Monthly Archives: June 2011

The U.S. Economy and the Christ-Follower

I have been reading a book and books can be dangerous things – they can change your life. In addition to the Bible I have been reading Revolution In World Missions (You can get a free copy by clicking on the link.) by KP Yohannan.

Yohannan is the founder of The Gospel for Asia and in the book he talks about his journey to start and maintain an indigenous missionary effort to reach Asia with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You should read the book. But be warned, it will make you uncomfortable. Especially if you are an American and especially if you are a Christian American.

The book made me wonder about the mindset of most Christians with regard to the  current U.S. economy. Cable news incessantly reports that we are quickly heading to the point of no return in regards to our debt. The U.S. Debt Clock – 14 trillion plus and counting. A political war is waging right now in Washington D.C. about raising the debt ceiling so that the U.S. doesn’t default on its debt and there is talk about slashing spending and raising taxes to solve the problem. In recent years the value of  the U.S. dollar has receded like an ocean before a tsunami.

Consequently we fret about the future of medicare, social security, the future for our children, retirement and the all important American Dream.

But who is concerned about the economy for Gospel reasons? Who has stopped to think that if the “debt crisis” isn’t solved then Americans won’t be able to support missions any longer? If we do have a cataclysmic economic meltdown as the world’s sole superpower, will giving to the mission of Jesus dry up? Will the advance of the gospel be stopped?

I’m not suggesting it will, I’m just asking who is concerned enough about gospel-less people to ask?

What we don’t think about may be just as troubling as what we do think about. But perhaps not thinking is the very thing that keeps us safe from actually doing what Christ would really want us to do. Thinking can also be dangerous thing and not thinking can be forever deadly.

The economy can be a means to a gospel, God-glorifying end. I hope that’s how every Christian would think about it first and foremost.

Consider the observations of Yahannan with regard to Americans and money.

Yahannan, who is from India, came to the United States in the early 1970s to attend Bible School at Criswell Bible Institute in Dallas, Texas and was stunned at the wealth Americans possessed compared to the rest of the world. He writes in his book about the west and missions: “The needed money is in the highly developed nations of the West. North American Christians alone, without much sacrifice, can meet all the needs of the churches in the Two-Thirds World.”

Yahannan writes about the wealth of Americans:

  • “It bothered me that one nation should have such spiritual luxury while 40,000 people were dying in my homeland every day without hearing the Gospel even once.”
  • “85 percent of all Bibles printed today are in English for the nine percent of the world who read English.
  • “88 percent of the world’s people have never owned a Bible while Americans have an average of four in every household.”
  • “The United States, with its 600,000 congregations or groups, is blessed with 1.5 million full-time Christian workers, or on full-time religious leader for every 182 people in the nation. In the rest of the world of 2 billion unreached people, there is one missionary working for every 78,000 people…..”

These are convicting to say the least, but there’s no need to hate the United States or money. There’s no need to hate your things or hate yourself for having things. There is however, a need to think biblically and eternally about money and the economy.

Don’t miss this. God can use your money if you allow Him to use you. On the other hand, I don’t know if God can use ignorance and selfishness.

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Converge – Week 4; The Disciple at Work

For our eight week summer study on Wednesday Night we are drilling down on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. After all, He commanded that we make disciples (Matt. 28:19). And who was He talking to at that moment? The disciples. So disciples should make disciples. But what does that mean? How do we do it? How do we apply discipleship to every situation of the lives we live? These are the questions we are looking at together. In week 4 we looked at being a disciple at work. Whether you work at home as a stay-at-home mom or whether you work 40 hours a week, we are called to be a disciple for our Lord (Colossians 3:23). How do we do that? These are summary statements for an outline, but if you missed the discussion and what more description and instruction, you can get all the content on our podcast at www.eagleheights.com.

Notes and discussion were provided by Elder Russ Ingram.

  • A working definition of discipleship: “A person who is truly saved by faith, wanting and learning to obey/follow Christ with all of their life, for the rest of their life, and teaching others to do the same.”

The workplace defined – Office, in the field, home office, stay at home mom, student, retired.

Who are you discipling (at work)?

  • Peers, subordinates, supervisors.
  • Children, family members.
  • Fellow retirees.
  • Fellow students.
  • Fellow church members.

How are you discipling (at work)?

  • Actively
  • Passively
  • Intentionally
  • All the above?
  • Romans 1:16

One of several ways to consider and/or evaluate how you are discipling: Some thoughts on your annual appraisal (if you have one).

How are you perceived and graded by others? Both formally and informally?

  1. Accountability – Colossians 3:23-24.
  2. Collaboration and Teamwork – Lev. 19:11; Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Peter 5:5-6; James 4:11
  3. Communication Skills – Acts 24:16
  4. Customer Focus – Matthew 5:16 – let you light shine before men.
  5. Decision Making – Romans 12:1-5
  6. Flexibility – John 13:34-35 – our heart must be right, Proverbs 3:5-6, our hearts must be in the right place.
  7. Job Knowledge – Philippians 4:13 – God will show you what you need to know, or who to ask and/or task with specific work.
  8. Leadership Skills – Humility, not pride (Deuteronomy 8:17-18; Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:3-4), lead by example (Ephesians 4:29).
  9. Management Skills – Proverbs 3:5-6, 1 Cor. 15:58 – be steadfast in your witness.

Prayer –

  • Our example, Jesus: Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16.
  • What specific prayer do you lift up related to your workplace? Management, Team, Safety, Peers, Success.

Examples of how you disciple people in the workplace:

  • When you have succeeded, who gets the credit? God or Man?
  • When you fail, how do you react? Do you blame others or take responsibility?
  • Prayer – specific, verbalized prayer when someone is in need. (Note: follow up with those whom you’ve told you are gong to be praying for!)
  • Take someone to lunch – discover their background, religious upbringing, share what you believe in a non-threatening way.
  • Strive to know the spiritual condition of those who you work closely with (my team). Prayer at team lunches.

What do you do at work to make disciples?

Converge – Week 3; The Disciplines of a Disciple

For our eight week summer study on Wednesday Night we are drilling down on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. After all, He commanded that we make disciples (Matt. 28:19). And who was He talking to at that moment? The disciples. So disciples should make disciples. But what does that mean? How do we do it? How do we apply discipleship to every situation of the lives we live? These are the questions we are looking at together. In week 3 we asked what are the habits (disciplines) that a disciple does that helps them follow Jesus? These are summary statements for an outline, but if you missed the discussion and what more description and instruction, you can get all the content on our podcast at www.eagleheights.com.

Notes and discussion were provided by Steve Presswood.

Greek-to-English, (Grk. – Mathetes) = disciple. From Vine’s Expository Dictionary, mathetes (disciple) literally means “a learner,” indicating thought accompanied by endeavor. It denotes “one who follows one’s teaching.” A disciple was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher.

Some of Jesus’ most succinct teachings about what it means to be a disciple are found in the following passages. What do these passages teach about a disciple’s attitudes, aims and actions?

Luke 14:25-33

  • We are to love Jesus preeminently.
  • Jesus is the most important person in our life.
  • By comparison, every other relationship should be secondary to hearing and following Jesus.

John 8:31

  • The word of Jesus is central to being a disciple.
  • A disciple is not one who makes a decision but lives in response to God’s word.
  • This is a hard and lifelong work.

The mandate of Christ was that we follow Him. One of the common admonitions of the NT outside of the gospels was that those in Christ do what He did. It’s expressed in many ways. Among them is that walk worthy, that we live consistent with who we are in Christ, that we press on to maturity (Christ-likeness), that we suffer in the flesh in order to live for the will of God, that we walk in the same way Jesus walked-in obedience.

What a tall order! Is it doable? Certainly not perfectly but it is possible. The expectation is that we follow Christ to the point of maturity, to fruitfulness (see John 15:8).

What’s the process for growing to maturity? Jesus gave it in its simplest from in John 8:31. The process is to continue in His word, to practice what I call being an HBO Christian, meaning to continually…

  • Hearing.
  • Believing.
  • Obeying. – What? The word of Jesus.

Navigator Illustrations:

Discipline, or self-control or training, is required for spiritual growth and development as with any type of growth and development. Paul tells Timothy, his true child in the faith, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7)

Disciplines are tools for training, resources for success and fruitfulness, helps for growing in Christ. Some of the tools used by those who hare growing in their walk with Christ:

  • Reading the Bible daily.
  • Praying regularly with a list.
  • Memorizing the Bible.

Don Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life recommends these as additional spiritual disciplines:

  • Worship.
  • Evangelism.
  • Serving.
  • Stewardship (Giving).
  • Fasting.
  • Silence and Solitude.
  • Journaling.
  • Learning.

For additional resources go to Discipleship Library.

A Manhood Manifesto; Raising Godly Sons

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Elijah's Pre-K Graduation

I want to raise Godly sons. I want to train my boys to be men. But what Christian parent doesn’t?

It’s not enough though to know something or even want to do it, there also has to be a plan and a goal. I tell my little guys all the time that there are two things that I have to teach them and they know the two things – “Love Jesus and be a man.”

For a while now I have been taking mental notes and jotting down some ideas I want to model and teach to my sons. The catalyst to do so came mostly  from John Wooden’s book, The Essential Wooden; A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership. In the book, Wooden tells of the influence his dad, Joshua Wooden, had on his life by the way his dad lived but also by short lists that his dad consistently referenced in teachable moments.

For instance, Wooden’s dad had simple rules to live by which were organized into what he called “Two Sets of Three.” The first set was about honesty:

  1. Never lie.
  2. Never cheat.
  3. Never steal.

The second set was about adversity:

  1. Don’t wine.
  2. Don’t complain.
  3. Don’t make excuses.

Another example is the occasion of John’s graduation from elementary school when Joshua gave his son a two dollar bill and a list of “Seven things to do.”

John Wooden, one of the greatest leaders and most successful men in recent memory, was obviously deeply impacted by these little lists in conjunction with the example of his father’s life. There’s something to be learned and applied here.

Having these little lists seem important to me for at least two reasons. First, they serve as a memorable reference for addressing the challenges a boy will face as he hopefully becomes a man with the guidance of his father. Second, it seems to me that having a list(s) is critically important for the father who is trying to teach his son what it means to be a man. The father who has a list is a father who has thought about what he wants to model and teach and why he wants to do so. This in turn causes the father who has made the list to consider where his life lines up with these expectations, and it challenges the father in his own life. After all, no one can give to another what he himself does not possess. The damage of demanding something from someone, especially a son, without living it personally could be devastating to the son and the father. The list(s) therefore serves to instruct and edify the son and the father.

A list that is completed for the purpose of lovingly helping a son become a man is a tool that shows a father knows and desires to give his son a plan so that he can become a man. And more than ever we need men who have a plan to raise up Godly men. The world right now is full of boys who can shave (Mark Driscoll) who are in turn raising up boys who can shave. Gender and age do not make a man. So what then is a man? What does a man do? What are his convictions?

As I have already mentioned, I have been jotting ideas for a while. This morning I sat down with Lacey and we took what I had and collaborated together to come up with our own “list of seven things” to pass on to our sons. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. Men live for God’s glory by trusting Jesus and following Him (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 22:36-40; Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
  2. Men respect others (Matthew 22:36-40; Matthew 7:12; Philippians 2:3-4). Treat others the way you would want to be treated, for this is the law and the prophets.
  3. Men always tell the truth. Everyone makes mistakes, but a man tells the truth even when it hurts (Ps. 15:1-2; John 14:6; Exodus 20:16).
  4. Men don’t whine and complain (Philippians 2:14).
  5. Men have big hearts and work hard at whatever they do (Col. 3:17, 23). “It’s hard to do things well, it’s not hard to work hard.” Scott Brooks
  6. Men manage the money God gives them so they can be rich toward God and generous toward others (Luke 12:13-34; Luke 14:12-15; 2 Corinthians 8-9).
  7. Men finish what they start, even when life is hard (John 19:30; 1 Timothy 4:7-8). Jesus is our example and we are never more like Him than when we follow His example in persevering.

Father’s Day is tomorrow. It’s a day we honor fathers. Is there any greater honor for a father than raising Godly sons who will by God’s grace in Christ become Godly men? It won’t happen by accident. Take the time and make a list. You won’t regret it, but you might regret it if you don’t.

Converge – Week 2; The Gospel and the Disciple

For our eight week summer study on Wednesday Night we are drilling down on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. After all, He commanded that we make disciples. And who was He talking to at that moment? The disciples. So disciples should make disciples. What does that mean? How do we do it? How do we apply discipleship to every category of the lives we live everyday? These are the questions we are looking at together. In week 2 we asked what is the connection between the gospel and discipleship and what are the dangers of divorcing the two? These are summary statements for an outline, but if you missed the discussion and what more description and instruction, you can get all the content on our podcast at www.eagleheights.com.

 Last Week: What is a disciple?

The Importance of trying to define what a disciple is: “We can always say we are successful if we can’t define what success is.”

  • “A committed follower of Jesus learning to grow in Christ-likeness so they can evangelize and train others to evangelize and train others.” John Kelsey OUBSU
  • A person wanting (­­­­­­attitude) and learning to follow Christ (action) with all of their life for the rest of their life (extent/scope).”

Biblically, what’s right and helpful about these definitions?

What is wrong with (missing from) these helpful definitions?

1.        Seem Individualistic.

2.        No passing on of the Christ life. No multiplication.

3.        It looks like and could be legalistic. Works/Performance based.

A synthesized and fuller definition:

A person who is truly saved by faith in Christ (condition), wanting (­­­­­­attitude) and learning to follow Christ (action) with all of their life for the rest of their life (extent/scope) and passing the life of Christ on to others (legacy).”

What is the gospel?

Simply, the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ lived perfectly, died for our sins and was raised victoriously conquering sin and death (1 Cor. 15:1-8).  

 Describing the good news:

  • Historical fact (1 John 1:1-4).
  • Perfect and Present “Once for all” “It is finished”. There’s nothing I can add to earn, but it can change who I am in Christ and therefore how I live for Christ.
  • Impossible for me to do. Why? Because of the previous. I can live in response to the gospel, but I can’t live the gospel. Only Jesus can die, resurrect and mediate. All I can do is respond with glad obedience.

The gospel is good news, not good advice. But it is news that:

  • Needs a response. We must respond. No response is a no response

What are the consequences for discipleship of neglecting the gospel?

 1.        Personal – How will a gospel-less discipleship impact my trying to be a disciple?

  • Beat myself up when I don’t act like a disciple. Earn approval.
  •  I develop a God’s going to get me mindset and lifestyle = fear.

2.        Other People – How will a gospel-less discipleship impact the way I treat others?

  • I beat others up. Pride creeps in. I become a Pharisee.
  •  I expect people to be like me and not Jesus. I compare and judge.

 So we must first be saved by responding to the gospel.

We need to be disciples.

We need to continue to learn how to apply the gospel as a disciple, to our discipleship.

 Key Question: How do the gospel and discipleship fit together? ILL: A Tree

  • 2 Cor. 5:14-15. The gospel should cause us to want to be disciples of Christ rather than having to to be a disciple of Christ.
  • 2 Peter 1:1-11. Discipleship is empowered (VV. 3-4) by the gospel, but the disciple must make every effort (VV.5-8). “Nothing in the life of the disciple takes care of itself (Romans 8:13; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 4:7-10; 1 Timothy 6:12; Luke 13:24). We must trust and obey. It’s both.

“Jesus has satisfied my debt, which is exactly why I can’t be satisfied with anything less than living for Christ.”

One Thing – What is one thing that you need to change your mind about so that you can obey Christ for God’s glory, the good of others and your joy?  James 1:22

Sunday Morning Worship Participation

So much of life is about perception – about how you choose to see things.

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Is someone an optimist, realist or pessimist?

Is the worship gathering on Sunday Morning a gathering that people can participate in or is it simply a spectator event? The way you answer this question is not so much determined by the meeting itself, but rather by your attitude or perception about the meeting.

I don’t doubt that most worship gatherings seem passive rather than active, but if you stop to think about participating in a worship gathering and then have the attitude that every moment of that gathering is an opportunity to participate, then your perception might change. As a pastor it is my privilege and responsibility to educate people about why we do what we do and then tell them what it is we are doing.

For this past Sunday I came up with nine ways our people could participate in our worship gathering, and then I challenged them to respond. These are ways that people can connect, participate, serve, worship and be involved in a worship gathering.

  1. Obey by gathering as a local church (Hebrews 10:24-25). People always want to know how they can be involved. To begin with they can habitually gather with us on Sunday Morning at 10:30 a.m.
  2. Sing in Spirit and in truth (John 4). When this happens two things will happen. First, worship of God will take place. Second, proclamation to about God to others will take place. Singing can be preaching.
  3. Praying (Acts 4:24-31). What should be happening when one person is praying? Agreement in our hearts and minds.
  4. Listening, examining and responding. Listening is just as much an act of worship as preaching is. We must listen with eagerness just as Cornelius was prepared to do (Acts 10:33). We must examine the scriptures just as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). We must respond to the word of God every time we hear it rightly divided (James 1:22).
  5. Giving of Tithes and Gifts. God loves a generous heart and He has called us to be generous together as a local body for the work of ministry (2 Cor. 8-9).
  6. Remembering. Jesus told us to show the gospel and remember it when we baptize and share the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 28:19 and 2 Cor. 11). These are object lessons in which we remember what Christ did for us in His death, burial and resurrection.
  7. Edifying with presence and words. As we gather and as we leave we should be smiling, encouraging, consoling, listening, etc. (Ephesians 4:29).
  8. Gathering to go. We don’t just gather for the sake of gathering.We gather to receive nourishment and encouragement so we can take Jesus to the world. May we never hoard the gospel in little holy huddles.
  9. Thinking about the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Sunday one of our Core Group members prayed for an unreached people group from India of over 4 million people. The world is dark and we have the light. We need to pray and remember that.

May God open our eyes and change our perception that we might fully participate the worship of God through Jesus Christ.

George Mueller on Difficulties as the Food of Faith

Mueller's Tombstone

In this broken world if you are not facing trials, obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes defeats, just wait longer. But trials do not mean that God has abandoned us, rather for the Christian and perhaps for the unbeliever, trials are a gift that God uses for the good of those who love Him, by which He might increase our faith in Him.

I implore you, read a biography of George Mueller and see what I mean.

Mueller lived from 1805 to 1898 in England where he became known for his work of serving orphans by letting God provide for their needs, often miraculously. His life is best summed up in his own words: “My whole life shall be one service for the living God.”

Here is a paragraph from a pamphlet (An Hour with George Mueller) that I read from time to time in which Mueller talks about the advantages of trials by which God grows our faith in Him. Mueller writes:

God delights to increase the faith of His children. Our faith, which is feeble at first, is developed and strengthened more and more by use. We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God’s hand as means. I say – and say it deliberately – trials, obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes defeats, are the very food of faith. I get letters from many of God’s children who say, “Dear Brother Mueller: I’m writing this because I am weak and feeble in faith.” Just so surely as we ask to have our faith strengthened, we must feel a willingness to take from God’s hand the means for strengthening it. We must allow Him to educate us through trials and bereavements and troubles. It is through trials that faith is exercised and developed more and more. God affectionately permits difficulties, that He may develop unceasingly that which He is willing to do for us, and to this end we should not shrink, but if He gives us sorrow and hindrances and losses of afflictions, we should take them out of His hands as evidences of His love and care for us in developing more and more that faith which He is seeking to strengthen in us. (See Hebrews 12:4-11; John 16:33)

Mueller is not advocating masochism, but He is saying that Romans 8:28 is true. When Paul writes that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, he really means all. We must learn to see that what we often want least is the very thing we need the most, and God knows what you need even if you don’t.