Angels of God: Praying for our missionaries and church planters 

By Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

Several years ago I received a framed commendation from our missionary partners in Ghana, West Africa. It was, I felt, very undeserved and way, way, way over the top. It’s, frankly, a little embarrassing. But I’m going to share it anyway because I think it illustrates a truth in our Bible passage from this past weekend – how people should view those who bring to them the good news of Jesus Christ.

Nzema Baptist Association of the Ghana Baptist Convention

Citation: Reverend Rick Duncan

You are God’s shepherd who has not limited your works to a confined area but spread your word to our community.

Reverend, your support has actually been felt to the skeleton of the Nzema Baptist Association. Without you, we would still be wading through the storm.

The Nzema Baptist Association appreciates and acknowledges your continuous support and concern for the upkeep and growth of the new association.

Rick, kudos from all Nzemas. Never relent on your support and good works and Jehovah God will triple all that you might have lost.

May God continue to strengthen and bless you!!

Africa

I do appreciate this, but this is way, way, way over the top. It’s overly effusive language. There are others at Cuyahoga Valley Church who deserve this type of recognition from our partners in Africa much, much more than I do.

But what I want us to see is that when you bring the gospel to people, there is a tangible appreciation that they will have for your efforts.

And that’s what we see in Galatians 2:8-20. A group of people in Galatia, a region of modern-day Turkey, saw Paul, the missionary/church planter who came to them as an angel of God.

Though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. Galatians 2:14

I am pretty sure that he never received a fancy gold-framed certificate like I did. But they received Paul as an angel of God – a messenger of God, like he was Jesus Himself.

Being seen as an angel by the people you were sent to reach is, I think, a pretty good goal for every missionary and church planter.

In fact, I think it’s absolutely legitimate for us to pray that every missionary and every church planter that we support at CVC will be seen by the people they were sent to reach as angels of God.

It struck me as I was reading Galatians 2:14 that in this year when we are emphasizing prayer, we might learn to pray for our missionaries and church planters much more faithfully and much more biblically.

I want to give you a little background as to why Paul even came to Galatia in the first place. Before Paul ever went to Galatia to share Christ and start churches, he was sent by his home church in Antioch.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3

We see here how important it is for missionary work to be initiated by and supported with prayer and fasting.

Pastor John Piper said about this passage, “This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would make Christianity the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two-and-a-half centuries and would yield 1.3 billion adherents of the Christian religion today with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world.”

David Platt commented, “The synergy between the call of the Spirit and the prayerful response of the church resulted in a supernatural spread of the gospel that continues to this day.”

We dare not underestimate and we cannot overestimate the importance of prayer to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus through our missionaries a church planters.

Today, I want us to focus on learning how to pray for those who point us to Christ – especially missionaries and church planters. That’s what Paul was to the Galatians. He was a missionary to them. And he planted churches there. So, we can learn some things from his life and mission that will help us pray more effectively for all missionaries and church planters.

We don’t want to pray generic prayers. “Lord, bless our missionaries“ is an example of a generic prayer.

Instead, let’s learn to pray 7 specific prayers for specific missionaries and planters we know, love, and support. We want them to be received by God’s people as “angels of God.”

Angels of God: Praying for our missionaries and church planters

  1. Pray for gospel clarity. Galatians 4:8-10

Although cross-cultural communication is difficult, pray that missionaries and planters would make the gospel clear. Pray that they would communicate that it is Jesus plus nothing that saves. Pray that they would make sure that people can understand the justification comes by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone.

  1. Prayer for fruitful labor. Galatians 4:11

Missionaries and church planters don’t keep office hours, don’t have supervisors who are present, and can be tempted to become discouraged, unaccountable, and apathetic. Pray that our missionaries and planters will labor, will work hard. Pray that missionaries would, like farmers, plow, plant, water, and weed to see fruit in their ministries as they seek to make disciples among the nations.

  1. Prayer for cultural relevance. Galatians 4:12

Pray that their ministry approach would be flexible and adaptable in everything except when it comes to the truth of the gospel. Pray for the missionaries and planters to be aware of cultural differences and to embrace them whenever possible. Pray for a minimum of faux pas and offenses. Pray for ways to bridge the cultural divide and make solid connections with the people they’ve been called to reach.

  1. Prayer for opportunistic ministry. Galatians 4:13-14

Pray that our missionaries and planters would look for opportunities in hardship, that problems would become possibilities. And pray that God will keep the missionaries and planters in the condition of health that will best glorify Him.

  1. Prayer for courageous truth-telling. Galatians 4:15-16

Pray that our missionaries and planters would speak the Word with boldness and that supernatural power would accompany its proclamation. Pray for them to speak the truth with courage, soaked with love and grace. Pray that the fear of man would never interfere with pleasing God by proclaiming His truth with passion and clarity.

  1. Pray for spiritual parenthood. Galatians 4:17-19

Pray that our missionaries and church planters would become parents in the faith to many people – that those they’re seeking to reach would come to faith in Christ and trace their spiritual heritage directly back to our missionaries and church planters.

  1. Prayer for Christ-like maturity. Galatians 4:19-20

Pray that our missionaries and church planters would see true Christian maturity take place in the lives of those people that they reach. Pray that the people they reach would have Christ formed in them. Pray that the people, including the missionaries and planters themselves, would live the Christ life and love with Christ’s love as they die to self and live in Jesus.

***

There we have it! Seven prayers that will help us pray for your planters and missionaries to be “angels of God” to the people they’ve been sent to reach.

We want to pray more effectively for missionaries and what God is doing around the world, but the truth is we often forget or have no plan for what to pray. What can we do?

Ideas…

  • Cut, paste, print, and stick this list in your Bible to remind you to pray.
  • Write this out in your planner or prayer journal.
  • Pray this way for missions as a couple or as a family together.
  • Says there are seven prayers, focus on one of these according to a day of the week.
  • Hang up a world map in a prominent place in your home with this list framed of the wall next to it.
  • Put out a globe in a prominent place in your home with this list framed on a table next to it.
  • Pray for our missionaries and planters by name. (Reach out to www.cvcmissions.org to get a complete listing.)
  • What if we changed the way we prayed? What if we began to ask God to make our missionaries and church planters “angels of God“ to the very people that they’re seeking to reach?
  • Consider using these prayers for our missionaries and planters each day for the next 30 days. Ask God to prompt you.

Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 5

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor 

We’ve been learning from how Peter responded to Paul’s confrontation recorded in Galatians 2:11-14. He heard, heeded, and helped the one who confronted him. How did he do that? God had given him a gift. Humility.

The key to being a lifelong learner: humility!

It takes a humble man to respond well to a challenge, especially if that man is as strong a leader as Peter.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. I Peter 5:5 (NASB)

It’s hard to say, “You are right and I am wrong.  Thank you for challenging me, for correcting me.”  But the first test of a truly great man is his humility.  Someone said, “The beginning of greatness is to be little; the increase of greatness is to be less; and the perfection of greatness is to be nothing.”

Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15 (CEV)

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. Proverbs 25:12 (NIV)

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. Proverbs 9:9 (ESV)

Now, how did Peter finish after being confronted by Paul?  Did he finish well?  Consider the facts:

  • Late in his life, Peter sat down with a young believer named Mark and told stories about his life with Jesus.  Mark wrote it down in the book that now carries his name.
  • Later in his life, Peter sat down and wrote a letter to strengthen suffering believers scattered throughout the present-day Turkey. It’s the book we call I Peter.
  • He wrote a second book to remind believers to grow in the grace and knowledge or the Lord Jesus.  We call this book II Peter.
  • In F.B. Meyer’s book, The Life of Peter, we learn that the last 16 or 17 years of his life Peter traveled with his devoted wife from place to place with such remarkable success that there was a widespread turning to God from idols.

Was he a lifelong learner?  The impact of his life says he was.  But what about Peter’s tendency to cave into the crowd – to wilt under pressure?

We first hear of Peter’s death in a letter from an early church leader, Clement.  He mentions the suffering and martyrdom of Peter in Rome.  The Romans were notorious for saying, “Deny that Christ is Lord and you will live.  Confess that Christ is Lord and you will die.”  Peter didn’t wilt this time.  He didn’t deny Christ.  He won!  He finished strong by dying for his faith in Jesus.

An early church historian named Eusebius wrote: “Peter appears to have preached through Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia, to the Jews that were scattered abroad; who also, finally coming to Rome, was crucified with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way.”

How long are you going to listen to the same critique over and over before you realize that God is working to get your attention?  It is God who is seeking to make you like Jesus through the observations of the people around you.  Your spouse has been confronting you about an area in your life for years, but you won’t listen.  Your kids have been challenging you.  Your friends have been pointing out blind spots.  Your business associates often say the same things.

It’s time to hear, to heed, and to help your godly critic. And the only way to do that is to become more and more humble.

A point to ponder: When I am humble, I can keep changing… for the better.

A verse to remember: Take good counsel and accept correction–that’s the way to live wisely and well.  Proverbs 19:20 (MSG)

A question to consider: What lessons has God been seeking to teach you through others that you have been too proud to learn?

Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 4

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor 

Over the last several days, we’ve seen from the encounter between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 that Peter was a lifelong learner because he made some great decisions.

Decision #1 – I will hear my godly critics

Decision #2 – I will heed my godly critics

And today….. Decision #3 –  I will help my godly critics.

Peter was publicly challenged by Paul.  How will he respond?  To get an idea of Peter’s response to Paul, you have to read what Peter wrote down.  Would he say, “That jerk, Paul, embarrassed me in front of a whole church?”  Nope! Here’s what he later wrote about Paul.

Our dear brother Paul… wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. II Peter 3:15 (NIV)

You know what this does?  It is a stamp of approval on the 13 books that Paul wrote!  He’s saying, “Just in case you want to know what I think about Paul’s life and ministry, consider this.  He’s my dear brother!  What he’s written is from God.  It’s good stuff.  Read it and be wise!”

Peter is building up Paul.  He’s making him look good.  He’s giving Paul further credibility.  At the end of his life Peter looks to Paul not as a rival but as a dear brother.  He’s applying the truth in Proverbs 22.

Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise… Proverbs 22:17 (NIV)

Do you tend to try to bring down a critic in the eyes of others?  Or do you tend to lift him up in the eyes of others?  Do you seek to open up other doors for ministry for your critics?  Do you say, “Thanks. You helped me. Now I want to help you help others?”

To help me become a lifelong learner:

  1. I will hear my godly critics.
  2.  I will heed my godly critics.
  3. I will help my godly critics.

 

Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 3

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

We’ve been learning how Peter learned from a confrontation by Paul recorded in Galatians 2:11-14.

Decision #1 – I will hear my godly critics.

Decision #2 – I will heed my godly critics.

It would have been easy for Peter to hear but not heed this criticism from Paul.  Peter had a long list of reasons why Paul ought to follow Peter’s lead, not Peter following Paul’s.

  • “Hey, Paul, I’m one of the twelve who walked with Jesus for 3 years.
  • “Jesus changed my name from Simon to Peter because He said I was a Rock.
  • “I walked on the water.
  • “I was in the inner circle of three.
  • “I saw Jesus transfigured.
  • “I saw the Risen Lord.
  • “I was told by Jesus to tend His sheep.
  • “I preached a message on Pentecost and 3,000 became followers of Jesus.
  • “I healed a lame man at the Temple.
  • “I gave another message and 5,000 believed.
  • “And don’t forget, for 15 days after your conversion, you sat at my feet learning about Jesus.
  • “So, you know what, Paul, you need to do what I say.  I don’t need to do what you say.”

That could have been his attitude.  But it wasn’t.  He had read verses like Proverbs 8:33.

Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
Proverbs 8:33 (NASB)

Some people are intimidated by leadership conflict.  They expect everybody to always agree – especially with them!  They think that problems are bad things.  Conflict, though, is a good thing when handled correctly.  And the bigger the problem is, the more strategic the solution will be.  Some Bible teachers would say that this confrontation between Peter and Paul did more to keep open the door of the gospel to the Gentiles than anything else – including Peter’s vision.

The conflict was a short one.  But it appears that it led to an ever-deepening love and respect from Peter to Paul.  God can take an unpleasant incident and turn it into a life-changing lesson.

It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools. Ecclesiastes7:5 (NIV)

Whose advice ought you pay attention to?  Whose counsel do you need to heed?  Whose instruction do you have to take note of?

Some of us have been hearing the same criticism over and over and we won’t take note.  Proverbs says, “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond all remedy.”

To help me become a lifelong learner, #1) I will hear my godly critics and #2) I will heed my godly critics.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Decision #3.

 

Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 2

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

We’ve been learning from the confrontation between Paul and Peter recorded in Galatians 2:11-14. Peter is an example of a follower of Jesus who was a lifelong learner – a man who finished well. How did he do it? And how can we? Decision #1…

Decision #1 – I will hear my godly critics.

Do you listen to what the people around you are saying about you? Or are you on the defensive?  Are you curious about how people are perceiving you?

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

When do we need godly criticism?  Peter being confronted by Paul teaches us at least three occasions we need to be challenged. We need godly criticism when we fear people more than we follow principles. Galatians 2:12

Most of us have a tendency to be people-pleasers.  We want to fit in.  But that can be dangerous to your spiritual health.

12   For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
Galatians 2:12

Peter feared this group.  Caving into the crowd was the key to Peter’s downfall.  He caved into the crowd when a little servant girl challenged him around a fire on the night Jesus was betrayed.  He caved in here, too.

He was afraid.  Afraid of what?  Of being thought less of, of losing influence? I don’t know, but clearly not fear of God, but fear of men.  Or maybe Peter was afraid of losing face with the legalists – the rule and regulation people – in Jerusalem. He might have lost his standing as the leader.  We aren’t told why he was afraid of the people.  And in a moment of weakness he cut off the fellowship with his non-Jewish brothers and sisters.  And when he did it as the leader, so did Barnabas and all the other Jews.

Do you know the antidote to being a people-pleaser?  Want to please God more!  Some of us deny our true selves – and deny the truth – because we are afraid of what others will think or say.  Do you want to stop fearing people?  Fear God more!

 We need godly criticism when we play a part more than we live the life. 

Hang around the church long enough and you’ll learn how to act the part.  You smile at the right times, sing at the right times, say the right things, go along to get along.  What do I have to do with this particular group of Christians to fit in?

Peter had it figured out in Antioch.  He played the part and it influenced others to play the part, too.

13   The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
Galatians 2:13

“The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy.”  It means they, too, acted insincerely.  Even one of Paul’s closest friends, Barnabas, was carried away by their insincerity.

Peter knew it was right to hang out with the non-Jewish believers.  But he didn’t.  So, Peter and Barnabas and the others were being two-faced.  They were saying one thing with their actions while believing another thing in their heart.

What they believed, they had stopped doing.  They played a part. In this case, Peter is pretending to be outwardly holy.  “Hey, look at me.  I don’t eat non-kosher foods!  Aren’t I a holy guy?”   But before these Jewish believers showed up, he was chowing down on some pork at the rib-cook-off in Antioch.

Do you act one way when you are with a certain group of people and act another way when you are not?  Get clear before God about the way you are supposed to live your life, then live it!  Be holy, yes!  But be real about it!

The number one reason people say they don’t go to church?  It’s full of hypocrites!  Don’t give people reason not to show up.

We need godly criticism when we enforce rules more than we enjoy relationship.  

Sometimes, it’s easy for us be fall into the trap of liking rules more than loving people.  Some of us are wired that way.  We get uncomfortable when the rules get stretched.  That happened to Peter here.  And he was called on it.

14   But when I saw that they were not straightforward about) the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
Galatians 2:14

I can imagine Peter saying, “Compel?  What do you mean compel? I haven’t said that the Gentiles have to live like Jews.”  And I can hear Paul’s response, “Peter, your actions speak louder than your words.”

Peter has been in trouble before in Jerusalem.  Acts 11:2 says, “So when Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’” Peter told them about his vision and the coming of the Spirit and said, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

This was a life-changing experience for Peter.  He saw that not only did non-Jews not have to keep the Old Testiment laws in order to have the same spiritual blessings as Christian Jews, but he also saw that he, as a Jew, was free from those same laws.  The condition for enjoying all the benefits of being a believer is a real, live faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s all.

Therefore, when Peter ate with Gentile believers in Antioch he was in sync with the gospel. He was standing fast infreedom, honoring the all-sufficiency of Christ.  But when he stopped eating with the Gentiles, he was keeping rules and violating relationships.  We call it legalism.

Don’t break God’s rules, of course.  But be careful that you don’t add to His rules.  Religious people have a tendency to do that.  It makes them feel superior.  They like feeling superior.  Why?  Because they don’t love people.  They love their rules more.

I hope and pray that God will keep on sending godly critics to you and to me.  We must be called away from people-pleasing, hypocrisy, and legalism.  I hope and pray that we will listen!

Listen and be wise. Keep your heart on the right course.
Proverbs 23:19 (NLT)

To help me become a lifelong learner, I will hear my godly critics. That’s decision #1. Tomorrow… decision #2.

 

 

Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 1

by Rick Duncan, Founding Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church

One of the most colorful Bible characters is the Apostle Peter.  Throughout the gospels, we can see how Jesus interacted with Peter to build him, to change him, to make him usable.  And Peter became a lifelong learner.

His name was changed by Jesus from Simon to Peter (rock) because Jesus saw leadership potential in him.  Peter was part of the inner circle of disciples.  He had seen the transfigured Lord.  He’d been told to feed the sheep.  He’d preached great sermons.  He was one of the key leaders of the early church in Jerusalem and in Antioch.

Yet, in this book we call Galatians, Peter is confronted by another leader.  The leader?  Paul.  Here, Paul uses the Greek name for Peter, Cephas.  Galatians 2:11…

11   But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

Don’t forget that Peter was the first of the followers of Christ to share the good news about Jesus to those who were not Jews.  Peter had a special revelation from God in a dream.  You can read about it in Acts 10 and 11. God made it clear to Peter that God had chosen to pour out His grace not only on the Jewish people, but also on the Romans and Greeks.

Now, what has Peter done to cause another church leader to confront him so boldly and so publicly?  Galatians 2:12…

12   For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof…

What’s happening here?  When he first came to Antioch, Peter used to eat non-kosher food with the non-Jews.  He knew that those non-Jews who were followers of Jesus were part of the family.  He said, “Let’s hang out together!”  But some Jewish people showed up from Jerusalem in Antioch who weren’t so comfortable hanging out with non-Jews, the Gentiles – even if those non-Jews were claiming to follow Jesus.  These Jerusalem Jews were prejudiced.  They wanted to add their dietary rules and ceremonial regulations to the good news about Jesus.

So, Peter stopped hanging out with the Gentiles and only hung out with the Jews.  This was a big deal.  The message it sent was that there are two classes of Christians.  The first class Christians are the Jews.  The second class Christians are the Gentiles.  This is why Paul opposed Peter to his face.

Even the giants of the faith are fallible.  The best of men are men at best.  It’s tempting for us to think that all Peter’s problems stopped after Acts 2 when he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  But remember, we leak.  And Peter did. The gift of the Spirit did not make Peter infallible.  No matter how spiritual a person may be, he or she is always capable of sin.

So, Paul confronts Peter with his sin.  Now, how will Peter respond?

Let’s bring this close to home. No one in this room is infallible. When you are confronted with your behavior, how do you respond?

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.  If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Proverbs 15:31-32 (NLT)

I like that phrase “constructive criticism” there.  I’m sure you know that not all criticism is constructive.  Some people are insecure, have hidden agendas, don’t know all the facts, or want control.  And their criticism is often destructive.  A wise person works to know the difference.

See, criticism will come.  Someone said, “If you want to avoid criticism; do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”  But if you are in the game, if you are seeking to build the kingdom, you better know that criticism will come.  It’s the wise person who can tell the difference between a godly critic and an ungodly critic.

There are people out there who are always finding fault. They always see problems, not solutions.  And they are a drain to be around.  A quote: “The man who is always finding fault seldom finds anything else” and “All loud speakers are not necessarily hooked up!”  It’s why Larry Burkett used to say, “A wise man seeks much counsel. A fool listens to all of it.”

So, discern whether or not the criticism is constructive or destructive.  If it’s constructive, we better respond in a godly way.

With that in mind, over the next few days, let’s learn some principles from scripture that will help us become lifelong learners.  Tomorrow, decision #1…

 

You are the #MissingType

Our annual Red Cross Blood Drive is coming up this Tuesday, June 26.  John Poelking, a long-time member at Cuyahoga Valley Church, recently had a bone marrow transplant.  During his stay in the hospital, he needed 30 units of red blood cells and around 20 units of platelets to “keep me going,” as he said.  That is just one example of how great the need is for blood donors.  The Red Cross tells us that the need for blood donors is particularly high during the summer months.  Please consider being a blood donor!

Whether or not you’re able to give, we hope you’ll take this opportunity to invite a friend, neighbor, or co-worker to donate blood at our blood drive.  Our hope is that everyone who steps into our building for the blood drive will feel welcomed and encouraged to come back and attend one of our services.  We’re being a LifeHouse to our community by meeting a felt need.  Will you join us?

The Red Cross will be onsite from 7AM-7PM.  CVC is providing childcare during the donation process between the hours of 10AM-1PM.  We’ll have food available throughout the day provided by our very generous donors from CVC, Eddie’s Pizzeria Cerino, and Nothing Bundt Cakes.

Presenting donors will receive a Red Cross T-shirt as well as gifts from Chick-fil-A Macedonia, Cleveland Clinic, Moody Radio Cleveland, and Eddie’s Pizzeria Cerino.  Presenting donors will also be entered into the quarterly Cleveland Clinic raffle for two free airline tickets valid for the 48 Continental U.S., including Alaska, Canada and Mexico.

To make an appointment to donate blood, click here.

 

Writing “Your Story”

What to Do:
Ask God to give you wisdom.
Make your story sound conversational, not academic or formal.
Be warm and personal.
Keep to a 3 minute limit. (That’s about 650-700 words.)
Be realistic, don’t exaggerate.

What Not to Do:
Avoid statements that reflect negatively on any church organization.
Avoid statements that reflect negatively on any individual.
Avoid religious-sounding words, denominations, or church names.
Avoid speaking writing in a preachy manner. Say, “I” and “me,” not “you.”
Avoid using vague terms like “joyful,” “peaceful,” or “changed” without explaining them.
Avoid using religious terms like “saved,” “sin,” or “convicted” without explaining them.
Avoid communicating that all your struggles and problems have now ended.

Writing Style:
Begin with an attention-getting sentence or incident.
Be positive, accurate and specific – sharing a few key details will help arouse interest.
Simplify – reduce the “clutter.” Mention a limited number of people and details.
Use Bible verses directly related to your experience. But do not use the references. For example, say, “One of Jesus’ disciples said…” rather than writing “1 John 5:11-13 says…”
Write things just as you would share with someone one-on-one.

Remember: Effective communication is brief, to the point, and clear. Sharing your story should not take more than 3 minutes. All right, now you’re ready to write! Just answer the following questions:

Before Christ: Who were you before you met Jesus?

Many people’s actions spring out of their unsatisfied deep inner needs. What were one or two of your unsatisfied deep inner needs before you came to know Jesus? What were your attitudes, needs, and problems before you received Christ?Examples: “I was seeking for…” “My life revolved around…” “I gained happiness and security from…” “My life was missing….” “My attitude was…” “My life was filled with problems I could not solve…” (Use an example from your personal life here. For instance, did your security come from money, your relationships, etc? Remember, avoid being overly sensational.)

Non-Christians are usually trying to satisfy their deep inner needs through unsatisfactory solutions. What unsatisfactory solutions did you use to attempt to meet those deep inner needs?

How did trying to meet your deep inner needs this way disappoint you? How was your life unfulfilling? How did you come to realize this? What were you struggling with (if anything) just before you received Christ?

Receiving Christ: How did Jesus change your life?

This part of your personal testimony is where you come to the transition in your life, where God’s work begins to become evident in you. Remember to follow the same guidelines as before.

Describe the circumstances that caused you to consider Christ as the solution to your deep inner needs. When and how did you first hear about and truly understand the story about Jesus? What were your struggles just before you received Christ?

State specifically the steps you took to become a follower of Jesus. Share truths about the gospel – that you realized you have disobeyed God, that you realized you did not deserve His forgiveness, that you realized Christ died to forgive you, and that you realized your need to receive Jesus to be forgiven and to be changed forever. Remember that it’s the gospel that has the power to change lives (see Romans 1:16). So, include how you came to understand that Jesus came, that He died on the cross in your place to save you, and that He rose again.

You likely cannot remember exactly what you prayed when you received Christ. But sharing a few words about how you prayed (shat you may have said) might encourage someone else to express their faith in a similar way.

After receiving Christ: Who are you now?

When giving a personal testimony, many people concentrate on the sin they had before they received Christ – even the sensationalism. However, an effective testimony focuses not on our sin, but on the work of the Holy Spirit in us, so that Jesus Christ takes center stage. It is at this point that your testimony really begins to shine the spotlight on Jesus.

State how Jesus filled or is filling your deep inner needs. In the before section, you express your needs and how you tried unsuccessfully to meet them. You now want to briefly show the difference that Jesus has made in your life.

What happened when you received Christ? How and why did your attitudes and actions begin to change? What has happened since you received Christ? How has your life changed? When did you notice that change? How are you motivated differently now?

If there is a particular verse that applies, this would be a good place to use it.

***

If you received Christ at an early age…

Perhaps you grew up in a Christian home and you received Christ at a very early age. If so, you can use a slightly different approach to writing your story.

1) Before: State the deep inner needs you see the people around you trying to fill. Describe how you see people unsuccessfully trying to satisfy those needs.
2) How: Explain how Jesus has helped you avoid some of the struggles many people face. Refer back to your conversion experience and state how you trusted Christ as a child. Make sure you briefly include truths about the gospel.
3) After: Illustrate how Christ has met or is meeting your deep inner needs. Remember not to communicate that all your struggles and problems have now ended. End your story by sharing how Jesus is still changing your life.

Example Testimony

Please use the following headings as your write your testimony.

Assurance

If you were to die today, are you sure that you would go to heaven? Please explain.

Assurance is intended to provide confidence, a promise, a pledge or a guarantee.

In John 3:16, God assures us “that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life in heaven”. God gave his one and only son, and it is only through Jesus and His death on the cross that my sins are forgiven that I can have eternal life with God in heaven.

John 10:27-29 says, “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Scripture to think on:

John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:38-40, John 6:47, John 10:27-29, Romans 8:1, Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:6, 1 Peter 1:4-5, 1 John 5:13

 

A Gracious Introduction

Tell us about who you are.

I am 35 years of age, married for 11 years, and have 2 children. I am blessed with many family members, friends and neighbors. I worked for 13 years in a corporate and small business environment. I was raised going to church with both my father and mother heavily involved in the church activities. I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio and now live in Broadview Heights.

The Good in Your Past

What are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for a loving family who loved me well. I’m grateful for God’s provision in my life, that before I knew who He was, He still loved me, protected me, and gave me the opportunities to encounter Him.

 

The Sinfulness of Your Past

Share some thoughts, actions, and attitudes unpleasing to God.

I have struggled with judging people due to anger and bitterness. My attitude was at times hostile if I felt someone had more than me.  Another area I struggled with is my speech habits, because the words of my mouth were not always pleasing to the Lord. My thoughts were not always pure or Godly thoughts. I played the role of a good person but deep inside I knew I was not leading a Godly life. I was living my own life for me.

The Gospel Message

Explain the Gospel message in your own words. Use Bible references and share the basics of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I realized my sin, how every person (including me) sins, and how that sin separates us from God (Romans 3:23). I remember coming to the realization that my sin demanded condemnation from holy God and that I would live apart from God when I died (Romans 6:23).But then I heard the good news – I could be forgiven and made right with God through the death & resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus, on my behalf. I repented of my sin and prayed to place my trust in Jesus Christ alone for my eternal destiny (Romans 5:8). I asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. I am a believer and I love Jesus! I am in Christ and a new creation with my sins forgiven due to sincere, ongoing repentance and communion. God gives me many promises daily through his biblical words and providing me guidance through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture to think on:

Ezekiel 36:26-27John 1:11-12, John 3:3-8, John 3:16Luke 24:46-49Acts 3:19, Acts 10:34-43Romans, 3:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 6:231 Corinthians 15:3-42 Corinthians 5:17Ephesians 2:5

 

The Circumstances of Your Conversion

Who and/or what were instrumental in your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

It was a little over two years ago that I attended my first service at CVC with my neighbor at Easter time. I had not attended a church in years because I had been deeply hurt by the church I was attending as I was going through difficult family situations. At the service the Pastor spoke about how Christ allowed Thomas to doubt for eight days when he could have easily told him earlier. On hearing that, I then felt that God by His grace allowed me to doubt for years as well. So, I was confronted with my doubting and asked the Lord to help me believe! After that service my life began to change day by day. A CVC friend gave me the book “Living on the Edge” by Chip Ingram. I learned about what a Christian’s life should look like. That fall I joined a LifeGroup, and these people have become truly my sisters and brothers in Christ for they have shown me what a Christ-like person should look like. As I’ve grown in understanding His word, I gave over ALL my hurts, difficulties, sadness, problems…and truly put them in His hands. God gave me peace in a joy-filled way. It felt like He was saying, “You finally got it! I will carry everything for you! You are mine! My Beloved!”  I danced with lightness as I realized I no longer had to carry my load. My coming to Christ has been happening over these past two years in gentle, loving ways.

Changes after New Life in Christ

Describe your New Life Transformation.

My biggest transformation has been this past year really learning to trust and be challenged with my faith and obedience through temptations and trials that I have had no control over. Knowing God is beside me, allowing the suffering to bring me closer to God, not becoming withdrawn or detached, falling into sinful ways to relieve unpleasing feelings. I am continually becoming a new person in Christ…each and every day. As I study and read the Bible, go to my LifeGroup, meet with others outside of church, and try each day to follow the will of Christ, I find new ways to stretch myself more in doing God’s will. I try and reach out to those in need. I hold myself morally to what Christ has said in his word. Along with my daily bible reading, I listen to sermons daily, so I continually learn more and more about Jesus.

What is Baptism?

In your own words, describe what baptism means and why you would like to be baptized.

Baptism is the mark of a New Life in Christ. Jesus commands us to be baptized as an outward sign of an inward commitment. It lets others know that we have left the old life behind, and we have entered New Life in Christ. Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.

 

 

The Covenant of the Ring

By Dean Siley, Pastor of Care & Connections at Cuyahoga Valley Church

Do you find yourself frustrated with some of the relational patterns you experience in your marriage and within your family?

Do you keep stumbling over the same irksome “dance steps” in your relationships?

Our early life experiences teach us how to love, for better or for worse. People usually have no clue there is another way – a better way to love. A good first step would be to take the “Love Style Assessment”. This is a free assessment that you can easily access here: https://howwelove.com.

We are also offering “How We Love” in a LifeGroup format, with three available options this summer. Join us as we take a look at how our life experiences have shaped “How We Love” others. Begin understanding the painful patterns of relationships that keep you stuck, and learn how to create the close nurturing relationships you desire. We will take a look at a 7 lesson DVD series called “How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. These studies are open to all (married, single, divorced). If you are married, it will be most helpful for you and your spouse to attend together. However, if your spouse in unable to attend it will still be worthwhile to come.

The 2018 session dates are —

Mixed Groups

Sunday mornings from June 10-July 29, 9:30-10:50 AM (skip July 1)
Wednesday evenings from June 6-August 1, 7-8:30 PM (skip July 4 and 25)

Womens’ Group

Wednesday mornings May 23-July 11, 10-11:30 AM (skip July 4).

To sign up for any of these sessions, or for more information, please contact Wayne and Gail Douglas: live.new.marriage@gmail.com.

I hope you’ll take advantage of these opportunities that will help you to experience relationships as God intended them to be.

13 False Gospels

by Chad Allen, Lead Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church

Here’s a list of 13 False Gospels from week one of our Liberated sermon series. It’s adapted from a list found in “Counterfeit Gospels” by Trevin Wax.  Notice that they are “Man-centric” not “Christ-centric”.

  1. Therapeutic Gospel
    Sin robs us of our sense of fulfillment. Christ’s death proves our worth as humans and gives us power to reach our potential. The church is here to help us feel happy and feel good about ourselves.

  2. Moralist Gospel
    Our big problem is sins (plural) and not sin (nature). The purpose of Christ’s death is to make us better people and help us have spiritual willpower to be more moral.

  3. Mystic Gospel
    Salvation comes through an emotional experience with God. The church exists to provide me with powerful experiences to help me feel close to God and pursue a mystical union with Him.

  4. Works Gospel
    We have to pursue more good deeds than bad deeds in this life to be made right with God. Jesus showed us the way. Now, it’s up to us to do enough good works to be let into heaven.
  5. Legalistic Gospel
    Sin is failing to keep Christian rules and behavior. Once we become a follower of Christ we will live up to certain spiritual standards and the church helps us know what those standards are by giving us the religious rituals to keep, and divine expectations to fulfill.
  6. Universal Gospel
    We don’t have any personal responsibility in regards to our sin nor in responding to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Everyone will be saved because of Jesus, so just do the best you can in life to be kind to others and leave this planet a better place than when you arrived. God will reward all and judge no one – except maybe the extremely evil people from human history.
  7. Spiritually neutral Gospel
    As long as we have a sincere faith in something and follow a spiritual path of some kind, God will accept us. All spiritual paths lead to God and heaven. It’s just better if we make Jesus a part of the path since He is such a good example and heroic martyr.
  8. Fire Insurance Gospel
    As long as we prayed a “sinner’s prayer” at some point in our life then we are saved.  No life transformation needs to be evidenced, we are covered by this prayer and can go on living life as we choose free from the worry of hell.
  9. Prosperity Gospel
    Jesus wants us to live a life of health and wealth.  If we really have faith in Jesus, then we will be untouched by the brokenness of this world and live out God’s desire for us to be successful, rich, powerful, and daily a recipient of His special favor only reserved for those who truly believe in Jesus.
  10. Poverty Gospel
    As followers of Christ, we can never possess or enjoy anything in this world. A true faith relationship with Jesus results in choosing to be materially poor and spiritually rich. You cannot be a Christian and enjoy material possessions or earthly experiences.
  11. Social Activist Gospel
    Jesus died and rose so that we can be social and political activists in our culture.  Individuals hearing about the person and work of Jesus Christ is not as important as our efforts to bring social justice and peace to all areas of society.
  12. Self-Help Gospel
    We are our own worst problem and our negativity about ourselves hinders us from fully achieving all that we are and can be. Jesus wants us to see how great we really are and then pursue letting that greatness out. The solution to our problems is already within us and He is there to cheer us on.
  13. Labelistic Gospel
    Dedication to our own subcultural label of Christianity (conservative, liberal, evangelical, political, denominational, racial, or gender association). You convince yourself that the only people who understand the Bible and Jesus accurately are those who align with your particular label, language, views and subculture.