, but he came back again alive.”

If all that we had about Abraham was what we find here in Hebrews, you might think that he was an incredibly stalwart man who unflinchingly followed the Lord in a totally uncompromising manner. However, that is not the case. Rather, we find Abraham to be a man who was just like us in many ways. But we also see God never gave up on him but rather continued to work in and through him to bring him to a place of deep brokenness and repentance. As a result, Abraham grew spiritually to the point of fully trusting in the Lord and obeying Him in faith, regardless of his circumstances. God was at work guiding, protecting, and breaking him in order to bring him to the point where he would become the man of faith God intended for him to be.

Abraham had complete confidence in God. Let that sink in for a moment. Complete confidence. So can we. But if I took a moment to do a self-evaluation: Yes, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus is God’s son, the Messiah foretold in scripture. I’ve placed my faith in Him, in His sacrifice on the cross, in His resurrection from the dead, in the forgiveness of my sins. But I would be hard pressed to say, especially when roads seem closed, doors are not opening up fast enough, relationships get a little strained, and other life issues are demanding my attention, that I exhibit complete confidence in God. No, sometimes I feel like I need to pitch in. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt God’s ability or plan or promises. In those moments, I try to remember a phrase Abraham said to Isaac in Genesis 22:8 (TLB): “God will see to it.” My prayer is that we will understand that God will see to it in every aspect of our lives if we trust in Him.

Let me end with a quote from Andy Stanley’s book “Deep & Wide”: “At its core, Christianity is an invitation to reenter a relationship of trust with the Father. At the cross, sin was forgiven and we were invited to trust. It makes perfect sense that salvation comes by faith, not obedience. Intimate relationships are not built on obedience. They are built on trust.”

Discussion Question:

  1. Twenty-five years after God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation (Genesis 12:2), his son Isaac is born.What do you think it was like for Abraham to hold this child of promise?
  2. Why do you think God tested Abraham with the command to sacrifice Isaac? What do you think Abraham was thinking as he heard God’s command?
  3. Why do you think tests like this happen in our lives? Do you feel like you’ve ever been tested by God?
  4. What do you learn about Abraham from the events in chapter 22? What do you learn about God?
  5. What are the things that are most important to you? Would you be willing to remove them from your life if God asked you to?

No Lie!

“Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.” – Genesis 12:11-16.

A famine had drove Abraham, his wife Sarah and their flocks into Egypt. They are now in a foreign country, unsure of how they will be treated by the Egyptians. Abraham is worried that Sarah will attract men’s attention because she is strikingly beautiful. So Abraham decides on a strategy. He will pass her off as his sister, not his wife. This way, men will be more likely to treat the group well. If they see Abraham as her husband, they may try to kill him to get Sarah.

Sarah agrees. What Abraham feared, happens. Reports of her beauty reaches Pharaoh. Accustomed to getting whatever he wants, he has his soldiers take Sarah from her family, and pleased with her, he places her in his harem.

This doesn’t seem like the behavior for the father of a nation and a friend of God. No it doesn’t. Even in the face of Abraham’s half-truth, God was there to deliver him from himself. God has a long-range plan, and He is not going to let Abraham or a lie or half-truth change that plan.

So Pharaoh and his country become afflicted with plagues, and when he finds out that Sarah is Abraham’s wife, he views his misfortune as punishment from the gods. He hastily restores Sarah to Abraham, and pays compensation – even though it is clearly Abraham who is at fault. Pharaoh’s generosity contrasts sharply with Abraham’s deceptive behavior.

Before we judge Abraham we need to ask ourselves if we ever told a lie in order to get out of trouble? Or fabricated a truth to get something from someone? Or told a little white lie to gain acceptance. Of course we have. And on more than one occasion.

But as Abraham learned, along with all of us today, lies undermine our integrity in a tangible and often harmful way. Lies are a burden to manage. Lies tend to lead to more lies which ends in them being out of control. And finally there are often consequences to the lies we tell. Lies can harm relationships, friendships, even community within the church.

I encourage you to practice telling the truth. Honesty is always the best policy. I know this is a little cliche, but it is true. Lies can start out as a little misrepresentation or little white lie. But, lies lead to more lies and the Bible makes it clear, “Your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

God doesn’t discard Abraham because of this episode in Egypt. God’s grace did not stop at that point. Nor does God’s grace stop in our lives when we stray from the truth.

Discussion Question:

  1. Can you think of a situation or circumstance in your own life where you experienced what Abraham did by telling a half-truth? How did it end?
  2. What forms of lying are easiest for Christians to justify, and why? In what kinds of relationships or situations do you most find yourself tempted to distort the truth?
  3. In what everyday situations are you called to stand up for the truth?
  4. What makes gossip, flattery, exaggeration and other forms of dishonesty so damaging?
  5. Pray and ask God to speak to those areas of your life where you are dishonest.

It's All About The Details

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3.

Life is a journey and for all of us there are different paths and each path has its own unique characteristics of twists and turns, and stretches that go uphill and some that are downhill. Abraham began a journey which was designed by God. However, it required amazing faith since God told Him to take the journey, but He did not disclose the destination. God told Abraham simply, “Go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1.) The journey required Abraham to follow His lead without full disclosure of the details for the trip. All of the aspects of the journey were designed by God to build a resolute faith in Abraham.

God has chosen each of us in the same way that He chose Abraham. The path of your journey may not take you on the same path that Abraham traveled, but it will be a defined path chosen by God just for you. And like Abraham, you won’t know all the details of the trip.

In His own way, God doesn’t do details either. At least when it comes to His commands to people in the Bible. In fact, He can often be frustratingly vague. On His command for Moses to free the Israelites from the most powerful nation in the world, He merely commanded him, “Go, I am sending you to Pharaoh.”

God didn’t use any detail. He didn’t lay out a step-by-step plan. He just issued the command and expected obedience. Moses wanted to know how it was going to happen. What should he tell the people? But God didn’t fill in much detail here either. I will be with you. Tell them, I AM has sent me to you. I’m sure that did not cure Moses’ anxiety or concerns.

On the one hand, you would think God was kind of winging it. On the surface, it would seem that His plan was just to deal with the details as they came about. And that’s not very reassuring. Not when you’re being asked to step out on faith. On the other hand, when you read on in the stories, God had every detail covered. Abraham’s journey. The plagues. The Red Sea. And that’s very reassuring.

God is extremely meticulous. He is all about the details. Far more than you’ll ever be. He has everything already figured out. Every pitfall and possibility accounted for. Every detour arranged to get you to your final destination. So God definitely does the details in terms of His plan and working it out. But God doesn’t do the details in terms of what He communicates to you.

The Bible says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1) Yet, most of us have times in our lives where a lack of knowledge of where we are going coupled with our daily fears and anxieties prevent us from stepping out in faith. God doesn’t need you to know every detail to follow Him faithfully. He’s more interested in your full trust than your full understanding. Trusting Him without first knowing all the details will help you grow into a deeper relationship with God. Obeying God drives the roots of your faith much deeper.

Discussion Question:

  1. Abram’s story begins with God’s call to follow him. In what ways has God directed your life thus far? Can you think of a time in your life when you experienced God’s faithfulness despite decisions you made?
  2. God didn’t specify exactly where he wanted Abram to go, yet Abram stepped out in faith. Describe times when you stepped out into the unknown. How did you feel not knowing where the next step would lead?
  3. God called Abram to leave his identity, his means of survival, his means of livelihood, and his comfort. Are you ready to follow God wherever he leads you? What would keep us from following God?
  4. God gave Abram an incredible promise, a promise almost too good to be true. Do you find it hard to trust that God has your best interests at heart? How has your life been blessed when you followed God?

Trust In Action

“Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” – Galatians 3: 6-9

Aside from Moses, no Old Testament character is mentioned more in the New Testament than Abraham. Abraham is mentioned in 230 verses in the Old and New Testament.

There is much we can learn by observing Abraham’s life through the scriptures. The apostle Paul in Romans chapter 4 refers to Abraham six times as the father of faith. Though he lived in a world at enmity with God, Abraham models a life lived to those who chose to walk by faith in God.

When told to go, he went. When promised, he believed. When commanded, he obeyed—even when it seemed to make no sense at all. Abraham’s faith wasn’t because of his intellect, his accomplishments, or pedigree, or even his wealth. Exercising that was not easy. Abraham “hoped against hope” at times, in other words he believed God, in spite of their being little or no hope. Abraham was “a friend of God “ (James 2:23) because of his faith. The object of Abraham’s faith was God himself. Abraham believed in and trusted God completely.

Fast forward 2,000 years. Trust can still seem like hoping against hope. Trust is rarely a suggestion. When someone says “trust me”, it is usually implied that you throw one’s self into a situation and believe wholeheartedly that the situation will come to pass as they promise. For in the times of trouble; in the out-of-my-control circumstances and in the I-don’t-get-it days, we will look to something or someone to trust.

Proverbs 3: 5 gives us a direction for trust: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Trust is action, an active throwing of yourself into the hands of God as Abraham did, and saying I believe in Your grace and accept Your plan.

Why should we trust God completely? Because He is trustworthy. He is worthy of trust because trust requires a track record. You wouldn’t trust someone at their word if they had lied to you consistently in the past. But God’s track record is perfect. This does not mean it is perfectly understood, but it means His love, power, grace and compassion is promised clearly in scripture and can be experienced plainly in our lives.

God used Abraham to play a pivotal role in the outworking of the story of redemption, culminating in the birth of Jesus. Abraham is a living example of faith and hope in the promises of God (Hebrews 11:10). Our lives should be so lived that when we reach the end of our days, our faith and our trust in God, like Abraham’s, will remain as an enduring legacy to others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is trust and delight related.
  2. What prevents us from taking delight in God’s promises and plans? What areas of your life do you not fully trust God?
  3. If there are areas of your life where God is not “coming through” the way you would like, how can you learn to trust God in those situations?
  4. What can you do this week to realign your actions to reflect trust in God?
  5. Think of someone in your life that you see as an example for trusting God – what do they do really well that you can learn from?

Where Do We Go From Here?

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” – James 4:13-16

Northstar Church is a few years removed from our 20th anniversary. During our first 17 years, God has been steadily building His church. But what’s next? Where do we go from here? That question is never far from my thoughts. I regularly pray that we would continue to thrive and be even more vibrant for Christ. But how do we get better? There are pastors and church leaders all over the world looking for the silver bullet, the magic formula, the secret sauce that is going to take the church to the next level in terms of health and growth, discipleship and evangelization. We are no different. We are keeping our eyes on Jesus as we prepare for our future.

There are the inevitable times when we are not sure what to do. There are times when our understanding says “This doesn’t make sense. God, I feel like You are leading me in this direction, but I really don’t understand. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for this, or I don’t know how this is going to work. I think this is risky. Are you sure about all this?” This is where real faith becomes necessary? We need to realize that we can do all things through Christ and not on our own. Jesus is the provider of the energy, the power, the knowledge and creativity for the completion of our vision and dreams. The vision God gives, the dreams God gives are bigger than ourselves.

But we also know the importance of vision. An old Japanese proverb says, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” Vision not repeated is just a one-time dream. We strive to pull our vision down from the clouds and put it onto your and my calendar. And that is exactly what we are trying to do. The vision prevents the urgent from crowding out the important.

Each of us have a role to play in fulfilling our vision. The vision is not related or controlled by the Lead Pastor or the staff. I can’t be the only one talking about the vision; I don’t want to be alone in this. Because when it comes to casting vision, the church leadership is looking for you to embrace, own, contextualize, and communicate the vision of helping the whole world find and follow Jesus in your spheres of influence. You may not have developed the vision, but you will help make or break whether we fulfill that vision.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How important is it to have a clear vision of Jesus in good times? Why? Bad times? Why?
  2. What do you think are the benefits of the vision to Northstar?
  3. What did I do today to cast vision for the Church? What could I be doing?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you start where you are, use what you have and do what you can do to help the whole world find and follow Jesus.

Vision Quest

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5.

People ask me on occasion about my vision for the church. It makes sense that people would want to know where the church is going and the vision and strategies to get us there. Our vision is simple. Trust God and watch Him do the impossible. The one thing about Northstar Church is that we don’t tend to live in the past and as a result have learned it is better not to get too comfortable because change happens. The reality is that God has a plan for the church and that plan may require change. We tend to underestimate what God can do through His church.

God is in control which means we are not in control. Each year we go into the new year expecting that God is going to do something new, something exciting in and through us, and are open to whatever God calls us to go or do. God tends to do the impossible right in front of our eyes. Consider what Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Each year the staff asks what new things do you suppose God will do among us? What “way in the wilderness, river in the desert” do you suppose God will lead us through? It is exciting just to imagine the possibilities when God is involved. Whatever God has planned will not be predictable or small or boring.

But that does not mean we are standing around and waiting for God to nudge us in the right direction. It does not work that way. We are committed to making sure that we don’t get so comfortable in what we do and how we do it that we don’t work passionately and tirelessly to advance what He is trying to do at Northstar to further His kingdom. We have to stay on our toes and the edge of our seats ready for whatever God throws at us or requires today and tomorrow. And that means we can’t get too comfortable. And that means we look for the opportunities that God presents us with.

Over the last few years we have been opening up satellite locations to provide opportunities for more people to attend Northstar and to extend our reach into more neighborhoods. Two of those locations were East Bay and the Beach campus. Both campuses were meeting in schools. As I mentioned on Sunday we have seized on opportunities to find a permanent home for each campus. We broke ground on the East Bay campus and we are working with another church to lease a location for the Beach campus. As more information becomes available I will share it with you, but in the interim, please continue to be in prayer for these two locations.

The other area I mentioned on Sunday is the message simulcast. What is our definition of simulcast? Well, it is a “live” remote viewing of our center and side screens. Basically the message is delivered live from the Panama City campus to all other campuses, including online. The technology is now available to move away from taping the message and then distributing it to the campuses from download. Each campus will receive the same message live. In short this is another attempt at being one church in multiple locations.

All of this is designed to make us more effective in the people business. We will fulfill our vision by loving people and telling them about the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have more questions, please talk to your campus pastor.

So please don’t get comfortable. 2015 is going to be an unbelievable year.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you understand the vision of Northstar?
  2. Which part of the vision of Northstar are you most passionate about? Why?
  3. What is your ministry at Northstar? What is your part in making the vision a reality?
  4. How can your small group support our vision?
  5. Prayerfully considering a one-time gift to help us fulfill our vision.

Why Does The Church Exist?

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Matthew 28:18–20.

If you asked a group of people what they like best about their church, you would probably get a mix of the following answers:

  • I love our worship, especially the music.
  • I love our preacher – he speaks in a way I can understand better, yet apply in my life.
  • I love our devotion and work for Jesus Christ and His Lordship.
  • I love that people are being saved.
  • I love we are well grounded in the scriptures.
  • I love our KiDS programs.

If we were asked that question, our answer would based on the purpose or the mission of the church. I thought I would seek an expert opinion on that subject, C.S. Lewis. Mr. Lewis was kind enough to answer this question for us during the 1940’s when He wrote “Mere Christianity.” Mere Christianity was actually adapted from a series of BBC radio talks with C.S. Lewis during World War II, while he was at Oxford. But, I believe his insights are spot on for us today 70 plus years later.

It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, buildings, missions, holding services … the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.” (C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity)

If Lewis is right that “the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs,” that has to be the sole focus of our journey and the mission of Northstar. We can have a lot of really great things going on, but if it is not to “draw people into Christ,”  it is not the best use of our time.

There are a lot of great programs that we in the Church view as pillars of the church. But, if it’s not drawing people to Christ, it’s a luxury, not a necessity. Lewis goes on to say, “God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.” Jesus became a human for no other purpose, than to draw others to Himself.

“Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” (C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity)

That is why the church exists.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why do you think the church exists? How do I fit into the church? What do I contribute? In what ways am I improving in how I harmonize with fellow believers?
  2. What does it mean to make little Christs?
  3. Things to wrestle with: Am I prepared to explain the message of Jesus? Can I clearly convey to someone how to be saved? Do I believe that God could use me to share his message of hope to someone who needs Him? Am I ready to share what Christ has done in my life?
  4. Pray for Northstar that we will make “little Christs” each week?