Day 365

Posted in Holidays, hope, New Year, Uncategorized on December 31, 2018 by mikekeaton

newyear2019

It’s New Years Eve and the 365th day of 2018.  Today is a day that many will be looking forward to being off or only working a half day and getting excited for parties and celebrations later tonight!

Im sure your year, like ours, had many ups and downs (like just in the last few days we’ve heard of 2 dear friends who have passed away), but we can say with certainty that our God has been FAITHFUL!!  One of my absolute favorite songs is “Never Once” by Matt Redman, it is special to our journey and always brings tears to my eyes…if you’ve never heard it, watch it here

Hopefully, before the sun sets and the celebrating begins, you will look back a little and  reflect on the past 364 days.

Count-Your-Blessings

I pray it reveals, more positives than negatives, in fact, a very healthy existence depends on “counting our blessings”!  Among many of the obvious blessings, like family, health, finances, etc., I hope you can also point to blessings like these…
*you have grown closer to the Lord and stronger in your faith
*developed more love for the Scriptures
*given of yourselves to serve others
*made some disciples
*loved well
The New Year brings new hopes!  I hope it will bring much blessing and growth in your life in all ways, especially spiritually!  If you’re far from God, I hope this year you will draw closer to Him.  If you’re disconnected from the Lord’s Church, I hope 2019 will bring you to the Church.  I hope you will grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!
In the year to come, I hope we all will be diligent and faithful to the Lord, His Kingdom, His Church, and His Mission…to make disciples…it is our purpose in this life!!
 May Psalm 90:12 and 17 be our hearts cry…
“Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts”…”Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us, establish for us the work of our hands…establish the work of our hands!”
 
Here’s to 365 new fresh days! – Happy New Year!!
Advertisements

That you may know…

Posted in Discipleship, Evangelism, Uncategorized on November 19, 2018 by mikekeaton

One of the questions I have had many times in my experience as a Christian is, “Am I sure I will go to heaven?”  A little context might help here…see, I grew up in a Christian home, I’ve been going to church as long as I can remember.  I was ‘saved’ and baptized at an early age, went to Sunday school every week, went to Bible College, Seminary, and have been serving in ministry for over half my life.  Basically, I feel confident that I ‘know’ a lot of stuff about faith, church and the Bible.  Even still, there have been times where I wondered, “Am I sure I will go to heaven?”

I am sure the Devil plants seeds of doubt in all of us and in these times of uncertainty, and since feelings change like the weather, we need to turn to what we ‘know’ to be true.

One of the early followers of Jesus, whose life was dramatically changed because of what he saw, heard, felt and touched, basically ‘knew’, as it pertains to the Lord Jesus Christ, wrote a gospel and 3 letters, which are part of the Bible, for the very reason….“that we may know”! His name was John.

If you were to read his writings, the Gospel of John and the First, Second, and Third Epistles of John, you would notice that he wants us to ‘know’ because he uses that word 2, 3 and 4x as much compared to the other gospel writers and over 30x in his short letters.  He plainly says, ” I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”

He tells us many ways we can know, such as our abiding in Christ, our walking in the light vs. darkness, the way we love God and others, and many more, which are worthy of our intent study, but one specifically he mentions, is if we ‘keep the commands’ of God, we can know!

So, how is your ‘obedience factor’?  Would you characterize your ‘following of Jesus’ as obedient or disobedient?  Keep in mind there are always areas of our lives that we are growing in obedience.  Just because you disobey and commit a sin, does not mean you are not saved, just like it does not mean that a child who disobeys their parents is no longer their child!  The key is, what is the pattern of your life or what is the overall characteristic?

A mark of a follower of Jesus is obedience!  Jesus himself expectantly asked, “why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?”    Obedience is required as the ‘pattern’ of our lives. so the next time you are tempted to doubt or wonder if you’ll go to heaven, just ask some honest questions about your love for God and others, or your abiding in Christ, or your faithful fight against sin.  Turn to John and read his writings, he wrote them from his own experience as one of the 12 disciples, so that…you, and me, may know!

How to encourage others to “step up” and help you lead your small group!

Posted in Discipleship, Evangelism, Leadership, small group leadership, Uncategorized on November 15, 2018 by mikekeaton

One way to guarantee burnout and discouragement as a Small Group Leader is is to do everything for your small group by yourself without any help.  So, how do you get others to step up and take on some responsibility for the group?  Here are several key ways you can guarantee long term success in developing others:

  1. First, Pray! – I know, I know…sounds very “christian-eze” like and cliche too.  BUT…you simply cannot underestimate the power of prayer.  The Lord says, “we have not because we ask not”.  So, ask the Lord to give you fellow laborers in this disciple making harvest called Small Groups!
  2. Ask someone! -Seems obvious right?!  Here is some clarity – ask someone specifically, face to face!  I heard a leadership talk once where the speaker said, “leaders don’t usually respond to the ‘all-call’, they like to be asked personally”.  When you ask, give them clear guidelines, a timeline, a definitive role, specific tasks, let them know they will not be out there by themselves, but you will walk alongside them to encourage, support, help, and coach.  Be clear.
  3. Start small! – Jesus said, “he who is faithful with little will be rewarded with much”.  Don’t shoot for the moon right away and try to land the next leader for the new group that is going to branch off of yours.  Assign a simple task or responsibility, like prayer time (leading it or just taking down the requests and emailing them out to the group after the meeting), or the opening icebreaker question, or taking attendance, or planning the next fun event, dinner, or service project.  Keep it simple, check on progress, offer to help, and evaluate and give feedback afterward.
  4. Create positions! – Make a position out each of the 5 elements of a healthy small group as seen in this diagram:   5elementsofahealthySGThen, share it with the group, so they can see and understand the different components of a group, then, make the “BIG ASK” of individuals. You can also consider the 5 different purposes of the church as positions, which are closely related: they are as follows: Evangelism, Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Ministry.
  5. Use Giftings! – God has uniquely gifted each person in your group so that the whole benefits and actually grows in God’s love as they use their spiritual gift. Let Holy Spirit work through His Word by planning a study on Ephesians 4:11-16 for your group. Pass out a spiritual gifts test for each person to complete in group or take our online version.  Their spiritual gifting will help you know who could teach, or take care of hospitality, or any other position.
  6. Practice! Practice! – At some point you need to just let someone lead.  To use a sports analogy, ‘you have to let them get some reps’!  They are not going to do it like you would or even prefer, but you have to let them do it.  They will only get better by doing it, you debriefing with them for encouragement and correction, and them trying again.
  7. Consider all! -Sometimes, the best leader is the one you’re not considering! A couple of tried and true grids for identifying potential leaders are the 3 C’s and the F.A.T. acrostic.  Do they have Character, Competency, and Chemistry and are they Faithful, Available, and Teachable?

Developing disciple-making leaders takes time, dont get discouraged and dont give up.  Keep the mission in focus and in front of your group members.  Cast the vision that your group is not a ‘holy huddle’, but a mission driven environment to grow groups, people, and leaders for God’s Kingdom and His Church!

How to facilitate meaningful small group discussions.

Posted in Discipleship, Leadership, small group leadership on October 16, 2018 by mikekeaton

Every small group leader wants to lead a great group discussion and every small group leader has experienced the discussion that didn’t go so well!  So, how do you lead or facilitate a meaningful discussion?

Before getting into the specifics, here are two basic ‘rules of thumb’ to keep in mind…

*think facilitate not lead – its a discussion not a lecture

*the larger the group, the more difficult the discussion, or, the smaller the group the better the discussion.

Lets compare leading a meaningful discussion to a airplane flight!  There is the pre-flight, take-off, climbing to altitude, cruising speed, final descent, and landing the plane.

Pre-Flight

During pre-flight a lot is happening but most of it is related to ‘preparation’. To the small group leader ‘preparing a plan’ is key to a meaningful discussion. How does a small group leader prepare a plan?    Pray, study, and pray…in that order!

Take-Off

The take off can be the most exciting and the most nerve wracking few minutes at the same time.  For the small group leader a good start sets the pace for the rest of the time. A good start involves using a good ‘ice-breaker’.  The goal is to loosen-em up by getting them laughing and talking.

Climbing, Cruising, and the Descent

The climb, cruising, and descent parts of the flight are all about the ‘lesson’. The lesson has an intro, body, and conclusion. The intro is about connecting to their heart with motivation, the body is about connecting to the head with information, and the conclusion is about connecting to their hands with application.

*Motivate them with some praise, scripture, and worship. (Read a Psalm and ask for ‘popcorn praises’ then open with prayer)

*Inform them with a Bible discussion not a bible study.  Involve them in the discussion by asking great questions.  Ask ‘why’ and ‘how’, use ‘explain’, ‘discuss’, and ‘share’, say ‘tell us about’ instead of ‘what’ or ‘yes/no’ kinds of questions. If you’re using a lesson guide with questions, look for segways in the conversation to ‘facilitate’ from one point to the next and DO NOT just read the questions one after the other!

*Apply the lesson to them by helping them know what to do with it. Help them define their “I will”.  “Because of the lesson, this week, I will ________________!”

Landing

Everybody likes a smooth landing.  End your group with varied prayer experiences.  For example: 1) share needs and then ask who will pray for John’s request, and then ask who will pray for Sarah’s request, etc., then have them pray outloud in the same order then you close, 2) pass out cards and have everyone write down their requests (saves time in a large group), put them in a hat or basket then have each draw a card and that’s their prayer focus for the week, 3) subdivide the group by men and women for prayer, 4) ask for one volunteer to pray to close (could be a clue to a potential leader).  There is no shortage to ideas of how to use varied prayer experiences for a smooth end to your great group discussion-be creative!

Each of these parts of the small group discussion are skills that take time to develop but with intentionality, patience, and perseverance.  You can become a facilitator of great discussions that will make them want to come back!!

Share your ideas of something I left out or, share your best practice to facilitate a great group discussion?

…see what I did there? 😉

 

Your Father Knows…

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4, 2018 by mikekeaton

This post originally appeared here…

Hi…I’m Mike and I’m an ‘approvaholic’!  I think I just made up a word, but hopefully you get what I am saying.  For most of my life I have sought and desired the approval of others

I don’t think I am alone in the desire to get others’ approval.  In fact, I think a lot of people these days struggle with seeking the approval of others!  How many times do we post on social media to be noticed or to get “likes”?  I once heard someone say they read their bibles and books to see what they could post or tweet!  How many blog writers add a “tweet” thats just one click away for you to promote their content?  How many times do we think, “did anyone notice?”  Jesus confronted this when He told us to not do things in front of others to be applauded by them, or to be seen by them, or to be heard by them.  Jesus provided the solution to this approval issue when He simply said, “your Father knows” (Matthew 6:1-18). Our Father sees and isn’t that enough?  Aren’t we suppose to only seek His approval? (Galatians 1:10)  Jesus said that if we want and pursue the approval of others then we will get our reward, which will be just that, a very small temporary sense of pride, but, if we seek to please our Father in Heaven, then He who sees in secret, will reward us in secret and His reward will always be more than what any person could ever give us.

I’ve learned a lot since then about my identity and who I am in Christ but the struggle is always there.  I still find myself wanting to be noticed, praised, and sometimes if I am honest, I will do things for the wrong reward…the praise and approval of men vs. the praise and approval of my Lord!  The truth is, He already approves of me!  I am His boy and He loves His boy and there is nothing that I can do to make Him love me more or less.  The same is true for you!  Your Father knows…and He approves!

 

Why do God’s Sheep mistreat God’s Shepherds?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 3, 2016 by mikekeaton

The Scriptures give many analogies of the Church and one of course is the picture that we are His Sheep.  When I read the passages that convey we are the sheep of His pasture, and that He is our Shepherd I am greatly encouraged.  There is so much peace and comfort that comes from knowing that I am in a pasture of His choice where He supplies all I need.  I am His sheep and He is my Shepherd.  Beautiful!

Also, the church is a flock and we have ‘undershepherds’ so to speak that the Lord has called to lead His sheep…these are local Pastors.  All the beauty of the above applies, in my mind at least, to local churches and their shepherds as it does our Lord to His Church.  I am not equating local Pastors to the Lord, but I am saying, that local Pastors are shepherds that provide, care, and lead the sheep.

So…why?  Why do God’s sheep mistreat Gods’ shepherds?  It hurts my heart and I just don’t cognitively understand it!  Just last night, I heard a young couple, who are pastors of a flock, cry and testify that they just wanted out, they wanted to quit because God’s people, sheep, were hurting them soooo much!  My heart broke!  It reminded me of my own pain from years of mistreatment by God’s sheep.  I’ve healed since then but hearing their pain brought it back to my memory.  Not only that, but recently, I tried to greet someone with a handshake and the response was, “you know how I feel about you, nothing has changed, so, Im not shaking your hand“. Why?  How can so much disrespect for God’s undershepherds exist in the hearts of His sheep? Disturbing!

I believe there are many reasons but if I were to try and find some bottom lines, I think the sheep mistreat their shepherds because:

1. Evil exists!

We live in a sin cursed world.  Bad things do happen to good people and sometimes, through good people.

2. Not all sheep are sheep!

Some sheep could actually be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

3. They look through selfish lenses!

Let’s face it…most all of us look through the lenses of “how does this affect me”!  Ultimately, this is because of #1 – Evil exists, but a separate item for selfishness has to be considered.  Sheep are often, if not most of the time, selfish.

There are many more reasons but these reasons and the mistreatment they cause is really disturbing, painful, disappointing, hurtful and so much more, but…there is hope!  God’s grace IS sufficient!  God’s grace IS more powerful!  Where sin abounds, grace abounds more!  These things can be overcome.  Hope lies with the Lord and His grace.

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace. 

 

How Would Jesus Vote?

Posted in Leadership, Uncategorized with tags , , on October 26, 2016 by mikekeaton

 

How would Jesus Vote? – what a loaded question! We’ve heard a pretty good bit of buzz out there on this question. I’ve heard people say, “he wouldn’t vote!” I’ve heard people say pretty dogmatically, “He would vote Republican!”, and I’ve heard others say “He would vote Democrat!”

How we answer the question is important!  We each may have the tendency to answer the question as to justify our cause/approach.  In other words, wherever you line up politically, you could make arguments that Jesus is for this or that and by that declare that He would vote your way.

We should have a Principle based approach.  In other words, we are to consider Jesus’ teachings on authority, government, and perspective, and let those principles guide our direction as to what we are to do, or “how would Jesus have me vote”?  And this really is the right question.

Disclaimer – I am no expert on politics.  I did not major in political science.  Some of you are probably better talking it up about politics than I am, but I did major in things related to the church and the Scriptures.  Also, as a church leader, I am not here to tell you how to vote, that’s not my job, our job is to lead you to follow the Lord and His Word!

Biblical vs political

My desire to help you be have a biblical worldview more than a political worldview…how do you do that? Here are 3 considerations:

1. Focus on the Right Kingdom

I don’t believe Jesus was politically focused. I don’t mean that I think He didn’t care, I just don’t believe that politics was His priority…there’s some evidence for this from His own words…

John 18:33-38 – my Kingdom is not of this world

Mark 1:14-15 – the kingdom of God is at hand

Acts 1:3, 6-8 its not for you to know

So what should we do? We should have the focus of Jesus!  We are to be more about His kingdom than this kingdom.  As a Christian we must have these philosophical presuppositions…the earth will pass away, we are leaving this kingdom anyway, we are just passing through this one, we are just pilgrims here, were here temporarily.

Our World is messed up for sure.  America is in a real crisis of leadership.  But, as a follow of Jesus and His Kingdom, there is no reason to be all dismayed and troubled, fearful or fretful – Psalm 37:8-9

Our first focus is to be His kingdom!

Matt. 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

 2. Filter through the right lens

As followers of Jesus who are focused on HIS kingdom more than THIS kingdom, we could say, we should be non-partisan, now I am not saying don’t be or its wrong to be a republican, democrat, libertarian, or otherwise…when I say non partisan, its just to point out that having a biblical worldview more than a political worldview is not about what party you line up under.

Consider that THIS kingdom’s parties are divided…have you ever paid attention to a presidential address?  Could our country be more visibly divided at the top level of its leadership?  One side of the room hear’s something they like while the other disagrees and a clear dividing line between them is seen by applause vs. arms folded, or a standing ovation vs. a seated protest.  Jesus said, a house divided will not stand”.  

here is a point of perspective: we are to see, recognize, or understand,  that His authority allows this authority.

Jesus told Pilate, who was the governing Roman ruler of Jerusalem in the days of the Roman Empire, where his power, position, and politics came from…

John 19:7-11 – your authority is from above

…this was not just a great come back by Jesus…not just quick wit, it was His point of view, his perspective on authority, here’s another example of Jesus’ philosophy or perspective regarding government from a day previously, He said…

Matt. 22:15-22 – Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s

So what should we do?  If we see through the filter that God is Sovereign and allows authority to be in certain places in certain era’s of time then we can have the right lens which will allow us to respectfully submit to authority.  Consider this passage on this subject: Romans 13:1-7

3. Follow the Right Leader

Being submissive and respectful to God given authority, and being more about His kingdom, should not lead us to a fatalistic attitude or action.  To say, “well, its gonna happen the way God wants it to”, or “its the world and not my home, what do I care?” NO, we are here now, in this era of time!  We have freedoms and privileges. We should be good stewards of these and exercise our freedom and privilege to vote.  Many don’t vote, b/c they are fatalistic and indifferent, this is not responsible or good stewardship.

Following the right leader is not about voting party, but voting person or the character of the person…its voting biblical-not political!

We all have experienced the reality of…

Proverbs 29:2 –“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

Sometimes the wicked rule b/c of what 1 John 5:19 says:“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Other times the wicked rule b/c we don’t stand up, not for party, but for righteousness!  So what should we do? Measure His Word against their word!

In addition: we should diligently pray for wisdom.  Also, we must do our homework.  Who is the candidate?…not just are they Republican, Democrat, or other,  but who are they in their character and conduct? How do they measure up biblically?, how do they measure up next to Jesus?, What is their track record?

The scriptures give us example after example of kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord, and as a result they led the nation(s) to fall far away from God.  Who someone is leads them to do what they do, follow the right leader by learning who they are.  A politicians track record is a matter of public record, and if we don’t know, there are plenty of resources to help us.

This world is not our final destination. But, while we are here…we must be faithful – faithful to bear witness of the truth

-be more about His kingdom than this kingdom

-see His authority allows this authority

-measure His Word against their word

Then, we can walk into that voting booth and vote how Jesus would have us vote b/c were focused on the right kingdom, filtering through the right lens, and prayerfully following the right leader

Questions…

 

  1. why do you think so many people, especially Christ followers, get caught up in the political scene? How can we have more of a biblical worldview vs. a political worldview?
  1. Read Acts. 1:3, 6-8. What are the disciples asking Jesus in verse 6 and how do we see ourselves thinking the same way? How does Jesus answer them and us in vs. 7-8? How should we apply Jesus’ answer?
  1. Read Mark 1:14-15. Cross-reference this passage with these passages – Matthew 4:23, 9:35. We understand the gospel to be Jesus came, died and resurrected – believe in this and be saved. But at this time, Jesus hadn’t died yet…so, what is the gospel of the kingdom? How does it relate to Acts 1:3 and the way we should be focused?
  1. How can we be more about God’s kingdom than the kingdom of this world?
  1. Read 1 John 5:19. If the whole world is in the power of the evil one, why should we care about who gets elected? How do we balance or understand the truth of 1 John 5:19 and 1 Chronicles 29:11-12?
  1. Read Romans 13:1-2, 7-10. What is to be our heart’s attitude toward our elected officials? Why do so many not give the honor and respect that is owed to those in office? How does the 2nd greatest commandment guide us in this?
  1. Before you vote, do you do your homework on who you will vote for, or do you just vote by party? How can we move from being partisan focused to more character focused in our voting selections?