Your Homework this Week: Reach Out, Persist, Invite

Thursday is for Evangelism

Here’s a great link on the principle of invitation.

Watch, enjoy, chuckle, apply.

The Video

“How Do I Measure Discipleship?”

Wednesday is for Thinking

The Call to DiscipleshipSometime back, a friend (thanks Mike) and campus pastor of another church asked this question: (Mike’s words in blue)

“Hey guys I’d like a little input. Our pastoral team here at ___________ is discussing,

“How to measure our effectiveness of making disciples? (beyond Sunday attendance, offerings and buildings). How do you measure your campus/church effectiveness?”

He went on and issued a challenge:

“… how do you measure it? Do you just count the people who are making disciples in the church?”

It’s a very good question. How do you measure whether anything you are doing in your attempt to “make-disciples” is actually working? Here was my quick response at the time with a few additional clarifying edits. 

Big picture: The evidence emerges. Women are happier in their marriages because husbands are leading better. Husbands are discipling sons and mom’s are discipling daughters. Relationships between parents and children improve. You look out and see families together in worship and see them enjoying being together. People are telling one another of the changes God is making in their lives and the opportunities they have had to share their faith. 

Relational blow ups among formerly volatile people happen less frequently and are solved biblically in shorter periods. Elder meetings are about discipleship rather than budget minutia. We did a survey 9 years into the process at my last church and found that 25 % of the men had led someone to Christ in the previous 3 years. Three women, in a two week period came up and said some variation of this to me: “This church has an amazing number of godly men in it.”

Multiplication begins to happen. John and Joe start meeting together to build into one another’s lives. Mary and Jane meet not just for coffee but to pour out their lives together and pray for their impact on others. Karl and Ed begin to meet, without any prompting from leadership, and hold one another accountable to lead their families better.

Most of that is not measurable in a strict sense but it is like the supreme court justice who said, “I can’t define pornography but I recognize it when I see it.” When growth is occurring, it emerges, you will see it, like the carrots in my garden that have just broken through the surface of the ground.

 What do you think?  How do you measure whether or not people are being discipled?

John Piper; Answering Homosexual Activists; Marriage Thoughts; Immigrant Policy; Dealing with Terrorism

Links for Life and Ministry

Grace StonesI am away this week taking the last class for a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. My posts this week will be few and short as a result. Walk with Jesus and have fun. Proclaim the excellencies of Christ by living passionately for and like Christ.

The Power of Prayer Winning the Lost and Comforting the Afflicted (Unforgettable story of tragedy, loss, redemption and a decade of prayer.)
Three Misconceptions that Christians Have about Marrying Non-Christians  (Helpful as far as it goes, but it never cites Scripture.)
15 Reasons We Would be Wise to Use Hymnals Again  (Ponder Aknew)
Book Review: Great Commission, Great Confusion or Great Confession?  (Don’t miss this one. All of us need to think better about what we mean when we say “Great Commission”)
How do We Make Disciples?  (Chuck Swindoll keeps it simple and biblical.)
Is God’s Word Enough?  (Crossway Books—every generation has to make a decision, but the word never changes.)
Grace for Every Need  (John Piper—daily devotional.)
Immigrants: What is a Christian Response?  (Long overdue for Christians to begin to think hard about these issues.)

Better Engagement with Culture and Politics

Ryan Anderson Responds to a Gay Man Who Wants to Redefine Marriage  (Two excellent short videos.)
Former Homosexual Reveals “Unmitigated Disaster” of Gay Marriage  (The freight train of gay “marriage” is headed over a cliff.)
More Brits Signing Up to Fight with ISIS Terrorists than Signing Up for Army Reserve  (Allen West reports. Alarming. Could it happen here?)
Blame Obama and American Evangelicals for the Persecution of Iraqi Christians  (Some real food for thought for all evangelicals. President Obama may be a disaster, personally I think so, but that doesn’t mean that everybody else, Christians included get a free pass.)
A Line Crossed in the Middle East (First Things)

For Fun and Health

Coolest Bookstores in the World   (I love bookstores and hate to see them disappear.)

What We Can Learn for Our Souls from this Year’s Soy Bean Crop

Soy beans 1Monday is for Challenge

Here’s a great post from memory delight that all my farmer friends in Iroquois County will appreciate. My comments and challenge follow.

Neil Orchard was talking with a farmer about his soy bean and corn crops.

Rain had been abundant, and the results were evident.

So his comment surprised him: “My crops are especially vulnerable. Even a short drought could have a devastating effect.”

“Why?” Orchard asked.

He explained that while we see the frequent rains as a benefit, during that time the plants are not required to push roots deeper in search of water.

The roots remain near the surface. A drought would find the plants unprepared and quickly kill them.

Some Christians receive abundant “rains” of worship, fellowship, and teaching.

Yet when stress enters their lives, many suddenly abandon God or think him unfaithful.

Their roots have never pushed much below the surface.

Remember this, only roots grown deep into Jesus Christ help us endure times of drought in our lives.

So don’t neglect the power of memorizing and meditating Scriptures every single day.

Scripture memorization is a discipline that will help your roots to push below the surface.

Click here on a “smarter” way to begin.

Click here to begin memorizing His words today!

Trinity Church, let’s grow deep in the word of Christ. Let’s emerse ourselves in the word of God so that the Spirit of of God transforms us and makes us a people who “proclaims the excellenecies of our God.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

What is Your Church Known for?

Sunday Afternoon Musings

Francis Chan“If we are going to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, we should be making disciples. But most Christians today are not known for making disciples.”

—-Francis Chan, Multiply, chapter 1

Let’s make our churches known for making disciples of Jesus. Not for talking about it but for actually doing it.

Running to a Mountain to Pray and Escape into Battle

Wednesday is for Prayer

Jesus prayingThe tide has turned. The Pharisees are furious with Jesus. Blinded by hate, they are plotting to kill him. Crowds are following. The twelve are being trained. His ministry is just beginning to gear up and is making headway in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. And the Pharisees are planning how to destroy both him and his message. What will Jesus do? Luke tells us.

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:

—Luke 6:12-13 (ESV)

Faced with opposition of the most virulent kind, Jesus retreats to a mountain to pray all night. Then he calls twelve men out the crowd of followers he has and names them Apostles, “sent ones.”  They are now called to be “with him that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:13-14). They will undergo a bit more observation of his ministry and then be sent to do what they have watched him do. Christ knew that a battle was coming so He ran to the mountain to pray.

Prayer:

“Lord, make us quick to run to ‘the mountains and pray’. Make us like You Lord. Make us people who double-down at opposition and continue to make disciples on a foundation of prayer. Keep us from trusting in our own efforts, our own plans, our own strategies and to instead bathe everything we face in a quiet and lengthy dependence upon You. Make us distrust ourselves and trust You. Make us men and women who never stop inviting others into the mission of risking everything for gospel-hope. Amen.”

Fury at Jesus

Tuesday is for Thinking

Withered hands 1High drama on a Sabbath.

5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” 

6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. 

What a scene. Jesus is doing the predictable thing based on all the reports of his ministry thus far. He goes to the Synagogue on a Sabbath. There are two things that can be counted on: he will proclaim good news and he will bring healing to some.

The Pharisees know this. Every one in the synagogue knows this. It’s why most of them are there.

A man with a withered hand is there. Perhaps a plant by the Pharisees, someone to tempt him to use his power to heal. They are uninterested in the man. He is just a tool, a weapon to wield against Jesus, the object of their fear and loathing.

Withered hand 2But Jesus knows their thoughts (vs. 8). He’s about to turn the tables.

“Come here,” he says to the man, “and stand here.”

Now he, his name lost to all but God, is standing next to One who has all eyes fixed upon him. His withered hand hangs useless and malformed at his side or perhaps it is curled up into a kind of human claw proclaiming his malady to everyone.

Jesus turns to the eyes that are waiting for him to speak. He asks one question and then a slowly surveys the room as the question hangs in the air.

“… is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?”

Every eye on him; his words echoing; they watch him turn to the nameless man. Heaven is about to invade the earth.

“Stretch out your hand.” 

And as he simply obeys the command of Christ, his hand is restored!

Can you imagine the joy of the man? The awe of the crowd? The thoughts of “what does this all mean” that are racing through the minds of those who see the transformation?!

But for me, the most stunning response is verse 11.

“But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.”

Withered hands (leprosy)A man with a withered hand has his hand restored and they are filled with fury!

No awe.

No joy.

No rejoicing.

No wonder.

No celebration.

No congratulations.

No shouting the news.

Their response is fury and plotting, envy and fear.

I wonder how often we miss the greatness of what God is doing because our hearts are hard to the truth that cuts across and against the grain of what we want God to do?

I sometimes wonder how different are we from the Pharisees?

 

Lazy Atheists; John Stewart’s Prejudice; Tim Keller on Suffering; Government Homosexuality Numbers; Smart Phones Making us Dumb and more

Weekend Links

Dan, Owen and Ellie (Day One of Being a Big Brother)

Dan, Owen and Ellie (Day One of Being a Big Brother)

I am a grandfather again!  Meredith and Dan just had their second child. Young Owen has a baby sister, Ellie Leta, born this morning weighing 7lb. 1 oz and measuring 18″ long.  We are excited for them and us and excited to see our new family member. Enjoy the weekend links.

Better Thinking about Politics and Cultural Engagement

A Primer on Race  (Joseph Stowell–pre-eminent black conservative and economist reviews a new book on race and how some help hurts the ones we try to help.)
Atheists Were Not Always as Intellectually Lazy as Richard Dawkins (Know Nothing: The True History of Atheism—Gone are the days when atheists took important questions seriously.)
How many Americans are Homosexual: New Government Survey Tells Us  (Much lower than they expected and revealing of a number of other lifestyle choices.)
Megyn Kelly Eviscerates John Stewart Over His Misleading Information in the Hobby Lobby Case  (What, a journalist doing her job?!)

Better Thinking About Ministry

9 Reasons Tim Keller’s Book on Suffering is a Book You Ought to Read  (Review of Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering)
10 Reasons Some Churches are Not Reaching Millennials (Frank Powell—some good counsel and insightful observations.)
God and the Gay Christian: A Response to Matthew Vines and Others  (Al Mohler—great interview with some weighty and compassionate thoughts.)
Three Reasons Why Staying Neutral is Not Biblical  (And unhelpful. Leslie Vernick brief article on counseling.)
Still Learning on Sundays: The Community as Gospel Apologetic  (Ed Stetzer–very short but helpful in answering those who want to distance themselves and the rest of us from the importance of gathering regularly in Christian community.)
9 Things You Should Know about Mormonism  (Pray for your Mormon neighbors.)
Six Ways Your Smart Phone is Changing You  (An interesting article and interview with David Wells.)

Just for Fun and Health

Two Women’s Normal Boring Chitchat becomes Hilarious When Lip-synced by Their Son and Nephew  (Funny)

When an Unknown Anxiety Steals Sleep

Friday is for Heart Songs

Psalm 50(11)12:21 AM. I had been tossing and turning, and thinking and definitely not sleeping for about 40 minutes. I gave up and got up.

Grabbing my Bible, my feet wandered to the living room, and my hand turned on the light while my eyes got busy and began to read the next psalm from where I found my bookmark—Psalm 50.

Heart racing. I don’t know why. Anxiety of some kind, but over what? My message? Steph’s travel? Maureen? Aubre? Marty III? Meredith? Anna? Dan? Post-modernism? Doctoral work? “Tell me Lord.”

A prayer, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Verse 11.

“I know every bird of the mountain
 And everything that moves in the field is mine.”

NET Bible–I keep track of every bird in the hills / And the insects of the field are mine
OJ Bible–every bird / and the animals of the world are mine
CEV–every wild creature is in my care
CPDV–the beauty of the field is with me
Message–the scampering field mice are all my friends

The word translated “everything that moves” is a word that is most often applied to beasts of the field but is sometimes used to refer to insects, small things that can destroy crops in the field.

So what exactly is everything?

Insects, Mice and Moles

Insects, mice, and moles, grubs, worms, and grasshoppers, cicadas and voles, cattle, foxes, sheep and badgers,
elephants, and zebras, minks and wolves, lions and bears, tigers and leopards and I must not forget the lynxes,
moths and fireflies move in the field and these too are yours.

But that’s not the end of your holdings and treasures.
butterflies and locusts, snakes and turtles, lizards and lice, ticks and beetles,
thousands and thousands, over 350,000 different types of beetles
all these move in the field and you know them all.

There are centipedes and caterpillars, aphids and spiders, deers and antelopes,
porcupines and snap dragons, and dragon flies, and  black  flies and mosquitos,
oh I wish there weren’t mosquitoes and bats and snails. I’m not too fond of snails.

Everything that flies and hops, and crawls and slithers and slimes and runs and wiggles, all these are yours.
Even the grass and the trees, the shrubs and flowers that wave in the wind and even the wind, all these are yours,
and the people too, that move in the field, they too are yours.

And up in the mountains where the eagles nest, and the ravens and wrens, and robins and black birds,
the little sparrows and the California Condor, the grackles and parakeets, and geese and hawks, along with the falcons,
all of these you track through the sky and into their nests.

All this you know;
All this is yours.
And whether I walk in the field or climb the highest peak
You know me, own me.
What do I have to be anxious about
When your love endures forever?

1:10 AM  Good night Lord, and thank you for making me yours and knowing my ways as I walk through the field.

Let Me Be Weak

Thursday is for Discipleship

Hands 2“Father, let me be weak that I might loose my clutch on everything temporal. My life, my reputation, my possessions, Lord, let me loose the tension of the grasping hand. Even, Father, would I loose the love of fondling. How often I have released a grasp only to retain what I prized by ‘harmless’ longing, the fondling touch. Rather, open my hand to receive the nail of Calvary, as Christ’s was opened–that I, releasing all, might be released, unleashed from all that binds me now. He thought Heaven, yea, equality with God, not a thing to be clutched at. So let me release my grasp.”

Elizabeth Elliot, quoted in
William MacDonald, True Discipleship, p. 11