Some Weekend Listening

Episode 8

If you haven’t checked out my latest edition of Disciple Up just click the image above and enjoy some interesting stuff on the weekend!

 

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Some Weekend Listening

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

The Disciple Up Low Down On Testing Myself

disciple-up-300X300[The following is taken from the 4th Episode of Disciple Up. I like to include a “Disciple Up Low Down” in each episode as sort of a closing editorial related to that show’s topic. Enjoy!]

We’ve talked a lot in today’s show about testing. At this point I hope it’s clear to everyone that we are not just encouraged to test but commanded too. It is absolutely vital that we test everything and this of course includes not just what other say and do, but our thoughts and opinions as well.

Yes, what I think, feel and say isn’t beyond testing. In fact it’s even more necessary that I test myself not only because I am accountable to God for what I say and do but because of the damage I might to do to others if I don’t.

There’s a problem however when it comes to testing myself. And that problem is that I cannot see myself with anywhere near the objectivity needed to make a fair and just test. I’m hopelessly subjective when it comes to myself no matter how hard I try to be objective. I can never get completely outside myself and thus cannot see myself accurately.

The writers of the Bible knew this to be true, as does anyone who really thinks about it.  Happily for us they found a solution to this otherwise insoluble problem. What is it? It’s quite simple really, we must call upon God to test us and to give us the courage to face the results of that test.

Here’s just a few examples:

2  Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2 (ESV)

2  Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; Psalm 26:2 (NIV)

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

That last verse is probably the best known of the bunch. I quoted the other two just to show you that there’s more than one place in the Bible where someone calls upon God to test or judge him. And this awareness of our need for God’s clear and perfect test is not limited to the Old Testament either.

3  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)

I love how Paul knows that in the end the only opinion that counts is God’s opinion. Just because everyone thinks we’re wonderful and we tend to agree means nothing. It’s God’s opinion that matters for he alone is the King of the Universe and the only right and just judge. He sees all things clearly and therefore we are answerable to him.

It is before him that we stand or fall as Paul says in Romans chapter 14: 4  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 (ESV)

He goes even further a few verses later when he writes: 7  For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10  Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11  for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:7-11 (ESV)

So this ingrained testing that I’ve been talking about must apply to myself before it applies to anyone else. But I must be honest enough with myself to know the depth of my bias and the understand that without God’s searching test and judgement I will surely fail.

One of the greatest goals in life is not to live a life of self-delusion. I must face the facts about myself no matter how awful they might be. But I need God’s help to do so. I also need other people to help me face facts and to know how to go about changing what needs to be changed in my life. Then God can continue his great work of transforming me into the likeness of Christ. But he can’t do that if I don’t first see myself as I really am, repent of that, and then seek his Spirit’s power to change.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Testing Myself.

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

The Disciple Up Low Down On Testing Myself

The Disciple Up Low Down On Accountability

Episode 3

Welcome to the Disciple Up Low Down on Accountability.

Accountability is, like a lot of other topics in life, more enjoyable to talk about or have others do than it is to do yourself. Everyone agrees accountability is important and that everyone should be accountable.

Well they do right up until the moment when they are called to be accountable and then you hear a lot of squealing about rights and privacy and legalism and grace. Holding others accountable can be fun, being held accountable rarely is, although it can be if it’s done right.

Just about every organization I know of has some kind of accountability structure. The larger the organization the more complex it tends to be. Most churches and ministries, especially the small ones, usually nod to accountability but don’t actually do it except for the paid staff. Then it ranges from a very loose structure to something that at times can be brutal.

Of course neither of those options is good. It turns out that accountability is difficult to put into practice because writing a brief simple set of rules that covers the nearly endless possibilities that happen in life is impossible.

Which brings me to the dirty little secret of accountability. It’s something I heard a long time ago and since then the truth of this statement has been proven to me over and over again. Here it is:

To really be held accountable you must want to be held accountable.

If you think about that for a few seconds you’ll probably agree this is true. The reason most large organizations have such complex accountability structures is because they are trying to make people be accountable who don’t want to be.

So you’ve got all kinds of people out spending vast amounts of time either trying to construct a system that can’t be gamed or they are seeking to game those very systems. And because any system can be gamed if you try hard enough they usually succeed for a while at the very least.

Because you can game the system accountability often ends up as a terrible car crash with people being fired after finally be called to account for all sorts of bad acts. Then there’s lots of bad blood, hurt feelings and broken relationships scattered around. It’s really sad because none of this had to happen, but nearly all of it was bound to happen as long as you are trying to force accountability on someone who doesn’t want it.

For the disciple of Jesus it’s really pretty simple. If I am following Jesus then I’m going to see the need for this, see the example of accountability that Jesus holds up for us, and let the Spirit change my heart so that I want and cooperate with being accountable.

When I want to be accountable it turns a drudgery into an opportunity to not only deepen my relationships with those who I answer too, but it also helps me to grow spiritually and to become more like the One I am following – Jesus.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Accountability.

If you enjoyed reading this then I think you’ll love the entire podcast it came from. Just click here to listen and to check out the shown notes. Thanks and God bless!

The Disciple Up Low Down On Accountability