Posts Tagged Rick Robinson

When All is Lost, Not All is Lost!

by Rev. Rick Robinson 

Did you ever feel like all hope was gone? Even when all is lost, all is not lost! Sometimes we fall short of what God expects of us, as believers. God knew we would fall short, before we even thought about it. Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times before the rooster crows and Peter argued with him about it. 

Luke 22:34

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” 

Luke 22:54-62

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”  But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.  A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”  Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

There are several reasons we come to a state of feeling hopeless. One of those reasons is our sin. Jesus didn’t love Peter any less in his failure, and He still loves you and me, no matter what we have (or have not) done. This is not an excuse for sin, but the enemy likes to beat you up with your sin. There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. When God brings your sin up, he always offers a solution. Repentance, and restitution when necessary, is all that is required for you to walk in freedom from the hopelessness that sin brings. The enemy always brings your sin up as a hopeless situation—one that has caused God to hate you. God hates our sin, but He always loves us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It is not always an intentional act of sin that causes our self inflicted pain. Just like Peter, our fear can get the best of us. God is always there for us, even when we are not thinking about it.

Our circumstances are another reason we may feel hopeless. You may be in a certain predicament because of your own foolish decisions or someone else’s decisions beyond your control. That does not mean it is beyond God’s control. I love this character study found in the book of Acts. As you read this excerpt, think about which of the characters you most relate to.

Acts 27:9-22

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

Are you seeking first your own desires? Have you given up all hope? Are you accepting the loss of things you thought were important, with thanksgiving to God for His mercy with the things that matter most? The enemy will always get you to focus on what could have, would have, and should have been. The only way Satan can defeat you, is to break your will to fight. Once you loose hope, everything bad that happens is traumatic, everything good that happens is too little too late, and your relationship with God (and others) will suffer along with you.

All these years after that shipwreck, the ship that was destroyed is lost and worthless in itself. The story of Paul has become part of the greatest book ever published, for all generations until Christ returns. The lives that were saved have untold stories of another opportunity for salvation before death. Only God knows the rest of the stories about the 276 passengers on board.

Storms are part of life. Sometimes we bring them upon ourselves, and sometimes they are beyond our control. Just as Jesus watched Peter deny him and just as God saw Paul in his distress, so is God watching you. Keep up your courage. Call out to Him in your distress, and realize that when all is lost, all is not lost.

Have you come to the place in your spiritual life, where you know for certain if you died today, you would go to heaven? For information about the ultimate hope, follow this link. http://mychurchgrowth.com/heaven.php 

Copyright 2012 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Help Wanted … Under Qualified But Overwhelmed

by Rick Robinson

Did you ever feel like God has call waiting, kind of like your telephone, and He switches between the calls He wants to talk to—and you’re the one on hold? Here you are in the most difficult of situations, and God doesn’t seem to be concerned about it at all. If this description fits your life right now, you and God are in a great place to help each other. Yes—I said help each other. Let me explain. There are scores of stories in the Bible to illustrate this, but I have selected accounts of Moses as an example. 

God called upon Moses to help deliver the people out of Egypt. God did not need Moses, any more than He needs us, but He loves working together with us. He is not cold and impersonal, but a relationship oriented God. Trusting us with a task is one of the ways God draws us closer together. Even as God ask Moses to participate in the deliverance of His people, Moses feels under qualified.

Exodus 3:10-11

“Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”

God has great patience with Moses, showing Him miracles and proving His power, yet Moses continues to express his own feelings of being under qualified and overwhelmed, even begging the Lord to enlist someone else. 

Exodus 4:10

Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 

Have you ever made excuses about why you can’t do something for God? I am a pro, but He is not impressed with that part of my resume. As Moses surrenders to “help” God with this task, we can see the relationship transformed as he transfers his trust from his own ability over to confidence in God. If you want your relationship with God to prosper, you too will have to look at the truth of His ability, not your own. 

While the people are in the desert for what should have been a short journey, disobedience sends things sideways. There is no meat and fresh produce in the desert and the people grumble wishing they had not left Egypt. Moses is found questioning his own relationship with God, because he is looking to himself for answers. Once again, Moses is feeling under qualified and overwhelmed and perhaps overlooked. Have you ever felt that way? You’re in good company and not alone like you thought. 

Numbers 11:11-15

So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? “Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’? “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. “So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” 

Quail would migrate across the Sinai Peninsula in large numbers at certain times during the year, usually between March and April. God brought the birds over the camp of the Israelites with a great wind in the evening, and also wherever they camped for forty years, daily He dropped manna to the ground with the dew. Each family was to take what they needed with no leftovers. God made the manna unfit to eat overnight, so it was of no use trying to store up a supply. Daily trust in the Lord for provision was required. In case you wonder about it as you read, a measure of omer is about 2 liters. 

Exodus 16:16-24

This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.’ The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt. Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. 

This was not the normal manna they were familiar with. It melted in the sun, it became foul overnight, and it could be worked into nutritional bread. This was not a normal substance that the people recognized, it was a miracle. 

Deuteronomy 8:3

He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. 

If we want to live in the provision of God and share in deep fellowship with Him, we will need to take heed of these words the Prophet Isaiah wrote. 

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. 

Isaiah used this timeless picture of the heavens, which is a great illustration of the wonder of our God. We cannot even imagine the things He has created. The speed of light is our basic measurement for distance in space (the heavens). Light travels at some 186,000 miles per second. That means a beam of light could travel around the earth several times in one second. We don’t all own rockets, but most of us own a man made car. If you could drive your car non-stop to the sun, it would take over 160 years to get there, yet the light from the sun (God’s creation) reaches us in seconds. How great is your God? Are you still looking for provision on your own standard? Are you looking for a place to serve in your own ability or still making excuses of why you will fail? God wants to provide for you, and wants your help in some capacity. Most of all, God desires an intimate relationship with you. Did you know God has given you manna (bread) from heaven? Will you scoff and complain, or expect daily supply?

John 6:30-33

So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 

You and I may be under qualified for certain things and we may be overwhelmed with others, but God is neither under qualified nor overwhelmed. His word will accomplish everything as He desires, and you are a part of that plan—we all are. 

Isaiah 55:10-11

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 

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Let’s Play Trouble Swap!

by Rev. Rick Robinson

Everyone has some kind of trouble to deal with. What if there was a reality show called “Trouble Swap!” I bet you can think of a few people you would not like to swap your trouble with. There are even more people suffering in silence that you know nothing about. There are people right now that may wish they could have you as the other contestant on “Trouble Swap!”

Is that hard to believe? Do you feel like nobody cares what trouble you’re in, and everyone ignores the trouble you are having as though it were trivial? When you call the counseling center, does your call get put on hold with the 1965 song by The Fortunes “You’ve Got Your Troubles (I’ve Got Mine)” playing.

Each trial we go through brings with it the opportunity to testify to the reality of God’s presence in our lives, or the opportunity for us to blow the testimony of His gospel. Our real problems come when we refuse to trust in the reality of God’s presence and power.

Are we intellectually dictating to God what we intend for Him to make of us, searching through the Bible to back up our demands? No–we must learn the discipline of submitting our intelligence (whatever we have) and our reasoning to Jesus Christ. The reality of God’s presence is not dependent on the evidence of a situation, but on His word. The unseen solution is much greater than the seen situation.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

You can see the unseen is greater than the seen by looking at this passage using the original Greek words. Faith is pistis–meaning conviction of the truth, assurance is hupostasis—meaning firm foundation, conviction is elegchos—meaning proof and things is pragma—meaning an accomplished fact. If you read Hebrews 11:1 in that light, this is what it says.

Now conviction of the truth is the firm foundation of things hoped for, the proof of accomplished facts not seen.

How beautiful and simple that is. We must have God’s word alive in us and walk in His light to deal effectively with our problems. Otherwise, you may as well hope for the best on a show called Problem Swap. The choice is yours. Are you spending time in God’s word to increase your conviction of the truth (faith) or just hoping for the best?

Romans 10:17

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

This is from the New American Standard Bible, some versions read “by the word of God.” The word of Christ is a phrase that means hearing and learning about Jesus–which is the purpose of the word of God. In other words, conviction of the truth comes by learning about Jesus. Jesus Christ is everything to me. My eternal hope and my strength for the problems I cannot swap away. The Apostle Paul knew he could not swap away, or even pray away some of his problems.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

I am not saying we should not pray about our problems–we should. Many of them are self inflicted, and many may not be as bad as they seem, especially in light of the wide array of trouble swap contestant wannabes. One thing that all problems have in common is that God has allowed them. When things do turn around for us we must not then have an “I’ll take it from here!” attitude with God. Complete reliance on Jesus Christ is the standard of living for the Christian. We must strive not to walk in the light of our experience, (or someone else’s) but in the light of God’s word.

Do you have this almighty Christ, or just the attributes and experiences of a believer? There must be total abandonment to Christ for us to obtain true peace through our problems. Jesus loves you and gave his life for you that you can have an eternal relationship with him. Don’t let your problems cut you off from the solution God has provided. Religion by itself, will display attributes only as deep as experience can take you–but a relationship with Christ will show you the unseen is much greater than the seen.

Romans 8:35-39

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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Gone To the Dogs

by Rev. Rick Robinson

When someone speaks of something going to the dogs, it usually annotates a distinct turn for the worse. Have you ever felt like your life was going to the dogs? How did those lovable dogs get a bad rap for a saying like that anyway? Dogs were not always as popular as they are today. There was a time when calling someone a dog was a serious insult–in fact; the Bible is full of contemptuous references to dogs.

The book of Revelation places dogs on a list of outcast.

Revelation 22:14

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

The psalmist compares his enemies to dogs. Keep in mind that the narrowness and the darkness of the streets at night, along with the odd corners, made the cities vulnerable to violence. Evil people could hide easily to wait on unsuspecting victims. Dogs roamed the area looking for food with howling and growling.

Psalm 59:14

They return at evening, they howl like a dog, And go around the city. They wander about for food and growl if they are not satisfied.

Many of the religious Jews would refer to Christians as dogs, and Paul dished it right back at them as he also mentions his list of achievements from their standards.

Philippians 3:2-7

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

In volume 6 of his books of Antiquities, the famous ancient historian Josephus gives account of a conversation between David and Goliath.

Accordingly he laid by the armor, and taking his staff with him, and putting five stones out of the brook into a shepherd’s bag, and having a sling in his right hand, he went toward Goliath. But the adversary seeing him come in such a manner, disdained him, and jested upon him, as if he had not such weapons with him as are usual when one man fights against another, but such as are used in driving away and avoiding of dogs; and said, “Dost thou take me not for a man, but a dog?” To which he replied, “No, not for a dog, but for a creature worse than a dog.” This provoked Goliath to anger, who thereupon cursed him by the name of God, and threatened to give his flesh to the beasts of the earth, and to the fowls of the air, to be torn in pieces by them. To whom David answered, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a breastplate; but I have God for my armor in coming against thee, who will destroy thee and all thy army by my hands; for I will this day cut off thy head and cast the other parts of thy body to the dogs; and all men shall learn that God is the protector of the Hebrews, and that our armor and our strength is in his providence; and that without God’s assistance all other warlike preparations and power are useless.”  — Flavius Josephus

In the book of Kings we read that King Ahab wanted a piece of ground that was near his palace. He asked the owner to sell it to him, but he was not willing to sell because his father had given it to him before he died.  

1 Kings 21:1-3

Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

Ahab was so upset about it that he would not even eat. The King’s wife, Jezebel, told him that he need not be troubled, for she could get the land for him. She cooked up a scheme to have Naboth killed by stoning. 

1 Kings 21:5-10

But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?” So he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.’But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’ Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city. Now she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people; and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” 

God was so displeased with the actions of this couple, he told Ahab the dogs would lick his blood from the very spot his victim died, and the dogs would eat Jezebel. This was understood in that day as the fate of the most despicable people. Dogs were often fed the remains of people who were executed and enemies of the King. The bodies were thrown outside the city for the dogs to eat. 

1 Kings 21:23

Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel. 

2 Kings 9:34-37

When he came in, he ate and drank; and he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” They went to bury her, but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel;and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, “This is Jezebel.” 

Not all dogs were ruffians and misfits in that day. Many shepherd’s would lead sheep, fighting off any predators with the use of a sling and stones in front, while his dogs brought up the rear, ensuring that the sheep were not attacked by wild animals and keeping them in pace with the shepherd. Isaiah made reference to this double protection when he delivered his message from God. 

Isaiah 52:12

But you will not go out in haste, Nor will you go as fugitives; For the Lord will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard. 

Solomon writes a message of hope to those who feel life has gone to the dogs, placing a lion at the top of animals in nature (King of the jungle?) and a dog at the bottom of the animal kingdom. 

Ecclesiastes 9:4

For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. 

So…do you feel like your life has gone to the dogs? Are your dreams wasting away? There is hope for you, no matter how bad you think your life is right now. Honor the Lord with your life and actions. Don’t let possessions control your actions as Ahab and Jezebel did. Possessions won’t bring you lasting peace or make you happy for long. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can provide what you truly need. Place your trust in the God who will protect you from all sides and keep you on pace with Him. 

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http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Want To Lose The Wait?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Many people would like to lose weight, but many more may want to lose “wait”, although they may not think about it in those terms. Waiting on God can be a frustrating thing. Imagine with me for a moment of a world without waiting. No smells of the fine cooking coming from the kitchen as you wait in anticipation of the flavors dancing in your mouth. No waiting in anticipation as a child waiting to open the Christmas gifts. Perhaps no one wants to wait in line to buy the anticipated gifts anyway. Don’t bother enjoying that movie night, the ending is now instant. No waiting seems like such a loss of treasured memories. You have accepted the fact that next Tuesday cannot arrive until then. All of history would need be condensed into the now without this thing called waiting.

Would all the prophecies of the Bible be erased (since there was no waiting) and be updated by telling a historic perspective? The vision came immediately and you most certainly have heard about it by this time. The promise came without delay, and if there was such a thing as waiting–but there is not, I would then look forward to the anticipation of the next thing in line for me.

When it comes to waiting on God, we think we know best about the timing of it all. If we never had to wait on something from God, would it void this thing we know as faith? Faith is not a lonely thing you use to get what you want; it is an interactive thing that is rewarded by waiting on God’s perfect time to deliver His promise.

Habakkuk 2:3
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

We should be able to be at peace with the wait, since it is God himself that is delivering us through the situation. The battles you face are won or lost in the wait time first, long before they become part of our physical world.

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

When our expectations and desires are counted all lost, it is most often because we failed to manage the wait. Inspiration to wait on God is the spiritual truth that has not yet been experienced in the natural–nevertheless it is just as real. Do you really want to lose wait? Can you see what an impossible thing that is and how interactive waiting on God is meant to be? Enjoy the anticipation of what God will do next as you wait—knowing it will be in His time–the way you wait on the natural events in your life.

James 5:7
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Do I Really Need An Education?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

We have become discontent with so many things in life. Preparing dinner took too long, so frozen TV dinners were introduced. When I was a kid in the 1960’s it was exciting news to hear the traditional family meal at the table would be replaced with a TV dinner for the evening. Yes, we ate them on TV trays, in the living room in front of the TV set. If we were lucky, we had something called a fizzy to drink with it. If you don’t know what a fizzy was, it can perhaps be best described as sweet flavored alka seltzer that fizzed when you dropped it into a glass of water, dispensing the purest of artificial flavors science could deliver.

The discontent we experience today can lead to such a troubled heart. The pressure sometimes seems like it is just too much. We are not only discontent with our situation; we are discontent with the time required to change our circumstances. When a person decides to place their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, that re-birth takes place in an instant. Learning to trust in Christ for the future is moment by moment with a little here and a little more there. Don’t expect to become mature instantly, you must study.

Philippians 2:12-13
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Working out your salvation should not be confused with working for your salvation. The word used for work as in “work out your salvation” is katergazomai, which means to perform. The word used for work as in “God who is at work” is energeo, which means put forth power. All your work can have the power of the Holy Spirit working according to His good pleasure. You are not alone; the power to help you through any situation is available to all that trust Christ.

Galatians 3:24-26
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word for tutor here, is paidagogos (pahee-dag-o-gos’). Among the Greeks and the Romans, a tutor was a guardian and guide of boys. They were trustworthy slaves with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The tutor would take the boys to school everyday. (School did not become mandatory for all boys until A.D.65) In this illustration, Paul is saying the law was the slave (tutor), and Christ is the teacher. God is able to teach us how to have a better life, but He will educate us only as much as we will allow. Bring all your cares to Him, and work out your salvation with His power.

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Tragedy or Treasure?

by Rev. Rick Robinson

I don’t minimize the loss of life in the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, and I suffered no personal loss, but can anything good come out of a tragedy? Immediately after the September 11 attacks, millions of Americans made changes in their spiritual priorities. Residents of the New York City market are more spiritually active today than they were before the attack with an increase in church attendance of about 15%. In fact, the percentage of residents in the New York area who are unchurched declined while the national average of unchurched adults increased.

Going to church is not the most important thing in life, a relationship with Jesus Christ is, but the tracking data includes all religions. The percentage of New York residents who say they will go to Heaven because they have accepted Christ and been forgiven of their sins has increased from 20% to 32% as compared to 40% of adults nationwide who can be classified as born again.

Although researchers say they cannot determine what caused this change for certain, there is no doubt that God can turn a tragedy into a treasure. Look at the attitude of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers.

Genesis 50:20-21
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. “Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Tragedies seem to open and close windows of receptivity quickly for most people. You may have heard of the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, which places a number on the events in our lives and how they can affect our health. The death of a spouse is 100 on the scale; being fired from work a 47, and the foreclosure of a mortgage 30, for example. If your total score is over 300 you have a high risk of the stress making you ill, while the score below 150 has a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future. I don’t know how reliable this test is, but I do know people with a higher stress number tend to be more receptive to the gospel when I go door to door.

I know it is not easy to face the trials that come our way. I have been guilty of whining when things don’t go my way. We can take hope that God is in the middle of the trouble with us, for He is faithful—even when we are not.

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

While we know we have placed our hope in Christ alone, it is important to remember those who have no such hope. They do not know the tragedy they face can turn into treasure. You must have that vision for them, before they can have that vision for themselves. In your quest to rescue those suffering by bringing the hope of Christ to them, you will also be storing up treasures in Heaven for yourself.

Luke 12:33-34
“Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It is a matter of where your heart is in the matter. Tragedy touches the rich and the poor—there is no economic safety net. When Peter began to compare himself to the rich man who would not give up his trust in riches to follow Christ, Jesus made it clear it was trust in Him alone that would bring true riches.

Mark 10:28-30
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

Ask God to give you a vision for the lost around you, and store up for yourself treasures that can be enjoyed forever.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
MyChurchGrowth.com

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Who Do You Trust?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Everybody lives by some form of faith. Many people have more faith in themselves, their job, or the government (other people) for example, than they do in God. The difference between the Christian and the unconverted individual is not if they have faith, but where is their faith. The subject of faith can be a difficult thing to understand. What hinders God from working in our life is not his lack of power or desire, but our lack of faith.

Matthew 13:58
And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

When people place their trust in anything other than God, that thing (or person) becomes an idol. The people of Israel did just that when they turned their back to God instead of their face.

Jeremiah 2:5
Thus says the Lord: “What injustice have your fathers found in Me, That they have gone far from Me, Have followed idols, And have become idolaters?

If you place your trust in other things, God may leave you alone to allow those things to meet your needs. That is a choice we all make for ourselves.

Jeremiah 2:28
But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, If they can save you in the time of your trouble; For according to the number of your cities Are your gods, O Judah.

The state of America concerns me when our President states “America is not a Christian nation”. He may change his god, but he does not get an endorsement to change mine. Only I have the power to change where my trust is.

Jeremiah 2:11
Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit.

What about you? Have you decided to change gods? How can you know you are living by faith? Let me give you a few basic guidelines to check your faith by.

First ask yourself if you are making the decision to glorify God or to please yourself. Those two answers may or may not match. If you are asking the Lord to do the impossible, it will bring much more glory to Him when it happens.

Matthew 19:26
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The next thing has to do with God’s timing. Am I rushing ahead  or am I willing to wait? If you can be honest with yourself and say you haven’t got the patients to wait, be cautious. This comes from the fear of being overcome by disappointment, and you make an emotional decision instead of a spiritual one.

Romans 10:11
The Scriptures say that no one who has faith will be disappointed,
CEV

Always ask yourself if you can defend what you are doing from the Word of God?
I see people make comments on social network places like Facebook that do not line up with God’s word, yet they claim He is involved. That is not possible since God will not violate His own word. (Don’t cut me off your social networks now!) Remember that true faith is always found in line with scripture.

Romans 10:17
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

After you come this far towards making a decision, consider if there is joy and peace within? Don’t skip to this one too fast, or you may be emotionally deceived, the other guidelines must line up first. When you have the heart of God on something, you will have peace available to you.

Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is hope for you in your situation because He is the God of hope. The peace and joy comes through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit and is not depending on anything else. You will also find giving praise and thanks to God is an important part of God’s peace. This is one of my favorite scriptures and has sustained me through many trials.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I pray this will help you to see if you are living by faith or if you have changed your gods, and how you can obtain true peace while you wait on the Lord.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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How to figure your church growth rate

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Growth rates are an important part of the diagnostic tools we have in our church growth toolbox. Part of developing your church growth strategies will be understanding growth rates.

First let me clarify what numerical growth is. These numbers we count are much more than statistics. Each one has a name and God knows them, loves them, and desires to have a relationship with them. Trying to separate evangelism and discipleship is like trying to slice a quarter in half so you will have 50 cents. You do not. We must reach people for Jesus, but also assimilate them into a loving church and disciple them. These numbers are only a tool to keep us on track, as a physician would use a thermometer and his other instruments to diagnose a patient.

Each church is either growing, on a plateau, or declining. Eighty percent of the churches in America are not growing in fact eight churches a day close in the United States and Canada. When we do a consultation we look at the AGR (Annual Growth Rate) AAGR (Average Annual Growth Rate) and DGR (Decade Growth Rate).

Before I show you how to figure your growth rate, let me explain what we are looking for. In church growth terms, a church is not growing unless it increases by five percent a year. On the other side, a church is not in a decline unless it is losing five percent a year. Everything in that ten percent window (five percent plus–and five percent minus) is considered a plateau. Most of the churches that have partnered with us and have a membership to our associate services are growing at twenty percent. The smaller a church is, the easier it is for that number to be higher. It is not unusual for us to be able to double many of the churches that have 50 or less in worship in twelve months time. My home church, Idlewild Baptist Church, here in Tampa, has around 7500 in worship. Growing five percent is a lot more work. You get the idea, and have a few thoughts already about your own church.

Now let’s look at these church growth tools and get started on the path to new church growth ideas, with old church growth principles. The Annual Growth Rate (AGR) Not to insult your intelligence, is used to tell us how much numerical growth has occurred from one year to the next, and what the trend will most likely be, if no changes are made.

At Church growth Associates, we have weekly tracking and accountability for the churches we partner with, when it comes to worship attendance. We want to make adjustments as needed and not wait until the end of the year to figure out what went wrong (or right). In my examples I use attendance, so it can’t be said we have more members than there are people. Church membership is important, but attendance is a great measure of our effectiveness. You can use members for your calculations if you like, use any criterion you desire, just keep consistent with the formula from year to year.

1. Subtract the earlier year’s average attendance, from the later year’s average attendance.
2. Divide the answer you get by the earlier year.
3. Multiply the answer you get by 100 to change the decimal to percent.
4. The answer is your AGR.

Let’s give an illustration of this example. Gracious Church had an average attendance of 125 last year. This year Gracious Church had an average of 180 in attendance.

This year    180
Last year  – 125
Increase      55

An increase of 55 in worship, divided by the earlier year average (125) is .44 times 100 (to convert to percent). The AGR for Gracious Church is 44% this year.

Now go back for the last ten years, and get the AGR for each one. This will give you a look at the trend your church is on, and where it most likely will be in ten years if no changes are made.

If you don’t have Microsoft Office or PowerPoint, you will find a link to the open source alternative, Open Office in our library you can own at no charge. This will help you to see a graph of your progress.

You can use the same formula as above to find your DGR if you desire, but I recommend working with the numbers from the past ten years. We use older history only when there are more questions that need to be answered. Ten years is sufficient in most cases.

You are invited to check out the vast resources for church growth on our main website. Here are just a few.

Church Experience Project

The Un-churched by State

Adding Another Worship Service

Check out our Library

If you would like to see if Church Growth Associates could help you with your strategies for church growth, tell us your story, maybe we can help.

Rick Robinson

 

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
MyChurchGrowth.com

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How much space do I need?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Church Growth and Sunday School Space may go together more than you think. One question often asked is how much space is needed when planning a Sunday School? The needs of a church will vary according to size, and age distribution. In an average church the babies and toddlers may amount to three percent, while your church may have a greater number or even none at all. The space needed for a Sunday School will vary, but here is guide you can use when planning your small groups. This guideline is a strategy for church growth, you can get by with less if you have too, but if you sacrifice these ratios you may effect attendance and future church growth.

Age Group    Square Feet / Person
Babies -Kindergarten    30-35
Primary – Middle School    25-30
High School    20-25
Adults    10-15

To maximize the utility you get from existing buildings, you may need to do some measuring. I have a digital tape measure I use for such a project. You can purchase one at Lowes; they are relatively inexpensive and can save a lot of time. I have seen rooms that have not been used for a while with things stacked up in them, and this tool will avoid your having to move things around or climb over them, since it just pings off the wall. You can also work alone if you have this tool, and many pastors don’t always have someone available to help.

Once you figure the square footage of the rooms you will have available; you can use the guidelines provided to see how many people can be accommodated in each room.

Determine the ministry God wants you to do, then adopt your resources to that mission. If you are a church that operates a school during the week in your facilities, I suggest you don’t force your members, and particularly your guest, to sit in your small groups using a school desk. Get creative; get some comfortable adult accommodating chairs in those rooms even if it means more set up and take down time.

Rarely if ever can any one factor be the cause for the growth or decline of a church. It requires a combination of factors to develop a growing church. This combination of factors is called the “growth mix”. Every church has a growth mix, be it a poor one that causes decline or a good one that causes growth. When our church growth consultants diagnose a church to discover the growth mix, we use church growth ratios and principles as a guideline. When it comes to small groups and church growth, keep the following church growth principles in mind.

Every small group, including Sunday School, will eventually close itself off. This is called saturation. Saturation can be caused by many variables, but the most powerful influence is time itself. For this reason, one of the most powerful strategies we have for growth of the Sunday School, or other small group, is creating new units, or classes on a regular basis. Twenty percent of your small groups should have been started in the last two years.

Reclaiming wasted space, freshening up rooms and the environment presented by the condition and cleanliness of the rooms and properly allocating space can be a boost for Sunday School and church growth. The bottom line will be better assimilation of people into a caring church fellowship.

Rick Robinson is a church growth consultant with Church Growth Associates.

If you would like help with strategies for church growth, click here. One of our church growth consultants will call you with no obligation to see if we can help you grow your church.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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