foundational victory

Every disciple making community I start, begins with this premise. “The foundational facts-figures-readingvictory, upon which all other victories are based, is daily time to read the word of God.” This is a discipline that I have built into my life that has been revolutionary.   I challenge those new to the disciple making process to make their first victory one in which they read the word of God on a daily basis. Reading your Bible on a daily basis is a victory of discipline.

When I know a pastor well, I tell them that I want to know about their Bible reading schedule. Sadly, they usually cower in shame only to admit, it is not what it should be. I confess, up until a few years ago, I was a terrible Bible reader. I had every excuse in the book to not read the Bible on a daily basis. However, once I have disciplined myself to be a regular Bible reader, my previous excuses just seemed silly.

5 tips for a daily Bible reading plan

Plan it:

Know what you’re reading today and what you will read tomorrow. Whether it is just a chapter a day or an Old and New Testament reading, have a regular reading plan. At times I preach more than one time per week, so this has become an invaluable tool. I record my daily readings and reflections on the Evernote App so they are quickly searchable. I have found myself quoting obscure Biblical stories in the middle of sermons because they are things I had just read and fit so well. Have a plan God will use it!

Schedule it:

I have found it best to have a drop-dead time that reading has to be done by. I’m not legalistic about this but in the mornings when my kids wake up, all bets are off for reading (They are still in the ultra-needy stage). I try and have my reading and reflections done by the first 30 minutes after getting into the office for the day.   

Reflect on it:

It has happened more than one time that I have read a chapter in the Bible and thought, “what on earth did I just read?” It happens to everyone. I suggest a slower intentional reading of the scriptures with reflection. What I know is that God wants to speak to humanity and one of the best ways he does that is with his word.

Discuss it

God’s word was spoken before it was ever read. I once heard a Rabbi say that it should be a sin to read the Torah alone. There is something about talking about the scripture that lends to it becoming a reality in life. After all, I am convinced that words can become flesh.

Account for it

I have a small group of local pastors that I text my daily reading to. It is almost like the good old fashion chain letter, I text one person and they text another and so on. More than anything else, practicing the discipline of accountability makes me read the Bible on days when I’m just to tired or busy, and those are the days I need to hear God’s voice the most.

Effective disciple making begins with a solid daily reading of the scriptures. The scriptures will grow you, transform you and send you on mission with Jesus. I believe that once you have achieved a victory in reading the scripture then that lays the foundation for all other victories. Can you afford to put off developing a daily reading plan?

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Celebrating Women in Leadership: 3 reasons why I am Egalitarian

Celebrating Women in LeadershipSo in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

  1. Women in Leadership is Biblically Accurate: Women in scripture were clearly more than the helpmate that my complementation brothers and sisters would describe. Women were bold dynamic leaders (Deborah, Esther, Mary, the Samaritan woman, etc.). Supporting women in ministry leadership actually takes a deeper reading of scripture. I can see where a simplistic surface level reading of the text could lend someone toward complementation thinking. However, solid biblical exegesis leads me back to the fact that men and women can and should be full partners in ministry.

Here are three quick reasons why I believe women in church leadership is biblically accurate

-Men and women are both image bearers: Genesis 1:27;31, 5:1-2

-Jesus levels the playing field: Galatians 3:26-28

-Women were apostles and leaders in the early church: Romans 16,

***There are many more reasons why this is biblically accurate, if you are looking for reasons then check out my friends over at http://juniaproject.com or post a question in the comments and I’ll get back to you

  1. Women in Leadership are Strategically important: This question has rocked me lately, “If the great commission were to be fulfilled in two years, what would have to happen?” Obviously, when you start thinking about the ramifications of this question, the first thing is that we need more people who are on mission with Jesus. We need men and women to, to lead churches and to disciple others. If the Great Commission were to be accomplished in the next two years, the church would minimally have to double its output of leaders. This means my complementation friends would have to release some ladies to lead churches and preach the gospel.
  2. Women in Leadership makes an “Acts 2” Church: Everyone wants to have the “Acts 2” type of church. Usually when this is mentioned to we are specifically suggesting Acts 2:42-47. This is a terrific vision of what the church ought to look like and be, But in my Bible I can’t get to Acts 2:42-47 without reading verses 17-18

“‘In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

 

Sign up for the Celebrating Women in Leadership Conference, February 14, 2015: Click Here

 

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counterfeit love

CS Lewis wrote about life so profoundly that you can’t help but testify to the truthfulness of C.S.-Lewis-2what you have just read.  I just got back from a two-week vacation where all I did was read. Out of all the page I’ve read, the one line that has stuck with me most vividly was from Lewis, “Love, in its own nature, demands perfecting of the beloved.”

My dad and I have always had a great relationship, but I remember one time in college when we sharply disagreed on something.  It was nothing that harmed our relationship, we disagreed before but this time just stuck out to me.  Now that I have some distance from the issue, it is overly apparent that he was right.  In fact, I knew he was right at the time I just wanted my way.  Love disagrees, and sometimes sharply, not for the benefit of the lover but for the beloved.  I am thankful for my father, through this disagreement he taught me how to think and reason correctly.  My father cared more about whom I was becoming than I did in those moments.

In friendships, in parenting, in marriage you will find that this old CS Lewis wisdom rings true.  Love indeed demands the perfecting of the beloved.  It is not very loving to watch someone spiral out of control.  What kind of friend would I be if I did not speak out when my friend was going down a dangerous path?  What kind of husband would I be if I didn’t want better than the current reality for my wife?  What kind of father would my kids have if I didn’t discipline them, and then what kind of kids would they be if they thought their impulses were always correct?   What kind of God would God be if He didn’t want the very best, including perfection, for his people.

True love always hopes and wants the best for others.  There is this impulse in the fabric of our society that says when your opinion is offensive; it is not loving to say it.  This seems to me like counterfeit love.  We must reject counterfeit love that allows people to rejoice in their own impulses.  Reject the kind of counterfeit love that allows you watch others drift toward disaster without lifting a finger.  Reject the counterfeit love that cares more for the lover than the beloved. Real love is compelled to want the best for you.  Real true love is compelled to kindly correct and rebuke.  Real love gently draws out perfection, if it is at all possible.

Counterfeit love is all around us, it screams, “do whatever you want!”  Even when what you want is bad.  It is a dangerous delusion when we re-define love in our own words.  As I said in another post, what would happen if a man beat his child but still professed the message of love?  The child would always have a flawed definition of love.

What would this world look like if the lover demanded the perfection of the beloved?  Of course, our love is flawed because we ourselves are not love, only God is Love.

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the message is the messenger

Our actions either affirm the gospel message of Jesus Christ or we fit the gospel message Jesus the conformist into our actions, thus contorting the gospel into a new one entirely.  If I told my children that I love them and then I beat them, then wouldn’t they have a distorted understanding of the message of love?  It takes less than one generation to change the message.

This idea speaks much to my concern with the state of the church in America.  By our actions we affirm the centrality of ourselves.  By our purchasing power we affirm that we can supply all of our own needs.   Our self-indulgences help us to forget there was ever such a thing called temptation. By our travel into the cosmos we can practically touch the heavens.  Through our denial of the existence of evil we nullify the need to overcome such evil.  And the gospel message becomes a tame, easy message of sinning and feeling good about it.

The message of the gospel is most readily preached through our actions, whether they are correct or not.  Our actions are read and interpreted with the ease of a children’s book.  We say common phrases like, “don’t shoot the messenger.”  But so many times, the message is the messenger.

I have been getting into the conversation of Christianity and homosexuality a lot lately.  This is yet one more reason as a Christian I cannot celebrate gay marriage or homosexuality in general.  I know I will sound like an extremist and fundamentalist with this next line, but I think those serious Christians who do affirm such behavior are at risk of changing the gospel message entirely.  The message will be, “Jesus wants you to fulfill all of your desires.”  Professor Niebuhr reminds us that this gospel does not lead to freedom in his famous quote, “man is most free in the realization that he is not free.”  Niebuhr reminds us that life with Jesus is about submitting our entire life, including our desires to him and living in the freedom of being filled with Him.

It is not just the homosexuality conversation that changes the message.  Our ravenous consumerist desires, coupled with our individualistic needs have probably done more damage to the message of Christ than any case of pastoral infidelity.  Our thirst for fulfilling our needs through common consumer practices are even de facto blessed by the institution of the church, which needs to have the newest, latest greatest gadgets as well.  I suppose we accidentally create desire for stuff rather than for transformation.  This is a problem that infects everyone and actually does serious damage to the poorest among us.  It again changes the message to, “I can solve all of my problems and I can have all of my needs met through a simple transaction.”

So what is the message of Christ?  What did he say the Gospel was?  What Jesus actually said was this: “The time has come, The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news,” (Mark 1:14) It could take many pages to explain this phrase fully, but it could be taken as simply as saying that His ways are not our ways, His kind of love is not our kind of love, so we need to change our minds, submit our actions to what God is doing and wants to do all around us.

There are many who will disagree with what I am suggesting here, I would welcome you to straighten me out in the comments below.  But I would also challenge you that before you did that, ask yourself what your actions preach.  How does the way you live amplify, distort or change the gospel of Christ?

May God bless you richly today,

May He shine his face upon you,

And give you peace.

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awkward conversations

Awkward_Postcard (1)I had a friend, and fellow blogger, point out to me on Sunday that I thrive in tension and that I love creating it.  The truth is that creating an awkward, tension filled environment is great for learning.  I don’t do it to make people feel uncomfortable but when you think about it, the moments that shift our paradigms the most are when we recognize the tension that is alive within us and face it.

On April 27th we begun a series called, “Awkward,” our goal is to face these issues head on and become the kind of church that the world is waiting for (Romans 8).   Ever since I wrote a little on gay marriage a few months ago I have been more and more compelled to talk about this issue.   The problem is the divisiveness of the issue.  More and more “disagreement” has been translated as “intolerance” and intolerance has moved to “hate.”  This type of thinking is inherently illogical.  While it helps the homosexual agenda, it can be extremely damaging if applied to other areas of life.  Taken to its logical conclusion, this form of thinking is inherently reverse discrimination.  Here is an easy example that has actually happened.  Voting for traditional marriage was branded as hate, in that the campaign was “NOH8.”  This actually happened.  Then a company CEO (although not tactful) states his position on gay marriage and then almost immediately the entire company is branded as a hate filled organization that needed to be boycotted.  Effectively, labeling any group as “hateful” is the impetus for discrimination in the marketplace.  Even though this person showed no evidence of being hateful by the real meaning of the word, they simply had a strong opinion.

It is my belief that this tit-for-tat petty thinking needs to end.  Unless we engage in meaningful conversation and give the homosexual community a chance to be heard and understood we will always be steeped in this type of battle.  Similarly, the homosexual community needs to give the Christian community a chance to be heard.  We need to understand each other’s differences and respectfully disagree with one another.

We need to recognize that a war has been waged.  The homosexual community and the Christian community did battle numerous times.  Very little about this was tactful.  Very little about the war created unity and allowed for others to understand one another.  Our culture is immersed in a type of toxic thinking.  That is, retributive violence or revenge is a means by which order is restored.  I believe this to be the biggest lie of all.  I want to submit to you a new way forward.  I think there is really only one way to restore order after a war.  We need to repent in the areas we have been hurtful, change any hurtful behavior and begin to learn from one another.

I want to publish my teaching outline from this past Sunday, and invite you out to the conversation I will be having with a friend of mine who is gay on May 4th.   If you have a topic or question for conversation that you’d like us to cover then please put it in the comments below.

If you’re looking for a fight then this is not the place for you, but if you’re looking for actual dialogue that will help us approach this issue better, then I’d love to have you as our guest.

————–Sermon outline———————–

This is Awkward…The Homosexuality Discussion

Matthew 21:31

What do we do with our enemies?

Matthew 5:43-48

The logical conclusion of Jesus’ teaching is to have no enemies

We remember the mission of the church is to be a community of redemption

Many of you have heard this quote:

“The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.” Morton T. Kelsey

Luke 18:9-14

Matthew 21:31

We never define, label or joke at the expense of others.

We have to always remember:

  1. Each person bears the image of God (Genesis 1:27)
  2. We are God’s delivery system of Grace (1 Peter 4:10)
  3. We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15, 25)
  4. We must guard against unwholesome talk that doesn’t build others up (Ephesians 4:29)

We never Judge others

Luke 6:37-38

We show hospitality to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation

Sodom and Gomorrah was more about a story of inhospitality than a story condemning homosexuality

Ezekiel 16:49 

We remember that loving someone and walking through life with them does not constitute affirming a particular lifestyle

Jesus spent so much time with the tax collectors, drunkards and gluttons that he was considered one of them.  We have no evidence to say that Jesus was actually one of them.  However we do have evidence to say that Jesus led them out of their lifestyles

Luke 7:34

Let the Bible speak for itself

We do have a Biblical basis to say that homosexual behavior is outside the will of God in regard to our sexual relationships.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Romans 1:24-28

Jesus on traditional Marriage:

Matthew 19:3-6

We have a working framework for discussion

Frame 1: Homosexuality = Struggle

Frame 2: Homosexual behavior = Sin

Frame 3: Homosexual agenda= Strategy

How to engage with others:

  1. Listen and learn from them
  2. Lead them to Jesus
  3. Leave people with Jesus
  4. Love people like Jesus
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