Good Reads 10.05.17 (on anxiety and prayer, evangelism, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On evangelism: Engaging Others with the Gospel by Adam McClendon

We are called to consistently engage our culture with the gospel in mind, within and outside our normal routines. We should go on mission trips. We should, on occasion, go door-to-door to people we don’t know to engage them in gospel conversation, but we don’t end our engagement there. We should engage others from a gospel perspective in our everyday and every-weekend moments like our school boards, club teams, Home Owners Associations, Parent / Teacher Associations, workplaces, classrooms, charities, neighbors, etc.

We should take others fishing, hunting, golfing, or whatever other recreation activity we might prefer, and we should do it with a gospel mindset and a love for others. Many of us are already engaging our world where we are through social media, neighborhood conversations, sitting at our kid’s practices, etc. We just need to ensure we shift in our mindset, keeping the gospel in view. In addition to just being friendly, we must engage with a gospel mindset that looks for opportunities (i.e. open doors) to point people to Christ and gauging their openness to the gospel. (click here to read more)

On prayer and anxiety: What if Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse? by Mike Leake

This is why I still pray…or try to pray…in the midst of darkness. Because eventually the gospel wins out and God breaks through. It happened with Bunyan and it happens with me.

Prayer is helpful even when our thoughts of God are jacked up simply because the gospel is true. When we cry out to God—even with hearts tinged with unbelief, depressive thoughts, and the whole lot—he answers. It may not make me feel better in the moment in which I pray. But God hears and God answers. (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship by Rachelle Cox

Less than a year ago, I helped organize a women’s ministry event focused on discipleship. During this hour-long event, we offered women the chance to ask anonymous questions to a panel of female leaders in the church about the practice of discipleship. It went well. Frankly, a little too well. The five of us participating on the panel ran out of time long before those in attendance ran out of questions.

While I was encouraged by the interest women showed in the topic, I left the panel feeling somewhat burdened by the trend I saw in the questions women were asking us. Many women in my church seemed to struggle with the essential rhythm of discipleship, mostly because they had unrealistic ideas about what discipleship should look like in the first place. They were frustrated by their lack of theological prowess or their inability to squeeze a group Bible study into their schedules, and rather than doing discipleship “wrongly” they were just foregoing discipleship completely. (click here to read more)

On doing good to others: Enjoying God Fuels Doing Good by David Mathis

Titus also has something to say about “learning” to do others good. There’s a process — with practical steps to take ahead of time — to make space for the Spirit’s leading. That may include leaving enough margin in your schedule to be able to meet unexpected needs, or carrying paper money to give on the spot to someone in need, or setting aside funds for personal ministry in your monthly budget.

“Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). Being ready to do good doesn’t necessarily come naturally. It’s something we learn. We learn to devote ourselves to the good of others. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 08.24.17 (on: parenting, prayer, Bible reading, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On parenting and discipleship: 8 Tips to Help You Disciple Your Kids by Dembowczyk

One of the main problems we have as parents is that we expect way too much of ourselves when it comes to discipling our kids, and when we can’t live up to them, we feel like failures and often quit. Family worship doesn’t have to look like worship with your church family with singing, prayer, and lengthy and in-depth Bible teaching. Gospel conversations don’t always have to end with some profound theological gem from you. We need to be realistic of what our family discipleship will look like. Perhaps that means talking about a Bible story for 15 minutes one night a week at dinner and trying to find one or two times each week to move conversations toward the gospel. Wherever you are, start there and develop rhythms and habits that work and then build on them to get to where you want to be. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading: 4 Bible Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters by Scott Slayton

When you read large portions of Scripture, you will consistently see passages where you want to slow down and read more carefully. Keep a list of these passages and when reading large sections starts to feel tedious, spend some time reading only one chapter or less each day for a while.

When you do this, make sure that you read with a pencil and a notebook. Write out what you are reading on your notebook. Skip a line so that you leave yourself room to write notes. Then, go through the passage slowly. Mark significant words. Look for words that the writer uses more than once. Take note of the connecting words like “for,” “therefore,” “but,” “so that,” or “in order that” and pay attention to how they connect one clause in the passage to another. (click here to read more)

On joy and prayer: Ask Him for Joy by Mike Phay

Jesus references a radical change in relationship between his followers and his Father that will happen through his mediating work; specifically, through his redemptive death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Jesus is assuring his gathered disciples that “that day” will come when direct access to the Father will take place. In that day, Jesus says that we will be able to ask directly, that is, we will be able to pray. We will be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name and through his mediating work—and we will be the ones asking (“I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf”). In turn, the Father himself will be the one hearing, listening, and responding, “for the Father himself loves you.” (click here to read more)

On Bible interpretation: Are You REALLY Interpreting the Bible Literally by Stephen Altrogge

Understanding the original intent of the passage guards us from reading a modern meaning back into scripture. Does it take work and study and thinking to wrestle the original meaning from the text? You bet. But it’s valuable, necessary work.

Why do so many people end up twisting scripture? Because they infuse their modern, “enlightened” sensibilities into the text, taking it far away from what the author originally meant. (click here to read more)

 

Focus on the Few to Reach the Many

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. ~ Mark 3:13-15 (CSB)

Jesus dealt with large crowds with love and compassion, but his main focus wasn’t on the crowds. Jesus’ aim was to grow his kingdom people, faithful to him, and he has been doing that throughout the ages as countless millions have come to follow him. But he started this endeavor by devoting the majority of his attention to twelve men (one of which would betray him, so eleven faithful men).

Now this might seem unusual. If you want to reach the crowds, wouldn’t you focus on the crowds? That might seem like the way to go, but from what we see with Jesus, the key to reaching many is to focus most intensely on a few.

Jesus worked to train up eleven who, after three years, he would release to go into the world and make more disciples of him.

In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman wrote:

“[Jesus’] concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public…

“Jesus devoted most of his remaining life on earth to these few disciples. He literally staked his whole ministry on them.”

The principle in working with a few to reach a multitude is the principle of multiplication. If a few faithful persons spend time sharing Jesus with and training a few faithful persons who then go and spend time sharing Jesus with and training a few faithful persons, the results begin to compound.

What if one person were to invest three years in just three other people, teaching them about Jesus and his word and how to live faithful to Jesus, and then send each of these out to do the same while he/she picks up three more people to invest in?

At the start, you would have just one trained disciple-maker. At the end of year 3, you would have four. At the end of year 6, you would have sixteen; and at the end of year 9, fifty-two. These numbers don’t seem impressive, but if you keep going, after 21 years, you have 16,384; and after 27 years, 262,144; and then in 48 years that number jumps to 4.29 billion. (1)

In other words, a few devoted to reaching a few can change the world in a generation.

Paul understood this as well, which is why he told Timothy as a church leader to entrust the gospel “to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Real life rarely works according to formulas, and no person can force another to be saved. Salvation through Jesus comes only by the work of the Holy Spirit through the message of the gospel. But if we set our sights on multiplication, like Jesus and Paul, to train up a few who can train up a few who can train up a few, then we may very well see the gospel spread in massive ways.

(1) Assuming I have my numbers right…

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Discipleship 01 (Coleman)

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Good Reads 05.31.17 (on: grief, growing up, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On discipleship and real life: Discipleship for the Rest of Us by Jared C. Wilson

If the mast gets struck by lightning, so do we. When church people say “Discipleship means following Jesus,” I think they tend to picture a group of sun-tanned dudes in cantata-quality robe costumes peacefully strolling through green pastures, perhaps stopping here and there under the comfortable shade of a tree to watch Jesus smile at them and tousle the hair of precocious children scampering about at his Birkenstocked feet.

Or maybe I’m just cynical. When I ask “What do you think of when you hear the word discipleship?” I’d love to hear people answer more along these lines:

“Believing God has a plan for me even when I’m afraid he doesn’t.”
“Believing God loves me even when I feel like nobody else does.”
“Trusting that God is doing something for my good even though my life has always been terrible up till now.”
“Following Jesus even though my feelings speak more loudly.”
“Denying myself to do what’s right although I don’t really want to.”
“Imagining a time when I won’t hurt as much as I do now.”
“Imagining a time when my spouse or child won’t hurt as much as they do now.” (click here to read more)

On how every Christian is called to be a servant to others: Every Christian a Minister by Eric Davis

Biblically speaking, however, the Christian life is not like that. In keeping with the football metaphor, the local church leaders are more like the team’s coaches and trainers (minus the temper). As such, they are called to work hard, study, stay ahead of things, and prioritize the care of the players. But they are not the players. Instead, all Christians are more like the players. As they receive the care, training, and equipping from the coaches, they are the ones on the field enjoying the challenges and rewards of the game.

To maximize their joy and effectiveness, they are to regularly stay connected with the coaches and trainers. They give and receive input to the coaches. They communicate closely with them. Wounds are treated, successes celebrated, and mistakes nurtured. They may not know every coach or trainer, but they stay closely connected with at least one. That/those coach(es) then provide accountability, equipping, care, and a nurturing relationship for as long as the player is under their stewardship. God’s design for every Christian is more likened to players on a field than spectators in a grandstand. (click here to read more)

On dealing with the pain and grief we face in life: Six Words to Say Through Tears by Nancy Guthrie

But when we are the ones who are grieving, what is far more important than what other people say to us is what we say to ourselves — what we say to ourselves in between sobs, when we have more questions than answers, when the emptiness feels overwhelming, when anger is getting a foothold in our heart.

When the grief is fresh and intense, we might take some wild ideas for a test drive, but to move toward healing and return to joy requires that we press this one idea deeply into our souls until it begins to impact us at the level of our feelings: “I can trust God with this.” (click here to read more)

On looking to Jesus to guide us as we grow up: Like Us, Jesus Had to Grow Up Too by Alun Ebenezer

Growing up in today’s world is hard. It’s a time of big changes. Hormones kick in and there’s the strain of having to contend with social media, peer pressure, the need to be cool, exam stress, insecurity and society’s relentless demand to be successful. It can all seem a bit much and young people can feel that no one knows, as Amy McDonald sung, ‘a single thing about the youth of today’.

But there is someone who knows; knows exactly what is to grow up in this fallen, broken world. The Son of God who thought it not robbery to be equal with God (Phil. 2:6), 2000 years ago humbled himself, made himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:7, 8), became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). For 33 years he learned what it is like to be you and me; to be a baby, a toddler, a child and an adolescent. (click here to read more)

Fishers of Men

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” ~ Mark 1:16-17 (ESV)

As Jesus sat out on his ministry, he called different men to follow him for a new purpose in life. To Simon (Peter) and Andrew, as well as James and John, who worked as fishermen, Jesus called out to follow him and he would help them catch people.

In other words, if they devoted themselves to him, he would use them to bring people into God’s kingdom. This first call to these men anticipated Jesus’ last command in Mark’s gospel: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), or as Jesus stated in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”

Though the call to be “fishers of men” may have been a play on words with these men’s occupations, Jesus places the same call on the life of each of his followers. We are to seek to expand the kingdom. As disciples of Jesus, we are to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Alvin Reid in Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out says it this way: “Talk to the actual person in front of you about the Jesus inside of you; let them see and hear the change Jesus makes in you” (pg. 99). He then gives the example of a man named Alex:

Alex worked very closely with his colleagues. As much as he wanted them to know Jesus, he knew if he brought up the gospel all the time they would stop talking to him. He developed the practice of five: as he interacted with coworkers, about every fifth conversation he had with one of them he would talk about Jesus. For his context that seemed to be about right: not too preachy, and yet not negligent of speaking of Christ. Let’s face it, if you know someone really closely for years and never speak about Jesus, you are speaking about him: you are saying with your lack of words he is no big deal.

I shared Alex’s practice of five with a group of businessmen who immediately saw it as a very helpful way to think about sharing Jesus in the workplace. I don’t know what it is for you: five times, or three, or seven. I do know there is a balance between how you live the gospel and how often you speak it. (pg. 105)

When calling us to be “fishers of men,” Jesus won’t call all of us to be pastors or foreign missionaries (though he will certainly call some to that). Yet he will call all of us to use our relationships where we live, work, and play in order to share about him with others. As Reid points out, we don’t want to be overbearing and push people away, but we also cannot be consistently silent about our faith.

If we love Jesus and love others, we will want them to know and love Jesus as well.

Another thing that Reid suggests is to pray this simple prayer each day: “God, give me today (1) an opportunity to speak with someone about Jesus; (2) the wisdom to see it; and (3) the courage to do it.” (17-18)

Will you seek to bring men and women into God’s kingdom?

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Mark 1_17

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Good Reads 03.15.17 (on: #prayer #parenting #singleness and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On parenting and prayer: Seven Things to Pray for Your Children by Jon Bloom

So, pray for your children. Jesus promises us that if we ask, seek, and knock, the Father will give us good in return (Luke 11:9–13), even if the good isn’t apparent for forty years. And because Jesus regularly asked those who came to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51), we know that he wants us to be specific with our requests. (click here to read more)

On parenting and discipleship: Don’t Farm Out Your Child’s Discipleship to the Youth Pastor by Clark Forbes

What I tell them isn’t usually the answer they’re looking for: the best practice and strategy for helping kids know the gospel, come to saving faith, and grow as a disciple, is a parent investing in the discipleship of their child. Nothing helps a teenager know the gospel like seeing it modeled in the home; not just taught or spoken to them, but modeled through their parents’ relationship to each other and to the kids. (click here to read more)

On singleness and God’s Mission: Single, Satisfied, and Sent by Marshall Segal

While it may seem like two categories at first, we soon discover in application that there are three: the single, the married, and the not-yet-married. After all, as any single person knows, a desire for marriage does not a marriage make. My hope in reflecting on Paul’s words is to restore hope and ambition in the hearts of the not-yet-married and set them solidly on mission in their singleness. (click here to read more)

On the God-centered focus of preaching: You Are Not the Story by H. B. Charles Jr.

After watching a few minutes of a news telecast, I find myself turning the channel in frustration, grumbling to the reporter on the screen, “You are not the story!”

Unfortunately, many of us who stand in the pulpit need this reminder just as much as those who sit at the news desk. Christian ministers are charged to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The Lord commands it. The truth demands it. The hearers need it. Yet there is always the danger of inserting ourselves into the sermon – by our content or delivery – that the message is obscured.

People should not leave the sermon having learned more about the preacher than Christ. When we stand to preach the word, we should prayerfully whisper to ourselves, “You are not the story.” (click here to read more)

On the ups and downs of spiritual growth: Why Do Spiritual Highs Fade? by James Beevers

So, if there is to be any lasting effect from these events and experiences, it must have at the bottom seeing and savoring Jesus Christ — and this is often what camps, conferences, and events provide. Anything of true, durable worth from these experiences comes from seeing God clearly as he really is. This can come from sermons, or discussions, or singing in worship, or late night conversations, prayers, and devotions.

When we see the light of the glory of Christ most clearly, the things of this world seem dim and worthless by comparison. Why have sin, good as it may look, when we can have Christ? (click here to read more)

 

 

Good Reads 02.15.17 (on: prayer, revival, love, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On prayer and revival: Prayer for Revival and Faithful Plodding by Mike Leake

I wonder if this is why we pray so much for revival. Because times of revival aren’t the times of slow plodding. That’s when the wheel is spinning at full speed and you’re just trying to keep up with its produce. What ministry leader wouldn’t want that?

But in my mind our view of revival is a bit like an empty water wheel that just starts spinning by an unseen hand. I wonder if sometimes my prayer for revival is little more than, “Lord, make my job a lot easier”. Am I praying that God would cause the wheel to spin apart from seasons of faithful plodding? Is my prayer for revival just laziness cloaked in spiritual jargon? (click here to read more)

On prayer and parenting: 10 Prayers for Great Parenting by Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord, Help me not to overwhelm my children with unrealistic expectations. Remind me discipline is for their good – and to always administer it in love – not in anger or purely emotion. Keep me from dumping my adult problems on them, while helping me be transparent enough for them to learn from my mistakes. Help me to remember my children’s current age – and respond to them accordingly. (click here to read more)

On love and marriage: The 5 Weightiest Words of Love by Trevin Wax

The cost of the average wedding in America now exceeds $30,000, with prices soaring 16 percent between 2011 and 2015. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding a couple’s special day, it’s easy to focus on the decorations and dresses, while overlooking the most valuable moment of the day—the costliest words spoken between a husband and wife.

“Till death do us part.” (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Seven Costs of Disciple-Making by David Mathis

In disciple-making, we need to remember our aim is to please Jesus, and this will cost us favor with certain persons, especially when we have to say no to our involvement in their program or event or even to discipling them personally, because we’re protecting the space to invest in others. (click here to read more)