Friday, January 12, 2018

Evangelism/Discipleship

Sometimes I wonder why we in the church see so many "twin truths" or concepts in scripture as an either/or rather than a both/and. We seem to like to make dichotomies about things. When we do, we almost invariably divide ourselves into two camps as if we are on opposite sides and almost demonize one another for no reason.

One such area of the church is the evangelism/discipleship discussion. It seems that the church would be better served and our unity be better held together about the mission of the church if we saw these as two sides of the same coin or like a yin-yang symbol.

Sure, they may be distinct in their individual definitions, but that doesn't mean we have to turn this into an either/or discussion and debate. There really is a flow between these two, isn't there?

That's probably why I appreciate the designation of "disciple-making" to describe the whole shooting match, so to speak. I was listening to an older video by David Platt the other day, and he reminded me about the arch in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus begins in Matthew 4 with the call, "follow me and I will make you fishers of men". Then, Jesus closes his earthly ministry in Matthew 28 with the command, "go and make disciples of all nations". Recognizing this arch in the gospel of Matthew, I believe, helps us keep the evangelism/discipleship purpose of the church as a both/and rather than an either/or concept.

Disciple-making includes relationship building with the unsaved (which seems to be so very important today) so we can love people & share the gospel (evangelize) with them. Then, as the Lord saves them, we are able to equip, train, "disciple" them so they can in turn, do the same thing -- reproduce. That's why The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman is a great tool to help one synthesize the pattern of disciple-making (evangelism/discipleship) that Jesus set for us.

Just a few thoughts rolling around...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What is your soul-appetite?

Whatever one eats reveals the internal appetite of his/her stomach. It reveals what the person was thinking about in terms of food, what the person was desiring to satisfy their hunger cravings.

It seems that the same could be said of the soul -- the immaterial part of humanity where the will, mind, and emotions reside. Whatever one feeds into his/her soul reveals the desires of one's mind and heart. Then, it begins a cycle -- the more we feed it that "thing", usually the "more" we desire that "thing".

And, certainly, there is an internal battle going on for the Christian. We've been "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". We've been "quickened" by the Spirit of God from being "spiritually dead". And, yet there is still a "tendency" for our souls to crave the "passions of our former ignorance", that is our life without God and apart from God's supernatural intervention. God, in his great work, gives us a "new heart" with God-directed desires and impulses through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Yet again, there is a battle for the feeding of our soul -- that which is "soul-nourishing" vs. "soul-desensitizing" and ultimately "soul-destroying".

Think about the chemical reactions in the brain when we eat sugar -- think Krispy Kreme donuts. Yeah, when the "hot donuts now" sign is lit. When you eat just one...there is a chemical reaction in your brain that says, "give me more, give me more!" If you keep eating the donuts, what happens...you have to eat more to get your "sugar fix" -- it's the exact same thing for a drug addict...same part of the brain, same chemical reaction. Continuing to eat "sugar" foods in this manner will begin to destroy one's appetite for things that are healthy and good for one's physical body.

If we feed our souls "spiritual junk food", our soul will begin to "crave" more and more of that "spiritual junk food" -- like a sugar craving in the brain. We might still "live", but we are desensitizing and destroying our soul and it's desire for the spiritual food that our soul truly needs -- the food of God's Word.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Stable Faith

I was listening to John MacArthur preach the other day. He was preaching on spiritual stability and the elements of a spiritually stable Christian. In part 5 of his series, he preaching on "Godly Thinking". Here is something he said that hit home:

"Bill Hull, in a book entitled Right Thinking written in 1985, writes, “What scares me is the anti-intellectual, anti-critical thinking philosophy that has spilled over into the church.  This philosophy tends to romanticize the faith, making the local church into an experience center.  Their concept of church is that they are spiritual consumers and that the church’s job is to meet their felt needs,” end quote.  And what is happening in the church is that people are going to church not to think, not to reason about the truth, not like the noble Bereans to search the Scriptures to see what is true, but they’re going there to get a weekly spiritual fix, a weekly spiritual high, so they can feel that God is still with them.  They are spiritually unstable because they live on feeling rather than on thinking. 

The Christian must not be a victim of his feelings.  He must not get caught in a pragmatic trap of does-it-work/is-it-successful.  John Stott has written in his helpful little book, Your Mind Matters, this:  “Indeed, sin has more dangerous effects on our faculty of feeling than on our faculty of thinking because our opinions are more easily checked and regulated by revealed truth than are experiences,” end quote.  Very wise statement."

A stable faith can be attained as our minds are renewed in the truth (Romans 12:1-2) of God's Word. It's not that "feelings" are unimportant, but they are so fickle and unstable that we must not let them drive the care of our lives.

Just something to think about...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Spiritual Warfare: Behind the Scenes

I was listening to Alistair Begg this afternoon, and he was talking about spiritual warfare. He was cautioning his listeners about sensationalizing demonic activity and such. And, it got me to thinking about the forces of darkness and evil that are at play in the world today.

The Christian has 3 enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Satan, who has sway over this world system, the age in which we live, (1 John 5:19), promotes the things that belong to the spirit of this age (one that is antagonistic to God & his rule) in order to entice the flesh to take the bait of temptation.

Then, I thought about Galatians 5 and the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit. Paul writes, "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

So, I have come to a working conclusion: whenever and wherever any of these "works of the flesh" are promoted or manifested, it is the work of the enemy, directly or indirectly, working subtly behind the scenes to destroy the soul of the individual, to lure the believer away from usefulness in the kingdom, and/or hinder the forward progress of the church in advancing the kingdom of God through the Great Commission. If these things are present in one's life, it is certain that, on some level in those moments, that person is being influenced more by Satanic and worldly values than godly ones. If the pattern of a person's life is characterized by these "works of the flesh", it, at the very least, calls into question that person's profession of faith.

Now, the interesting part - applying this to daily living.

More to come...

Monday, January 2, 2017

Devotions

In the Christian world, there is no shortage of "devotionals". The intended purpose of devotionals is to supplement one's time in the scriptures. They are never intended to be a substitute for one's direct contact with God's Word through some kind of daily reading & studying. Some people use devotionals like the old adage that says, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"----we change it a bit----"a verse a day keeps the devil away". Yeah, it really doesn't work that way.

Now, having said that, some devotionals are better than others. Most devotionals take one or two verses of scripture, and then, tell a story or attempt to give some application of that verse to real-life. Some devotionals do a good job of this; some of them do not. The devotionals that give the meaning of the verse in it's proper biblical context and then give an application point for the verse are best, in my opinion. Having the whole biblical context of the verse or verses is best. The reason: if you miss the meaning of the verse in it's proper biblical context, you will miss the right application of the verse to real-life. You see, many devotional writers do not do the work of interpretation before writing their "devotional thought"-------however, some do (please hear me say that).

So, use devotionals, but use them discerningly. And, if the devotional only uses one or two verses, take a few extra minutes, look up the verse in your Bible and read the surrounding verses to get a better understanding of what the author of the devotion is doing. 

Here are a few authors that not only help apply the Bible to real-life, but also have the solid ground behind their application of the verses: John MacArthur's Truth for Today or Alone with God; John Piper's Solid Joys or A Godward Life; DA Carson's For the Love of God (this one is part of a year-long Bible reading plan); Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest.

There are others out there. Find a good one, use it; but, remember, they should not be a substitute for direct contact with God's Word...let them supplement your time in God's Word.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Day After

Today is the day after...no, not the "day after" movie from the 1980's when the threat of nuclear war was very real, and people were frightened about that real possibility. It's the day after "Christmas". What does the day after look like for you? How are you responding to it?

Are you going back to business as usual, or has something about this Christmas season caused you to take a step back and evaluate your life, where you are right now? Are you where you want to be?

I mean, we all know that since Christmas is gone for this year, it's time to start looking at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Reflection and meditation on our lives is a good thing, and there's really no better time to do that than now. It is a good practice for us to reflect on the past year and begin anticipating the new one.

What were some of your greatest challenges during 2016? How did God come through in his steadfast love during 2016? What were some of your greatest victories in 2016? What ways have you grown during 2016?

What are you looking forward to in 2017? What goals are you setting for yourself in 2017----spiritual goals, health goals, personal goals, etc.? Are you putting some action steps in place to reach those goals?

I enjoy the times of the year like New Year's. They seem to be a divine built-in opportunity to kind of hit the "reset" button, to evaluate things in life and prepare a plan to move forward better equipped for the days ahead.

I want to encourage you this week to do some reflecting, evaluating, anticipating, and looking forward to 2017. Where is the Lord directing you in 2017?

God bless and happy new year!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Faith

I found the following part of Oswald Chambers' devotion from yesterday motivational:

A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
He goes on to talk about what faith really is. 

Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life— throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Rhythm of Your Life

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he writes to the believers, "Now I say this and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do" (Ephesians 4:17). Paul uses "Gentiles" in the context of this sentence to refer not to their ethnicity, but to their spiritual condition & identity that is "outside" of Christ; they are non-believers. 

Paul is making the declaration: there is a distinctness to the lifestyle of a believer that is noticeably different from that of a non-believer. However, apparently, some in the congregation at Ephesus didn't get the memo. So, Paul is telling them to "stop living according to the rhythm of the world". There is a rhythm to everyone's life. For the believer, we are to be living according to the rhythm of Christ, living according to our new identity in him...that is, distinct, different, set apart in "true righteousness and holiness" progressing ever more closely to the character of Christ as we "put off" the old man, are "renewed in the spirit of our minds", and "put on" the new man. This includes our attitudes, actions, worldview, behaviors, and ambitions. 

There is a country song out now, a duet with Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt. Part of it says, "dancing to the rhythm of your heartbeat". I wonder today, Christian, are you dancing to the rhythm of the heartbeat of the world or to the heartbeat of the gospel and the kingdom of Jesus?


Monday, April 11, 2016

The Gospel and Suffering

Romans 8:18-25 is one of the great encouragements of the Bible. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (8:18). 

In the face of suffering (a universal human experience) the gospel anchors our hope by doing four things:

The gospel anchors our hope by drawing our vision to future glory (18)

The gospel anchors our hope by reminding us that we are children of God (19-21)

The gospel anchors our hope by preparing us for our new glorified bodies (22-23)

The gospel anchors our hope by building up our endurance to wait for deliverance (24-25)

My prayer today is that you will remember that the anchor of your hope in the face of suffering is the good news that Jesus lived the perfect live we could not live, that he suffered and died the death that we deserve, and he conquered the final enemy of death by rising from the dead for our justification...and, therefore, "if (since) God is for us, who can be against us?"

Be encouraged today!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Discipleship: Like a Pebble in a Pond

When you drop a pebble into a body of water, there is always a ripple effect. The depth & mass of the pebble dropped into the water determines the breadth of the ripple effect, that is how far out from the center it moves.

I wonder if we have gotten that a bit backwards in the church, particularly as it relates to discipleship. While it is true that we ought to "cast the net wide" at times, certainly Jesus did, but the primary way he "made disciples" was in smaller groups. As he poured himself into the 12 disciples, he certainly gave them more "depth". And, subsequently, the effect of his "discipleship" rippled out from the center...it's still rippling today.

If that's the case, why do we seem to approach discipleship from the opposite direction? Or, maybe we don't approach it from the opposite direction, but we certainly do not give the time & attention necessary for the "depth" to take place, do we?

I was reminded last week at the Reveal: Disciple-Making Conference by one of the speakers, Dhati Lewis, who said: "Discipleship is not a ministry of the church; it is THE ministry of the church."

If that is true, and I believe it is...what are the ramifications for how we "do" church? At least in my mind, the ramifications are HUGE! Not only for the way that I "pastor" the congregation I serve (what I give my time & energy to), but for the "programming" church employs, our approach to events & activities that we schedule, the expectations we have for church members, how we seek to equip the saints for the work of ministry (disciple-making)...and the list goes on and on.

Now, what if we took this seriously? What if we truly bought into this Great Commission"? What if we decided we weren't going to "go on with business" in the church as usual?

I admit. I'm not exactly sure what this would all look like fleshed out, especially in my context. But, I'm pretty sure, some things would have to change...beginning with me.