Small Things Cumulative Effect

If you don’t think that small things can and do make a difference, consider that one of the most powerful forces is the splitting of the smallest thing. In the splitting of the atom, a succession of explosions can be set off to cause the biggest explosion the world has ever known.

I have known and watched successful people from every walk of life. They all have at least one thing in common. The things some people view as trivial, they view as meaningful. The non-essentials seem to be essentials. We can learn from that viewpoint as Christians. Because with God there are no little churches. There are no little people. There are no little tasks.

In doing the little things one becomes Christlike. You must remember that Jesus never pastored a large church. He was never a president, governor or mayor. He took time for little children. He told simple stories about a flower, a bird,  a lost coin, and a boy who ran way from home. His Father and our Father takes note of a bird that falls. He clothes the lilies of the field. He is even interested in each hair on our heads. Hence, if we would be Christlike, we too must be willing to do the small things.

In Sunday’s services I talked about reading your bible and prayer. I often talk about the importance of a daily quiet time. Those small, daily things can have a big cumulative effect if we do them consistently. Here is what I mean by consistency.

One of the New Year’s resolutions I hear every year is the desire on the part of one or both parents to have dinner with the family every night. They want that time with their family to communicate, to share, to catch up with what is happening in their respective lives. That is a worthwhile goal to be sure. However, there is no real value in having one dinner and checking off that resolution. The real value comes from doing it day after day after day. The channels of communication will be restored as will trust because your family will know that you are committed to a daily dinner with them. There is real value in cumulative deposits of your time in having dinner. Same thing with exercise. If you exercise one day you will receive no benefit. But if you make daily deposits of exercise day after day you will see the cumulative effects.

The same is true of reading your Bible, quiet time and prayer. Every time you read the Bible, you make small deposits to your spiritual bank account. These add up, because God gives compound interest. If you make daily deposits of time in those areas over a period of time you will see the cumulative effects in your relationship with God. If you do those things once every six months you will not see the same benefits. Conversely, there is also a cumulative effect in neglect. If we do not have a daily quiet time or read our Bible, God may seem distant at a time you need Him most.

So, if you are going to start with the small things we talked about in 2015, I encourage you to be committed and make those daily deposits of time that are necessary to reap the full benefits out of these small things.

These little things will make a big difference. And someday they will give you the character of Jesus.

Discussion Questions:
1. Why is it so easy to neglect the small things in life?
2. In what areas have you seen the cumulative effects of daily deposits of time? In what areas have you observed the cumulative effects of neglect?
3. Can you make up for lost time in these areas?
4. Pray about and identify the one area that you can begin doing consistently by making daily deposits of time.

Little Things Add Up

“To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

There is a story on John Piper’s Desiring God website which I believe illustrates the importance of seemingly small things. Arnie and Olive Nelson faithfully operated Bethlehem Baptist Church’s tape ministry as volunteers when John Piper was pastor. Arnie would come to the church every week to duplicate tapes from the previous Sunday. Every week, Olive manually typed every tape label and she and Arnie would label each tape by hand. Olive would also hand-type all the mailing labels and the two of them would package and mail the tapes to people around the world, often including a personal note to the recipient. Olive’s database was a black 3-ring notebook where she meticulously hand-recorded every transaction for every person.

When Arnie and Olive decided to retire from the tape ministry in 1994, it prompted John Piper to ask about doing something with the tape ministry. The Desiring God as we know it now sprung out of that request. The thousands of John Piper’s sermons that are now listened to every month on the internet or CDs grew out of Arnie and Olive’s ministry. And had they not carefully cataloged and preserved all of John’s sermon tapes for 14 years, Desiring God’s online audio library might be half its size.

But I don’t think Arnie and Olive ever imagined that something like Desiring God would result from the tape ministry. They just labored quietly and diligently because their Lord had given them a stewardship and because they loved their church family and because they wanted others to hear the sermons. But God intended to do more with their labors than they foresaw.

God simply loves to do this. He loves to take something small and use it for his glory in ways we cannot imagine. We are easily impressed with people and organizations that are uber successful and quick to evaluate what God has given us to do as insignificant in comparison. We must be very careful. God is often not impressed with what impresses us.

We never know what God might be growing in what you choose to do in 2015. What might God do through the 15 minutes you spend reading the Bible every day, or the time you spend seeking His will in prayer. Or the smile you give to someone walking in the door, or in the diaper you changed, or the Northstar Group member you prayed and supported, or in the person you invite to church. We can be confident of this: He is doing more than we can see. He always is. Someday we will be amazed at how God can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

So I encourage you to make a commitment to do the small things we will talk about in our series, Small Things, Big Difference. Start right where you are. Our prayer is that it will help you hold fast to this promise God gives us through the Apostle Paul: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you believe small things really count? If not, why not?
2. What small things have you seen God do in us?
3. What’s one thing you would like to change about yourself or accomplish this year? Is it something you need to take out of your life? Or is it something you need to add into your life?
4. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Pray and ask God to help you construct a list of the small things that He has been preparing for you to do in 2015.
5. What’s the first step you need to take to start a small new beginning?

Going All In

The fifth card in the hand you have been dealt is the most important. This fifth card is choices. Everything in life is a choice. Every second of every day we are choosing one thing or another. The choices card has the power to change all the other cards, because it controls all the other cards. If we learn to use this card correctly, it doesn’t matter how bad the previous four cards seem, you can win the game of poker.

As human beings, we are given a great gift, and that gift is the ability to make choices; to have a free will. Free will is a gift that God gave to us out of his love and his respect for us. Free will was the best thing we were ever given. It is also the worst thing we were ever given because free will, by it’s very nature, means you have the power to choose. And because you have the power to choose, you have the ability to make good and not-so-good choices.

You and I did not choose our chemistry, but we do choose what we do with our chemistry. I didn’t choose my family, but I do choose which relationships to build and invest in and which ones to get rid of. Same thing with circumstances and consciousness.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do with the cards you have been dealt and life is demanding an answer? This situation and question perplexes many people every single day of their lives. And it often comes down to a choice.

Ever since the garden of Eden; the choice to obey God or choose our own way, has existed. And just as in the Garden, our choices don’t always take us where we want to go. The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 reminds us of that. After leaving the security and restrictions of his father’s home, he began to live in an undisciplined spending spree. Eventually the money ran out and so did the friends and good times. He found himself in a pig pen feeding hogs. This was quite a change from the high life he had been living. Did God put him there? Absolutely not. His choices brought him to this point. Yet, it was in the pig pen where God found him. The scriptures tell us that “when he had come to his senses,” he returned to his father.

This is a reminder to us that even though we are suffering for our wrong choices; God is still desiring to reach down to us and move forward beyond our bad choices and past failures to a new life back in the protection of our Father’s house.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (NKJV)  God’s unchanging counsel is always perfect. As you seek His guidance and stay committed to doing what He says, you will find yourself becoming more consistent in making wise choices. Keep in mind that no one makes right choices every single time, and there are bound to be times when it becomes readily apparent that you have made a poor choice. When this happens, be quick to set aside concerns about the cards you have been dealt. Simply pray, and ask God to move you froward in the right direction.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20, (NLT) says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

When all is said and done, and you look back on your life, what will you be proud of, and what choices will you regret? What choices will have contributed to making things better, and what choices will add to the problem. To use a poker analogy, it is moving “all in” and betting it all on Him and betting that the cards you were dealt are the perfect cards for you.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do an honest evaluation and ask yourself this question: How effectively do I use the choices card in my life today? If you wish you made better choices, the following questions will help you in the decision making process. Ask yourself the following questions when faced with a choice.
2. Does my choice line up with scripture? If the answer is “no,” you don’t need to go any further because God will never lead you to do something that goes against scripture.
3. Will this decision bring you closer to the Lord or will it draw you away from Him? Will this build you up?
4. Will the result of this choice bring pleasure to God, or are you doing it to please someone else? Every decision you make reflects who you were serving at the time you made it.
5. Will the action that results from this choice clearly show God’s love, or will it reveal that the decision came from a different motivation? Will it promote unity, or will it result in dissension?
6. Ask yourself: will this choice bring glory to the Lord or will it in some way dishonor or discredit Him?

What Are You Thinking?

“A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Do you remember the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby? There are several lines that go like this: “Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near. Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there. What does he care?”

Roy quoted Job 3:25 in his sermon: “ What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. One of my worst fears would be to prepare to share God’s word and nobody was there to hear it. I would be preaching to myself. That’s what consciousness is in a nut shell. We are speaking to or preaching to ourselves.”

The problem is that if we preached like we talk to ourselves, we would not probably not have too many listeners anyway. Because here is where our discontent with the three previous cards comes in. Our mind is prone to self-justifying errors. I’m “no good, unlovable, unattractive, he will never marry me, I will never get married, I don’t have the skills to get that job, if only I was a better public speaker” and so on. Adding to the problem is we tend to believe our thoughts, impressions or paradigms more than what our family and friends may be telling us.  

Let’s try something a little different. Let’s say that you wrote the 23rd Psalm based on the first four cards you were dealt:

The 23rd Consciousness
1. My psyche is my shepherd, I have some issues. 2. I am unappreciated at work, my relationships are weak, 3. The family refreshes my credit cards. I go through self-help programs for my confidence’s sake. 4. Even though I walk with the darkest mother-in-law, I have to worry, for my past is with me; and the present does not, comfort me. 5. You prepare tax codes before me, in the presence of the IRS. You anoint my head with dandruff; my waistline overflows. 6. Surely my inabilities will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of bad circumstances, forever.

OK, that is little over the top. I get that. Here is what I want you to know. Feelings are not facts. If you feel unlovable, that doesn’t mean you are unlovable. If your mindset is that you will never get married, it does not mean you will never get married. We can change our consciousness if we remember that God’s plan for our lives trumps all our insecurities.

In order to live right, we must first think right and to do that we need the mind of Christ. Christ is in the business of “renewing the mind” (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). In the New Testament Paul tells us to put on the mind of Christ. We should ask God to give us the mind and heart of His each and every day. In essence, what we think is what we are, so we need to regularity ask ourselves “What am I thinking?  Does my consciousness glorify God?”

Discussion questions:
1. Are we open to our family and friend’s advice, suggestions or even critiques? How often do your thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies?
2. What does the mind of Christ mean to you?
3. In his book “Thinking. Loving. Doing.”, John Piper challenges us to be thinkers, engaged and serious about knowing God. How can changing our thinking change our relationship with God?
4. What can I do to stay focused on the person and character of Jesus in my daily walk?
5. Pray and ask God to grant you understanding in all the cards we are dealt.

"Read Em And Weep"

“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” – C.S. Lewis

Curly from the Three Stooges used to regularly say, “I’m a victim of circumstance.” That line sums up the thoughts of a lot of people today. Why? Because most individuals or groups are not all that happy with the circumstance cards they were dealt.

The circumstance cards are those things that happen in life that are out of our control and have the real chance of impacting our life going forward. Each of us have our own unique set of circumstances that we will face or attempt to handle. We also handle the circumstances differently. Some of us handle circumstances fairly well, some not so well. A big part of playing the cards we are dealt is handling the circumstance card. The Bible gives us the key in handling anything that comes our way.

We are instructed to be ready. We know something is coming, we may not know how, when or from where it will come, but there will be circumstances we will handle or face. But we also know that we do not have to face our circumstances alone. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit who enables us and empowers us in the power of Christ. Don’t be a “victim of circumstance.” He who began a good work in you will perfect it. Trust God in the midst of your trials. Nothing can separate us from His love.

No matter how difficult your circumstances may be today, tomorrow will bring a brighter day if you hold fast to His promises. “… weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 ) Instead of viewing life as a wearisome battle against a flood of overwhelming circumstances, you can view it with hope. You can see it from the perspective of God’s covenant, believing that though hard circumstances will come, God is in control and working out His purpose through them. The result? You’ll see yourself as safe within God’s loving plan.

Let me quote the lyrics of the song Oceans by Hillsong United: May our hearts respond as in the song we love to sing: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You would call me; Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.”
Discussion Questions:
1. What are your expectations for circumstances in your life? What does God expect from you?
2. Give a brief example of an event or circumstance in your life that led to a feeling of helplessness or being out of control.
3. What role did God play in your thoughts? Did you pray? Did you pray differently? Were you angry?
4. Would you say circumstances strengthened or weakened your confidence in God? Why?
5. If you want to study someone in Bible, the life of Joseph is a great example of someone who overcame and lived beyond the circumstances of his life, (Genesis 37, 39-43)

Making A Connection

“I love those connections that make this big old world feel like a little village.” – Gina Bellman

The second card is connections. Connections means we are all products of the relationships in our lives. Each of us has a variety of relationships. Some are casual acquaintances, people we know a little bit about, but not too much. With things like Facebook growing in popularity, people have more and more of these casual acquaintances. Then we have close friends, people that we share with on a deeper level what’s going on in our lives.

We are products of our relationships with our parents, our siblings, our teachers, our wives, etc. Research shows that the single greatest factor in how you view yourself is how you think the most important people in your life view you. That’s why if you are want to be healthy emotionally you need to make the most important person in your life Jesus. Because we need to base who we are on what He thinks of us, not on what cousin Jimmy thinks of us. If we make anyone but God as the most important person in our life, than we will struggle with our identity.

You didn’t choose your connections, but you can make new relationships and mend or nurture the ones you already have. God made us to be part of a community sharing a common life in Christ. The biblical ideal of community challenges us instead to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God.

Even though forms may not matter much, size does. For community to be specific and personal enough to reach its potential, we need groups small enough for everyone to be directly involved. That’s why we challenge you to join a Northstar group.

The practice of the earliest Christians suggests a small scale. They often met in each other’s homes for meals and teaching, for worship and prayer (Acts 2:44-46, Acts 12:12-17). And it is clear that when Paul advised the Corinthians that “everyone” should be ready with a psalm, some instruction, or a revelation, he expected the meeting to be small enough for everyone to participate. (1 Corinthians 14:26). The goal was to strengthen everyone through relationships, through community.

Certainly that doesn’t mean that we need to limit our relationships to small groups. It does suggest, instead, that we are more likely to find community and relationships that will help us with the connections card, we were dealt, in a Northstar Group. Northstar Groups is a place to “love each other”, “pray for each other”, “encourage each other”, “serve each other”, “teach each other”, “accept each other”, “bear each other’s burdens”, and be “devoted to each other”.

It’s my heartfelt prayer that each of you will be courageous and join a Northstar groups. I am convinced that once you do, you will discover how much more rewarding the Christian life is when you build connections with other believers.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you believe there is a difference between being around or in proximity to someone and being in community with them?
2. How many times do you feel you must attend a Northstar Group before you benefit from that group?
3. Pray and rate yourself on the following two statements: I have developed significant relationships with people at Northstar. I intentionally try to get to know new people I meet at church?
4. Do you believe Northstar Groups are a key part of your spiritual development? Why or why not. If you do not attend a group, what other ways do you intentionally make time to fellowship and interact with other believers? What additional ways do you spend time with other believers to help you grow in your faith?

”I’ll play these…”

“We are all dealt a hand and we have to decide how to play it.” – Voltaire“

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” This was a Quote by a man named Randy Pausch. He died of cancer a few years ago, but he said this quote in his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. There are five cards you are dealt in 5 card stud poker. We will look at each card this week.

The first card is chemistry. Each of us has a chemistry card and it is not because we know the periodic table of elements or we can conduct chemistry experiments without blowing the building up.

There are so many examples. People are born with bad eyesight because his or her parents had a deficiency in their eyes. People have diabetes, high cholesterol, flat feet, and are introverted. And some people are born Auburn fans…OK, I am kidding on that one. I am serious when I say that your chemistry helps make you unique. Chemistry is part of your custom design, and God planned them for his purpose and glory.

Have you struggled with the way the Lord made you in some way? Maybe you have physical traits that you feel are not as pretty as another person’s. It could be that your mental capacity is not as high as people you go to school or work with. You need to remember that God made you in a special way and because of that you should be full of awe and respect for the body or mind He has given you. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14

Here is something we need to remember. These are not spiritual problems. The fact you were born with a low tolerance for pain doesn’t mean you are bad. The things you can’t control, are in God’s control and He knows what He is doing. God understands the chemistry and it’s effect on us. The best thing we can do is to understand that God is in control and accept the chemistry He gave us. I know that is not easy.

But you will never be able to make a change in your life or fulfill God’s purpose for your life until you understand that you are wonderfully complex and uniquely flawed for God’s glory. The question then, is this: What will you do with the chemistry card you’re dealt?

Discussion Questions

1. In your mind, what is the difference between your chemistry card and an ideal chemistry card? How did you determine how and why the card needed changing?
2. In your opinion, how well have you used your cards to date? How can you use the chemistry card better?
3. Despite some people’s opinions, everyone has flaws. How can you use your flaws to bring God glory?
4. Read the following paragraph: Because God is Himself the highest and greatest good, He is also the source and fountain of all other good. He does good things. He extends His goodness to others. It is His nature to be kind, generous, and benevolent, to demonstrate good will toward men, and to take great pleasure in making them happy. Because God is good, He wants us to have what we need for our happiness and He sees that it is available. Does that change how you look at your chemistry card?

Zero Days Till Christmas

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens

Christmas is over. We can put away the hustle and bustle, and the stress for another year. All over the world children are playing with their Christmas presents, the Christmas services at church are in the real view mirror and the Bing Crosby Christmas CD is put on the shelf, with the elf, for another year.

There is a collective sigh of relief on the day after Christmas. After all the presents have been wrapped, bought, opened and enjoyed, the Christmas decorations can soon be taken down and stored. The Christmas cards have all been delivered. All our obligations have been met and attended.  And we sang Joy to the World and Silent Night and shouted “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets for the last time. That is until next year.

Here is something I know. When the Christmas season comes around in 2015, we will again be totally committed to become more giving, loving and focused on our Savior’s birth. During Christmas we seem to be kinder, happier and more forgiving. We think about those in need and actively do things to help them. We throw a little extra in the offering at church or volunteer to help in Christmas outreach programs. Maybe we pray more, read scripture more, praise God more in song or watch our favorite movies celebrating Christ’s birth. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” after all. The bottom line is Christmas is one time of the year that seems to bring out the best in us.

But why do we limit so many positive God honoring actions to one time of year? I ask myself that same question. Yes, it is Jesus’ birthday and the birth of the Son of God coming to save the world is grounds for major celebration and praise. But do we celebrate His birthday throughout the year? If not, why not?

Jesus should be celebrated every day. Not only the Nativity story, but the reason why God gave His son. I mean, think about the impact of Jesus’ birth. Think about the whole point of His life. The impact of Jesus’ whole life lasts throughout the year, every year, and it will continue to do so until the end of time.

We should maintain the Christmas spirit all year. We should be the best we can be throughout the calendar year, not just during the Christmas season. We should be giving, loving and forgiving regardless of what time of year it is. Jesus’ gave us an amazing lesson on how to treat people.  We should try to emulate His example year round.

We talked a lot about joy in the last two teaching series at Northstar. If we have joy at Christmas, why can’t we have joy year round. Yes, I agree that the joy of Christmas is definitely unique. And granted, it’s not an easy one to maintain throughout the year. It usually doesn’t feel like Christmas every day when those around us resume the normalcy of life. But to have a continuous joy in the heart is necessary in order to reflect the love of Jesus Christ to those far from the heart of God.

I want to make one thing clear. You don’t have to have a Christmas tree year-round or give gifts every day in order to celebrate Christ’s birth all year. Just remember the virtues represented in the Christmas season and the magnitude of Christ’s birth on a daily basis.

Discussion Questions:
1. If Jesus is not central to the celebration of Christmas can He be central the rest of the year?
2. Research has shown that you live a better life when you forgive others. Is it easier to forgive at Christmas than any other time of the year? Why or why not?
3. We have a bright future with Christ to look forward to. Does it look brighter at Christmas? Name the thing(s) that worry you the most and ask God to help you in those areas during the entire year.
4. Challenge yourself to have joy, hope, love, forgiveness, and peace throughout 2015. Pray to The Lord for the strength and courage to  have those qualities year round.

A Christmas Message From Marty Martin, Lead Pastor

This time of year I usually write a personal letter to all of you and believe it or not, I look very forward to it. It is an opportunity to honor each of you and to wish you a merry Christmas.

During this season, we have been celebrating Christmas Classics, songs that have the messages of hope, peace, love and joy. I pray that our reflection on the classic Christmas songs would provide you with opportunities to reflect on your own faith and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. Whatever it is that our hearts and souls desire, whether we realize it or not, our ultimate desire is Jesus Himself. For this reason, we are filled with joy at Christmas to know that all that we hoped for has been fulfilled in the person of the Christ Child.

In 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, we read: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” That is my prayer for myself, my family and I pray the same for you. That we will stand firm and let nothing move us in our mission of helping the whole world find and follow Jesus.

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord this year, we also celebrate that the Lord brought all of you into our lives. This Christmas we thank you for being our family and our friends, and showing us relationally the power of God’s love. It is an awesome sight to see His love in all of you.

Thank you for your faithfulness and commitment to Northstar. As I look back over the year, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m grateful just to be a part of this community and to get to walk this journey with you. I feel so privileged to be part of a group of people who are honestly and passionately taking on the challenge to follow Jesus in all the trials, joys and complexities of modern life.

Thank you for serving sacrificially again this past year. Whether it’s leading groups; shepherding children; serving coffee; setting up for worship; playing music; or any one of the countless other (usually unseen) tasks that keep our church running, I am grateful. Thank you so much for all you do!

Thank you for giving sacrificially as you always do. Your generosity has enabled us to pursue our mission of helping the whole world find and follow Jesus.

And I just cannot praise God enough. This Christmas, as in all previous years, we celebrate “Emmanuel” (God with us). Without Christ’s presence among us we would be in trouble. Through God’s presence gently, sometimes not so gently, working within us, we are being transformed, made bold and seeing lives changed by His gospel. How can we praise Him enough? How can we contain God’s love without going out and sharing it?

From our family to yours, Angela, Andrew and Ashleigh and I wish you the very best that life has to offer, a life grounded and rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May this be a Christmas that brings hope, peace, joy, love, and Christ richly and abundantly into your family. And may the grace and love of God surround, nurture, and keep you this Christmas Season.

Marty

Discussion Questions:
1. Pray for our church leadership that God will continue to guide us.
2. Pray for our church as we move into 2015.
3. Thank God again for the gift of His son.

Looking For Joy?

The song Joy to the World reminds me of our mission to help the whole world find and follow Jesus. One of the things we have attempted to do over our years here at Northstar is connect God’s unchanging Word to our ever-changing world. That’s our job. We have worked hard at inviting the unchurched, de-churched and over-churched to become developing followers of Jesus and as a result find the joy of living a life dedicated to God.

Along the way I have learned some undeniable truths; God’s dreams are way, way bigger than our dreams. I believe that God’s dreams for us are way, way better than our dreams. God has chosen to bless Northstar in so many ways. Many people have found Jesus and joined our church over the last few years. So how do we help each one of these people grow in the Lord and find joy in their relationship with Him. I have one possible answer to those challenges, but it is probably not what you are expecting.

Have things gotten a little less exciting than they were when you first started coming to Northstar? This is somewhat common among some believers, especially if you weren’t raised in the church and don’t have a church family. Psalms 92:13 tells us, “They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.”

It’s great to want to be part of a church that’s healthy and has longevity, accountability, a pastoral leadership team and Biblical doctrine. We need to see those things as important, but also that we need to serve. Joy does not come from “going to church,” but when we become “the church” and to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

As pastor, you begin to see how valuable each person is. Every person and volunteer matters. Your presence matters. Your help and the time you give is so valuable. You may think your church is fine with people who are on staff, but you would be surprised to find out just how much help we need. And that doesn’t include our future outreach programs.

What I’m trying to explain is that joy comes from a mentality of serving others, not from being served. It is a joy to serve and to set up chairs or coffee, or be backstage setting up for the worship. Whether greeting people, or singing on the stage, every person in the body of Christ who is serving matters. I encourage you to reread 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, the passage on one body and many members.

Without the volunteers at our church right now, we wouldn’t have a service. We all have different gifts, so volunteering may not be of interest to you, but I pray God will show you where you too can serve in your local church. Just ask the Lord to show you what your part is.

I believe if you step out of your comfort zone and serve—rather than just go to receive—it will be a wonderful, joyful experience for you.
Discussion Questions:
1. How would you answer the following question: What is the Christian Life?
2. Luke 12:48 says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” What does this mean to you? Can “much” include spiritual gifts?
3. Do you find joy in serving? Why or why not?
4. Pray that God will show you where you can best serve others in the local church?