Archive for the Uncategorized Category

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!!
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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!

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?

 

Does our heart pound hard for God?

Posted in Evangelism, Uncategorized on July 9, 2012 by mikekeaton

when a congregation’s heart pounds hard for God, we give of ourselves—our time, our resources, our lives—TO LOVE OTHERS

i recently read this article and it provoked my thoughts profoundly.  i wonder if we, our church, are passionate about reaching those who need to know God more intimately?  i wonder if i am passionate about those who need to be close to God?  it spoke to me, so i thought to share it here in its entirety…how about you?  Are you passionate about those who are lost and need to know and connect God?

When God looks at His bride, the church, He longs for her to have a healthy heartbeat. He wants our hearts to beat with His love for the lost, and He longs for evangelistic passion to flow through our veins. The Maker of heaven and Earth wants to see each and every church alive with love for the lost and engaged in reaching out with the message and grace of Jesus in natural, organic ways.

God wants to draw people into our fellowship with the assurance that they will be embraced by grace and introduced to the Savior, Jesus. But this can happen only when the people in our church are deeply in love with God.

When we are, our heartbeat is strong. When we do not love God, it is difficult for us to love others. As God looks at the spiritual monitor that registers the evangelistic heartbeat of a church, He sees one of several different patterns. What do you think God sees when He looks at your church?

FLATLINE

Some churches have a loud, high drone and a flatline on their heart monitor. There is no love for God, nor is there a relentless love for the lost. These churches are closed off to visitors, their community, and the world. They don’t reach out or train their members to share Jesus’ love.

Prayer for their community is nonexistent. There was a heartbeat at some time in the distant past, but today the church is flatlining.

If this describes your church, don’t lose hope! We believe in a God who can raise the dead. Heaven is watching your church’s heart monitor, and the Spirit of God is always ready to send a pulse of heavenly energy into your congregation’s heart to bring it back to life. God is ready to return your church to her first love, Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit is ready to move your church from apathy to passion.

WEAK PULSE

Sometimes when a doctor checks for a pulse, he’ll say, “I have a pulse, but it’s weak.” There is still life in the body, but action needs to be taken quickly to sustain it.

Many churches have a pulse and there is life, but it’s faint. There is love for God and for people, but it is waning.

If this is a picture of your church, be honest and admit it. You might have a map on a wall somewhere with several pins showing where you send money to support missionaries. You might do an event or two each year that “spiritual seekers” are welcome to attend. You might even try to be friendly if a guest or visitor happens to wander into your church on a Sunday morning.

But honestly, your passion for outreach is gone.

Your church lacks a desperate love for God that will drive you into the world with His good news. You are nice to people who visit your church, but you don’t go out of your way to reach those who are far from God. You send money overseas, but you don’t engage the mission field right next door.

If this describes your congregation, you too need to fall in love with God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all over again. Yes, you still care. You love God, and you love people. But it is time to rehabilitate your congregation’s heart.

You might need to do some spiritual exercise and fortify your heart to make it beat strongly again. The heart is a muscle, and if you use it, it becomes stronger.

Read Page 2 >>

RAPID HEARTBEAT

Sometimes, a heart races wildly. This can be very dangerous, because if a person’s heart pumps too fast for too long, it can lead to cardiac arrest and eventually death.

Some churches’ monitors show that their hearts are beating two or three times faster than a healthy heart. Because these churches love God and want to be faithful to His love for lost people, they launch outreach program after outreach program and initiative after initiative. Church members grow tired and exhausted as the congregation jumps into the latest evangelistic fads.

Outreach is not organic in a church like this. Instead, it feels fabricated and inauthentic. While the motives are right, the practice of outreach is so forced that it fails to bear much fruit. Churches like this often experience frustration when they try lots of programs but never find something that works. They invest lots of money and time, and they genuinely love God, but lost people rarely come to know and embrace Jesus.

These churches need to love God enough to slow down. If they want to establish an organic culture of outreach, they need to do less to accomplish more. Better yet, they need to channel their energy, time, and resources into a sustainable approach to church-wide evangelism. Whatever the condition of your church’s heart, know that God is ready to increase your love quotient. Evangelism is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s not a fad; it’s the fabric of a healthy church. It’s not a system or a program; it’s the natural fruit of a church that loves God.

GETTING BACK TO YOUR FIRST LOVE

The first and most critical step a church needs to take to move toward healthy outreach is to develop a growing love for God. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says to the church of Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Whenever our love for God ceases to be first place in our hearts, our vision for reaching out wanes.

Jesus made this clear when He taught his disciples that the first and most important of all the commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is not just our calling as individual followers of Christ; it is also our calling as a church. If we forget our first love, our collective heart will grow cold, and nothing that we do will have the impact we desire.

Loving God does not begin with our own efforts. It is based on the awareness that God was passionately seeking us long before we ever sought Him. In the letter of First John, we find a powerful tutorial on the love of God. We learn, first and foremost, that God is love. Because of His love for us, we can become children of God. The depth of the Father’s love was revealed when He sent His only Son to this Earth to die in our place on the cross for our sins. As we are grounded in God’s love for us and as we learn to walk in this love, we will continue to grow in our love for people and for God.

If your church is struggling to invest in reaching your community and the world, ask yourself this question: are we a church that is on fire with a passion for God? If reaching out to others has been pushed to the back burner (or off the stove entirely), it probably won’t help to add some spice to the meal. You need to start by turning up the heat.

Maybe your church has lost its first love.

Remember, God so loved the world that He gave.

Love gives. And when a congregation’s heart pounds hard for God, we give of ourselves—our time, our resources, our lives—to love others.

This article adapted from Organic Outreach for Churches. by kevin harney…original title of article – how to measure the evangelistic heartbeat or your church