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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the pursuit of truth

Scientific advancements have come so far since the Bible was written, our world has changed, how do we face these questions about our faith with a book that was written thousands of years ago?

This question has been a popular one among Christians and secular people, I think for obvious reasons.  The Bible is a compiled document well over 2000 years old, is it even relevant?  Can we really know and trust biblical knowledge. il_570xN.322587605

The story we tell ourselves of how and why we got here is really important.  One thing that we need to understand is that the experts of how we got here and the meaning of life used to be the philosophers.  Today these experts are scientist.  The story we tell ourselves about life revolves around what scientists say.  They have become the new experts.

For example, in 1492 all scientists knew that the world was a sphere and that if you said across the sea you wouldn’t fall off the other side.  However, the common worldview was that you fall into an abyss.  Science changed all of that.  For a while astronomers were convinced that the earth was the center of the solar system.  A few years later, scientists understood that all planets orbited the sun.  Charles Darwin is a lightning rod of a figure in this modern debate.  The reason why he is so important is because we are now telling his story of how we got here.  The world tells our selves that only the strongest survive and for thousands of years only the strongest of the species have made it.  I just watched the film. “I AM,” directed by Tom Shadyac and he makes a point to talk about this as well.  The problem is that story we are telling ourselves isn’t entirely true.  Weak people survive all the time through mutual cooperation and love.  Although I have never read Darwin cover to cover, I trust that Tom Shadayac isn’t lying when he says that Darwin comes to this same conclusion.

Science is advancing every day.  With it, the way that we live life changes.

The scientific method is great and it has really saved our world a lot of trouble.  I am betting that you cook with some kind of vegetable or olive oil at home.  It is no mistake that you do this.  The reason you do is because of new research on the subject of trans-fats.  Before the vegetable oil, people commonly cooked with Crisco.  Crisco was an invention that was marketed as the healthier alternative to animal fats but people largely went away from it because of new research that showed trans-fats were bad for you.  Before Crisco was lard and before lard the most common shortening that you would use was pig fat. Research changes the way we behave because we view the results as truth.

For the most part there is nothing wrong with altering what we do based on research.  Research & studies are good to help us understand what is good for us.

However, we must be aware of the misleading label of “research.”  The word itself instills a kind of trust that makes us bypass our normal safe guard questions like, who is behind the research?  What are these people ultimately selling?  There is research that is done for the good of humanity and then research that is done for the good of the corporation.

The problem with our society is that we see research as unquestionable truth.  How many times have you heard this phrase on the news, “new research says that ___…???”  We then alter our habits accordingly. In our world, research = truth.

The by-product of scientific research is the belief that truth is only true if it can be tested and repeated.  If the truth is only true if we can test it, then what about things that science can’t speak into?  Our culture’s underlying assumption is that science is the new authority on how to live a good life.

Owen Flanagan is a distinguished professor and scientist at Duke University. While talking about the conflict between Israel and Palestine he was asked what he believed God would have to say about it.  He remarked, “I think most scientists would say it is absurd to think that anyone knows what God intended for any piece of earth.”

Dallas Willard replied: “If science has nothing to say about God’s intentions, why should anyone care about what “most scientist” thinks about them, any more than what most accountants or truck drivers think about them?”  (Willard, Dallas.  Knowing Christ Today, 59)

Willard skillfully made the point that our culture has run to science for explanations of what is happening in the world.  We’ve been conditioned to believe that science is the only source of reliable knowledge and truth, when in reality it is a source of knowledge and truth.  The reality is that there another source of truth.

I think the Bible is a very reliable source of truth and more than that; it is a source of historical knowledge.  A few weeks ago I heard an interview with Reza Aslan who has written a new book called, Zealot the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  (Still on my to-read list)  He claims to be a historian and yet he referred to the four gospels as works of faith, lacking historical significance.  This is crazy, mainly because we know that much of the gospels including locations can be backed up historically.  Our world has labeled any Biblical knowledge as faith, effectively ridding the Bible of truth.

This brings us to the question that our culture is shouting from the rooftops.  What is truth?  I think truth is grounded in reality, which is what is really going on.  As far as I know, no one has ever been able to demonstrate that reality is secular.  The question of what is the truth really brings us to the heart of the matter.  This is the question that individuals need to ask themselves, it is irresponsible not to.  Can truth only be found in science?  Or are there things in life that scientist can’t speak to?  I know it pulls the rug out from under some folks when you assert that science can’t prove everything.  But ask yourself, what could science never prove?

I challenge you to ask yourself some difficult questions.

  1. What is reality?
  2. Is reality secular?
  3. What is knowledge and who has it?
  4. Who are the experts in life today and through out time?
  5. What is truth?

A quick thought on moral relativism

When we want to ask the question, “is there real or one truth out there?”  Our humanity inevitably wants to land on moral relativism.   We will almost always choose the least offensive thing because we want to be right and we do not ever want to be in the position of calling someone else wrong.  The flaw with moral relativism (Basically, everyone is right in their own eyes) is that there are finite and fixed truths. I can ask a billion people how tall I am and I can have a billion different answers.  But what really matters is how tall I actually am.   The challenge is to be bold and proclaim actual truth that you can stand behind.

So seek it out.

 

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the value of play

Last month I spent three days learning from Dallas Willard.  He was talking about creation and he said something that has stuck in my head ever since.  He said, “Creation for God was an act of joy, it was play for God.  Play is the creation of values that are unnecessary.”  I had IMG_5296never looked at the act of creation as a time for God to play.  Then He defined Joy as, “persistent wellbeing.” I began to wonder, what is the value that is unnecessary in creation?  The value is: us, animals, trees, figs, water, birds, hippos, zebra’s, intelligence, the circulatory system, photosynthesis, sex, the moon and stars and sun.  Willard’s idea was that God was playing when he made the earth.

My kids play, in watching them I am reminded that there is something Godlike in playing.  I wonder if that is one of the reasons why Jesus said, “let the little children come to me.”  Maybe kids get God on a deeper level because they still have an imagination.  Maybe their reality is far more limitless than ours.  Whatever it is, maybe there is something to playing.

It is in God’s unnecessary love that He lavished on humanity that we begin to see the necessity of love in our life.  According to scientist our brains are wired for love.  What was once unnecessary is now something that we cannot live without.  The fact that God is Love is revealed in the creation and His rejoicing over it.

You can tell your kids that you love them all the time, but I think it is in play that it’s realized.  It is simply unnecessary to get your toenails painted or play hide and seek when they always hide in the exact spot that you just hid in.  Play reveals a love that is inexpressible otherwise.  Their ability to conceive your verbal affirmation of love will only arrive far later than they need it.

May you understanding of God’s love for you grow as you realize that creation is the only way to express that which is otherwise inexpressible.

May you create a value that is unnecessary.

May you get your toes painted or throw a football just because you can.  In so doing, may you find a state of persistent wellbeing.

As Paul says to the people of Ephesus, And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

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rules for a preacher circa 1888, rule 8

Be ashamed of nothing but sin.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…Romans 1:16

As a pastor this question will invariably run through your head, “What if someone leaves the photochurch because of something I said?”  “What if I offend someone?”  Jesus told the religious elite of his day that they were not honoring their farther and mother and it is what they do and say that makes them clean or unclean.  It was an offensive thing to say, in fact the disciples even said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:12)  Of course Jesus knew he was offending people, the truth offends.

I just watched Dr. Ben Carson give the keynote address at the national prayer breakfast.  I think one of the most important things that he said, is that it is dangerous to be politically correct.  His point is that we are voluntarily censoring ourselves and in so doing, watching free speech fade away as a distant memory.  As pastors, this rule offered from 1888 gives timeless wisdom.  The Gospel is offensive, we don’t want to take away that offense, but we also don’t need to add to it.

May you speak boldly in whatever forum God has given you

May you speak the truth, regardless of who is in the audience

May you let the Gospel speak for itself

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