Archive for category Christian Living/Discipleship
“To candid, reasonable men I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought: I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God; just hovering over the great gulf till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen, I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing: the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri [a man of only one book]. Here then I am, far away from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone — only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book from this end, to find the way to heaven.”
-John Wesley, “Preface” to Sermons on Several Occasions, vol. 1 (1746)
“What must our Lord think of us if His work and His witness depend upon the convenience of His people? The truth is that every advance that we make for God and for His cause must be made at our inconvenience. If it does not inconvenience us at all, there is no cross in it! If we have been able to reduce spirituality to a smooth pattern and it costs us nothing—no disturbance, no bother and no element of sacrifice in it—we are not getting anywhere with God. We have stopped and pitched our unworthy tent halfway between the swamp and the peak. We are mediocre Christians!”
Martin Luff, the Deliberate Disciple (a great blog I recommend!), pointed out this great article by David Fitch about finding space in our busy lives to meet with God. This is especially timely for this season of Advent:
Recently, I was meeting in the corner booth (of the local McDonald’s) with the men in my triad (spiritual formation group) and we were talking about our Sunday morning gathering. I said “one of the best things our gathering can do for people is bore the hell out of em.” Sorry if this seems counter intuitive but I nonetheless believe it is true – literally true. Let me explain……
It is stunning to me how many many people I encounter in a month who cannot even acquire even a modicum of mind space cleared of societal clutter to meet God. We live in a society where God is being organized out of our life experience (and this is most certainly true of our young people). If we don’t have the means to discipline our lives from societal noise, real living with God, listening and responding to his voice is lost from our horizon. God becomes an item to believe, an obligation to take care alongside the many others. And then, and I am dead serious here, other demons take over our lives. Our loneliness/our emptiness becomes filled by multivarious forms of fake pornogaphic substitutes. Demons take over. I see it everywhere.
In the midst of this, sometimes the best place (the only place) I can point people to is the gathering on Sunday morning. Read the rest of this entry »
On the cross, Jesus gets into it with his mother. “Woman, behold thy son,” he says to her. Mary, look at the child you are losing, the son that you are giving over for the sins of the world. Maternal love is that love that loves in order to give away. In Mary’s case, it was particularly so. When Jesus was born, old Simeon had predicted, “A sword will also pierce your heart.”
From the first, it was not easy to be the mother of the Son of God. And now, even from the cross, Jesus is busy ripping apart families and breaking the hearts of mothers. Because he was obedient to the will of God, because Jesus did not waver from his God-ordained mission, he is a great pain to his family. “Woman, behold thy son.”
In that day, in that part of the world, there were no social attachments as rigid or determinative as that of the family. Family origin determined your whole life, your complete identity, your entire future. So one of the most countercultural, revolutionary acts of Jesus was his sustained attack upon the family.
In a culture like our own, dominated by “family values,” where we have nothing better to command our allegiance to than our own blood relatives, this is one of the good things the church does for many of us. In baptism, we are rescued from our family. Our families, as good as they are, are too narrow, too restricted. So in baptism we are adopted into a family large enough to make our lives more interesting. Read the rest of this entry »
Did you know that the Rabbis view the study of the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) as the highest form of worship? One early Rabbi said, “When two sit together and exchange words of Torah, then the divine presence dwells among them.” That sounds vaguely familiar doesn’t it? Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Yeah, the Rabbis say that when you pray, you are talking to God, but when you study Torah, God is talking to you. Isn’t it strange, so many of us claim that we never hear God speaking to us when He has provided a book with about 774, 746 of His words that will speak to us as often as we will read them?
When it comes to worship, we place so much emphasis on relevance, worship music, worship style, and whatever else you can think of, but it seems we have overlooked the very important fact that Bible study itself is worship. You’ll hear it said in our churches, “Well, we’ve had a wonderful time in worship today; now let’s turn to the Word.” (Insert wrong answer buzzer sound effect.) No, studying the Word is worship! Read the rest of this entry »
Last night was groundbreaking (again) for Mound Westonka youth. Oh, they don’t know it yet. But there is another mustard seed movement afoot. Small, invisible at the moment. MainStreet Church is determined to join God in the power of the Holy Spirit to launch another ‘youth movement’ for Jesus. It’s called The Alley based on Luke 14:21.
A small group of Crown College youth volunteers along with youth intern Randy Giles met with some MWHS students at SurfSide to hangout and begin forging relationships that point them to Jesus. In another week they’ll meet for pizza to talk more about the movement Jesus is starting in Mound. I’m not leading it this time, but I’m passing the baton to Randy and others and trusting God will do a great thing.
Read below some thoughts I shared 3 years ago looking back on the first revolution (2005-2010). -JBI spent a couple years chasing a vision to spearhead a fresh movement of teenage Jesus followers in my hometown of Mound. I have told the story of The Revolution many times in many places (and I will continue telling it because God is glorified in it). It’s my favorite story to tell. A little community of teens from all different church backgrounds (and no church background) gathered in our living room for a couple years. Why? They were invited into something bigger than a Sunday church service, more exciting than a Wednesday night youth group and something more radical than the version of Christianity they previously had embraced.
Keri and I had to step away from “The Revolution” just as it was taking off and gaining steam. This was very hard for me to do. Who was going to take my place and lead these teens? Who was going to teach them the revolutionary way of Jesus? Who was going to remind them to come on Monday nights? Where were they going to meet? Would this grassroots community of curious, seeking, hungry for adventure teens dwindle and die?
I had to leave it in God’s hands. This lesson is hardest for leaders to learn. Leaders often have the toughest time being led themselves. But I knew deep in my heart that Jesus had always been the real leader of this Revolution in Mound. So, I stepped away.
It’s been 2 years since those teens walked out of our living room for the last time. I have kept in touch with the kids now and then, hearing reports about if, where and when they are meeting. At one point last summer I was told that the group had stopped gathering. That was a sad day for me.
However, this Monday I was invited to make a guest appearance at the Monday night “Way of the Revolutionary” Bible Study. We decided to meet out on Lake Minnetonka for a Galilee-like gathering in boats. I was told to meet up with the group at a certain dock on the lake. I set out across the lake, eager to see “my kids” again. Read the rest of this entry »
Narrative theology is a relatively new undertaking and is one good example of a positive development in theological studies, due, in part, to the influence of postmodernity. I would suggest that the contributions of this movement will surprise many with numerous insights into how we might better approach the theological task, read the Bible, and live as faithful disciples in an ever-changing postmodern world.
Among the many emphases of story theology is the underlying claim that story plays a central role in how human beings make sense of the world and how they process and organize their experiences. N. T. Wright expounds on this fundamental role of story:
When we examine how stories work in relation to other stories, we find that human beings tell stories because this is how we perceive, and indeed relate to, the world. What we see close up, in a multitude of little incidents whether isolated or (more likely) interrelated, we make sense of by drawing on story forms already more or less known to us and placing the information within them. A story, with its pattern of problem and conflict, of aborted attempts at resolution, and final result, whether sad or glad, is, if we may infer from the common practice of the world, universally perceived as the best way of talking about the way the world actually is.
While raw information can stimulate and exercise our brain muscles, it is usually a good story that moves us to tears. And it is when we are moved holistically—both mentally and emotionally—that we are most likely to be changed or transformed. As Wright puts it, “Tell someone to do something, and you change their life—for a day; tell someone a story and you change their life.” As Clark Pinnock describes it, Read the rest of this entry »
By Rev. Steven Larson, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Covenant Church in Brooklyn Park, MN
Phillips Brooks wrote, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks.”
“The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee tonight.” (O Little Town of Bethlehem)
Hopes and fears are types of dreams that we all have. There are things that we hope will happen and things we fear might come true. What we fear can paralyze us in our tracks, while what we hope for can powerfully move us forward. God desires to fill our hearts with big dreams.
A God-sized dream ensures our spiritual growth. When God calls us to something, it can feel like an outfit that is the wrong size; gaping in places and pinching in others. We desire to send it back for a more reasonably-sized dream, one that doesn’t cause so much discomfort. Tell that to Joseph, Abraham, Ruth, Esther, Daniel and the Apostle Paul!
A God-sized dream forces us to invite others into a bigger story. We must talk about it with each other, share it with other Christian churches in our community, and actually tell people in this community what God is calling us to be. This is the way our story will become their story, too. God will use this to inspire others as they see what is possible for an ordinary church with a God-sized dream when we put our trust in him.
A God-sized dream gives glory to God only, not us. God is up to something big when he plants his dreams in our hearts. If we were able to achieve our calling by our own strength, we would also take all the glory. But when we stand at the base of an impossible mountain, shaking in our boots, knowing full well our legs could never carry us to the summit, we are forced to rely on God and praise him for every step he enables us to take.
In the end, our calling will shine the light on an infinitely powerful God, who is enlarging his Kingdom through us day by day. We fully experience God’s dream when we completely trust him, and when we graciously walk with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Seek a God-sized dream for your church!
Plant and water the seeds—and trust God for the increase.
By Jim Sheppard & Patrick Johnson
Churches may be taking a hit from the economy, but there is still much that can be done to generate a culture of generosity. Here are five specific field-tested ideas (in no particular order):
1. Be a generous leader
Generous churches are led by generous pastors and leaders. You can’t take people where you haven’t been—especially in the area of finances, which so often gets a bad rap in the church context.
Chris Willard of Leadership Network’s Generous Church Leadership Community notes, “I’ve seen generous pastors without a generous church, but you cannot have a generous church without a generous pastor.” Indeed, generous giving should be a characteristic of your entire leadership team.
Jimmy Seibert of Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas is an example of a pastor who really practices this principle. He and his wife Laura have given sacrificially for more than 20 years and their life example of biblical generosity and God’s provision are known by both church leaders and members alike. One member of Jimmy’s church recently told him, “I give because I see you give. That’s what motivates me.”
A key question to ask yourself as the church leader is, “If everyone in my church gave like I do, would that be a good thing for the Kingdom?”
2. Adopt generosity as a core value
An excellent example of this is Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN. Around three years ago, the elders were struggling with the question of whether to do another capital campaign to fund expansion. Like many churches, they found that a campaign motivated people for a short season but had very little lasting impact on most of their members’ giving.
After much prayer, the church felt like God was calling them to adopt generosity as a core value of the church and to call all people to “raise the tide” of generosity at their church to what they deemed the “training wheels of giving,” the traditional tithe of 10 percent. Read the rest of this entry »
Reposted from 2009. -JB
If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards” (Matthew 7:25-27 MSG).
I watched the little tike as he built his sand castle with great care and pride on the beach shore. He must have been 5 years old. Just as he was putting the finishing touches on his castle wall, a large boat pulling a wake boarder cruised by just a stones throw out from the shore. Within seconds the waves hit the shore and wiped out the boy’s sand masterpiece. And he ran to his mommy in tears.
Life went on for this little boy. He soon got over the destruction of his sand castle and was soon laughing on the playground minutes later.
Unfortunately, many of us never completely grow out of the foolish practice of building fragile castles in the sand. Read the rest of this entry »