Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Baptized Vessels for Righteousness

“For the death that [Christ] died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin rein in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Rom 6:10-14)

Blessing comes from love and obedience...

I don't know about you but all this talk of the Ashley Madison web hack has my attention especially since a lot of influential people, especially Christians, have been publically exposed in their sins and temptations. A lot of people are raising their eyebrows in surprise. Physicists speak of the "butterfly effect," the degree to which small actions produce large consequences. The same is true spiritually. People (most importantly Christ Jesus) watch you respond to opportunities and challenges. They see the way you react (or act) in many different situations; treat those who can help you and those who cannot; the way you and I handle temptation, etc. The way you live affects not only you but the world – positively and negatively. 

There’s no doubt that our bodies act like temptation magnets. We fall into weakness so many times. Yes, that’s the case for all of us and Paul reminds us that the choices we make not only affect us but our Savior and others. Paul offers Gospel saturated perspective: "What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"

Let us stay aware, "...that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death..." and "...we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father so we too may walk in a new way of life." (Romans 6:1-4)

I was reminded one Sunday (Aug 30) to remember Christ Jesus and how He was obedient to God, and how He was subjected to terrible suffering for our redemption and restoration. As a Christian, consider Christ Jesus today...seriously, deeply, and forever...and follow Him. Jesus says in John 15, to "abide in Him" the same way a branch is attached to a vine. The closer you draw to Jesus, the closer He draws to you in very real ways. Place your trust in Jesus Christ,  and allow him to  affect your world for His glory.

May your 2016 be blessed!

Monday, December 21, 2015

5 Ways Leaders Can Make Discipleship "Normal"

by Jeff Vanderstelt

It's one thing to believe and agree with the fullness of the Scriptures and Gospel.  It's another to behave as we believe.  Jeff Vaderstelt brings about a challenging way in which Christians must live true to Christ's Commission, beyond mere agreement, but in full action.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples who make disciples. We can make disciples formally and informally. In formal discipleship you need to consider all that you want people to:

Know — key doctrines all people should know

Believe — truths that motivate and transform your identity and behavior

Do — the activities that the gospel leads us to practice

Informal discipleship, in conjunction with formal discipleship is crucial in making followers of Jesus who both hear and obey. Here are 5 ways to make disciples informally:

1. Encourage a disciplemaking culture.

God commanded through Moses (Deuteronomy 6) and Jesus commanded the disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) to develop a disciple-making culture where all of life becomes the platform for disciple-making.
Seven questions to determine if you have a disciplemaking culture:
       Are the few doing the ministry for the many? Or are the few equipping the many for the ministry?
       Do we spend the majority of our time equipping, training and developing leaders?
       Is it apparent that every member is to be a full-time minister in your church?
       Do new believers get called and sent into the mission upon conversion?
       Do you celebrate those who leave to start new works?
       Is there shared leadership within the local body?
       Do you intentionally create vacuums for other leaders to fill?

2. Make your life visible and accessible to others.

To be an example for the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3), others need to see our lives as an observable example of gospel ministry, mission and ordinary life. We also need to observe their lives – to see if they are faithful (2 Timothy 2:2). The areas we need to observe one another includes marriage, family, management of our household, love of neighbors, our leadership, our training, and our discipling, as well as conflict management, exercise, prayer and how we use money.

3. Live with your leaders in community.

Jesus said the greatest apologetic for the gospel is our love for one another (John 13:31-45). We practice the “one anothers” of scripture in community. If you’re not developing people to love one another, you’re not making disciples. And you will not make disciples who love one another if they’re not in consistent community where others are building them up.

4. Live as servants together.

Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us that God gives some to equip the saints for ministry, and that the means by which we grow up into maturity is when each part is doing its work. We will not grow up if we are not all ministering. We grow up as we build up the body and serve together.

5. Make sure your leaders live on Mission.
Living life on mission requires getting in the game. Is your missional living more of a chalk-talk (sermons and teaching) or an actual game? Is it just a scrimmage among other Christians or are we actually engaging the lost? If we are not in the game of mission, we will not become disciples, but rather just a spiritual formation group.

Source: http://www.vergenetwork.org/2015/12/14/5-ways-leaders-make-discipleship-normal/

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Serve and Respect the Elder Saints

Great Idea by Josh Etter.

I have so many great memories of my grandfather (Gugga) and grandmother (Guku/Mama).  My Grandparents impacted me in huge ways and their influence is like nuclear energy.  In February I finally got the chance to visit them after about ten years of being away.  I was so refreshed and inspired by their godliness, wisdom, and love.  I even had a chance to drive my Gugga to the doctor’s for his monthly check-up.  Our time together overwhelmed me with such great joy and my cup is still overflowing.

You know what, I can say the same for the many “elders” in my church through the years.  I pray that my younger, same-aged, and slightly older peers experience the same.  It is so awesome, in words inexpressible, to have someone older to lovingly walk alongside with in life.  But as much as they give to us, we should also give back to them.  It’s an amazing paradox.

Charles Spurgeon writes:
Some are like the sun going down in the west; they will be gone soon. Serve them, dear brethren. You that are in health and vigour, comfort them, strengthen them, and help them all you can. Be a joy to that dear old man, who has been spared to you even beyond the allotted threescore years and ten, and praise God for the grace that has upheld him through his long pilgrimage. Look on his grey hairs as a crown of glory; make his descent to the grave as easy as you can. He once was as young as you are; he once had the vigour that you have. Console him, cheer him, give him the respect that is due to his many years. Do not let him feel that you consider him an old fogey who lingers, superfluous, on the stage; but learn from his experience, imitate his perseverance, and ask God to be with you in your old age, as he is with him.
Excerpted from Charles Spurgeon's Own FuneralSermon.

Original Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/serve-and-respect-the-elder-saints

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I Needed A Mentor

How Could I Invest In Others If Nobody Was Investing In Me?
By Mario Zandstra

I was surprised when Laura, my oldest child, wanted to take me to lunch. While at our favorite Mexican food restaurant, Laura and I made small talk, visited about the weather and school, and then she asked me how I was doing.

I gave my standard response: “I am fine.”

She was not satisfied with my answer, so she pressed me. I went on to tell her that I had been thinking a lot lately about losing both of my parents in a short period of time. I explained that work had been tough, and I did not feel like I had much control over my life. She seemed content with my response, so I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then she totally changed the subject. She asked if I was investing in anyone in a mentor/discipleship relationship. I told her I was spending time with a couple of guys at Pine Cove and another guy in Dallas. She asked if I was keeping up with some of the dads from Family Camp, and I told her I was.

Tears were brought to my eyes when she said, “I am so proud of you, Dad.” I beamed. My adult daughter was proud of me!

She went on to ask if anyone was investing in me. I mentioned a man, and she asked when I had last met with him. As it turns out, it had been almost 15 months. In a not-so-subtle way she said, “I don’t think that is much of a mentor relationship if you never meet with him. Dad, you cannot truly invest in someone else if no one is investing in you.”

After that statement, she asked me if I remembered an incident from earlier in the summer. “Dad, do you remember the problem we had with our lawn mower earlier this summer, when it quit working and you found all that gunk in the fuel filter?” I told her yes. She then asked if I remembered what the problem was. I said, “Yes, we went to get gas at a local gas station, and as it turns out, we were getting the dregs from the bottom of an empty gas tank.”

She went on, “Dad, you can’t give if your spiritual fuel tank is empty.”

I sat there speechless. She was absolutely correct. In many ways, I was giving those around me the gunk in my spiritual tank.

I thanked her for her wise counsel and then went back to work.

A few days later, I began to pray for who I would ask to mentor me. Two guys came to mind. I called the first, and he responded, “Why would you want to meet with me?”

I thought, Well, if you do not know why I would want to meet with you, then you’re probably not the one I should meet with.

So I called the next guy, and he was very excited to meet.

That was two years ago, and I cannot begin to tell you how much I have grown and how much more effective I have been able to minister to and mentor others.

After realizing my need for a mentor, I quizzed about 100 guys about the subject of mentoring. It was amazing to learn that out of those 100 guys, only 15 had someone investing in them and those 15 were each investing in another person.

Ironically, the Bible tells us to “‘Go therefore and make disciples ...’” (Matthew 28:19a), yet the church leaders, pastors, and camp guys I quizzed were not involved in a discipleship relationship at all.

I asked a deeper question, “Why not?” I expected the issue to be time. Instead, the answer was an unwillingness to be that vulnerable with someone about what was going on in their lives. Additionally, many admitted it was spiritual pride.

All of us should find someone more mature in the Christian life to invest in us and likewise should find someone who is younger in the faith and impact them, too.

Swallow your pride and find someone to help you grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

I did—and it was great.

Mario Zandstra is president and CEO of Pine Cove Christian Camps, in Tyler, Texas.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Source: http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/faith/essentials/growing-in-your-faith/i-needed-a-mentor