Growing Up Spiritually In Community

While The World Obsesses Over The “Self”

We’ve often pointed out that the world generally obsesses over the “self”;  while, God—in the Scriptures—directs us to be “God-focused” and “others-focused”! Unfortunately, this “self-centeredness” has trickled down into our churches; so, that, even our spiritual growth is seen as something accomplished as an “individual.” The community of faith is recognized as “supplemental”, not “essential”, to our spiritual growth. We believe the Scriptures debunk that individualistic mindset.

Build Up The Body

God uses our local church—our faith community—to grow us “at a deeper & more intimate level than can be accomplished alone.” Paul often reminded the local churches (as he did the Church of Ephesus in ch.4:11-16) that they were to function as a “body” functions; not as a group of self-centered, self-absorbed individuals! The “work of the ministry” was to “build up the BODY”, he said. The spiritual growth God intends to accomplish, in us individually, happens in the context of the local church body—it’s NOT that we don’t grow as “individuals”; we do! But that growth comes in our interaction with other believers!

Isolation Welcomes Spiritual Defeat

When we live an isolated life on the outside of the church we live as though we are autonomous! Only God, however, is truly autonomous! He answers to no one! We, however, will ultimately give account to God for our lives; and, He has devised the Church body to keep us accountable! It’s His plan that by holding ourselves accountable to other believers we will be stretched & matured so that we might hear a “Well done good & faithful servant” when we stand before Him! We are called to “Bear one another’s burdens”; and, those burdens come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes we are burdened by sin. At other times, our burden is physical or emotional; and, God intends to use our brothers & sisters, in Christ, to mature us!

Why Are We Here?

Since making disciples is the main reason why a church exists, everything in the corporate body of the local church needs to be aligned in a way that funnels people toward these discipleship environments, the most notable of which is the relational small group”—from the chapter titled “Rethinking Our Practices” p.171 in Jim Putnam’s excellent book, DiscipleShift.

 

 

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Fishing For People

It Can Be Like Work

Growing up, in central Wisconsin, fishing was a routine part of life for me. Our property bordered on a river we frequently fished; and, a great fishing lake was only 15 minutes away. But, when my young bride and I moved to Colorado in 1984, fishing became a frustration for me. Catching Brook Trout in Colorado was a lot more difficult than catching bass and crappies in Wisconsin! It was work! You had to sneak up on them! If they spotted you, on shore, they’d go into a crazy frenzy and stir up all the dirt & sand, at the bottom of the stream, so they couldn’t be seen.

Jesus Calls Us

In Matthew 4:18-22 we see Jesus calling His disciples to Himself; and, because many of them were fishermen by occupation, He uses it as a metaphor when He tells them, “I will make you fish for people.” Now, I’m guessing that, for many of you, the whole topic of evangelism & disciple-making conjures up images of my fishing experience in Colorado—sneaking up on sinners; throwing them a line w/ some kind of “spiritual bait” on it; and, trying to hook ‘em & reel ‘em in! But, with little success to show for it,  you’ve given up; you’ve quit fishing for people; and, declared that you must not have the “gift of evangelism.” I feel your pain! I’ve been there!

Jesus Enables Us

But, I thank God; that, in recent years He’s helped me to see the process differently. Making disciples; or, fishing for people, is not about our giftedness or our clever words! It’s Jesus who has all authority over the disciple making process—because of His person; because He is God, He carries with Him all the authority that comes with being God! In the words leading up to His Great Commission to the Church, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” Matt. 28:18-20. When we fish for people we go, not in our own wisdom & authority; but, in the authority of God, the Son! And, we depend on the Holy Spirit to go ahead of us & lay the groundwork by “…convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment…” John 16:8.  The entire process is a spiritual work that Jesus oversees!

What’s The Implication?

Because Jesus has all authority, He sends us by the power of His authority! We have no authority, over the disciple-making process, on our own! We “go” under the umbrella of His authority! Read Luke’s account in ch. 5:4-11 to fill in some of the details Matthew left out—when Jesus told them to cast their nets, Peter said, “…we’ve worked all night & haven’t caught a thing; but, because You told me to I’ll do it…” What happened? They caught so many fish that the nets began to tear! Jesus was teaching Peter—and us—that it’s not about our effort! When doing Jesus’ work it’s about His power & authority!

Parenting Adult Children

If Your Meddling, Stop It!

All the struggles & mistakes & rebellion of my adult children can be attributed, in large part, to the sin nature I passed on to them! Bad parenting begets bad parenting! The answer is NOT to try harder to fix them! Your adult children will resent your “meddling” in their lives! The answer is NOT to read the newest “self help” book on the subject, either!

Do You See A Pattern Here?

Genesis 37 contains the sordid story of Jacob & Rachel and their dysfunctional family. Pick it up; and, read it all over again! What you will see is a pattern of sin learned from the previous generation. When Jacob’s sons deceived him with a robe covered in goat’s blood, they convinced him that their brother,  Joseph, had been killed. They learned to lie & deceive from their own father, Jacob, and their grandmother, Rebekah, who hatched up a scheme to deceive her husband, Isaac, to bless Jacob instead of his older brother, Esau! Where did Isaac & Rebekah learn to deceive? From Isaac’s parents, Abraham & Sarah, who cooked up a story that Sarah was his sister (Genesis 20) over fear that a king would kill Abraham to obtain Sarah for his wife! You’ll also find “favoritism”, “passive parenting”, “jealousy”, “hate”—all being passed on from one generation to the next! “The apple never falls far from the tree!”

What’s The Answer?

The answer to the dysfunction in our homes—and all of our homes ARE dysfunctional—is the Gospel! The “good news” of the Gospel says, “I cannot; but, God can!” I can’t save myself; but, God can save me! I cannot overcome my hurts, habits & hangups; but, God’s Spirit can help me overcome them! I cannot fix the dysfunction in my relationships with my children; nor, can I fix the dysfunction they’ve brought into their marriages & families! But, God can—that’s the Gospel! God alone can help us overcome the sinful dysfunction we all bring into our homes! Jesus took all our sin, our guilt, and our shame with Him to the cross & He paid for it all! His work atones for even our bad parenting if we’ll humble ourselves & confess to Him that we’re incapable of fixing it! Extend grace to your adult kids like God did to you!

Don’t Become Their Judges

It’s easy to become judgmental, of our adult children, when it seems they don’t want to hear our opinions anymore. Maybe we need to listen more & talk less! If we don’t change the way we parent, as they become adults, relational tension will develop between us. If you desire to be a blessing to your adult children, begin by confessing your own brokenness to them & to God. Then, pray relentlessly for the Spirit to work on you & your adult children! Trust God to do the Spirit’s work that you cannot do. When you act like the Holy Spirit in their life, all they’ll hear is nagging! Give them over to God! They are His!

How Important Should Politics Be?

We’ve Reaped What We Sowed

In my last post I talked about the Church’s well-intended; but, disastrous decision, to exchange Jesus’ commission to “make disciples” in the hope that their political clout—as a “Moral Majority”—could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.  Five decades later, we’ve “reaped what we sowed.”

The Incredible Shrinking Church

The Church has severely shrunk in size; and, for the most part, the strategy has failed to elect God-Honoring public servants or pass God-Honoring legislation. Let us NOT get back on the pendulum; and, swing it all the way to the other extreme, making government & politics of no importance! That’s reactionary! What we need is a Biblical Theology of the “Christian & Politics.”

A Biblical Theology On Politics

It starts with God! He’s the starting place for everything—“The earth is the LORD’S and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” Psalm 24:1. “For the earth is the Lord’s, and everything that is in it” 1 Cor. 10:26.  Government was God’s idea! He created it— “Submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God…the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves” Rom 13:1,2.  Clearly, the principle in Scripture is that God is Sovereign over human governments; and, uses them to advance His ultimate plans (Prov. 21:1;  Dan. 2:21; 2 Chron. 20:6).  At the same time, God blesses the nation that chooses Him (Psa. 9:17; 33:12; Isa. 60:12; Prov. 14:34).

Personal Responsibility

There’s an element of man’s free will involved. He’s made us a free moral agent; and, so, people often get the government they’ve “chosen.” There seems to be some “personal responsibility” required; especially, if we have the freedom to choose our public officials. If we’re given the opportunity to choose good governments that actually exalt God, that’s what we’re called to do! Paul told Timothy to pray for good governments that provide a peaceful atmosphere for us to do the Lord’s work—which, of course, includes “making disciples” (see 1 Tim. 2:1,2).

Balancing The Tension

In Philippians 3:20, Paul puts government & politics in it’s proper perspective—“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter says to “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence here” 1 Pet. 1:17. It’s ultimately a matter of “identity.” I must view my identity as a “citizen of heaven” and a “temporary resident” of this world and the United States of America!  The moment I lose sight of that I’ve made my nation an “idol”! As one whose identity is “in Christ”, my goal must always be to pursue Christ as the prize!