Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Praise Matters

I started teaching a Wednesday night bible study at my church this "semester". We're about 7 weeks into it, and it has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience so far.

After class last night, one of the regular attendees came up to me. He asked "Are you a teacher? I mean, a real teacher?" He was asking if that was my trade or profession. I told him that no, I did computer stuff, but at one time I'd thought about being a teacher.

He gripped my upper arm, stared me in the eyes and said "No, you ARE a teacher. You're doing a great job leading this class." As many times as I've felt inadequate to the task of teaching this class, that moment meant a lot to me. I left church last night encouraged in my spirit much more than usual.

Sometimes the simplest of encouragements can mean the world to the recipient. You do have to be extravagant or over the top in your praise, but sincerity does matter. This gentleman didn't just say "good class" or "good job tonight" as he walked past me. He took the time to stop and engage with me, to stare me in the eye, and to speak from the bottom of his heart.

When is the last time you offered someone sincere praise for a job well done?

Praise matters, and sincere praise even more so.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Random Musing on Faith

I have been working on a lesson plan for teaching on James 2:14-26. This is the "faith without works is dead" passage in James.

If you're treating your faith as fire insurance, you might want to check that policy. It might not be any good.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Orchard of our Soul

We've all heard the list, those personality traits that comprise the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Often times, however, they seem very lacking in our lives. We want stuff done now, we want ti done our way, and we'll break down any wall to get it done. I know I've prayed and prayed and prayed for God to give me more of each one of these at various.

And then Dr. Corey Abney, pastor at Florence Baptist at Mt. Zion did a sermon series he titled "Rooted", on the fruit of the Spirit. One of the first things he taught was that these are not individual gifts of the spirit. When we accept Christ and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, we are have the fruit of the Spirit (singular) in all its entirety. These are all individual aspects, if you will, of the fruit. It's not as if God gives us patience one day, and then another day we get the gift of kindness or self-control, and then He gives us faithfulness. It's an all-or-nothing package deal. Instead, we have to let these attributes blossom within us, and evince themselves more completely. They are already there, we have to let them out.

So, what is it that stunts the orchard of our soul and keeps the fruit from blossoming? Why do we struggle so often with anger, and slander and the other emotions Paul warns about in Ephesians 4:31?

I think the answer can be found in Matthew 3:8. John the Baptist is baptizing in the river Jordan, and the Pharisees and Sadducees have come to him for baptism. Look at what he tells them: "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." So if we don't keep with repentance, we won't bear fruit. When we have unconfessed sin in our lives, that gets between us and God and stunts our growth and maturation. Instead of drawing closer to God, we feel guilty and pull away instead. So the simple, but definitely not easy, answer is that we have to continually examine our lives, and confess to God when we have sinned. Don't sit on it and wait. It's not going anywhere. Like a splinter that you leave in your finger, it will fester and get infected, and then it's that much more painful to extract later.

What in your life are you hiding from God and yourself? What is stunting the growth of the orchard of your soul? What is keeping the fruit of the Spirit from blossoming more fully in you life?

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Free book from Ligonier Ministries

Ligonier Ministries, the ministry of R.C. Sproul, is offering a free ebook on biblical manhood in honor of Father's Day.

The book is title "The Masculine Mandate: God's Calling to Men" and is written by Richard D. Phillips.

You can grab it from Amazon, or they have the ePub version in their store.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What are you reading?

I was thinking about all of the books I currently have in progress.

I just finished God's Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola. This was an interesting look at the town of Bethany, and how much of Jesus' life and ministry revolved around it, especially in His final week before the crucifixion.

I'm also currently reading (in fits and starts) Blood Covenant by Michael Franzese. Michael came and spoke out our church several years ago, and the thought of a mobster that quit the mob and survived is just fascinating to me.

In the Christian Living realm, I'm reading Why Trust Jesus?: An Honest Look at Doubts, Plans, Hurts, Desires, Fears, Questions, and Pleasures by Dave Sterrett. I'll be perfectly honest. I wasn't very familiar with him at all, but this book popped up free for a short time in the Kindle version, so I nabbed it. It's an easy read so far (I'm not very far into it yet). It's a straightforward look at who Jesus is, and why that matters. It's a "back to the basics" type book, which I think is good to revisit every now and then.

Finally, in the Christian fiction realm, I'm currently reading Green by Ted Dekker. It's part of his Circle series. I'd previously read the other three books, but picked up the boxed set of all four when I ran across it at Half Price Books one day. It's basically a parable writ large, across four books, that ties into another series (The Paradise Trilogy) that he wrote.

So what has me thinking about what I'm reading? It's realizing what I'm NOT reading, at least not regularly or enough. I have an anthology of 66 books that I carry around frequently. I have a study version of it, multiple translations in electronic version, and accounts on several websites to try and help me study it. Yet I may read a few passages each morning with my devotionals, and a bit more here and there if I'm studying for a lesson. Yet I don't treat my Bible as a work of literature to sit down and read, and that's a shame.

I look forward to grabbing a Dekker book, or an essay by John Piper, or the latest from David Platt. Yet I find it burdensome to sit down with the Word of God and read it. The full arc of human history is spelled out in its pages, from the creation of the world to the fall of man to our final redemption through Christ's death on the cross. It's part narrative, part poetry, part mystery, part thriller, and wholly truth.

I wonder. If God's people spent as much time reading and studying His Word as we do immersing ourselves in all of the other mindless and inane forms of entertainment at our disposal, what would our world look like?

2 Timothy 3:16
Psalm 119:11
2 Timothy 2:15
Deuteronomy 11:18

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why are we so hesitant to share the Gospel?

This is something I've struggled with over the years. Christians are clearly called to share the good news and to spread the Gospel to all corners of the world. However, it is easier to write a check for the missions budget of the local church or to financially support a missionary organization than it is to talk to our next door neighbor. If I know someone is already a Christian, I can talk God all day long, but if there is any doubt about their faith, I find myself tongue-tied and reluctant to talk.

This past Sunday, my pastor was continuing his sermon series on the book of Acts. His scripture this time was Acts 17, specifically Paul's sermon in the Areopagus. He pointed out that whenever the Gospel is preached, there will be one of three responses. The hearer will either reject the message, reconsider their position, or will come to repentance.

What does this have to do with sharing the Gospel? Human nature. It finally clicked in my head that what muzzles me is that first possible response. I fear their rejection. I've struggled with this before in other areas. I care, probably too much, about what other people think about me, and I jealously guard whatever good reputation I think I have. Since I fear rejection, that stifles my witness.

I think this is unfortunately true for too many of us. We are called to live in the world but not be of it, yet we worry what the world thinks of us. First, we need to remember that when someone rejects the Gospel, they are ultimately rejecting God and His message, not us. Yes, as the messenger, that rejection frequently follows onto us, but we are not the ultimate target of the rejection. Second, Christ warned that just as He was rejected, so too would we be rejected. If the world is NOT rejecting us, then perhaps we are doing something wrong. Or, as the teacher in my small group put it, as we mature in Christ, we should feel more and more uncomfortable living in the world.

Are you sharing the Gospel every opportunity you have, or do you hold back? Do you worry more about what your neighbor or co-worker thinks about you, or more about what they know of God?

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Friday, May 24, 2013

QOTD - The Cost of Discipleship

Barry Cooper looks at the difference between free grace and cheap grace, the cost of discipleship, and asks why don't churches do a better job of discipleship.

When the gospel is preached in your local church, what do your people hear? Do they hear, “Of course you’ve sinned. But now everything is forgiven. Jesus paid the price for your sin. So everything’s taken care of.”

That’s okay as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough. The problem is that this gospel contains no demand for discipleship. There’s no requirement for repentance. No holding out for holiness. Isn’t that at odds with Jesus’ insistence in Mark 8:34? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

As the old truism goes, grace may be free—but it isn’t cheap. It cost Jesus his life. And it will cost us our lives too, if we want to follow him. The invitation may be extended to all, but only those who obey Jesus’ call—deny yourself and take up your cross—have received it.

And the question is, are we teaching this gospel in our local churches? Does our gospel contain the demand for discipleship? Or do we cough loudly over Mark 8:34, and relegate it to the small print, hoping no one will notice until after they’ve signed on the dotted line? Are we lowering the cost of discipleship in the hope that more will buy? (emphasis mine)
Is the church pulling a bait-and-switch on its followers? We need to preach the entire gospel, without pulling any punches or hiding any of the hard truths. The fact is that life in this world will not automatically be made "easy" just because we choose to follow Christ. In fact, He tells us exactly the opposite. Jesus warns that just as he was persecuted so will his followers be persecuted. Our treasures are stored in Heaven, and we serve with an eternal purpose.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sanitize Your Inputs

In the tech world, especially when writing software, there is a philosophy known as GIGO, or Garbage In, Garbage Out. In short, what this means is that no matter how well-written the code, if you have junk input, you will most likely get junk output. But even worse than junk output is when this bad input causes the program to misbehave.

This is actually the attack vector for a lot of security vulnerabilities. Hackers will attack websites using various methods like SQL injection attacks, code injections, or cross-domain scripting attacks. For desktop applications or embedded software (the software that runs devices like your corporate desk phone or your BluRay player), these vectors are usually buffer overruns and underruns.

The biggest tool in the IT security toolbox for preventing these types of attacks is a philosophy known as sanitizing your input.

Perhaps if they'd learned about parameterized queries. . . . 

Basically, your program should never trust the user to enter valid data, and everything should be checked. If it's a field expecting a numeric value, ensure that they actually entered a number. If you're writing to a buffer, check the length of the input against the length of the memory buffer before writing it to memory. If you're executing SQL statements from a web page, make sure you use properly parameterized queries to isolate the user input from the execution engine.

This very concept of sanitizing inputs doesn't just apply to tech geeks, however. It also applies in our daily walk with Christ. Romans 12:2 says "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (emphasis added). We are to test everything, so that we may discern the will of God. We shouldn't just accept things that are presented to us.

Why should we do this? Proverbs 4:23 says that we should guard our heart because it's the wellspring of life. The principle of GIGO applies to us as well. If we are constantly filling our mind and our heart with impurities, it poisons our spiritual wellspring. We begin to reflect and repeat all of that nastiness, hiding the light of Christ that is within us.

So, how do we go about sanitizing our inputs as Christians? Well, first we have to reject all those things that we know are immoral or unworthy. We might have to change what we watch, or what we read, or who we hang out with. We have to evaluate every decision we make through a lens of holiness and godliness. Colossians 3:5 is very blunt on what we should do. It tells us to "[p]ut to death therefore what is earthly in you:sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Howver, if there is one thing I've learned over the last year, it's that nature truly does abhor a vacuum. It is not enough to simply take out the bad, you have to replace it with something good (see Matthew 12:43-45). So, what do we replace it with? When we've put to death what is earthly in us, what do we bring to life in its place? Philippians 4:8 is a perfect road map for this: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

But none of us are perfect and we all carry around baggage. Even one of the great Kings of the old Testament struggled with sin. David wrote the 51st Psalm after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. In verse 10 he cries out "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."

So this is our model for sanitizing the inputs of our life. Through faith in Christ we are born again, and we are given the clean heart that David cried out for. We put to death our earthly desires and instead replace them with things that are worthy of praise.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)