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Making Theology Practical and Applicable

Pastor and author Josh Harris has written a book entitle, Dug Down Deep, which he describes as…

…a simple introduction to basic Christian belief. One person described it as systematic theology disguised as something readable. I wrote it so that people who might not normally read theology would be able to digest it and understand how life-giving and important it is for living the Christian life.

I haven’t read the book, but the premise is intriguing.  He is even offering to give away copies to people who will use it to mentor, disciple, or share the gospel with an unbelieving friend.  Check out his website here.

The video clip gives a great synopsis.

What do you think about the importance of theology in living our daily journey as Christ followers?  How could you use a resource like this to impact someone’s life?


A Legacy of Faith

I’m in Missouri today to be with my wife and her family.  We are together to comfort one another and celebrate the life of my wife’s mother who passed away on Monday morning.  She was a faithful and committed believer, so we find comfort in knowing that she is with her Savior, having spent the past several years debilitated by her disease.  She suffers no more.  We will miss her, but her legacy of faith will certainly outlive her in the lives of her family and friends.  My life is enriched to be a part of this awesome family that “took me in” over 25 years ago.  The things that my mother-in-law has taught me through her words and life over these years are invaluable.  Here are just a few things that I have learned from her.

  1. A life of faithfulness to Jesus is the most important thing for which to strive. She’s not the only one who has demonstrated this to me, but she certainly is one who has lived it out for all to see.
  2. Family is important and must be cherished and supported. She valued family gatherings and made sure they happened with special traditions.  She made sure to include everyone from her own children to all of the in-laws.
  3. Love is to be demonstrated. This may be through a loving embrace or a word of exhortation.  She lived for those times to be together and share with family the beauty of one another.
  4. Balance is essential. Although I did not know her in her earlier years, I did know her while she still worked outside the home.  I found that she could operate a business as an entrepreneur and yet her family never suffered for lack of her attention and care.  She knew how to balance life with priorities that always put first things first.
  5. Everyone needs encouragement. She cared about those around her.  She would give a word of encouragement and had a sense of humor that could give you a smile.  She knew how to lift your spirits and make you feel welcomed and valued.

These are just a few of the things that Letha Fry taught me.  She leaves a legacy of faith that will stay with me for a lifetime and, I’m happy to say, will impact the next generation through my daughter’s life as well.

Who has impacted your life through a legacy of faith?  What are you doing to leave a legacy to those who will follow you?


Multi-faceted Discipleship – 24/7 FAITH

A diamond in the rough does not provide much beauty.  It’s brilliance and luminance is not fully radiated until the skilled gem smith carefully cuts it with multiple facets so that the precious stone catches and reflects the light in all of its grandeur.

Discipleship can be a diamond in the rough.  When a Christ-Follower is only self-centered in his focus, or even neglects his own relationship with Christ, there is little brilliance of the presence of Christ reflected.  It is not until multiple facets are “cut” into his life that the true radiance of the Son is reflected.  Here’s what I mean.

1.    Individual Discipleship – True discipleship occurs when a person follows Christ as Lord of his/her life.  This process is the cultivation of a relationship that is real, honest and vibrant.  It, like any relationship, revolves around time spent together.  Hydrating one’s life with the Word daily provides the listening ear for the Savior to speak into our lives the truth for which we hunger.  Meditation, communion, solitude, fasting and prayer all provide avenues for the relationship to grow as we walk with Christ daily.

2.    Generational Discipleship – As Deuteronomy 6 proclaims, generational discipleship occurs in the home.  Parents who are individual disciples, actively pass on their faith to their children through teaching, modeling, discussing, applying and living out their faith.  The children see that the faith of their parents is genuine and is the priority of their lives.  The faith then becomes more “caught than taught.”  Children in this environment naturally come to faith earlier in life and tend to remain faithful through the stormy years of adolescence and young adulthood.

3.    Relational Discipleship – Acts 2 gives us the story of the emerging church that Jesus said He would build.  The unique development of this organism instituted by God is characterized by the relational nature of its structure.  First-century Christ-Followers met together at the temple and in their homes.  In these contexts, they studied the Apostles’ doctrine, they worshiped, they enjoyed social interaction and they ate together.  This was discipleship in action.  When we read of Paul’s ministry in Philippi, we find that entire homes were transformed by the gospel.  Husbands and wives were in partnership, living and ministering for the Kingdom.  All of these relational connections are venues for discipleship.

So what does this mean for our churches…for our lives?  I think there are a few things we can take away.

1.    Individual discipleship alone is, at best, incomplete.
2.    Self-improvement is not the end goal of discipleship…it is to pass along faith in relationship.
3.    The only way to rear children effectively is to live our faith openly and honestly before them in our homes, with intentionality.
4.    If we neglect the relational discipleship of community, we lose a vital component that has been integral to the church from the beginning.

The beauty of the disciple comes radiating through as he is “cut” with the various facets of true discipleship.  As we allow this process to envelope us, our radiance shines with the presence of the Savior in us and points all those who observe it to the Father.  I guess you could say we’re the diamond He wears on His hand.

How have these facets been effective in your journey?  Where do you need to improve?


A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words…Video is Priceless!

Last week I experienced Catalyst.  This was my second time to be a part of this “Convergence of Next Generation Leaders.”  As always, when you have an impactful experience, it is impossible to relate the full magnitude of it to someone who wasn’t there.  It was thought-provoking, moving, worshipful, stretching, aggravating, inspiring, informative and uplifting.  And that only covers the first hour.  Haha.  Seriously, it was a great time of growth and learning for me.  Here is a video montage that gives only a sense of all that was involved.


“Beautiful Things” makes for Beautiful Worship!

I had one of the most moving and genuine worship experiences in a long time this past week as the band, Gungor, led us in worship at the Catalyst Conference.  Their musicianship is exquisite and their ability to lead the audience to the presence of God is powerful.  Their ministry, and specifically the “Beautiful Things Tour,” has been dubbed “God meets Art.”

Actually, God is the author of creativity and all things artistic.  So…it only makes sense that the two naturally mesh.  Check out the video below and others online.  Join me as well, in attending a concert if the tour comes near you.  You won’t be disappointed; you’ll probably be blown away!


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?



I’m attending the Catalyst Conference this week and the theme is “The Tension is Good.”  We’ve heard some phenomenal speakers and information that has challenged, affirmed and inspired me in my journey and my ministry.  The whole idea of managing, maneuvering and embracing tension in life and ministry is completely relevant…and biblical.

Does that mean that everything I have heard so far is readily applicable to my situation?  No.  The various presenters and perspectives serve to begin dialogue and spark thinking that is innovative and, well, catalyzing!  For example, are there applications in the business model describing “motive” that Daniel Pink presented which apply to ministry?  Some say “no.”  I say, “More than meets the eye.”  (I’ll expand on that in another blog).  Are there things that I’ve heard and will hear that I will say….”Eh, ok, but not much application to where I am or what I’m doing?”  Yes.  But even those things can serve a purpose.  All of this information serves to S T R E T C H us.  When we listen with a broader mind we allow ourselves to begin to think and apply principles outside the box.  We see possibilities rather than limitations.  My creativity expands and I allow the tension between where I am and where I could be to S T R E T C H me.

Our staff spent Wednesday, the day before the start of the conference proper, in planning retreat and dialogue.  The majority of our interaction centered around being S T R E T C H E D in ways and directions that reflect a demand for cultural awareness and ministry transformation.  It was time well spent as we S T R E T C H E D one another, S T R E T C H E D our paradigm and let the power of Scriptural application to culture S T R E T C H us.   The tension truly is good and our intention is that we see God’s hand at work as we emerge from that process with fresh passion for what He’s called us to do.

Like after a tense physical workout, my spiritual muscles may be a little sore, but “no pain, no gain, right?”

How are you being stretched in life and ministry?  Do you have one or more people around you who stretch you?  Do you need to find someone?


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