A Much Needed Reminder For Those In Ministry

I just read an article over at Christianity Today that is really excellent and makes a fantastic that applies to everyone in the Ministry or who has been trained for it. Here’s the quote:

We as trained exegetes and theologians can and should also have this posture, but honest self-reflection reveals that for most of us, our learning often creates layers of distance between us and hearing the Bible as God’s Word to us. Although it was obtained for the supposed goal of bridging the gap between us and the biblical text, our training in fact often creates in our hearts and minds an elaborate structure of paper walls and divisions that create a maze of distance between us and Scripture. Relegating meaning to the sensus historicus, obtained through the employment of an elaborate skill set, and making understanding and application secondary steps only opens the door for this deferral more widely. Instead, we can learn from our faithful mothers-in-law that to read Scripture is to seek to hear and obey God now in very practical ways. Anything less is not reading Holy Scripture according to its purpose.

His point is that over focusing on the historical, historical, language side of things we under focus on what a passage means to us right here and right now.

That’s a real issue for many of us and I find it happening to myself all too often. It’s something to be very aware of so we can make sure it isn’t happening to us. You can read the whole thing here and I hope you do.

A Much Needed Reminder For Those In Ministry

The Disciple Up Low Down On The Karma Chameleon

[Since a new episode of Disciple Up comes out tomorrow morning, here’s the script for last week’s Disciple Up Low Down. Be sure and check out episode 9 of Disciple Up tomorrow!]

Way back in 1983 a song was released by a new group and it became a smash hit. It was called Karma Chameleon and it was by the Culture Club which was led by a man who called himself Boy George. From that alone you can see things here aren’t going to be what they seemed. Boy George was not the first gender bender but he certainly made a huge impact.

The song didn’t have anything to do with karma actually and I don’t know why he used the term in the song. Given the rhythm of the song I suspect it was used because it fit well and was basically a nonsense word as so many words are in modern music.

But the title really sticks in your mind doesn’t it? And I think it is actually making a real point, albeit an unintended one. Because as it turns out karma, or at least the way it’s used today in our culture, is a chameleon.

It changes color to blend in but doesn’t actually change its shape or nature. Chameleon’s use this ability as a defensive strategy in the wild. In our wild and wooly culture that’s exactly what karma is doing as well. Now I’m not blaming karma for that since karma is just a word and a concept. But the way it’s been used for decades now has helped lead us to our present state of dumbed down Christianity.

As I’ve talked about in this episode the way karma is talked about by many Christians it’s no surprise that many people have come to believe it’s part of the Christian faith. But as we’ve seen that’s not true. But when otherwise knowledgeable people who call themselves Christians say they believe in it, what do you expect people to think?

So karma is a chameleon that looks like something it’s not. It’s Hindu & Buddhist thought not Christian. But so well disguised is it that few notice. And so our faith continues to be dumbed down and watered down as well.

And this isn’t just some obscure or unimportant doctrine either. Because if karma is true then the Gospel cannot be true. You can’t have salvation by grace coexist with the wheel of karma and reincarnation. It can be one or the other but you can’t have both.

Yes I know, there I go again with my exclusive truth claims again. But as we’ve seen all truth is exclusive and that’s just the way the universe was made folks.

So while we get ourselves straightened out about karma we can’t stop there. We’ve got to push on and challenge all kinds of other truth statements our culture is making that aren’t true as well. We must learn to test everything by Scripture, weed out the false and cling tightly to what is true.

Karma isn’t the only chameleon out there. There’s lots of others as well, and we’ll be talking about many of them on future episodes of Disciple Up. Meanwhile remember that unless you look carefully and closely you won’t even see a chameleon, so keep your eyes peeled and prepare yourself to test, test, test.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on the Karma Chameleon.

The Disciple Up Low Down On The Karma Chameleon

The Disciple Up Low Down on How To Effectively Communicate the Gospel.

[As I do each week when a new episode of Disciple Up comes out I’m publishing last week’s Disciple Up Low Down (the only scripted segment of the show). Hope you enjoy and that you’ll check out the new episode today!]

As we’ve seen over the past two episodes real disciples of Jesus must have a deep and accurate knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus before they can share it. Once we understand the Gospel then we have to under the culture and figure out a way to clearly explain it to the culture we live in. That of course will take very different forms depending on what culture you are a part of.

And once we’re done sharing the Gospel are we then finished? Of course not. Jesus said to “Go…make disciples.” So we aren’t just people who announce the Good News. We are also called to work with people to try and help them understand their need for Jesus and then to show them how to respond to the Gospel properly.

Of course this can take a lot of time and effort and presupposes that we are actively trying to establish relationships with the people around us who don’t know Christ so that we can show them His love and grace and help them to come to him.

Once that’s done we’re still not done, as then we get to help disciple them!

But if there’s one thing certain in this culture it’s that time is at an all time premium to most people. So we not only have to learn how to clearly communicate the Gospel and how to respond to it, but we have to do that quickly as well.

Haste may make waste, but rambling and ranting will all but assure that you’ll be the only one still listening when you get the end of your speech. So how can we do this? Well let me give you two examples from some work I did a while back on another project.

Here’s how I might explain both the Gospel and how to respond to it with BASIS in about a minute and a half.

Because God loves us He chose to end our separation and reconcile us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to be the one perfect sacrifice for sin. He came to earth as God in human flesh, lived a perfect life, died on the cross to forgive our sins, was buried and then rose from the dead conquering both death and hell and now lives forever more. He offers everyone salvation by accepting the gift of salvation that He died to provide.

BASIS is how we respond to the Gospel of Jesus. First I must BELIEVE that Jesus is my Savior and that he saves my by His grace. Then I must ACCEPT Him as my personal Lord, this is where I begin to give my life to Him and live according to His commands. This submitting to Christ continues when I SWITCH or repent. This means I turn away from sin and self and turn to follow Jesus and His word. This is the real engine of change in the believer’s life. This is not a onetime only event but a regular activity as I continually turn away from all sin and selfishness that I discover in my life. Next I INFORM others of my choice both verbally, by telling others about my decision to follow Jesus and by the way I’m now living. Finally I SUBMERGE myself in Christ through water baptism and by seeking to be in Christ every moment of every day. This is the essence of what it means to live fully submerged in Jesus, faithfully following Him no matter how difficult or painful His way might be.

And here’s how I’d explain BASIS in just about 36 seconds – call it the elevator pitch if you wish.

BASIS is how we respond to the Gospel of Jesus. First I must BELIEVE that Jesus is God in human flesh that he died to forgive my sins, rose from the dead and is alive today at the right hand of his father. Then I must ACCEPT Him as my personal Lord, this is where I begin to give my life to Him. This continues when I SWITCH I turn away from sin and self and turn to follow Jesus and His word. As this occurs I INFORM others of my choice both verbally and by my deeds. Finally I SUBMERGE myself in Christ through water baptism and by seeking to be in Christ every moment of every day.

Now of course it’s going to take a lot more than this to bring most people to Christ. Unless they have some sort of Christian background they’re almost certainly going to need much more explanation than this. But presenting the Gospel and how to respond to it like this can help get you started.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on how to Effectively Communicate the Gospel.

The Disciple Up Low Down on How To Effectively Communicate the Gospel.

Disciple Up Low Down On Deciding What’s God’s Will

Episode 5

[Here’s another Disciple Up Low Down, this script is taken from episode 5. Hope you enjoy it.]

We’ve been discussing God’s will in this edition of Disciple Up but there’s one aspect we haven’t addressed yet and that’s who is it that gets to say what is and isn’t God’s will for me? Most of us probably have more than a few people vying for that authority. Whether it’s parents or children, a spouse or a boss or a Pastor or someone in your Bible Study, or maybe someone you just ran into at the supermarket – the world is full of people who love to play prophet and tell others what the Will of God is for them.

Look at this passage from Paul: 12  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15  See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16  Rejoice always, 17  pray without ceasing, 18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19  Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not despise prophecies, 21  but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22  Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (ESV)

Note that Paul was talking to a church community who had experienced some difficulty and division. So as he wraps up his letter he’s giving them some quick exhortations to help them move forward in the right direction. He tells them to respect their leaders and be at peace among themselves. Then he says they ought to urge the lazy to get to work while helping the weak and being patient with them.

Then he starts spitting out short commands like machinegun bullets. Do good, rejoice always because that’s God’s will, pray, don’t quench the Spirit and don’t despise prophecy, BUT don’t just accept them either. Instead test everything and hold on to what is good while avoiding all evil.

You might be wondering what all of that has to do with deciding what God’s will is, but I assure you it’s in there. For while I respect my leaders and listen carefully to what they say, I don’t allow them – or anyone else – to make my decision for me.

Even when someone comes to you and says “The Lord told me you should do this, or shouldn’t do that…” You should, never – EVER – just accept that as a message to you from God.  And if they push you to do so then you should really treat what they said with a great deal of skepticism because that’s not what God teaches us!

No, Paul says we are to TEST EVERYTHING, and that includes advice from respected elders and any so-called messages from God to you or anyone else. Test it to make sure that it’s rational and Biblical. Think it through carefully. God’s not in a hurry and if someone is trying to hurry you then that’s pretty good evidence they aren’t speaking for God.

The truth is that the Bible teaches us that we are responsible for everything we say and do. I cannot blame others, God holds me accountable and responsible for what I do. Therefore I’m the only one who, as an adult, can decide what God’s will is for me.

I’ll listen to what other people have to say. I’ll think about it, pray about, but ultimately I’m the only one who can make that decision. And I’m the one who will have to live with it as well.

A little over eight years ago I had just such an experience. I felt like God was leading me to leave the church I was serving and go elsewhere. I had no idea where but after over 20 years there I felt like it was time to move on. I gathered about 5 of my friends in that church and talked to them about it. We prayed and I began sending out resumes, and we met several times.

They all expressed skepticism about my leaving and said they didn’t want me to go. While I respected each of them I finally decided to knock and see if the door opened. After more than a year of knocking through resumes to other churches one finally came through and I accepted the call.

Three years later I was fired after church on Sunday with no warning and in the end the new ministry I tried starting failed, I sold my house with a huge loss and ended up in Phoenix jumping between my two sisters homes unemployed.

The church I left was in a crisis and asked me to fill their pulpit, and in the end called me back here. And here I am today. I fully intend to finish my Pastoral career here at CCR as well.

So was I wrong about moving on? I’d say there’s about a 99.99% chance that the answer to that question is yes. I wish I hadn’t done it, shouldn’t have done it, but I did and have paid for it in full. Unfortunately so have a lot of other people and two churches as well.

So yeah, I should have listened. But in the end it was my call to make. I made it to the best of my ability and by God’s grace have learned a few things in the messy aftermath. I thank God so much that he led me back home again and that He’s blessed me with great people to work with as well.

But in the final analysis you are the only one who make those kind of choices for yourself. Not on else can or should, just remember not to complain too much if you make a bad choice like I did. It was your choice and if made in faith you can be assured God will bring good out of it, and all the evil men can do, in the end.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Who Gets To Decide What’s God’s Will Is For Me.

[If you enjoyed that you’ll really like the entire episode which you can listen to right here.]

Disciple Up Low Down On Deciding What’s God’s Will