Change Of Heart

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-34.

Heart is used in Scripture as the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will. It is the center of the person and the place to which God turns.

It is no wonder that we talk about the heart as much as we do because Christianity is not about behavior modification; it’s about heart transformation. And that transformation means giving your whole heart to God. Charles Spurgeon said that “God is not truly sought by the cold researches of the brain: we must seek him with the heart. Love reveals itself to love: God manifests his heart to the heart of his people.” 

The Bible has a lot to say about the subject of giving God our whole heart. “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart”… “I will extol the Lord with all my heart.”…”I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart.” (Psalms 9:1; 111:1; 138:1)  And in Psalm 119, we read,  “I seek you with all my heart”…”Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart”…”I keep your precepts with all my heart”…”May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees.”

The book of Jeremiah also has a lot to say about the whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7 says, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

To love God with our whole heart is our goal. We can start the day by turning our hearts to Him. We can practice telling the Lord we love Him every single day. We can also pray, “Lord Jesus, cause me to love You more today than I did yesterday and serve You with my whole heart.”  And then we need to work on those things that divert our attention and our heart away from God.

When it is all said and done, none of us can control the quantity of days we will have on this earth. However, the one thing that we can all control is the love that we have for God by giving Him our whole heart.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to love God with all your heart?
  2. Read Acts 13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14: What does it mean to have a heart after God’s heart? And what do these verses say about good intentions versus actions?
  3. Read Jeremiah 32:39-41. What are these verses saying to you?
  4. Our greatest fear shouldn’t be of failure, but of succeeding in things that don’t really matter. Agree or disagree?
  5. Pray and ask God to give you the strength and wisdom to give Him your whole heart? 

By Accident or Design

“ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” – Jeremiah 29:11-14.

I did not decide to do the No Regret series because I wanted each of us to realize how much we have messed up in our walk with God by languishing on our mistakes. This series is not about how many times we we got off track or how many things we would do differently. This series is not about hopping into our Delorean time machine to go back in time to avoid mistakes, stop from making bad decisions and looking before we leap. And it is not about feeling disappointed, sad, guilty, remorseful or even ashamed, because we failed in our eyes and more importantly in God’s eyes. 

This series is about living a life without regret as God intended us to live, which means we move past the regrets and wishes. We can do so by first remembering that there are no accidents with God. He has a perfect timing for everything He does. Isaiah 46:9–10 tells us, “…remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,”

God has a perfect plan and there are no accidents with Him. The family you were born into was no accident. The country you live in, the language you speak, the friends you have, your weaknesses, mistakes you have made, poor decisions—none of them are accidents to God. Failures with your spouse and children, things you wish you had done differently, painful experiences—none of them are accidents to God.

Ruth is a short story that teaches us there are no accidents with God. Everything has a purpose. Everything has a reason. Our seeming chance decisions are not chance. Ephesians 1:11 tells us that God “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” Ruth shows us that truth played out in the everyday happenings of very ordinary people.

We all have decisions we regret. We have done things that did not turn out the way we intended or hoped. We all wish we had done things differently. So we all have regrets. And we may feel stuck. But in those times when we experience regret we need to remember there are no accidents with God. 

God overrides our sins. Even when we really blow it. Even when you feel what you have done has ruined your life. Even when we miss the opportunities God gives us. Even when you are still experiencing the long-term consequences of a bad mistake. Remember there are no accidents with God. God in His sovereignty can work out everything for our good.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What thought or idea expressed in this devotional resonated with you? Why?
  2. Was there anything in this devotional that you found to be comforting? Why or why not?
  3. Read Isaiah 45:7 and Proverbs 19:21: What do these verses say about how God directs people, circumstances, and events?
  4. Read Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20:  What do these verses tell you about God using bad things for good purposes?

With The Best Of Intentions

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.“  Isaiah 54:1-3  

If each of us had to come up with a list of our top ten regrets, it would take some thinking to determine which regrets make the top ten and which fall outside the top ten. We’d have to swim back upstream to the moment just before it all went wrong, consider the magnitude of the regret and then decide if it makes the top ten or not. We would discover that our minds are often orderly memoirs of past moments, past conversations, and past relationships. What if I had done things differently? What if I had said something else? What if I had taken a different direction? Would I have less regrets? But I believe somewhere in this process of ranking our regrets, we would pause for a moment and think to ourselves: “In every case I had the best intentions. I really did. I didn’t set out to create regret, in fact I absolutely intended to do the thing that would have prevented the regret in the first place.”

Good intentions may well express our desired outcome, but usually do not necessarily express the actual outcome. Joyce Meyer said that “Good intentions never change anything. They only become a deeper and deeper rut.” The truth is, intentions are not enough. Yes, they may start something, but intentions will not complete what you started. For example, how many times have we been corrected/confronted by our spouse or friend only to respond, “Well, I did/didn’t intend to….”? What we intended did not change the outcome, much less excuse our actions.

The way to help eliminate regret is to move those intentions into action steps. Take the dormant someday into now. Have we intended to invite someone over for dinner? Invite them. Have we intended to apologize and seek forgiveness? Drive over and ask for forgiveness. Have we intended to learn the Bible and increase in prayer? Set aside time today to start. Have we intended to call a friend or family member? Pick up the phone. Have we intended to invite your neighbor to church? Walk over and ask if they would like to go with you to church on Sunday to learn about living a life of no regrets.

Galatians 6:9 is a verse that I believe applies here: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  You cannot reap good intentions, but you can reap doing good. It will strengthen your resolve to keep pushing and it will help eliminate regrets later on. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are good intentions simply a case of poor follow through?
  2. Have you experienced the cost/damage of good intentions?
  3. Do you believe good intentions can stall or hamper your spiritual life?
  4. Pray for margin in your life that will open up to turn intentions into action.

Is Today Your Someday

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” —  James 2:14-17. Continue reading “Is Today Your Someday”

What Might Have Been

“Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, as I was in my prime,when the friendship of God was upon my tent, when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were all around me, when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil! – Job 29:1-6.

A life of regret is an “if only” life… if only I had walked closer to the Lord… if only I would have invested in my marriage more…. if only I would have spent more time with my children… if only I would have attended church more… if only I would have not wasted that money… if only… a life filled with regrets, retreats, and remorse. Author Kurt Vonnegut said, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “what might have been.”

What would a “no regret” life really look like? Is it even possible? There was only one person that has lived a regret free life in the literal sense and that is Jesus. The rest of us fail, we struggle, we get in our own way, and as a result constantly manufacture regret. We will fail and we will have regrets. The answer to living the “no regret” life is not found in living without failure, but more in how we deal with that failure.

What will we do with our failures? We can choose to kick ourselves to the curb because of our failures, our sins, our mistakes and let them dominate our lives and our attention or we can “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2) We can either keep our eyes focused on the past or “press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12).

It has been said many times and in many ways, but the fundamental truth is the same: We cannot change our last 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 years, no matter how much we want to turn the clock back. Living  a regret free life is one that is not focused and obsessed with our pasts and letting that define our lives. Our identity is found in Jesus and working out our faith day by day. In the spiritual life, direction makes all the difference. It’s not where we have been but where we’re going that matters. When we let go of the regret, God opens up opportunities for today.

This week, focus on forgetting your past and the regrets so that you can so you can live the life you were made for.  Micah 7:19 tells us, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

C. S. Lewis reminded us that our ultimate goal is to hear God say someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant:” “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your “what if” moments?
  2. Is it hard for you to forget your past? Why or why not?
  3. How have you been successful in dealing with your past regrets?
  4. What difference does Jesus make when it comes to dealing with your past sins and regrets?
  5. Pray this week and ask God to help you with any regrets you have in life.

Serve the Purpose

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:10-11. 

Our volunteers are heroes. They are truly the force behind everything that takes place at Northstar. While we individually have gifts, it is when those gifts are combined with others that amazing things can happen. It is easy to look at the size of Northstar and wonder how big a difference can I make. One person among thousands cannot make that significant a difference, can they? I wish you could see what I see. I wish you could see behind the curtain. You would see just how big a difference that one person who has a heart to serve and use their gifts can make. Our vision for this church is to “help the whole world follow Jesus” and in doing that connect, renew, and grow all people in Christ. We cannot fulfill that vision without people willing to serve in our ministries. It just can’t be done. 

God has used Northstar to transform thousands of lives. Every volunteer had a part in that life transformation process. Yes, you can make a difference. 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT) tell us, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”  Even in the first century church, people were needed to serve. In Acts 6:1-7, we read about finding people to serve tables.

The question I get most often about serving is “where do I fit?” Or, “where should I serve?” I encourage you to take a look around and identify where you might fit best, based on your strengths and personality. Let me give you one example. 

One of our most important ministries is Northstar KiDs. It is made up of programs for babies through kids in 5th grade. We believe that all children are special and valuable to God and that He wants them to understand how much He loves them and wants to develop a relationship with Him. We have built everything we do around those principles. Northstar KiDs is where you will hear a lot of laughter and see a lot of love in action. Our goal is to teach our children about Jesus and help them grow in their relationship with Him. We teach our children in ways that are fun, exciting, and relational. We want to enter into their world so we can then speak to them about the world Jesus wants for them. Anything goes as long as it is fun, safe, speaks the truth from the Bible, and helps us build loving relationships with the kids. If you have a heart and a passion for kids, we can use you. 

Let me leave you with one last thing to consider: Sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift. It is easy to look at changing diapers, holding doors open, serving up coffee or parking cars and be unsure whether this is your gifting. The next logical thought is “maybe I should find something that uses my talents and abilities better.” It is easy to have the mentality of considering that some things in church are more important than others. 

The fact is, however, we are not serving for our own self-fulfillment. We are serving for the the church body. This doesn’t mean my gifts aren’t important. What it means is that sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift. My point is we have areas of need that you can fill, even if you may not have a gift or passion for that area.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to serve God? Is it a position, a role, or a mindset?
  2. Read Ephesians 6:7. What does this verse mean to you?
  3. Sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift. Agree or disagree? 
  4. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:7–8: What is our responsibility to know and serve one another persistently?
  5. What are some things that keep us from serving even when we want or need to?

What is a Disciple?

“ And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:11-16.

Most jobs have a job description. A job description is a broad, general, written statement of duties, purpose, responsibilities, and scope. If God gave you a job description for the Christian life, what do you think would be on it? If you started with core responsibilities, discipleship would certainly be included.

We read this clearly in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

First, a definition. A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus who strives to faithfully follow Him in every area of their lives. Many Christians are intimidated by the concept. It seems above their pay grade and better suited for pastors and church staff. The reality is that it is fundamental and applies to everyone. 

I do understand the confusion. There are more than a few paradigms about discipleship. Some people view it as reading the Bible. Others see it as digesting as many spiritual books as possible. Others view it as attending a small group. Still others pray. While all these aid the work of discipleship, they are not a prerequisite or the end of discipleship. It is not easy, but it is not complicated either. When Jesus commands us to make disciples, He intends for us to live our lives in obedience to Him in the presence of other people. This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.

In 2016, our vision is to see our church step out in it’s faith and become passionate disciples of Jesus.  Our Goal is to offer more resources, curriculum and teaching to grow and mature into disciples of Jesus Christ. We want to build solid foundations to become a life-long follower of Jesus.

I encourage you to avail yourselves of these opportunities beginning with small groups, Growth Track classes, and maybe consider a short-term mission trip.

If you want more information, talk to your campus pastor. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your  definition of discipleship? What motivates you to be a disciple?
  2. Where would you like to grow as an individual and a follower of Jesus? What area is most challenging for you?
  3. How do small groups play a part in our church’s discipleship ministry?
  4. What areas concerning discipleship would you appreciate getting resources for and discussion about?   

Do We Need More Campuses?

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.“  Isaiah 54:1-3  

On Sunday, I told the congregation that we plan on opening two additional campuses in 2016. The obvious question is why, and how does this fit into our vision. 

The quick answer is that we want to make Heaven more crowded and one of the best ways to do that is to put vibrant small campuses where people live. Northstar is one church in multiple locations. We want everyone to know the only way, the truth, and the life found in Jesus is at a location near them. That is the overriding answer, but let me give you more detail.

A satellite campus offers the chance to begin with a solid vision and stable leadership in place. It offers the chance to begin with the core ministries in place. The satellites are driven by both vision and capacity issues. There is still space in our locations but as we have learned in the past when you are 75 perecent full you are full. But above capacity issues, we believe satellite campuses better fulfill the great commission by extending Northstar Church into other areas in our region. From a statistical standpoint, each additional location will help us become a more evangelistic church.

But I want to pause and ensure that you understand something. If you retain nothing else from this devotional, please retain this. Additional campuses are not about becoming a big or mega church. It is not about numbers or statistics. It is not an ego thing or a desire to have something new and shiny. Each additional campus is not primarily for us. It is about reaching others with the gospel. It is about potentially reaching another part of our city or region with the gospel. The payoff, if you will, is seeing Christ transform lives and playing a part in it.

That doesn’t mean there are not some strategic benefits, however. It is more cost effective than building a bigger sanctuary. It overcomes geographic barriers of people getting to church.  It provides more opportunities for people to get engaged to name a few. 

As more information becomes available on when and where we will plant these new campus locations, we will communicate the information to you.  In the interim, please be in prayer that we will make good decisions and fulfill the purpose God has for us.

Please pray that:

  1. Pray that each of us will have a heart for the lost.
  2. Pray that the church leadership will have discernment in seeking God’s direction.
  3. Pray that we will put our new campuses in the right locations.
  4. Pray that lives will be transformed. 

Everybody Matters To God

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” – Luke 15:4-7.

I think Dr. Seuss was right when he wrote, “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Every person matters to God regardless of size, shape, color, age, sex, or creed. John 3:16 (NLT) tells us that: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” 

In a culture that idolizes the rich and famous, God has a different perspective. The Bible tells us that even the one who wanders away is important. In fact, the wandering one is so important that the shepherd leaves the other sheep in search of the one that is lost. And when the shepherd finds the one missing sheep, he kicks up his heels and celebrates.   

If that is how God thinks and operates, that is exactly how we should think and operate. If everyone matters to God, everyone should matter to us.  If God cares for every person, even the one who has lost his or her way and is far from the heart of God, then we should as well. Jesus had a passion for the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Shouldn’t we imitate Jesus and have that same passion? 

The answer is yes. We do want to capture Christ’s passion for the spiritually lost. God’s heart beats for people who are living without a personal relationship with the risen Savior. God so wants people restored to a right relationship with him that He gave his one and only Son to die just so that relationship could be possible. 

While he lived on earth some 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ modeled for us a passion to seek and save the lost. He kept nothing back, and He gave everything up to see to it that he is able to complete His mission.

You and I are also called by God to imitate His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us imitate Him by passionately seeking those who are far from the heart of God. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are you most passionate about in 2016?
  2. Read Romans 9:1-4: What is Paul’s passion in this scripture passage?
  3. Have you ever felt like your life wasn’t important? What made you feel this way?
  4. Determine one concrete step you can take this week to develop more empathy and passion for the lost.

Vision Just Ahead

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:18-19.

Virtually every business, and every church for that matter, have produced vision and mission statements. They create a vision by visualizing what their ideal business/church will look like and then implement a specific plan to make the vision a reality. Vision and mission statements are not a bad thing to have, but unless the church actually uses them as tools, they tend to become lofty “motherhood” statements that make you feel warm and fuzzy, but don’t do a whole lot of good. Our vision is the bridge between the present and the future. How do we give life to our vision of “helping the whole world find and follow Jesus?”   

I talked Sunday on what we are planning to do to make our vision a reality. I talked about the need to increase our orientation to those far from the heart of God, as well as building disciples in the church.

To do that, we must take it from the hypothetical to the real. This can’t be accomplished by simply writing down the vision. It must be put into action. To do that we must all have a common purpose in capturing, defining and implementing the vision. The crucial last step is to take action. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  It asks the question, “what does God want from us right now, right here? Or what must we do right now in order to best achieve and fulfill our God-given vision?”

Let me expand on the vision a little. Please read this and see where you and your talents sync up with the vision:

Our vision is to be real: By that I mean a church that is real in its love for God and real in our love for others. I see a church that depends on the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit. A church that connects, inspires, and motivates people to mature in God. A church that connects people in doing life together.

Our vision is to be relevant: By that I mean a church that welcomes, accepts, and loves all people knowing God has great plans for every person. A church that effectively communicates the life changing message of Jesus in a way that captures the heart and invites the decision to start a relationship with the risen Savior.

Our vision is to relentless: A church committed to continually doing whatever it takes to impact the community and world. A church that is relentless in its desire to show compassion and generosity. A church that never tires of making seeking the lost and building disciples. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What goes into a successful vision in your mind?
  2. What gifts/skills do you have that will contribute to achieving our vision?
  3. How can we overcome our fears and reluctance in getting engaged?
  4. Pray and ask God to show you where you should be engaged in the vision.