Tag Archives: The church

Rediscovering Discipleship – A review

rediscovering-discipleship

Rediscovering Discipleship is by far the best one I have read on discipleship, ever. This book, as the subtitle says is really all about “making Jesus’ final words our first work” (front cover). Unfortunately, in many churches, discipleship is more a program or something left for the “professional ministers” instead of something pursued and engaged in by every follower of Christ. One could make the claim this has done more harm to God’s church than any sin. Ed Stetzer, in the foreword, makes this statement: “The Bible tells us that we should be conscious of ourselves and of our teaching…In other words, it matters how you are growing and how you’re leading your people to grow” (p. 11).

Here is how Robby defines discipleship:

Discipleship is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ. (p. 155)

Discipleship should not simply be a committee in a church, or even a program, it should be the life of the church. Discipleship should describe how a church grows, how it lives and breathes. Discipleship should be at the root of everything done in the church. If the ultimate goal and purpose of a program or event is not discipleship, what is it? For many, it simply stops after evangelism. After an individual is “hooked” they are left to themselves. There is nobody there to help them take the next steps in their walk with the Lord. This is extremely detrimental to the life of any church because many churches stop there. After someone makes a profession of faith they are left to figure things out on their own. But that is not how it should be, once someone has made a profession of faith, the work of discipleship begins.

The author quotes Heather Zempel, the leader of the discipleship ministry at National Community Church in Washington, DC:

The first model of discipleship that we see in history is the Relational model, which was the dominant approach to spiritual growth during the first few centuries of the church. It is built upon the premise that discipleship will occur naturally when Christians live in community with one another. Relational discipleship was vitally important during the early church because there was no New Testament and there were very few copies of Old Testament writings available to the common people. Spiritual truths were conveyed through the stories of the apostles and their letters to the churches. (p. 92)

Robby then follows that with this statement perfectly showing what happened to this movement, or the church:

Unfortunately, what began as a grass roots, relational movement eventually turned into a structured hierarchy that quenched efforts at discipling those not pursuing professional ministry roles. The common understanding of the church changed from being a people to a place, from a body to a building. The ministry was seen as something done exclusively by the clergy, while the laity sat idle and took on a more passive role. Institutionalized ministry replaced individualized ministry. (p. 92)

Perfect way to describe what has actually happened in the church throughout history. Discipleship is how the church reproduces itself and remains alive and growing. Discipleship is how God molds His children into the image of His Son. When discipleship is simply reduced to another program offered by the church, we suffer and the church suffers. God desires fully devoted followers of Him, not partially committed followers who only come to Him when life gets hard or when they need something. God is molding and shaping us into the image of His Son and discipleship is how God does this.

From the time Jesus called His first disciples to His crucifixion, Jesus was involved in discipleship. He was training them, preparing them for/ life after He ascended into heaven. This was God’s plan A from the very beginning and there is no plan B. God does not see discipleship as optional like many churches do. He sees it as foundational.

One of the main reasons I enjoyed this book so much is because it really helps paint the picture of what discipleship should be all about. It is not a difficult read but is encouraging and refreshing in that it explains what discipleship is all about and should be all about, and then goes into application by helping the reader understand how they can actually disciple someone. The last part will serve to be extremely beneficial for the Christian who has wanted to disciple but just does not know how.

Here are a couple quotes from the book:

Train yourself and your people not to be impressed with success in the church that does not accomplish the goal set forth by Christ: making disciples. (p. 23)

Discipleship has an end goal: to be conformed into the image of Christ – to talk the way He talked, walk the way He walked, and respond the way He responded. (p. 79)

Discipleship wasn’t a ministry of the first-century church. It was the ministry of the church…shouldn’t it be ours as well? (p. 85)

Just remember, you cannot microwave disciples. It’s a crock-pot recipe. And it takes time for maturity to take root. The wait is long, but the results are worth it. (p. 138)

Fortunately, Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, did not prescribe for us a single model of how to disciple. Instead, He gave us a mandate: Make disciples! He didn’t give us a single process; he left us with several principles and showed us by His own examples. (p. 154)

A church member once said to me, “your talk talks and your walk walks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” The way you live speaks volumes about the degree of disciple-making taking place in your church.

Rediscovering Discipleship is all about what the title says, rediscovering discipleship. If you are involved in church leadership, a volunteer, or someone who has just begun their faith journey, this book is for you. It will help you understand how intentional and purposeful God is with His children. He does not simply want people to place their faith in Him and then live life how they want to. Choosing to respond to Jesus’ call to follow Him is just the beginning. After responding to the call is when the work really begins, and does not end until our lives end. Get this book, read it and apply it. You will be glad you did. I just think, if every Christian in the world were to take what this book says to heart, apply it and make disciples, there would be no more unreached people in the world today. Besides, what more motivation do we need to make disciples than the fact we are commanded to by Jesus?

 In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Cross Focused Media LLC in exchange for this review.


The Irresistible Community

irresistible community

We as humans are built for community. We are hardwired to have friends and people in our lives that we do life together with. We are not made to live this life on our own. This is why when we see people who isolate themselves, we would not say they are living life to the fullest. We would agree they have withdrawn from reality and the world around them. By choosing to follow Christ, we become part of a community, part of the body of Christ. It is impossible to fully be a Christian and not involved in a community of believers in some way. You might disagree with that but as you read through the Bible, you see that God intended for us to be in community. God Himself is about community in that He created us for relationship with Him. Unfortunately, today we have become so “connected” through social media and the internet through smartphones and other devices we have actually become disconnected. And this is the world we live in today, a world full of people who desire community, some without fully knowing it, but who are in some ways running away from community. There are even people who call themselves Christians who are not involved in a community.

Bill Donahue addresses this issue head on for followers of Christ. In The Irresistible Community, he tackles what Christian community should mean, be about and what it should look like. Jesus has extended a call and offer for all people to follow Him and be involved in a community of Christ followers. It is only through this community that we are able to experience all God intended life to be about. The title itself helps us to understand that when Christian community is lived out and done right, it is attractive, even to those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. If Jesus was attractive to the “sinners” around Him, shouldn’t His church be the same way? Shouldn’t we be living in such a way that it causes those around us to wonder what we have?

The title of this book includes the tag line “An invitation to life together” which is what I believe God wants us to do, live life together. But how do we do that? How do we live life together? We are all messy and we have lives that cause people to not want to know us so shouldn’t I keep people at a distance? Dr. Donahue helps the reader understand how life can be done together in community and done in a way so people are drawn to it and not turned away from it. The Irresistible Community is divided into 3 parts: join the fellowship of the table, practice the ministry of the towel and live in the circle of truth. To truly experience community the way God intends, each of these 3 parts has to be included.  I have experienced this in my own life, when I am involved with a group of Christians, our lives have been greatly impacted when we have times of fellowship around a table, make time to serve together and then also allow the truth of God’s Word to guide us, community happens and there is nothing greater in this life. Unfortunately today, this has been lost, even in the church. The church should be a community of people who understand the church is who they are, it is not simply a building or something they do on Sundays or special holidays.

Read this statement which is taken from the back cover of the book:

Using the relationship of Jesus to His disciples in the upper room, Bill Donahue presents a simple but compelling approach to community life. Using a table, a towel, and the truth, Jesus created an “irresistible community” where everyone found a place to belong, lived fully in the truth, and served others with joy. (Back cover)

As you read this book, you will find yourself longing for this type of community wherever you are. Why does this longing grow within us? Because it is why we were created. Bill Donahue addresses the topic/issue of Christian community in a thought provoking manner that will challenge but also encourage and inspire you to look for community in your own life. Though living in community is not always easy, he helps us see that there is more life to be experienced in community than can be experienced outside of it. This book is one that I would highly recommend anyone currently serving in Christian ministry to read as well as those who see themselves in some type of ministry in the future. This book would also be a great asset for any church planter. Go get a copy for yourself, or a friend or your pastor, it will be well worth it.

Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, I received this book from Baker Books in return for a review of the book.


The Unbelievable Gospel

Unbelievable Gospel

 

Are you fearful of sharing your faith? Does striking up conversations regarding faith cause your palms to sweat and your head to spin? Do you find it hard to know when and where to bring up your relationship with Jesus in conversation or how to even try to transition? Or do you maybe wonder why it seems people are not open to the gospel message as much as it seems people used to be? If you answer yes to any of those questions, you are not alone. Many Christians would be right there with you, including myself, even as a youth pastor. The Unbelievable Gospel is the book for you.

Having never heard of Jonathan Dodson before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the insight and wisdom shared within this book is helpful as well as challenging for the individual seeking to learn how to truly engage the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jonathan, the founding pastor of City Life Church in Austin, TX, blends in personal stories to help people learn from what he himself has experienced.

One of the main themes woven throughout this book is that we as Christians need to have a way to share what we believe that helps other people see that it is in fact worth believing themselves. A point Jonathan argues is that many people do not see the gospel as something worth believing and thus when Christians try to share the gospel with them, they are not interested. This can be due to many various things going on in their lives but in many situations, it comes down to Christians not presenting the gospel in an attractive or believable fashion. Thus, Mr. Dodson wrote The Unbelievable Gospel to “show us how to communicate and embody a gospel that is believable, personal, and culturally engaging” (Back cover). How does he do this?

The book is divided into 3 sections: Defeaters, Re-evangelization, and metaphors. Defeaters is all about the things that pull at us and keep us from sharing the gospel. Re-Evangelization helps the reader recover the Gospel and “remind us of the need to continually communicate the eternal gospel in new ways to various cultures and people” (p. 100). Lastly, metaphors is the practical part of the book “filled with examples of how to share a believable gospel” (p. 142). Metaphors is where Jonathan simply started sharing story after story in hope of “stimulating our missional imagination” to help us see it is not difficult to share the gospel in a believable way, it just takes us being willing to listen to culture and the people around us to find ways into their lives. Mostly gone are the days where we simply just asked people to come to church or an evangelistic meeting with us; today, people want to hear and see the gospel lived out before their eyes. When people see authentic faith lived before them, it gives us more of a voice with them but we also have to be mindful of the people we are sharing with and be listening for ways to engage people in a way that is personal. We cannot simply use gospel presentations anymore.

Let me share a couple quotes with you:

“Surprisingly, it isn’t all that hard for someone to mistake clear gospel preaching with moral, religious teaching…This is why gospel preaching and teaching, as good as they are, are not enough. We need everyday evangelists, people who are willing to rub shoulders with those outside the church, hang out at their parties, take them to lunch, and ask enough loving questions to surface true beliefs. It takes time, conversations, and patience for people to get grace, to get it down into their hearts.” (p. 62)

“We desperately need to set apart Jesus as Lord in our hearts, not what others think as Lord. This is where deep security is found.” (p. 95)

“People need to know why Jesus is worthy of their faith.” (p. 143)

“An evangelizing church is a praying church. The church that evangelizes has to pray because it knows evangelism is ineffective apart from the powerful work of the Spirit, who responds both to our prayers and to God’s will.” (p. 203)

Are you looking for some renewed energy and motivation for sharing your faith? Has your approach to share the gospel kind of gotten stale? The Unbelievable Gospel will give you energy and ideas for how to share with people what we as Christians believe is the most important aspect of our lives. I am going to be looking for ways to use this book with my church youth group. I would also love to see a church curriculum come out of this book as I believe it would personally help the people in the church where I currently serve. The gospel is life changing and life giving and as followers of Christ, it is our mission to be sharing it with people we come in contact with. This book will help encourage you to engage the world.

In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of by Zondervan in exchange for this review.


A Question regarding the “Son of God” Movie

Son of God

Is the Son of God movie ushering in a new way of evangelism? Is the movie starting a new way for people to be introduced to the Bible? This is something I have been wrestling with for a while now. I have had a couple conversations with friends concerning what I am posting today and am not sure quite how I feel about it. Tim Challies had a great post regarding the movie here. As I was reading a little about the movie, I came across this statement from Mark Burnett:

Downey’s husband, “The Voice” and “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett, said the Christian filmmaking team reached out specifically to other faiths to tell the story of the life of Jesus — played with an air of bemused dignity by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado — without causing offense.”

“It just took a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of listening over a number of years to see everybody’s point of view and how to not take the teeth out of the story — the dynamic drama from the story — but be sensitive across groups,” Burnett said. “Because there’s very different interpretations across the Catholic faith and the Protestant faith and the Jewish faith.”

You can read the full article here.

What do you think about this? Should Christians be worried about this? Should we support endeavors like this? Or should we be weary of it? Is it possible to portray the true Biblical account of Jesus without causing offense? When is it ok to add or take away from the Bible for the sake of entertainment or drawing people to hear or see the story of Jesus?

If you want to share your thoughts, I ask you to do so here on the blog, not on my Facebook post. Also, please be respectful to other commenters and only respond to my questions, not the responses of others. Thank you. I look forward to seeing what you all have to say.


How Christians can impact the debate on abortion

abortion

The fight continues day in and day out. The issue has divided the government and the country. Ever since Roe v Wade, abortion has stayed at the forefront of many elections. Does the unborn’s right to live carry more weight than the woman’s right to control her own body? Who has any right to say what a woman can or cannot do to her own body? How can someone say the little baby growing in a mother’s womb is anything but a human life, which therefore means abortion is murder? These are just a few issues the debate over abortion tries to answer. When it comes to abortion, the statistics are staggering when you take the time to check them out. They are heartbreaking as well. Yesterday I posted a blog on The Heart of Abortion. The conclusion I submitted is that abortion has two primary power sources, two driving forces: pride and self-centeredness. Abortion would cease to exist if not for those two notions. In yesterday’s post, I referenced this Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” I briefly discussed how this mindset had a huge part in the abortion movement towards being legal. It infiltrated the culture and impacted people around the country because it sounds so good. The heart should be what we follow because how can our own hearts lead us wrong? I have to submit that it truly has led us down the wrong path, a path flowing with the blood of the unborn. The question facing the church is how can we help trigger a shift in culture’s mindset regarding abortion? How can we help culture begin to value life, even when that life might interfere with our lives or our dreams? Is this even possible? Do we bring about this change by standing outside abortion clinics and holding signs showing how much we dislike abortions? Should we only vote for politicians who are pro-life? Should we boycott any company that supports Planned Parenthood? How can we truly make the biggest impact and change the future in this topic? While these ways might seem best, they miss the true heart of the issue which is the human heart. If we begin with finding ways to address the human heart, nothing will change. It will be like putting a Band-Aid on something that requires surgery. Here are a three ways I believe followers of Christ can begin to bring about this transformation in culture and thinking: First and foremost, remember our battle is not against flesh and blood

As Christians, we are constantly reminded our true battle with anything in this world is not a battle against other people, but a battle against Satan and the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Remembering this will help keep us focused on the true battle. Abortion is simply a product of the Spiritual battle waging in the world right now. If we do not face this issue with this in mind, we will simply try to outshout our opponents, which has never been a true manner to bring about lasting change.  More importantly, as we remember who our true battle is against, it helps us love people as God does and see people As God sees them. When a soldier is in a battle, they are not easily distracted from their task; they are focused on the battle at hand. We as Christians need to have a soldier mentality and not allow ourselves to be so easily distracted with the things of this world; things we have allowed ourselves to believe are more important than they are. I need help with this mindset and if we are to bring about a shift in the area of abortion, we need to remember we are in a spiritual battle.

Invest in the next generation

If the mindset on abortion is going to change, it will be changed by the next generation. If we do not help the next generation see the value of life and how everyone, even an unwanted or unexpected baby, deserves the right to live, nothing will change. For this investment to happen, the church needs to find ways to reach the next generation with the Gospel. We need to get involved in the lives of young people, especially those outside the church. Once again, this cannot be simply putting up youth centers and hoping they come to us, it means we need to get to them. How do we get to them? Move into their neighborhoods, substitute teach in their schools, or coach youth athletic teams. Simply put, we need to get involved in their lives. Think about it, who will be getting abortions in the future? It isn’t the older generation, it is the next generation. We cannot show people how much we care at a distance. If we want people to know we care, it means reaching out to them, it means going to where they are. That is how we impact a generation. This also means getting involved in the lives of families around us which means we need to step outside our houses and spend time getting to know our neighbors.

The other part of investing in the next generation is helping young people within the church truly understand what it means to live as a follower of Christ. The people who are on the front lines of this issue are the young people in our churches right now, the college students down to the middle school and junior high students, even down to elementary students. Those are the people we need to be investing in and training how to live as disciples of Christ. This means we as parents and the older people in the church need to not only model a life worthy of the Gospel, but find ways to get involved in the lives of the younger people in the church. This means if we are not truly giving everything we have for the sake of the Gospel, the youth in our churches won’t either.

“What one generation tolerates, the next will embrace.”

I saw this quote on Twitter and it fits very well in this situation. If we in the church today tolerate a mindset where church is optional and God’s Word is not taught in the home, the next generation will embrace it and church will become even more optional and time in God’s Word will become more sparse. If we tolerate other things being placed over church and over the Gospel, they will embrace it. For us to truly change the mindset towards abortion in this country we have to start with young people and truly invest in them and helping them see there is value to life and no one is an accident. Everyone has a God-given purpose and everyone is loved by God and God desires a relationship with them; that is the message we need to teach the young people in this country.

Live as missionaries

This is by far the most important of the ways we as Christians can make an impact when it comes to the issue of abortion. Missionaries are known as people who go to a certain country or people group and live among them for the purpose of reaching them with Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything they do from where they live to where they work is based around the purpose of sharing the Gospel with everyone they can. If we are to bring about a change in this country, we have to live with a missionary mindset. I have a friend who models this mindset perfectly while living within what we would call the “Bible belt.” He and his wife and 3 kids had a nice home in one of the nicer areas of Lynchburg, VA. They attended church, they gave faithfully, they helped in soup kitchens and various ministries in their church, and the husband even helped lead a Bible study for a local mission. However, they weren’t satisfied with simply taking time to go into those communities. They wanted something more impactful. They decided to put rent out their house and move into a rented home in what some people would call a more run down area of Lynchburg. They did this because they realized ministry begins with living among the people you want to reach. We can affect people by going to them at various times, but what brings about lasting change is living among people where you can truly have an impact. This is what Jesus did for us. In John 1:14 it says “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us…” Jesus traded the glory of heaven for the dust and dirt of the earth to live among His creation. The church in America needs to remember the mission field is not overseas, it is right here in our country. What I know is my friend’s family is going to be presented with more opportunities to impact those around them because they live among them. If he had simply continued to reach out and go to them on weekends or other times, he would not have the same impact he does right now by living among them. Imagine if Christians began invading the ghettos and the poorest areas of cities? Imagine if every professing Christian got rid of the idea of living comfortably? Where in the Bible does it tell us to strive to live comfortably? Everything I read in the Bible seems to show we are to live radically and uncomfortably.

The church needs to begin finding ways to get into the world instead of waiting for the world to come to us. One of the main reasons America is where it is right now is because we went through a period where instead of going to the world right outside our doorstep, we began to get comfortable in our churches and houses and neighborhoods and waited for the world to come to us. The church was never meant to be this way. The church was meant to be on mission. Churches used to be built right in the middle of a town or city but now you find so many churches in the suburbs. We need to get back into the city in order to impact it.

  For the church to bring about a shift in thinking on the topic of abortion, these steps are important ones to be taken. We will not have the impact God placed the church here for if we do not take these steps. If we take Jesus’ mission serious, we have no other choice. However, it all has to start with love. As 1 Corinthians 13 says, love needs to be our motivating factor. Our love for God will lead us to a deeper love for Jesus which will lead us to love people as God loves people resulting in our lives bringing glory to God and us having opportunities to share the Gospel with others. If we truly love people as God loves them, we will gain an audience with them and have opportunities to share the hope we have. We will live lives people notice. Why will they notice us? Because we will be living among them, loving them unconditionally and helping them see how much God loves them through our lives. We will be investing in them though they can do nothing for us in return. As we do this, their hearts will be softened and they will be impacted even if they do not believe in God. The most powerful witness for the Gospel is a life lived completely and fully for Christ because when we live that way, people see no hypocrisy and their hearts are opened through our love. This is truly how we bring about this change in our country. It has to start at the bottom, with loving people where they are, not with simply voting pro-life or trying to outshout our opponents. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share any comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.


Weekly Scoop

scoop

It’s Friday, which means time for the Weekly Scoop. If you have never been here before, the Weekly Scoop is a list of links I have compiled throughout the week I believe would be worth your time. So, without further ado, here are the links for this weeks Weekly Scoop.

Christianity Today sat down with Chris Tomlin where he opened up on different topics from worship to justice and leading people to experience God: Chris Tomlin – On Top of the World.

Timothy Tennent writes about how the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” got him thinking about the Gospel and contextualization. A great article: Saving Mr. Banks and the contextualization of the Gospel.

Has culture reached a “moral gag reflex”: Miley Cyrus and the Moral Gag Reflex.

How we talk about abortion to people can be effective, especially when done in a loving and caring way: I was Pro-Choice 3 months ago.

The Public Service Announcement from New Zealand that changed my driving habits (Caution: This is not for the faint of heart): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvLaTupw-hk
Geoff Surratt shares 3 things the church could learn from the popular TV show Downton Abbey: Lessons from Downton Abbey.
Jeff Strong writes a thought provoking article on mistakes Christian parents make with teenagers: Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents  of Teens Make.
And one more parenting article: Homeschool Blindspots.
And to end with a little humor: 20 Ridiculously Ironic Pictures.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my Weekly Scoop. If you came across something worth sharing, please share it in the comments, or message me and I can put it in next weeks scoop. Feel free to share this with anyone you believe would benefit from this.

When You are NOT Chosen

chosen

This morning, I was reading through Acts 1. The last 6 verses talk about the disciples finding a replacement for Judas Iscariot. After discussing it among themselves, they came up with two people from which to choose the one to replace Judas. They were Joseph, called Barsabbas and Matthias. Verses 24-26 have this to say about how they went about choosing between the two:

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

I have read this passage a number of times and never really gave much thought to it because the apostles decided they needed someone to take the place of Judas and they prayed about it and asked God to point out which one and after the lot fell on Matthias, it was a done deal. I never really put more thought into it. Lesson is when big decisions need to be made, be sure to pray and seek God’s counsel so you make the wise decision. However, this morning, the passage stuck with me and something else came about I had never really thought about.

What happened to Joseph, or Barsabbas who was also known as Justus? Even though he was apparently qualified enough for the position, God did not choose him. For some of us, we know what it is like to not be picked for something. Maybe it was for a team in gym class or maybe it was being chosen for an All-Star team in some sport. You thought you deserved the position but it was given to someone else. To make things harder, it was given to someone you were pretty equal with talent wise. I have been in a position like this before where I was applying for a job where it came down to them hiring me, or moving someone from within the company into the position instead. It seemed each time this happened, they went with the person already within the company to fill the position I had applied and interviewed for. However, this is something much more important than simply being picked for a team or a job. This position was once held by someone who Jesus had chosen to follow Him. This position was an esteemed position because the men he was joining were the men who spent the most time with Jesus out of anyone else alive. But, the decision did not ultimately come down to the 11 apostles voting or the 120 others present; they prayed and left the decision in God’s hands. After deciding who was qualified enough for the position, they left the final say in God’s hands and God made it known through the casting of lots; Matthias would take Judas’ place.

I can only imagine the tension that might have been present in the room when this decision was finalized and Matthias was chosen. But at the same time, maybe there was no tension. Maybe Joseph was completely fine with this decision and was truly happy for Matthias. However, if I know humans, and I do since I am one, Joseph probably felt a bit of a letdown in his heart. He was probably disappointed to an extent because what human wouldn’t be if this were to happen to them? Is it wrong to have this feeling afterwards? No. But what is wrong is if you let this feeling take hold of your heart and do not keep it under control. Being tempted is not sin; acting on those temptations is sin.

There are 3 references linked to this passage where the man spoken of could be the same Joseph spoken of here in verse 23: Acts 15:22-34; Acts 18:7 and Colossians 4:11. I would encourage you to check them out. If they are the same person, it really speaks to the character of this man. When we are placed in a situation like this, we have 2 choices:

  1. We can allow the fact we were not chosen to lead us to become bitter people with a chip on our shoulder. We can believe with all of our heart we should have been the person picked for that position. But, since God did not give it to me, there must be some reason why so I am just going to “sit and sour” and bring down others with me. Yes I will still come to church but I am not going to give it my all anymore. I am going to stop serving in the same capacity. I am going to want to be served instead of serving. Why should I since when I did, God apparently did not like my work enough to give me the higher position. So I am just going to be bitter.
  1. We can realize even though we were not chosen for this specific position, God has something better for us to be doing for the body of Christ which will ultimately bring us more joy. Too often we want to fight for the higher positions thinking they are more important when the fact is, the church is a body. A body needs everything working together and filling their specific roles to remain healthy. So it is with the church. The church needs everyone working together and filling their God-given roles in order to work properly and in the way God intended. If we do not strive to find what God wants us doing and where God wants us serving, we are not the only ones who suffer, the body of Christ suffers.

To conclude, see what 1 Corinthians 12:18-20 has to say: “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” There is not part of the body that can tell another part, I have no need for you. If Joseph had chosen to get bitter, the body of Christ would have suffered. Even though Joseph was not chosen by God for that one specific position, God had another place for him to serve. So, if you have ever experienced the feeling of not being chosen, you are not alone. There are numerous stories throughout the Bible of people who are not chosen for something. It was not because God did not love them the same. Many times we do not know why God works the way He does. I have wondered this many times in my own life when God has closed a door. As I look back at my life, one thing I know God has wanted me to keep doing, and what He desires for each individual member of His body, is what 2 Peter 1:10 says:

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”


Review: The Global War on Christians

Exposing-the-Global-War-on-Christians

For this review, I am simply going to get right to the point. With The Global War on Christians, there really is no beating around the bush. Mr. Allen gets right to the point and that is, around the world, there is a war going on in regards to people who profess to be Christians. Some of you might be surprised by this while others of you have known about this for years. In many ways, we are living in an era where more Christians are dying for their faith than any other time in the history of the world.

So why is it important for us to know this? If we do not face this in our lives, why do we need to spend our time reading about what others around the world are facing? If I simply pray for them, will that not be enough? Praying for them is a good start but it is far from being what God has called us to. Hebrews 13:3 issues this challenge: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Simply thinking about them and praying for them every once in a while is not enough. Suppose a member of your family were to start being mistreated simply for being a part of your family, you would fight for them wouldn’t you? You would go to great measures to make sure people knew of your plight. You would want everyone to know what was going on so they could help in some way or another. That is what this book is good for. Global War helps us as Christians hear and know what is facing our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. We should want to know this so we can inform other believers. We are a family in Christ and our hearts should hurt for those around the world who are not allowed to practice what they believe without fearing for their lives.

As of now, the severe persecution Christians are facing around the world has not made its way to the United States to the same extent as it is other places. However, the way things are going, it will eventually happen and we should not be surprised. John Allen wants people to know what is going on around the world and he has put time into this book through research and traveling to different parts of the world to help educate us as followers of Christ as to what is going on around the world. The worst thing we can do is remain ignorant.

Personally, before reading this book, I knew Christians were persecuted and their lives were taken because of what they believed, but I had no idea of the extent. While reading Global War, I was constantly thinking how strong is my faith? Is my relationship with the Lord strong enough to face severe persecution? If not, then something is missing and I need to get on my knees and ask God to strengthen my faith. I have heard it said many times that if we as Christians are not facing any opposition in our lives from the world with choices we are making day to day then we need to see if we are really living for the Lord. This statement is not made to say we should be troublemakers, always trying to raise problems with how we believe, but we should be living our lives in such a way that people can notice we are different. This book also helped me continue to see the importance of taking the Gospel to the world and God’s call to make disciples of all nations. It will not be easy but God never promised our mission would be easy, He did promise to be there with us through it all.

Simply put, you should read this book to educate yourself as to what the body of Christ is facing around the world. It is not for the weak of heart though as Mr. Allen does not hold back in what he writes. There are Christians who have faced brutal deaths and persecution over their faith in God and he wants us to know about it. So go ahead and pick up a copy of The Global War on Christians, it will be worth your time.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as a part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.


The State of the Church

The State of the Church

As 2014 begins, I have been considering what this year might hold for the Church. Is the church here in America, and around the world, in trouble? As a follower of Christ, do I need to worry about the state of the church? My simple response to this is the church here in America and around the world is alive and well. The church is not dying. Though the church might be facing difficulties and persecution and even death, it is not in trouble. A while back, I listened to a Louie Giglio message on the church and one thing he said that stuck with me is “God loves the church.” God is not disappointed in the church; God is not surprised by the church. God loves the church and gave His life for the church. I want to give two simple reasons why the church is not in trouble now or ever.

  1. We are not the foundation. If we believe the church is in trouble, then we have the wrong foundation holding up the church. Christians are not holding up the church. God is holding up the church. If we believe the church depends on us, then we have been mislead. In Matthew 16:18 when Jesus tells Peter “and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it”, Jesus is telling Peter nothing Satan does can or will overcome the church. Colossians 1:17-18 says “and He is before all things, and in Him ALL things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church.” The church holds together because Jesus is the foundation upon which the church is built. It is not built on our evangelistic campaigns or community outreach efforts or small groups or even missional communities. The church is built on Jesus and because of this the gates of hell cannot overcome it.
  2. We are not the main attraction. In recent years, I have seen a number of churches do various campaigns around the slogan “I ‘heart’ my church.” At the surface, this does not seem to have anything wrong with it because it gets people to take pride in their church. However, from an outsider’s perspective, this can give the wrong impression. To someone who does not follow Christ and has not grown up in church, this can cause them to think the church is all about the people. If, at any given gathering your church holds, people cannot walk away knowing Jesus is the center of everything you do, then we are simply showing them a false idol. If the music we sing does not lift up Jesus, then why are we doing it? People can go anywhere to listen to music where Jesus is not the central message; the church should be a place where the music is all about Jesus and what He did for us. If we were the main attraction, then the church would be in trouble.

I know these two reasons might sound simple but it’s because they are simple. It seems many churches have problems because they get confused on these two points. We forget the church is not built on us and we believe the people of a certain church are the main attraction. We take God out of the equation and make ourselves the center of attention. If we remember God is the foundation of the church and Jesus is the main attraction, then how we respond to various circumstances and situations in the church will be transformed by the Gospel.

I believe in many ways we get this feeling because we see so many changes in how Christians are treated here in America. We see our “freedoms” being taken away, or Christians being treated unfairly and in some ways, our voices being quieted. However, this is no reason to despair. This is simply a sign the church is being the church. All throughout the Bible, we see God’s people treated unfairly. We see in 2 Timothy 3:12 “all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 1 Peter 4:12-14 says “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 John 3:13 also says “do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

According to these passages, we are to expect to be treated unfairly, to be persecuted. We are not to expect an easy life, we are to expect a life where the only freedom we experience is the freedom we have in our relationship with Christ. Christians reacting negatively when facing this persecution is not how Jesus told us to live. Jesus told us to expect trials and tests because in these, our faith will be perfected.

To conclude, I simply want to restate the church is not in trouble. The church never has been in trouble and the church never will be in trouble because we are not the foundation and we are not the main attraction. As we live according to these two ideas, our lives will make sense, no matter what we face and no matter how poorly and unfairly we are treated because of our faith.

I will leave you with John 16:33, in the words of Jesus:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.


Remembering Sandy Hook Elementary

SandyHook

Tomorrow marks one year since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Hard to believe it has already been a year since everyone received news of what had taken place. Who would have thought that someone would actually go after the children? Even in jails, there seems to be a mindset that those who have abused children are treated the worse by other inmates because they are so innocent and full of life and energy. Then, on that fateful day, it was all taken away. Families left shattered through a holiday season supposed to bring joy and family fun. Christmas presents under their tree never to be opened by the one they were intended for. My heart breaks for those families today. My prayers go out to them through yet another holiday season where there will be tears and memories. But none of that will bring back their loved ones. Many things are being done around the US in their memory. One thing is simply challenging people to perform a random act of kindness. It seems simple enough; until we stop thinking about it. It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives we forget there are millions of people in the US alone who are not as well off as we are. There are people who will not spend time with loved ones this holiday season; children who will not have presents to open. I do not say this to cause you to feel guilty, but to remember just how much you are blessed with. Christmas around the world for Christians is also a time of stiffer persecution. Many anti-Christian groups use Christmas as a time to commit various acts against Christians. I learned that from reading the book The Global War on Christians by John Allen.

So, throughout this season, spend time with loved ones and be with them. Strive to not allow yourself to get caught up in finding the “perfect” gift because in so many people’s lives, the best present is your presence. How can you be present in someone else’s life this holiday season? Do you know someone who has lost a loved one? Do you know a family whose child might not have anything to open this Christmas morning? How can you serve? Because this is the message of Christmas, Christ became one of us to serve us.

Matthew 20:28 – “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Philippians 2:5-7 – “Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Jesus could have come demanding worship as a high powered king. Instead, Jesus came as a baby to the poorest among us to reach the world. He came and took our place, our punishment. The message of Christmas is Christ came to earth to live among us and be one of us. And when He left, He gave us the mission of doing the same thing. Christmas is one time we are truly able to do that. I have not been great at this but this year, I want to strive to make a difference somehow in someone’s life who could do nothing to repay me, but to smile and say thank you.

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost as Luke 19:10 says. I was lost but God found me. Who in my life might still be lost where I can shine a light into their lives? Light can provide hope and warmth among other things. Where you can be a glimmer of hope this season? What will your children remember of this Christmas? Will it be of opening presents and seeing family like other years? Or will it be the start of a new tradition of being the light in someone’s darkness? This challenge is to me. If it speaks to you, that is amazing.

If you already have a similar tradition on Christmas, I would love to hear about it. It might help me and my wife come up with a plan of how we can do the same thing with our little girl in raising her to know the true meaning behind Christmas.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Feel free to share it with others. And take time tomorrow to pray for those families directly impacted in Newtown, CT and for other families you know who might have recently lost loved ones and this will be a particularly difficult holiday season for.