‘Where Are You?’

“Where are you?”

The obvious answer to that question is a physical one … but there’s a much more vital spiritual answer.

“Where are you?” is the simple, three-word question God asked Adam (Genesis 3:9) after he and his wife had committed the first sin. The question, while seemingly simple, is deep and full of theological implications. It’s the question I believe God still asks Christ-followers today … if we are listening.

Like Adam and Eve, we have chosen to listen to the wrong voice. We have fallen for the lie implied by the serpent’s question, ““Did God really say … ?” We question God’s authority, and the authority of his Word, and we disobey him. We go our own way rather than his way. We desire what we don’t have rather than being satisfied with what God has given us and trusting him to provide all we really need. We fall short. We sin. We separate ourselves from his loving presence.

But don’t forget. God comes looking for us. He continually draws lost people back to him. He seeks and saves that which has been lost. But he doesn’t force us to do what we don’t want to do. He loves us too much. He’ll never take away our free will—it’s such an important part of how he created us. So sometimes, like the dad in the parable of the lost son (Matthew 15:11-32), he waits for us to come to our senses and head back home to our Father.

God comes looking for us. He continually draws lost people back to him. He seeks and saves that which has been lost. Click To Tweet

Imagine the dad in that story as he waits in his house for his son to return. Picture the tears running down his cheeks. Hear the impassioned words he cries out to a son who is too far away to hear: My son, oh my son … where are you?

That’s a picture of our loving, Father.

I’m currently using a study on my Bible app based on Kyle Idleman’s book, AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything. “AHA is a spiritual experience that brings about supernatural change,” says Idleman in the first devotional reading. AHA involves three ingredients: an Awakening, Honesty, and Action. We see these ingredients in the lost son’s turnaround, and we can see it in our own if we pay attention.

Today, I’m sitting with God’s question for me: Where are you? I’m considering specific areas of my life where I’ve run away from God or where I’ve been hiding. I’m seeking to be brutally honest and humble as I consider my current spiritual location and I’m looking for where I need to take action.

Some of us may need to step out of the pig trough of our sin—that place where we have become comfortable even though we know how messy it is—and make a difficult journey back home. At the same time, as leaders, we are called by our Father to come alongside those who are still far away from him. “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation….as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20).

As leaders, we are called by our Father to come alongside those who are still far away from him. Click To Tweet

The spiritual life of leaders is probably my favorite topic to write and speak about, although I’m certainly not a perfect model. But I believe it’s vital to how we lead and what kind of impact we can make. (If you want to read more on this topic, see my books, Leading from the Heart: A Group Leader’s Guide to a Passionate Ministry and World’s Greatest Small Group: 7 Powerful Traits of a Life-Changing Leader. It’s also the topic of Chapter 2, “A Healthy Group Has a Healthy, Overflowing Leader,” in Small Group Vital Signs: Seven Indicators of Health That Make Groups Flourish, and Chapter 1, “Change the leader of Your Group,” in The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership.)

“Where are you?” is not a question of condemnation from God. It’s a question he asks in his grace and his unmerited love for us. He seeks us—as he seeks our friends and family members and neighbors and co-workers who are still far from him—so that we may have an abiding relationship with him now and for eternity.

Small Group Leader Summit – January 20

I am privileged to lead the Small Group Leader Summit Saturday, January 20, from 9 AM to noon.

The event will be held at First Church, Burlington, Kentucky, 6080 Camp Ernst Road, in Burlington, Kentucky 41005.

SESSION 1: “Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know”: I will focus this session on how to avoid leader burnout, toward which small group leaders are often prone, and how to guide your group as a healthy, overflowing leader. (Some of the content for this session comes from my books The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, chapters 1 and 2 of Small Group Vital Signs, and World’s Greatest Small Group.)

SESSION 2: “Mike’s Newest and Best Ideas for Small Group Leaders”: I’ll zero in on how to really disciple people effectively in a small group. This topic is, by a wide margin, the most-requested subject of small group leaders and point people (as it should be!).

This event is for new or experienced small group leaders, co-leaders, apprentices, core team members, ministry point people, and anyone interested in stepping up to lead a group in the new year. We want this to be a catalytic event to help leaders see beyond what they are presently doing, to help leaders who have hit a wall in their group, to teach leaders new strategies and tactics to use in their groups, and to show leaders how they can be used by God in new ways to carry out his mission in 2018.

For more information or to register, contact Kristen Flick at First Christian Church, Burlington, Kentucky, at 859.980.0250 or kflick@firstchurch.me.

 

Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: September 12-16, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the last week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

This week’s TIPS focus on authentic community in small groups.

 

QUESTION: Which of these TIPS do you need to work on first to improve the authentic community in your group? How will you do that? Please share your responses by clicking the Comment box below.

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!

Save

Save

3 Ways to Deal with Your Stressors Today: Encouragement Letter

My wife, Heidi, has struggled with several stressors in her life this week. So, this morning I sent her a quick email of encouragement. Later I realized that many others may also need encouragement today. Hope this helps:

Take time to recognize Jesus’ presence with you; he’ll be with you through every single thing you do today. He is present with you now. He gives you your unique purpose in this world. He gives you all the power you need for today.

Let go of anxiety. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Remember, you don’t have to depend on your own understanding, knowledge, skills, etc. Instead, trust the Lord with all your heart. “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Have a GREAT day!

Small Group Leadership TIPS of the Weeks for April 25 – May 6, 2016

Here are the last two weeks of Small Group Leader TIPS as Tweeted, posted on the Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Monday, 4/25: Be sure you are not in God’s way of working in your group’s or individual’s lives. Let God work. #ministry

Tuesday, 4/26: In your meeting agenda, leave LOTS of room for the Holy Spirit to work. #leadership #holyspirit

Wednesday, 4/27: Keep the main things the main things: 
1 Your relationship w #God 
2 #Love Others 
3 Your #mission 
#lead

Thursday, 4/28: Love group members more than you love your group expectations. #smallgroups #leadership #shepherd #love

Friday, 4/29: Learn to listen even when group is silent. Listen w/ your eyes. #kinesics #bodylanguage #facilitate

 – – – – – – – THIS WEEK – – – – – – –

Monday, 5/2: Move beyond the stories of what Jesus DID; discuss-better yet, experience-what he is DOING. #grow #power

Tuesday, 5/3: Healthy things grow, bear fruit, and reproduce. Use these to analyze if your group is healthy. #health

Wednesday, 5/4: Great, life-changing groups don’t play it safe. Move from comfy and cautious to courageous and costly!

Thursday, 5/5: The best community begins with a leader who spends time in solitude with God. #overflow #leadership

Friday, 5/6: Pray as though Christ is in the room with you…because he is! #prayer #presence #power #purposeful

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS!

 Follow @michaelcmack

The Day of Overflowing Compassion

Today is a Day of Overflowing Compassion. To fully understand what happened on this day, it helps to see Jesus’ attitudes, actions, and words before he was put on trial and went to the cross. Once, as he was walking through some towns with his followers, the Bible says that when he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38).

As I reflect on what Jesus did on what we call Good Friday, I feel his compassion for me and for all those who are harassed and helpless in this life. At one time, I too was harassed by this life and felt helpless to do anything about it. I was trying to make it on my own, by my own efforts, under my own puny power. In 1988, with the help of my niece, Julie, and several other people like Thomas, I found the Good Shepherd, or rather, he found me. He drew me to himself.

At first, I was a skeptical seeker. For years I had investigated matters of faith in general and the accounts of Jesus and the Cross particularly. After lots of reading, discussing, and thinking, I could no longer deny, refute, or argue the facts of what happened that Day or especially how it transformed the lives of so many harassed and helpless people, including Jesus’ closest followers, afterward. Something unique and powerful happened that Day on Calvary and on the following Sunday morning.

In John 10, Jesus compared himself to a shepherd, a role rich in Biblical meaning. “I am the good shepherd,” he said, but what he said next is powerful: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11). That, my friend, is compassion, sacrificial love, God’s plan for connecting us back into a restored relationship with him. It wasn’t fair: the innocent paying the ultimate price for the guilty. Not fair, but incredibly compassionate.

In his compassionate love for people (see John 3:16), the Shepherd laid down his life for harassed and helpless people like you and me. It was the only way to make things right. He is the only way to a restored relationship with God.

Helpless is what I once was, but not today; today I have a Helper, a Savior, a Compassionate Shepherd who guides me through the circumstances of this life.

This is what it means to follow Jesus. On this Good Friday, I look back at what he has already done for me when he laid down his life for me and on Easter Sunday took it back up again (see John 10:17-18). But I also look forward to a Day that is coming, described toward the end of the Bible: “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17). What compassion!

OTHER POSTS YOU MAY LIKE:

Is It Well with YOUR Soul?

As a shepherd leader, you are undoubtedly concerned about those you lead. You care about their souls. You pay attention to their spiritual conditions and want to lead them deeper with God.

At least I hope so.

Being in a small group is—or should be—good for your soul as well. But I’ve found, through my own experience and from talking to other leaders, that this is not necessarily so.

Last week I attended a regional gathering of small point people from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The theme was caring: for our leaders and ourselves. We began by worshiping together, singing several songs, one of which was “It Is Well with My Soul.”

I felt like a liar as I sang those words.

Because my soul has been troubled lately. I won’t go into all the reasons here, but, even as I sang, my soul felt . . . not well at all. It felt stressed, hurting, depressed, even lonely . . . as I stood in the midst of a bunch of fellow community and discipleship junkies.

And I knew I was probably not alone.

Allow me to digress for just a moment. When I take a step back and consider the big picture of my life, I realize how blessed I am. In the big picture, my soul is well. I have a strong relationship with my heavenly Father who loves me despite myself. He provides for me every day. I have a loving wife and four good kids. I have friends. My health is good. I could go on and on counting my blessings.

But let’s face it: our many blessings don’t always add up to a soul that is well.

When my soul is not well, I know I need at least four things:

  • I need more time with God in the “ordinary” disciplines of Bible study and prayer, perhaps extended time away from all my projects, to-do lists, etc. to be with God in a solitary place.
  • I need more time with my friends—the opposite of the above. I need a both-and solution, and I’ve learned this is a symbiotic relationship. Both of these makes the other one stronger.
  • I need to serve others, taking my focus off myself and putting it on other people. When I surrender, my soul grows stronger. (Does that make you think of the Grinch?)
  • I need more time doing some of the “out of the ordinary” types of disciplines. For me, this includes personal worship. Actually, I like to spend time on a regular basis worshiping God. Worship is a lifestyle, not an event. But I’ve learned that extended time in personal worship helps me more than just about anything else when it is NOT well with my soul.

Let me briefly discuss that last one a little more. I try to find different ways to worship God.

One way is to take a walk in a woods where nature sings to me the majesty of God, and I simply join in that worship.

Another way is something I did this morning: singing praise and worship songs to God. To help me do this, I created a YouTube channel that I play in full screen on my laptop. I chose praise songs that help me focus on God, ones that include the lyrics so I can sing along. If you like this idea, you can view it below. I believe you can also subscribe to it.


What other ideas have you used to attend to your own soul? Please share them below.

MORE POSTS ON THIS

How to Start Every Day: This WILL Change Everything!
The Counter-Intuitive Cure for Leader Stress and Burnout
The Most Important Thing You Do Today: It’s Not Reading the Bible!
What Do You Do When Life Sucks?

How to Start Every Day: This WILL Change Everything!

How did your day start today?

Let me take a few guesses.
Some of you rolled out of bed and thought to yourself, Oh no. It’s Friday the 13th. I wonder what bad thing will happen to me today. 
 
Or maybe you thought, Tomorrow is February 14 … and then …
  • I’ve got to get to the store today!
  • I can’t wait till tomorrow!
  • I’m going to dread tomorrow!
Or perhaps you simply started the day like most other days, thinking about all the things to do before the weekend, all the calls to make, all the bills to pay, all the worries to worry about …
I feel blessed today. I started my day reading from Psalm 146:
 
Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. 

 

I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live (vv. 1-2).

This psalm begins with the Hebrew word, Hallelu. You know, Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! But the psalmist isn’t saying this to others. He’s telling himself to praise the Lord! It’s a necessary reminder to himself, to his soul, to give praise to God.

This is something that ought to come naturally to us, and I imagine it did to humans before sin. But now so many other things, other priorities, other worries, distract us. And so we must constantly, daily, remind ourselves each day to Hallelu, praise the Lord, my soul!
Starting your day this way changes everything! 
 

As in Psalm 145 and other places, the psalmist is acting upon his will, not just his emotions or his intellect. I will praise the Lord!

As I start each day, I may or may not think I should praise the Lord. I may or may not feel like spending time with Him and worshiping Him. This is a matter of the will. I will praise the Lord all my life. This is my priority. I will seek Him first (Matt. 6:33), above all else. I will love Him with my whole being. I will, because this is now who I am, a new person in Christ Jesus.
When I start my day with Hallelu, praising the Lord, I am telling my soul and I am reaffirming to God, and I am modeling for my family that He is my top priority. He is transcendent, above all else to me. I’m starting my day acknowledging that He is my God, my only God, and I won’t have any other gods in my life.
Yes, I will praise the Lord!
How about you?

More Posts on This Subject

The Lord Is on Our Side
Silencing the Monkeys in the Banana Trees
Five Straightforward Steps for Making God’s Word a Daily Part of Your Life
The Most Important Thing You Do Today: It’s Not Reading the Bible!

7 Ways Your Small Group Can Celebrate the Incarnation: #2: Celebrate Immanuel

This is Day 2 of my 7 ideas your group or class or family can use to celebrate Christmas. See #1 HERE.


This Christmas, move past the historical Jesus who was born and lived 2,000 years ago. Consider the living Christ who is still Immanuel, God with us … the One who is with us whenever we gather together in his name. As a group, discuss and prepare to celebrate the Event of events when the Creator of the universe made himself nothing and took the form of human flesh, a baby, a humble servant, a sacrifice for our sins.

Don’t reserve worship for your Christmas-eve services at the church building. Build up to that celebration by singing worshipful hymns together as a group and finding other ways to praise God for what he did by lovingly sending his only Son into the world.

What ideas do you have for worshiping Jesus as part of your Christmas celebration? Please share them in the comments! 

The Lord Is on Our Side

The Lord is on our side. 

I came across these six little words as I read Psalm 124 this morning. These words are so vital to our lives that the writer, David, asked the people to repeat them. I took some time to simply meditate on these small yet profoundly impacting words. Here are a few of my thoughts. Let’s begin by repeating these words, meditating and focusing on the words to bring additional meaning:

GOD is on my side!

God is on MY side!

God IS on my side!

When everyone else seems to be against me, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is, indeed, in my corner. I have his power on my side. He won’t leave me when the fighting gets tough. He’ll stand in front of me to protect me. But sometimes he’ll put his hand on my back and give me an encouraging shove to enter into the battle myself–with him still at my side. He never leaves or forsakes me in times of trouble.

Later in the psalm, are the words, “Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Let that sink in for a moment. The God who made everything that exists is on my side and is here—right here!—to help me. He has already helped me in the midst of my sin by dying for me and saving me. And he continues to do even more through the powerful working of his Spirit. He will do this for me and you TODAY.

Whatever you and I are dealing with today, our help will come from him. How? I don’t know yet. I bet you don’t either. I wish I did. But I need to continue keeping in step with the Spirit who is here as my help. I have to walk his way, according to his plans and purposes, not my own. I need to do things his way.

The next thing I did as I read this psalm was to talk to God about my day today, and I simply reminded myself that in every big and little thing, God is on my side and he is here to help me. I submitted myself to him and doing things his way, and I asked for his wisdom and power in the midst of the things I do today.

God is on your side! What does that mean to you today?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

More Posts about God in Your Corner

What I Learned in Brazil: Keep Trusting God
A Daddy Who Stoops Down
Lord of the Darkness: Trusting Jehovah When Suffering Comes
What Do You Do When Life Sucks?