Archive for the 'Kingdom Living' Category

17
Oct
10

Refuse to Do Nothing

This Saturday, hundreds of people from First Church will be heading out into the River Valley to touch lives with the love of Jesus.  We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus by making sure that our faith is a loving, practical, active faith (James 2:18).  We’re calling this Servolution Saturday, but our desire is to adopt a Servolution Lifestyle.

If you are a follower of Christ, how are you demonstrating your faith?  What is the difference you’re making?  Whose life has been impacted for good because you cared and you stepped up to get involved?  It is easier to look the other way and not be bothered.  It is easier to think, “Someone else will do it.”  Let’s quit taking the easy way.

Josh Wilson, singer/songwriter, has written a song that says, “I refuse to do nothing.”  He produced the video below after experiencing Nashville’s 1000-year flood and being convicted about his involvement to help the victims.  I hope as you view this, you will be inspired to ask how you can be the hands and feet of Jesus.

How are you inspired to serve?  Where do you make a footprint for the Kingdom?

15
Oct
10

An Easy Way to Make a Difference

The focus verse for Hydrate this week is James 2:18.

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Faith and works are inseparable for the true believer.  If we are the recipients of the tremendous grace of God through salvation, how can we help but want to share that grace with others?  Real salvation will result in real concern and love for others because we have experienced real love from the author of love:  God Himself!

We need to ask ourselves, “How am I expressing the love of God to those around me?”  Is there a way to make a difference in both the eternity and present  life of people with whom I have influence?  The love of Christ motivates us, the Spirit of Christ guides us to be intentional.  How will you let Him use you?

Look around you and pray for God to show you the needs of the community in which you live and the world beyond your locale.  Submit yourself to be used by God to meet these needs and open doors to share the life of Christ through the gospel.

If you want to take an easy first step of making a practical difference, click on the Blood:Water Mission link on my page and complete the activity.  The sponsoring business will make a donation to the organization which provides clean drinking water and AIDS care for people in Africa.  Let that activity then be the first step in a long list of ways you become involved in touching the world with the love of Christ and His gospel.

Celebrate!  Comment and share the ways and ministries through which you are making a difference.  I would love to hear all the ways God is at work through you.

09
Oct
10

Next Gen Motivation Connects with Biblical Truth

Daniel Pink, noted business leader and speaker, points out that there are three basic motives for behavior.  Specifically, he speaks of motivating behavior in the business world.  Studies and observation of human behavior tell us that we are motivated by…
1.    Biological Motives – food, sleep, sex.
2.    Reward Motives – greater productivity brings greater reward.
3.    Purpose Motives – understanding that what one does has a greater purpose and contributes to a greater cause (involving ownership).

We know biblically, as well as scientifically, that biological motives are very powerful in controlling behavior.  However, when it comes to problem solving, they are not very effective beyond simply taking care of one’s biological needs.  Unmanaged, they can even become enslaving and lead to less productivity in life.

Reward, as research indicates, is effective for relatively low-level cognitive problem-solving situations.  And, actually, when creativity and innovation are needed for more complex problem solving, productivity actually decreases when reward is increased.  This is certainly counter-intuitive, but proven to be true.

However, when an individual gains an understanding of purpose behind their problem solving and are encouraged to take ownership of the overall purpose, their creativity and productivity increases.   This is even more pronounced when they are given “authority” or freedom in their activity rather than being delegated tasks.

So What?

So how does this apply to life and the church beyond the business world?  I think there is a very significant application in regard to the cultural relevance of the gospel.

Thirty-plus years ago, American culture was primarily a reward motivated culture.  If you do these tasks, you’ll receive this reward.  Do more tasks and you’ll receive more reward.

The “Next Gen” culture is not motivated merely by simple reward.  The bigger picture motivates them.  They want to know there is a cause bigger than them and want to become a part of something that will make a difference in their world.

Place that dynamic over our spiritual journey and it looks like this.

Past generations have been concerned primarily with the gospel redemption that gets a person saved so as to gain the reward of heaven.  After that, they wanted to enlist as many as they could to join them.  Great goal, but I would argue–incomplete.

This alone is not a motivator to the Next Gen’ers.  They want to know that they are changing the “here and now” of people AS WELL AS their eternity.

For the church to reach the Next Generation we must be focused on engaging and reforming the culture as a natural outcome of the redemption process of the gospel.  We can call it a means to an end, the ultimate step in the discipleship process, or just the other piece of the puzzle.  However, we label it, we know that the Bible speaks prolifically about the people of God caring about the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the broken and the forgotten.  For us to embrace the gospel of redemption, and not embrace the responsibility to bring healing and physical restoration to these, is to fail to fully embrace the gospel.  I speak not of a “social gospel” that tosses aside the message of salvation in favor of only addressing a physical or emotional need.  I do reject the notion that we only focus on bringing people face-to-face with the opportunity for salvation with no concern for their physical needs.

This is not just a Next Gen issue.  It is a biblical truth issue.  Can we possibly look at the life of Jesus and all that the Scripture teaches about caring for the needy and think that addressing social injustice is not an integral part of the gospel?  The only answer in my mind is reflected in the words of Jesus.

“ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Luke 4:18-19

What are your thoughts about the connection between the gospel and social injustice?  How have you involved yourself in connecting the two?


06
Oct
10

Not What We Do; It’s Our DNA – 24/7 FAITH

The church is notorious for the development of never-ending programs.  In an effort to relate to culture, and to be on the cutting edge, we are in constant search of the newest, the latest, and the most attention-grabbing methods.  While that is to some extent necessary so that we can reach the current generation, we stand in danger of missing the most important method of ministry—inter-generational discipleship.

The Faith-at-Home movement is gaining great momentum as people and organizations like Mark Holmen, Randall House Publications, Blaine Rogers, Rob Reinow and the D6 Conference call us back home with our faith.  This isn’t a fad, a program or a new method coming down the pike.  Instead it is a realization that we have strayed from the foundational teaching of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  It is applicable to all ages, all life phases and all circumstances, because everyone has a home and is a disciple (or needs to become one).  As I have written before, it isn’t rocket science.

But what does this mean for our ministry?  How should it look in our churches?

The answer to that is probably going to look a little different for every church, but there are certain principles that will be constant across the spectrum.

1.    Discipleship is primarily the responsibility of the home.
2.    The church is responsible for equipping parents to transfer their faith to their children.
3.    Everything that we do in programming in the church should contribute to driving an active faith into the home.
4.    Discipleship can basically be boiled down to three categories:  Individual, Generational, and Relational (More explanation of these is fodder for a future post)

The benefits if we return to this fundamental paradigm?

1.    Strengthened families and marriages
2.    Stronger churches (if families are spiritually stronger, the church will be as well)
3.    Focused ministry that is effective
4.    A filter for ministry/budgeting decisions
5.    Decreased exodus of young adults from the church

What does this look like for our church?  This year it was Hydrate, next year Engage.  The DNA of our ministry transforms into 24/7 FAITH.  This becomes who we are, not just what we do.

(More on the details of this will be given in future posts.  My intention is to post at least once each week on the topic of “Faith-at-Home.”  Check back for more.)

So…how has the faith of your parents (or lack of) impacted the disciple you are now?  How are you intentionally passing along your faith to the next generation?  Where are you in the process of being a 24/7 Disciple?

19
Aug
10

Escape

My New Desktop Background…

I just decided to change my wallpaper in the middle of the month.  I’m always looking for variety and something different, I guess.  That’s just the way I roll 🙂  I like this image because it makes me think of a pleasant place that is inviting…a place to which I would enjoy escaping.  I love being in tropical settings.  The sun and heat are no problem with the ocean breeze blowing.  I am very invigorated when I spend time at the beach.  I love to run on the beach, to get in the water and just hang out in the sun.  I love the atmosphere of the seashore and how relaxing and tranquil it can be.  I can think of no place on earth that is any more rejuvenating to me than this.  The bridge in this image even makes me think of crossing over to a place of refuge.

I can’t always go to the beach.  It’s funny…when we lived 15 minutes from the beach for 12 years, I didn’t go that much.  Now that I live 15 hours away, I want to go so badly.  Unfortunately, I can’t.  I can, however, always find retreat and refuge that is readily available and much more satisfying.

Psalm 91:1-2

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High

will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2  This I declare about the Lord:

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;

he is my God, and I trust him.

Daily, I can escape the race of life and the concerns of ministry to find refuge and escape in the presence of God.  The Lord awaits me eagerly as I come before Him and just commune in His presence.  When I neglect to do so, I forfeit that peace and contentment He brings.  When I fail to stop for that refreshing refuge, I find myself more tense, less grace-giving and merciful and more oblivious to the needs of those around me.

I need an escape…and it’s as easy as being alone with my Lord.

How do you spend your time in refuge with God?  What tends to stand in the way of that priority for you?  What have your learned through you time with Him?


02
Aug
10

I Quit!

Those words speak of frustration, anger, defeat and a decision that one can’t continue with the status quo.  It can be an immature response like the child who doesn’t get his way and takes his marbles and goes home, or, it can be a mature response that indicates one has determined their effectiveness in a situation has come to an end and it’s time to move on.  Author Ann Rice recently made this decision concerning Christianity.  You can read an article about it here.

The author of such well-known novels as “Interview with the Vampire,” Rice reported a conversion to Christianity from atheism some twelve years ago, returning to her roots of Catholicism.  What has precipitated her departure from Christianity?  She cites her disgust and horror at the “quarrelsome, hostile,” and “disputatious” attitudes of Christians.  She wrote, “In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian.  Amen.”

What is my reaction?  I am saddened and affirmed all at the same time.

I am saddened that in the realm of “Christianity” Ann was so overwhelmed by all that she saw as negative that it drove her away from the church.  This is essentially what she is doing…walking away from the church (especially the Catholic church).  Some would say that’s a good thing.  However, regardless of the sect, the truth remains that God ordained and established only two institutions:  the family and the church.  As flawed as it has become over the centuries, it is still the church through which Christ has determined to establish His kingdom here on earth (Matthew 16:16-18).  The universal church is thriving.  Not every local church is succeeding.  It is the extreme, culturalized, Americanized, misconstruing of the gospel by local churches that sends the messages that drive people like Ann Rice away.  This saddens me.

It is true that when the church stands for truth, purity and holiness, there will be those who choose to leave.  The world system will not tolerate the teachings of Christ and His Word which contradict self-centered, destructive, immoral choices.  Jesus said, “When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).  So we (Christianity) should not get too upset when the world expresses hatred toward us.  The problem is…in our stand for holiness we have a problem with attitude.  Somehow many have come to believe that Christians hate them because we stand in opposition to their choices, policies, lifestyles, behavior, or agendas.  We must return to the idea of tolerance that says, “I do not agree with or condone your beliefs and practices, but I can still love you as we discuss our differences.”  It is interesting that Jesus showed wrathful confrontation only to the religious pharisees and exploiters of His day.  However, to those who were living an “unreligious” life of sin, He confronted in love, desiring to offer forgiveness and call them to turn from their sin.  It was a confrontation nonetheless, but in love.  We must follow that example.

Secondly, Ann Rice’s statement is in some way an affirmation of a feeling I have had for some time.  I seldom refer to myself as a “Christian” anymore.  As she has pointed out, the history of Christianity and the current cultural impact of misguided and (should I say it) unregenerate among the church have given the term a bad taste.  I prefer to call myself (when there is a need to do so) a Christ Follower.  This is what Ann is getting at.  She and I will disagree about the acceptance of certain behaviors within the realm of the Kingdom.  But I understand her disillusionment.

Honestly, I think if Ann Rice were to get connected in the right place of worship and service in the Kingdom, she would perhaps reconsider her exodus from Christianity.  It is possible to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ and confront the immoral and relativistic values of our society in a way that pleases God and influences culture.  We can be salt and light without hating (or appearing to) those we are called to love.  There will always be those who respond to a Christ Follower with hatred and hostility, but may it never be the Christian who initiates the hostility.

What do you think?  Is the church to blame for driving people from Christ rather than drawing them to Him?

20
May
10

Taking Credit

I was getting my hair cut this evening by Val, the stylist who does an awesome job.  She is a believer and we always get into a conversation about faith in some fashion.  She often asks me questions and we talk about church and the human condition.  Tonight, Val was excited about meeting a college-age young man earlier in the day who was preparing to go to the Philippines as a missionary for a year.  She was so impressed with his zeal, outgoing and winning personality and his dedication to go on this mission to “save people.”  I shared in her excitement as we talked about the opportunity this young man has to make an eternal investment in lives.

It was at this point that she turned her attention to me and how she admired me for the work that I do.  “You deserve a lot of credit for the work you do,” she said.  I cringed and told her, “I couldn’t do anything in my ability.  It is the power of God at work through me.”  She responded that I have to take some credit, that would only be human.  I said, “The only credit I can take is my effort to be obedient to the calling God has give me.”

I mention this, not as some shallow attempt at false humility, bringing praise to me.  Instead, I want to point out that I, along with anyone else who serves Christ in this world, can do nothing that has eternal value in our own power.  The problem is, I too often try to do that.  I sometimes plan, prepare and promote, and then neglect to pray for God’s power and His purpose to be worked out in ways that go far beyond my own.  Do I do that because, in the end, I want the praise?  Do I think I can do it in my own ability and so I don’t need God?  Both are wrong motives and assumptions.  The truth is, I am at my best when I’m at my least, and God takes over.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 4:11

The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow.  1 Corinthians 3:7

How do you deal with the temptation to seek praise for what you do for God?  How have you seen God show up and do more than you expected?




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