Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Practice Grace In Saying NO!

"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."
Titus 3:10-11

At best most of us will live on this earth for 75-80 years, which may sound like a lot, but the reality being that it is just a short glimpse in time. Due to that fact alone we must practice the grace of saying NO at times, especially to people.

People are the mission and you should give people time and a hearing on certain issues, but people also waste the one resource that you cannot gain more of, your time. And the truth is that the enemy likes to use divisive people, often believers, to get you distracted from the mission that you have been called to.

I have seen many pastors waste precious time on people who constantly stir up division within the church. A early warning here of those people, it is often the ones that skip from church to church, stirring up division all along. Use the gift of discernment and stay away from those people.

And it is not only pastors, but people in all types of ministry roles that often get distracted by these people as the enemy uses them. Instead of focusing on the true needs at hand we get focused on this individual that is being purely used by the enemy at that moment. 

I feel like I learned this lesson in many ways the hard way as I naively didn't expect to experience this by serving in an overseas role as I came in with the mentality of being on the "same team." But I quickly learned and should have realized that the enemy does not like what we are doing over here by punching holes in darkness for King Jesus so of course he is going to use people to get division started.

So my point is practice grace in saying No. This means don't hangout with them, ignore their facebook invites, etc. Practice what Titus 3 tells us in have nothing more to do with them because the reality is that you have more important things, Kingdom work, to be doing and they are being a warped and sinful person.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Activity Book

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Summer time is officially here regardless of what the calendar says. That means that over the next couple of months family schedule's will be a bit different with a lot of activity and travelling. The Village Church in Texas has put out a great Summer Family Activity Book to help you and yours make the best use of your summer filled activities with the above charge from Deuteronomy in mind. 

This is a great free resource that my family has already taken some great ideas. We look forward to planning some of these activities from the book this summer where we will have fun, but also take the opportunity to help our son see the things of the Lord.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How The Gospel Affects Parenting

Being a father of a now one year old, I decided that it was time to finally break out some parenting books to get some helpful tips on figuring out what in the heck I am doing. Three books have been most highly recommend to me so my wife and I have purchased all three and finished reading the first one this week, which is Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting, by William P. Farley. In his book, Farley suggest seven ways in which the gospel affects parenting.

    1. The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God.

   2. The gospel motivates parents to lead by example.

  3. The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders.

 4. The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children.

 5. The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.

 6. The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection.

 7. The gospel is the solution for inadequate parents.

The other two highly recommend books are:

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp and Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Also another helpful free e-book specifically for fathers is Pastor Dad by Mark Driscoll. I am obviously very new at parenting, but these have been the most recommend books given to me, any others out there that I should be aware of?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seeing Through Different Lenses

Let me start off by saying that as followers of Christ I believe we need to see and examine everything through the lenses of Scripture. But I think that in order to reach the people in each of the context that we are called to that it would not hurt if we would walk a mile in someone else's lenses. Not in order to embrace their particular point of view or lifestyle but in order to minister to them appropriately.

It is very easy to stay bunkered down in our own camps of belief and shout from the tops of hills at people that are different from us, often trapped in sin, but it takes a more mature and truly missional Christian to practice passion on people. This has been called by some the incarnation of the heart.

Incarnation of the heart causes one to have a certain level of intimacy with those they are trying to reach. This allows one to truly love others as themselves as God commands us to do. I think about the recent vote of Amendment One and how from afar I read so many hateful things that people were saying to and about each other. I think those in my own circle responded well and biblically, but not everyone in the church did such. 

Regardless of where you were on that vote, think for a minute if you could incarnate your heart to the people on the opposing side of you. This would require you to feel their stories, their lives, and their pain. In order to truly reach a people or sect within our society we have to be able to feel the pain of what they are going through, especially those in the GLBT community, which the church historically has not responded or ministered to in a loving way.

I want to encourage you to look around your church this weekend and see the makeup of the people. And then make a list of the groups of society and the demographics that your church has struggled in reaching. Now take the time over the coming weeks to get to know some of the people in that demographic by befriending them and try putting on their lenses for just a mile in order to see what it is they see, how they see you and the church, and to learn how it is that you can practice incarnation of the heart in order to reach them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dependent vs. Co-Dependent Disciples

In the church we hear and talk a lot about making disciples, but the reality is that often what is happening is we are creating a group of dependent consumers. I heard an analogy to capture this idea this week when referring to a child growing up. For example my now one year old depends on me and his mom in order to get fed daily. And a large part of his nutrients comes from his mothers breast. This is perfectly normal as this is the pattern for any one year old as they cannot feed themselves, at least if food is not placed in front of them.

But my son as he gets older and matures will learn to feed himself and eventually others. Now, what would look funny and get at least mother and possibly son committed to a psyche ward  would be if my son were still breast feeding at twenty years old. 

But the truth is that many of our churches are treating discipleship exactly in this way. Instead of producing self-feeders we are creating dependent consumers. This is perhaps no clearer than with the idea of the paid professional Christians and the non-paid amateur Christians. The distinctions themselves naturally exist as one is getting paid and the other is not, but it has also created the idea of different classes of Christians, which ultimately has hurt the church and its mission.

Instead our churches need to re-think the "priesthood of all believers," and start taking it seriously. As Alan Hirsch says, "Every person that is a follow of Christ is a minister and needs to be released as such, seriously." Perhaps instead of a person being converted and sticking them in a Sunday school class or a church program or new members class we need to immediately commission them into full-time ministry.

In my now context of S. Asia we are training and equipping church planters to think in this way. We teach them that the only requirement for one to get out and share their faith is to actually have faith. And recently a guy captured the idea of the priesthood of all believers beautifully when we were studying baptism as he looked at the group and said, "Every believer a baptizer." This guy and group were starting to get it as most of the traditional churches here only allow degree holding, ordained ministers to baptize.

The truth is that if we want to see our cities changed with the gospel that we need every disciple to be a self-feeder that is also feeding others. Every disciple is created to be a minister, but that idea must be communicated from the pulpit in our churches in order to get that idea across. There will never be enough paid ministers out there to reach your city, but if every disciple is embracing their role as a minister then quickly a movement can take place in which a place is changed by the gospel being lived out in front of them.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself

This week I finished reading, Note To Self: The Discipline Of Preaching To Yourself, by Joe Thorn. Thorn wrote the book to help others develop a theological understanding and real-life practice of the discipline of preaching to ourselves.

This book is a short read that is made up of three parts: the gospel and God, the gospel and others, and the gospel and you. The three parts consist of 48 chapters that read like letters to your self, each starting with a truth from Scripture and then proceeding with "Dear Self." 

This is a book that I highly recommend to anyone who is a follower of Christ as preaching the gospel to yourself is a discipline that we all need to practice more, which is exactly what "Note to Self," helps one do. There were parts of this short book that caused me to be convicted in areas that I did not even realize I needed to practice repentance and apply the gospel in my life.

Here is a few of the noteworthy quotes just to give you a small taste:

It is only when our thoughts are challenged and conformed to the principles of God's Word and our hearts are energized to make choices consistent with God's revealed will that a human being is transformed. (12)

In others words, for the Bible to be of value to us it must actually function to shape how we think, feel, and act, as well as what we believe, value, and teach. (12)

Many who value the preaching of Scripture by pastors and teachers are not benefiting from the kind of preaching that should be most consisten and personal-preaching to ourselves. (22)

Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness. (23)

At its core, the gospel if Jesus as the substitue for sinners. (29)

When we get to the business of preaching this good news to ourselves, we are essentially denying self and resting in the grace of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. (30)

Therefore preaching to ourselves puts us into a cycle of law and gospel where we move from our guilt and need to God's grace and provision and then back to the law as joyful and free obedience. (31)

To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. (32)

You must learn, relearn, and remember your Savior's love and sacrifice for the wicked, the rebellious, the black-hearted-for the people like you. And when you see the Holy One's sacrificial love for you, you not only see what love looks life, but also you find strength and power to love like him. (35)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creating a Monument for a Mountain Top Experience

And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"-not knowing what he said.
Luke 9:33

This verse comes in the middle of the passage in Luke on the transfiguration of Christ, which provides a glimpse into the future of the glory of Christ. A glimpse into the future here is key because as Peter indicated he wanted to stay in the moment as we all would, but Luke indicates that this is a mistake. 

What Peter was trying to do is create a monument for his mountain top experience. A monument where he could stay and bask in what was taking place through the glory of Christ. Although the passage indicates that it is a mistake, I believe that we all would make the same mistake and often do make that mistake.

Take for example any true revival where the Spirit of God has fallen on a place. What usually happens? We try to stay there and take it further then what even God intended for it. We like to get stuck there by creating a monument when often the Spirit of God may have moved onto other places.

An extreme example of this is often seen in what I will call "Charismatic Movements." And before you accuse me of anything, recognize that I do fall into the Reformed Charismatic camp. I think of the Toronto Blessing that started in 1994 and had many good things come out of it, but what eventually happened is an extreme version of what the people were seeking themselves void of the Holy Spirit. Some such as Hank Hanegraaff even believe that the revival has gone on to do more damage than good.

I will let God be the ultimate judge of that, but I do recognize that these people were trying to do just as Peter and creating a monument for their mountain top experience. But the truth is that we are meant to stay in those mountain top experiences, not yet anyway. 

Part of the reason that we are not meant to stay in these experiences is that this is not the reality of the Christian life here on earth. The reality is that we face hardship and as this same chapter earlier in Luke refers to us taking up our cross and following Jesus. Taking up your cross does not leave you on a mountain top experience very long.

It is not that there is anything wrong with a mountain top experience, but what often happens when the experience is over is that we either attempt to create a monument where God no longer is in it or we dry up in our faith because we based it on the experience itself instead of the person and work of Jesus. The true and better mountain top experience is the Gospel, your salvation through Jesus Christ, and this of all places is where your monument should be.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Free Download - Church Clothes via Lecrae

Okay I admit it...I have always been a little of an in the closet fan of different rap/hip-hop artist, but honestly most out there have lyrics that are so distasteful that it has been difficult to official endorse any particular artist. There is finally not only an artist, but a group of them that I feel like have both creative and good quality music in the 116 Clique.

In particular I have become a huge fan of the artist Lecrae. This week his new album, "Church Clothes," dropped and it is currently a free download. I have enjoyed listening to this album all week so thought it was worth sharing for others to receive their free download of the album by clicking here: Church Clothes.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Church and Amendment One

Living outside of America for the first big controversy within society and the church has been very interesting to watch. It is as if I am truly watching from the outside looking in. I must say regardless of where you stand on Amendment One, the church has bigger issues and problems within itself. I have witnessed so much name calling and fighting with fellow brothers that it is no wonder that those outside the church want nothing to do with us and accuse us of being the most intolerable people out there. 

If you read my blog often enough you know that I have opinions and I fully believe that we should stand where our convictions are based on Scripture, but I also believe that we should have grace with one another and act in love. I wanted to share with you thoughts from my pastor, J.D. Greear, from the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC now that amendment one has passed.

Here are thoughts from J.D. and you can find his full post here
Our job now that the amendment has passed is to work to make sure the deleterious effects alleged by amendment opponents do not actually happen. Bad and harmful laws are always a possibility, and were so (as some of the articles I pointed to noted) before the passage of this amendment. The elders of our church and I were convinced that the Court’s record on extending protections and benefits in other states is much better than its record of honoring marriage laws not protected by a Constitution, and so for that reason, this seemed a worthy, and necessary step. (Historically, I think that is hard to dispute–though, we continue to believe the merits of this particular amendment are something godly people can disagree over and need not to be a cause for division in the church.)
But now we are to fight to preserve justice, equality, and freedom for all. We are to lead in being good neighbors to all in our community, especially our gay community.  They are made in the image of God like we are, and ought to be loved as such. They deserve equal rights and protections. They do not deserve to be ostracized. Any time we find ourselves in a position of strength, we must use it to serve the weak, not prosper ourselves. This is what Christ did for us when He had strength. Thus, when someone is being mistreated or bullied, we must be the first ones to come to their defense. The absolute first. The gay members of our society are welcome here and we are committed to being good neighbors to them.
Those who say that governments should not use any biblical or “natural law” reasoning in establishing societal codes overlook that God has established multiple “spheres of authority” on the earth (E.g. Romans 13; Genesis 9; et al). The concept of human government was established by God and serves a purpose, even though those purposes are very different than those given to the church. The church is God’s primary institution and to whom He gave “special,” detailed revelation, i.e. the Bible, and the conduit through which He is conducting His mission on earth (though an argument could be made ‘the home’ is itself the primary ‘creation’ institution). Governments are never to take upon themselves the roles of the church, or visa versa. When either foray into the realm of the other, disaster is the result. Thus, the government never should force worship or particularly Christian (or any other) viewpoints on society. From the founding of our Country, however, our leaders have recognized that they need to take their cues for setting up society from the Created Order. This, they saw, was the foundation of freedom. The church can (and must) be a light to them in this.
Adopting God’s designs in laws and marriage does not equal an enthronement of the Bible as the rulebook for the state. No one, including us, perhaps especially us, wants that. But laws have to have a basis, and our Constitution is built upon a Judeo-Christian one. That has built the healthiest, freest people ever to walk the face of the earth. It’s not perfect, and we have a lot of work still to do to make it just and free for everyone, but we are grateful for it. Much of it we take for granted. Sometimes you don’t realize how much until you get outside of it and see what it’s like when that viewpoint is absent.
Also, please be clear: we don’t worship our state. The US government is not our hope. The United States is not our eternal kingdom, and not, contrary to both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, our “shining city on a hill.” Jesus is. Jesus’ glory is in the church. His eternal institution is the church. Seeing the presence of Jesus manifest in the church is thus the primary focus of our mission and efforts. Our goal is not to “change the world” or “restore America.” We are to call out a people to repent toward God and worship Jesus Christ. We are to build the church.
That is our real mission, and we need to get to it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Missed Opportunities

Have you ever taken a moment to stop and think about all of the missed opportunities that you have had? We all have them, but here, I am specifically referring to missed opportunities to share the gospel with someone in need, which is most everyone.

Living in a context that is considered one of the least reached areas of the world, I sometimes feel like I miss opportunities if I am not sharing the gospel at every moment of everyday or at least with every person I come in contact with. But the truth is that I know that is impossible, but there are times that an opportunity is clearly in front of me.

Just this past weekend I had an installation guy over at my house installing my son's wardrobe. As this man finished up his work and came to settle up with me I was busy preparing for a church planters training. I noticed this man walked downstairs, but my thought was, "I am busy preparing for ministry here, can't this guy wait just a minute."

I finally finished up what I was doing, turned around and settled up the bill, and then let the man out as I started back to my preparations. Very soon after he left, it hit me that I had been so busy with "ministry," that I missed a clear opportunity right in front of me to share the very message that I am equipping and encouraging other guys to share.

This is what I call a clearly missed opportunity, especially since I live in a culture that loves to talk about their gods and where nobody ever says no to a cup of tea, which opens up the conversation. We all have missed opportunities to share the gospel with people, but perhaps if we would be more keen to what is going on around us we would take advantage of more of these opportunities.

Did you have any missed opportunities this past week? I am sure that if you stop to think about it you do, but it is a new week with new opportunities so let this weeks outcome be a little different than last week by taking every opportunity to share!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Incarnational Mission via Alan Hirsch

"If God is a missionary God then we must become a missionary people."

"If the way that God engages the world is through incarnation, then we must become incarnational people."

For more of Alan Hirsch you can purchase almost all of his books half off this month through Amazon Kindle..

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Conviction ≠ Obedience

In reading through T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution this week, I came across this statement: "conviction does not equal obedience." The more I re-read that statement I am positive that I knew and understood that before, but I think as teachers of Scripture and truth that we often take that for granted.

For example you finish teaching or preaching somewhere and many people come up and tell you how convicting your teaching was. If you are like me you naturally feel good that through your preaching the Holy Spirit pointed out some things in their life that called for conviction. But many of you are probably also like me in that you move on under the assumption that they will respond to their conviction.

The truth is that many if not most people that become convicted by something do not immediately respond with obedience. This may easily be one of the core aspects that is wrong with our churches today as people feel convicted, but through our discipleship or lack thereof we have never taught them obedience.

We must disciple our people in such a way that as they feel conviction come upon them we help them to immediately walk in obedience. Because we all know that if you give it long enough then conviction will wear off and sometimes rather quickly.

Although this post is not about small groups this is a great place to put a plug in for the importance of small groups. I imagine that most preachers and teachers hear on a weekly basis from those who are convicted by something that was taught or proclaimed, but the truth is that in most cases you do not know that person that well to begin with. If you have an individual that is involved with a small group who also comes under the same the conviction then obedience is much more likely as you can direct that person to share this conviction with their group as a way of confession and repentance and seek their help in walking in obedience.

So the next time that someone tells you that what you proclaimed was convicting to them, stop and ask them how they are going to respond in obedience immediately.