Christianity 201

August 21, 2018

Role Models Who Live With the People They’re Leading

Several years ago we visited a blog called Biblical Diagnosis and today I decided to check back in where I discovered this excellent article. Click the title to read at source and look around the rest of the site.

Starving for Role Models

Role models.

Oh that we could use some role models. Whether we attribute it to modern-day living, or to a more sinister cause such as the fact that the Spirit of the Anti-Christ is already at work, it is hard to argue that today, we hardly know people well-enough for them to serve as role models for us, or for us to serve as such for them.

Yet, it is by this Role Model template that the Holy Spirit of God moved in spectacular fashion in the early church, converting people by the masses and keeping them on the walk of faith. Consider the following text, in a letter that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy wrote to the Church members of Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 2: 1-12 – For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

They reminded the church members of the lifestyle they themselves had when there were among them. Earlier in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, we learn that those members once converted, became followers of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. Here, we read the details of how those three gentlemen preached the word to them. Their preaching were not just words, but a combination of words and a lifestyle that aligned with those words.

How effective do you suppose is this form of preaching, where those you preach not only hear you, but can also see you in action, and acquaint themselves with the practical aspects of your preaching?

Paul says,

For you yourselves know that…

we never came with words of flattery

… we did not seek glory from people, whether from you or from others

… we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children

… we were ready to share with you our own selves

… we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you WHILE we proclaimed to you the gospel

… You are witnesses how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you

… you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God

The Thessalonians knew that all those things were true because they witnessed it. Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy lived right among them, providing the Thessalonians with the most effective demonstration and blueprint for what the Christians life looks like. This is in fact, effective preaching.

To the Corinthians, Paul says something similar

1 Corinthians 2:2,3 – …I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power

He says…“I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling”. So it must be that the Corinthians also so how Paul handled himself and exercised his faith in those moments, thereby providing them with powerful practical lessons that they could rely on. The ultimate purpose being…

1 Corinthians 2:4 – …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We have to do a better job as being present for each other, that all may see how practically we walk in the Spirit. Much preaching without concrete evidence will only go so far, for the Spirit of God is a Spirit of Actions!

Do you consider yourself a faithful Christian – not a perfect one of course – then to whom do you evidently display yourself, so they may see you, know you, and learn from you?

Are you a great preacher? Do the people you preach – at least those who live in your city – know you just as much for your preaching as for your lifestyle? Or are the people left to suppose what that lifestyle may be?

We are indeed starving for role models. But it need not stay this way.

After all, wasn’t this the commandment of Christ…

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy showed us how exactly we ought to do it. Let us follow them.

April 3, 2018

The Value of What God Has Brought You Through

Today we’re paying another visit with Melissa Turner who writes at Tin Roof Sky. Click the title below to read at source.

No wasted stories

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.” 2 Cor. 1:3-5 (MSG)

There’s an old axiom that says “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If that’s true, there are times I should be able to bench press a Buick.

One of the most important, and I think most effective, aspects to the Christian walk is sharing our experiences with others. It can be intimidating. It can be humbling. It can be downright humiliating.

It can also be life-changing – for you, and for the person you are sharing with.

Sometimes, we tell our stories from a pulpit, and sometimes we tell them from a park bench. Our pastor says God has things prepared for you, and you prepared for things. And you might not realize it yet, but everything you’ve gone through has been preparing you for the assignment that He has prepared, in advance for you!

Are you a “more experienced” parent, talking to a new mom or dad? Or have you battled the demons of addiction, made progress, and have the opportunity to give hope to someone still in the midst of the battle?

Have you had to forgive a spouse an infidelity, or are you the offending party who has had to ask forgiveness?

Have you walked through a season of spiritual dryness, or downright turning your back on God? Believe me, you aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last. Some parent needs to know that her wayward child isn’t hopeless. Some parched soul needs to know that there is a way back to the Father.

Some parts of our story are beautiful. Some, not so much. We can’t rewrite our history, but I’m here to tell you that none of it will be wasted. It might be sooner, or it might be later, but God will use what you’ve been through to help someone else. Every mile you’ve traveled matters. We have to be open to sharing with others what God has brought us through, even if it makes us look not-so-smart at the time. We’ve all made mistakes, and we can’t dwell on the past. But we can use it for God’s glory and for the benefit of others we travel alongside.

No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you can focus on using your pain to bring healing to others. You have cause to rejoice, fellow traveler. You have reason to lift your head high.

Life hasn’t killed you, and someone needs to see you bench pressing that Buick.

July 19, 2017

Sharing Life

The last time we touched base with Charlie Garret at The Superior Word blog they were in Ephesians. Going one verse at a time they are now in 1 Thessalonians. After reading about 20 different verses, we decided to simply choose one since we couldn’t choose them all! So I really encourage you to click through in order to see the insights on different verses in this passage or bookmark this when you need a commentary on a Thessalonians or one of the other epistles available.

1 Thessalonians 2:8

So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

1 Thessalonians 2:8

These words tie back to the simile of the mother nursing and caring for her children of the previous verse. The Greek word translated as “So” is even stronger in intent. It means, “Because of this,” or “Along with this.” What he says is following along in the same train of thought. In this state, and as a nursing mother to those at Thessalonica, Paul says he, and those with him, were “affectionately longing for you.”

They had come to Thessalonica and had developed such a closeness with them that there was a yearning to share in life with them. This was so much the case that, as he says, they “were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives.”

As nursing mothers, Paul and those with him not only imparted the spiritual milk of the word of life, the gospel, but they also were willing to expend themselves completely. Just as a mother would tirelessly give her all for her children, so were they also willing to do. They were prepared to exhaust themselves, or even lay down their lives, for their beloved church in Thessalonica. This was, as he continues, “because you had become dear to us.”

The bond of affection which had grown in their hearts was so close and personal that they were united as a family – parents caring for children and expending their lives for them. Paul will continue to explain this in the next verses.

Life application: When you lead someone to the Lord, do you consider it as something that is done and over with, or do you consider it as a first step in their new lives? It is good to offer your phone number or email address and to express to them that you will make the necessary time available to them to instruct them in this new life which they have received. In so doing, you will be ensuring that their life in Christ will develop properly. Try to remember to do this if you are honored enough to lead someone to acceptance of the gospel message.

Lord God, it’s a new day, and a new chance for us to go out and tell people about Your wonderful goodness. Help us to open our mouths and share the marvelous story of redemption which is found in the giving of Your Son. Help us not to be timid, but to be bold and willing to speak. Who cares if people are offended? Better offended in life than remorseful at the end of it. Grant us the fortitude to speak! Amen.

August 16, 2016

The Baptismal Formula; The Discipleship Formula

As we did last year at this time, yesterday and today we’ve been re-visiting the website GCD (Gospel-Centered Discipleship) and this time around the featured writer is Pittsburgh young adults pastor Austin Gohn. Click the title which follows to read this at source, and then spend some time looking at other articles.

In the Name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

“In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Whatever the format—swimming pool, font, bathtub, or baptistery—this simple, rhythmic phrase has “stirred the waters” (Jn. 5:4) of baptism since the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). As a second grader, I remember hearing these words at my own baptism while trying to catch one more breath. Now, as a pastor, I pronounce them over young adults as I baptize them in my church’s small and under-heated baptistery (complete with its own Bob Ross worthy Jordan River mural).

As we step into discipleship, though, we often leave this phrase (and the reality it proclaims) in the water. We attempt discipleship in the name of the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit, but not in the name of the Holy Three. We might confess the Trinity at a doctrinal level, but we forget, sideline, or ignore the Trinity at a practical level. As Eugene Peterson noted, “We know the truth and goals of the gospel. But we have haven’t taken the time to apprentice ourselves to the way of Jesus, the way he did it. And so we end up doing the right thing in the wrong way and gum up the works.”[1] Instead of living “life to the fullest” (Jn. 10:10), we end up stuck, smug, or spent somewhere in the course of discipleship.

But, what if Jesus intended baptism “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to set the tone for discipleship? Listen to the way Dallas Willard paraphrases the Great Commission:

“I have been given say over all things in heaven and in the earth. As you go, therefore, make disciples of all kinds of people, submerge them in the Trinitarian presence, and show them how to do everything I have commanded. And now look: I am with you every minute until the job is done.” (italics mine)[2]

The Trinity is not a mere entry point into discipleship but the ongoing environment for discipleship. This means that gospel-centered discipleship is only as gospel-centered as it is Trinity-centered (please read Fred Sanders on this). Perhaps, this is what St. Paul meant when he prayed for “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” to be with the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 13:14).

If we want our discipleship to bear fruit, sometimes we need to be pulled aside like Apollos and have explained to us “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24-28). We need to uncover the areas where we only lean into the name of the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, and recover discipleship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Discipleship in the Name of One or Maybe Two

When we attempt discipleship in the name of one or two persons of the Trinity, it’s like attempting to live on only food or oxygen or water (or two out of three). Sooner or later, you are going to feel the effects of forgetting to eat, drink, or breathe. It’s a life or death matter. Discipleship is no different. Without the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, disciples (and even entire communities of disciples) start to shrivel up.

Trinitarian DiscipleshipAlthough there are many angles from which we could consider this (e.g. overemphasis on one person of the Trinity), let us consider what happens when we neglect one person of the Trinity and attempt discipleship in the name of two, but not the other. If we attempt discipleship apart from the Son, we might begin to equate our progress in the faith (or lack thereof) with our status before God (Eph. 2:8-10, Gal. 2:15-16). If we attempt discipleship apart from the Father, we might attempt to live like Jesus without knowing the fundamental knowledge about the Father that made his life the logical overflow (as expressed in his Sermon on the Mount, especially Mt. 6:25-34).[3] And, if we attempt discipleship apart from the Spirit, we might burn out as we try to overcome our sinful habits through own insufficient power and discipline (Rom. 8:12-13, Gal. 5:16-25). Whether through ignorance or intention, each of these mistakes can be deadly for discipleship.

In my own life, I tend to lean into the Father and the Son but forget the Holy Spirit. Even if I believe (and teach) that transformation is not possible apart from the Holy Spirit, my own discipleship growth often centers on correct motives (the finished work of Christ) and correct knowledge of the Father.  Borrowing the language of A.W. Tozer, it’s possible that 95% of my own discipleship would go unchanged if the Holy Spirit were withdrawn. As a result, I am prone to feeling burned-out, tired, and exhausted.

Since these kinds of oversights are difficult to notice on our own, we need a community of disciples who can gently point out where we need some course correction. This is not something that can be figured out with a Trinity survey or checklist, but by careful listening to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In our church, this happens best in discipleship communities (our equivalent of missional communities). While we are eating together and talking, I’ve heard phrases like:

  • “I don’t feel like I can change.”
  • “I feel like I am letting God down.”
  • “I don’t understand why Jesus would tell us to do that.”

These phrases act like signposts that clue us into areas where we need to be reminded of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are an open door to talk about the Trinity-centered gospel.

Discipleship in the Name of All Three

The best way to get back on track is to remember that we are already locals in the neighborhood of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Discipleship is not a way into the neighborhood, but something we do as part of the community. As St. Paul made clear in Ephesians 1:3-14, our participation in the life of the Trinity is thanks to the saving work of the Trinity in the first place. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit chose, loved, predestined, redeemed, sealed, and adopted us (just for starters!). At baptism, the Trinity became our home.

With this confidence in the saving work of the Trinity, we are free to explore how discipleship in a Trinitarian shape might look. Although there are many possibilities, we can start by considering some of the implications of John 13-17 (which is arguably the best discourse we have on life with the Triune God). Here are a few implications from Jesus’ conversation with his disciples:

  • Discipleship in the name of the Father is dependent on the Father’s provision (15:16) and love for us (16:27).
  • Discipleship in the name of the Son is made possible through him (14:6), looks to him to see what the Father is like (14:9), converses with the Father through him (14:24; 16:23), and trusts him to bring about the fruit of discipleship (15:1-4).
  • Discipleship in the name of the Holy Spirit relies on the Spirit to remind us of what the Son taught (14:25-26), convict of us sin (16:8), and teach us how the truth applies in present circumstances (16:12-15).

This is just a taste of discipleship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Alongside this and other Trinity-soaked texts, read authors like St. Augustine, John Owen, Eugene Peterson, Susanna Wesley, Dallas Willard, Fred Sanders, and Wesley Hill—people who have both written about and experienced life with the Triune God. Steep in these for a few minutes and the possibilities for discipleship in a Trinitarian shape really start to open up.

It’s Missional

As a final note, doing discipleship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not just about us. It’s for the sake of everyone else. The process of discipleship is just as critical to God’s mission as the product of discipleship. In a culture that is looking for the next self-improvement strategy, discipleship in a Trinitarian shape offers people a transformative relationship.Discipleship itself is an opportunity to show the world not only different goals to pursue, but also a different way in which to pursue them—in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that’s good news.

[1] Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 300.
[2] Willard, The Great Omission, (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2006), xiii.
[3] I am thinking here of the way Jesus deals with anxiety. He doesn’t say, “I’m not anxious, so you shouldn’t be anxious.” Instead, he says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (italics mine). Anxiety is rooted in wrong ideas about the Father.

 

November 19, 2015

Teaching Bible Students the Skills Needed for Bible Living

ESV 2 Tim:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

NLT 1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Today we pay a return visit to the women’s ministry blog, ReviveOurHearts.com where we found this article by featured writer Leslie Bennett. Please click the link to read at source, and then take a few minutes to look around the website, which is also (as of this week) the new home of the True Woman blog.

3 Skills Bible Teachers Must Teach

Extensive research reveals the trend of evangelical Christian’s knowledge of Scripture is decreasing every year.

A seminary professor made this sobering statement in a course designed to prepare the next generation of Bible teachers. As an older student sitting among mostly young men and women, I already suspected it was true. I’d been teaching for over fifteen years. But upon learning this verifiable fact, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. With a trembling voice, I questioned the professor, “How can we hear this and not fall face down weeping?”

Shameless Truth-Tellers

At Revive ’15: Women Teaching Women, Jen Wilkin exhorted women’s leaders from 2 Timothy 2:15 to become shameless truth-tellers. After making the ironclad case that we’ve become a nation of Bible illiterates, she pulled the fire alarm by saying, “The modern church cannot afford for its women to be biblically illiterate. As we go into the dawn of post-Christian America, we must treasure and teach our sacred text as recent generations have not.”

Three Skills Necessary for Bible Students

Jen advocates that the methods teachers use matter in order to rightly handle the Word of God. Our methods need to cultivate a deep and enduring adoration of God. A woman who loses interest in her Bible study has not been equipped to love it as she should because the God of the Bible is too lovely to abandon for lesser pursuits. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God. This means we must ask the women whom we teach to be more than just consumers. We must ask them to be students in the true sense of the word, not passive but active, in the way they approach the Scriptures.

1. Teach your students how to think (love God with their minds).

In Scripture we’re commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Is that a verse for men only? Is it God’s intention that women love Him with their emotions and men with their intellect? No.

Often women in the church aren’t challenged to have a thinking faith. We agree we want to be changed, so what is the path of transformation? Romans 12:2 answers, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The path to the renewing of our feelings is through our thinking. Right thinking should inform right feeling. (Case in point: Jen’s deep-seated love for cheese puffs died a slow death after reading the nutrition label.)

The heart cannot love what the mind does not know. It’s a simple formula: Know God, and you will love God. We must teach women to think rightly about God, and that right thinking will beget right feeling.

2. Teach your students how to learn.

Don’t just give students good information; give them good tools. Teachers must push them to seek firsthand knowledge of Scripture. The reason is that the false teacher and secular humanist rely on us not knowing what the Bible says. But so often women have adopted a way of thinking that resembles the telephone game. Women read a book about the Bible without reading the Bible. Instead of being able to quote the Word, we spout off what someone else said about what someone else said about the Scriptures.

God help us if we become content to be curators of other people’s opinions about a book that we cannot be troubled to read. Use those books as a supplement to—but not a substitute for—spending time in the Word of God firsthand. You are commanded to love God with your mind, not the mind of Nancy Leigh DeMoss or John Piper.

3. Teach your students how to work.

Let’s change the paradigm in the church that just showing up for Bible study is sufficient. Disciples are called to be disciplined. Do you see how the two words are so closely related? If you happen to be good at playing an instrument, you became that way through practice.

First attempts at anything worth learning are hard! It’s tempting to quit, but students must be trained to learn a skill by doing it. We must make students do the work. Try not to do anything for them that they can do for themselves. Set a clear expectation that sanctification is hard, but that as the teacher, you’ll be doing the same hard work as the students.

In 1 Peter 2, the apostle says we should crave the pure milk of the Word. Just as breastfeeding is a natural and necessary thing, it isn’t something we automatically know how to do well. Give students permission to fail at first, speculate sober-mindedly, wonder, and wait for answers to come. Women must get over the desire to have “the right answer.” The job of the student is not to please the teacher but to expand her thinking to love God with her mind.

Teachers, you don’t have to convince someone to work hard at something they love.

Our job is to help them love Bible study.

 

August 21, 2015

For Those Who Serve, Preach, Teach…

This post was in our draft file for nearly two years and I discovered it last night. The link is to a blog called Justified and Sinner, which redirects to A Simple Christian. The author is not named. This will resonate with those of you have devoted time to helping people in their spiritual growth.

Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting…

 1  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and because he is coming to rule as King, I solemnly urge you 2  to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it (whether the time is right or not), to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience. 3  The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. 4  They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends. 5  But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (TEV)

\573         Please don’t abandon the task, don’t deviate from the way, even though you have to live with people who are full of prejudices: as if you thought the basis of arguments or the meaning of words were fixed by their behavior or by their assertions. Do try to get them to understand you… but if you don’t manage it, carry on anyway. (1)

There is a point in ministry that occurs when you realizing you are bashing your head against the wall.

An example – someone comes to you looking for spiritual guidance, and you offer it, and they go – thanks, and then going back to the same behavior that caused them to come to you in the first place.

Or someone who asks you to help them understand a Bible passage, you take the time to work it through with them, and then watch them return to the confusion, only to ask the same question in a similar manner a few weeks down the road.

It has been said that insanity can be defined by doing the same thing repeatedly, but hoping for a different outcome.   In this case, many pastors, priests, teachers, counselors are not just simply insane, but completely insane.

There see to be two options to this insanity, first – keep doing the work in the same way, but give up caring about the results, or second, change things regularly, looking for the precise combination that will work in your community, in your parish, in your classroom.  Sometimes we even bounce between the two, depending on who we last heard that appears to be successful, that appears to at least give an answer to our dilemma.

This glass half full/half open pendulum, and the second guessing and thinking that our “return on investment” must result in a immediate result that is satisfactory dominates our churches.  We are blown about by winds of, not of doctrine, but of some definitions and measurements of “faithfulness” and “success.”.  We are hurt because we get into these fields because we desire to change the world, and would like to at least change some lives.  We know the answer is Jesus, (as does every pre-schooler !) we know where people will find the answers, we are trained to give them both clearly and in a way that should appeal to people.

And then we wonder if they will ever hear us…

And eventually we wonder if we are insane (in the sense above) or we act on the lack of success and desperately try new ways.  Even to the point where we don’t give them time to see if they will work.

The nearly identical advice is seen above, (I saw St. Josemaria’s first – my Bible devotional reading was somewhere else).  Our endurance in the midst of our preaching, teaching, counseling is not based on their changed lives.  It’s not about “faithfully” doing it by dialing it in either.  It is about realizing our role is to give the message, Because Jesus is coming back, and that is news that is incredible to anyone who trusts in Him, and if they don’t hear it, they won’t be able to trust in it.

Days preaching and teaching and counseling aren’t supposed to be easy, they often demand great sacrifice, it often requires us to carry on, to keep looking at Christ and realizing the treasure that they need.  Ministry and teaching and counseling isn’t about our strength, its about the glory of God in which we work, sustaining us, encouraging, helping us endure, and driving us when needed.  We are going to have to suffer in this role.  Not just because of persecution, but because of those who do not hear the message, who we weep for, even as Christ wept over Jerusalem.  We need to realize that this struggle is okay.

That’s the example we have in Christ, and in our Father in Heaven.  They have kept calling us, hounding us even though the results haven’t been all that spectacularly different.  We still sin, we still forget about God, we still struggle, then repent, then worship.  And still God loves and calls, and forgives and comforts and is here with us.  He doesn’t change… He never will… although the results can’t be seen by us yet, He knows them, and dances with joy as He realizes those who trust in Him, who treasure His love.

In Him, we find the strength and the patience to avoid the insanity of reacting to what the world thinks is insane.  So let us keep our eyes on Him, He who begins faith and completes it is us, and in those who hear our message.


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2448-2452). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

January 16, 2014

The Vision God Births in You

Today I want to juxtapose two verses of scripture and apply them to a context that may seem unusual.

Over the last couple of days I have been thinking about the earliest days of what we call Contemporary Christian Music. While I am grateful for the theological heritage I gained from learning the hymns, I am also grateful for the Christian musicians who pioneered a whole new genre, and endured the thunder and lightning storms that take place when Christianity meets culture. I am grateful also to be able to bring friends and acquaintances to church knowing they won’t suffer an immediate disconnect because of the use of 17th and 18th century musical styles. I am especially thankful for the artists who re-write the hymns with modern chords and those who are part of the modern hymns genre who give us fresh lyrics within familiar structures.

It’s easy to look back at the early days of CCM and say, “Well, it began in California at Calvary Chapel;” or “It began with Larry Norman;” or any other source we might wish to name.  On closer examination however, you discover that God was working in the hearts of young people across the U.S., Canada, England and beyond. There are literally dozens of examples of recordings that pre-date the usual suspects.

The first verse that popped into my head was I Kings 19:18. This is the passage where Elijah waits for God, expecting him to be found in the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but God speaks to him in a whisper. Then Elijah speaks to God and laments that he is all alone.

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

But God tells him that he is not alone in ministry.

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Paul quotes this passage in Romans 11: 1-4.

Elijah felt he was operating in a vacuum. The comparison to those early music pioneers — or anyone who sets out to do a new a thing — is apt. The musicians were counter cultural on two levels: They were proclaiming Jesus in a medium not accustomed to hearing about him, in places where drug use and free love were normative.  But they were also going against the musical styles and preferences of the established church. They were getting flak from both directions.

But then, almost immediately another rather disparate verse struck me.

In John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter and then Jesus gives Peter a brief glimpse into his future. But Peter suddenly is interested in knowing John’s future.

20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” 23 So the rumor spread among the community of believersthat this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

The connection to me is one of personal accountability for vision. If you join these verses together it’s saying, you need to pursue the vision God gives you and not be looking around at anyone else. You need to follow God’s leading even if you’re the only one. You need to consider the possibility that you’re not the only one; that God is doing something and stirring people in locations you can’t see from your current vantage point.

Elijah was told that God was working even when Elijah couldn’t see it.
Peter was told that God had a future for Peter that wasn’t inter-dependent on others.

I don’t usually use illustrations here, or borrow material that starts with illustrations, and I know some of you prefer traditional church music and are not so fond of today’s worship choruses; but I believe that right now, God is birthing dreams and visions in the hearts of a new generation. Some of them will feel they’re going it alone, and if that’s the case, and you see the Spirit of God working in their lives, come alongside them to give encouragement. Let them know that their future is unique to their particular gifts and calling.

January 10, 2014

Eight Principles for Making Disciples

Matthew 28 19 Great Commission Make Disciples

Paul Kroeker is the director of Global Disciples Canada. This article is one in a series that links back and forth between the Global Disciples blog and Christian Week, an online Canadian news magazine. Not all the links were functional on the day this was posted, but the two above should work.

“Have you ever been discipled?” I asked. “I don’t think so,” was his reply. “I grew up in the church, but I don’t remember being discipled in any intentional way.”

My friend’s experience is far too common. Many people who have been raised in a Christian context can point to various programs which were significant to their Christian growth, such as Sunday school, youth group or summer camp. But were they discipled?

Many churches have strong programming, but if you ask about “discipleship,” it may not be on the agenda. Somehow we think discipleship will be accomplished through the collective activity of the Church. In other words, discipleship may be assumed, but does it happen?

I have been reading the gospels with the following question in mind: “How can we learn to make disciples in the way of Jesus?” Here are some of my observations:

Jesus began His ministry after being called, affirmed and anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism. Discipling others needs to come from a deep place of intimacy with the Father.

Prayer is central to making disciples. Persistent prayer for those who do not know the love of Jesus will “rekindle your first love” and moves you to become an active disciple-maker.

Disciples need an invitation. Jesus calls them by name. Later, He explains that each one was “given to him” by the Father (John 17:8ff). It may sound random as He walks down the beach and says, “Come, follow me,” but Jesus knew that each one had been “chosen.”

True disciples responded to the call. They were willing. Some left their nets, others their office. Following Jesus was full-time. There is no such thing as a “part-time disciple.”

Teachable moments happened anywhere: sitting at a banquet, finding a man in a tree, having an argument about being first in line, seeing a herd of pigs rush into the sea, or responding to the needs of people they met. How do you write a curriculum for that?

Disciples were introduced to the power and the presence of the Kingdom of God. It is an invisible Kingdom (for now), but as disciples of Jesus, they saw evidence daily. Evil strongholds were torn down and people were set free.

Discipleship is not a spectator sport. Disciples do stuff. What they saw the Master do, they did. When at the end of His ministry Jesus said, “Go make disciples,” His final words echoed the pattern they had seen throughout their time with Jesus. Learning always led to serving.

Disciples become like their master. Being with Jesus taught them to live like Jesus, love like Jesus and to serve like Jesus. People would refer to them as “little Christs.” Pretty strong evidence that they had been with Jesus.

Is your church doing discipleship? Does this really happen today? Recently I met two young men, Dylan and Matt. They are working with First Nations young adults, learning to make disciples in the way of Jesus. Listen to Dylan’s spoken word piece called “Walk With Me.”

“…you walked with me.
You showed me first hand, what it meant to be free
So I opened my heart and I gave you the key
And for the first time I could finally see
Why someone like Jesus would actually die for me.
You brought your Bible to life, it wasn’t just talk
You see the word “love,” it’s a verb, and so is the word “walk”
So I thank you for putting your love into action,
Because your love is what caused my internal reaction
No, my “eternal reaction”
This crazy attraction…
I finally know what it’s like to be free
Because you took the time to walk with me.”

June 16, 2012

Church Life: What Matters Most

Eric Geiger writes one of the many blogs aimed more specifically at pastors, but in this post from May 17, his message is one needed to be kept front and center for all of us. Click the title below to read at source.

The Bottom-Line of Church Ministry

The reason Jesus left His disciples on the planet was to make other disciples. The fundamental reason your church exists is to make disciples of Jesus. To the church at Colossae, the apostle Paul wrote a defining statement about his ministry to the church.

“I have become its (the church’s) servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.” (Colossians 1:25-29)

The apostle Paul labored with the energy of Christ to present everyone mature and transformed in Christ. Because Paul was convinced that transformation only comes through Christ, he labored to make disciples of Jesus and not of himself.

For a church to be deficient in discipleship is to be deficient in the church’s fundamental reason for existence. If any organization is shoddy in its core reason for existence, it matters nothing if the organization excels at other things. If Apple is deficient in designing computers, it matters nothing if they excel in outfitting and decorating their stores. If Starbucks is deficient in coffee, mastering the art of creating loyal employees means nothing. To be deficient in your core reason for existence is always unacceptable.

We have learned to do many things as church leaders. We build buildings. We design programs. We challenge donors. We staff our churches. We put on events. We rally people around new initiatives. And as our churches grow, we become increasingly proficient in a myriad of other things from branding to facility management. But are we making disciples? Have we become proficient in many things while simultaneously becoming deficient in the one thing that matters most?

When the apostle Paul felt compelled to defend his ministry, he didn’t point to his savvy leadership, the size of his team, the creativity or innovation in his ministry, his speaking ability, or the number of mission trips he was leading. He simply pointed to the transformation in people’s lives.

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone. It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God–not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Paul essentially says, “I don’t need a resume that outlines my effectiveness as a disciple-maker. Look at the transformed lives, because those lives are the resume. But please understand, I didn’t write the resume. Christ did. And when He wrote it, He wrote it on the hearts of people.” Transformation is the bottom-line end result of true discipleship.

~Eric Geiger

image source

April 16, 2011

Reproducible Ministry

Today’s post is from The Leadership Institute’s Alan Fadling.  It appeared on his blog Notes from My Unhurried Journey under the title, Discipleship – Reproducing Life and Ministry.

I recently heard again the saying:

“Give someone a fish and they eat for a day,
Teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime.

What kind of a ministry do I provide. Am I making people dependent on me for their daily bread, or am I teaching men and women to listen to God for themselves in ways they will be able to continue over their lifetimes? This is the difference between producing and reproducing ministry.

One way I’m learning to reproduce ministry in others is to invite them into the processes I use to planning an event or gathering. I need to have thought deeply about the rationale and reason for what I do.

One key to reproducible ministry is profound simplicity in what I teach, counsel, and plan. I’m not talking about being simplistic. I’m talking about what Thomas Kelly called “the simplicity that lies beyond complexity.” He says that “the last fruit of holy obedience is the simplicity of the trusting child, the simplicity of the children of God. It is the simplicity that lies beyond complexity. It is the naïveté that is the yonder side of sophistication. It is the beginning of spiritual maturity, which comes after the awkward age of religious busyness for the Kingdom of God–yet how many are caught, and arrested in development, within this adolescent development of the soul’s growth! The mark of this simplified life is radiant joy.”[1]

When we are simplistic and reductionist, we don’t inspire many to reproduce what we are doing. Being profoundly simple inspires people to try their own hand at ministry. Profound simplicity inspires people to believe, “Hey, I could do that!”

Ministry is reproducible when it flows with integrity out of my own life. Instead of thinking of ministry merely something I prepare to do, I am learning that ministry is rooted in who I am becoming and how I am relating with others. I reproduce ministry when instead of only sharing the finished product of my preparation process, I share the process. I can prepare a Bible study and then creatively walk students through the basic process that I went through (on a smaller time scale), rather than just giving them the fruit of my study. Reproducible Bible study would be discovery-oriented, not just delivery-oriented.

Reproducible events or gatherings would involve not just planning them behind closed doors and then delivering the finished product. It would involve doing some groundwork, then walking through the process together with a few who are willing, even hungry to learn.

Reproducible ministry will appeal to external motivation, but seeks to influence through modeling, inspiring and other increasingly internal motivations.

Reproducible ministry is more cooking school then chef, more cultivating learners than just teaching, more developing leaders than just personally leading. This is a paradigm shift. It always feels faster to do it myself than to teach another to do it, whatever it is.

Reproducible ministry requires a healthy sense of self-esteem and confidence in God. If my leadership is the means by which I try to establish my value and importance, I won’t be willing to share that role with others. I won’t want to share my “trade secrets.” I may resist reproducing ministry out of fear that someone else might do it better than me!

Father, help me learn to be one who reproduces ministry in the lives of those around me, even as I learn to receive from You a reproduction of Your own ministry in my life. Reproducible ministry is “Christ in me.”

~Alan Fadling


[1]Thomas Kelly. A Testament of Devotion. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941, p. 36-37.

August 23, 2010

Pete Wilson on Small Group Ministry

“We’ve always said we would never judge success at Cross Point by how many people we lined up in rows, but by how many people we could circle up in homes…”

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