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Discipleship

Christian Life, Discipleship, Evangelism, Ministry Update

Evangelism and the Provoked Spirit

August 31, 2015

Does the spiritual state of your city distress you? Does the fact that so many of the people in your apartment building/neighborhood/school provoke your spirit? If not then it’s little surprise that we aren’t seeing more people come to Christ. If we’re not emotionally engaged in the plight of the lost, it’s unlikely that we’ll be engaged at all.

As the five year anniversary of Threshingfloor has come and gone I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking back to those first couple years. If I’m honest I believe that my passion for seeing people come to know Jesus has being dampened by the menial week-by-week work of “ministry” and keeping something simply running. I use quotation marks around ministry there because it’s so easy to get caught up in the logistics and habits of a program or practice and lose track of God’s true heart.

Acts 17:16 records that when the Apostle Paul was staying in the city of Athens “his spirit was provoked within him” when he saw that the people of the city were giving their lives to idols. So provoked that he headed to the public gathering place and started evangelizing, discussing, and reasoning with whoever would talk with him about the Gospel, Jesus, and the resurrection.

My friends, are our hearts provoked within us when we see the people around us sacrificing their lives to the idols of success, sexual pleasure, comfort, and a thousand others? Does seeing people held captive by addictions, lies, and satanic influences cause a righteous anger to rise within us against the gods of this world who have bound those people? Do our hearts fill with sorrow at the sight of someone disconnected from their loving Creator?

As much as we like to ignore it, we are very often led by our emotions and desires. Our mind is incredibly skilled at creating “logical” reasons why we should have what we want. Without our emotions engaged in something it inevitably becomes a back-burner, easily forgotten object.

When our hearts don’t feel the provocation that Paul felt in Athens evangelism is more of an obligation than a passion. Disciple making becomes a “ministry” rather than a joyful way of living.

Let’s set aside – for a moment – the demands of logic and let God engage our hearts fully.

Will you join me in praying, for the next seven days, that God would align our emotions with his towards the lost? I want my spirit to be provoked within me at the sight of people who need Christ. I want that provocation to be the catalyst to my action of laying down my life in love and boldly declaring Christ’s offer of salvation to any and all who will hear – from neighbor to co-worker to stranger.

Book Highlights, Christian Life, Culture, Discipleship, Quotations

Quotes: Mike Breen – Building a Discipling Culture

July 27, 2015
BDC_BookImage
Below are a several quotes from the book Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen. We just finished reading the book with Verge’s Leader Community here in central Minnesota, and had some great discussion about the process and practice of discipleship with a few of the ministry leaders from the area.
You can get the book on Amazon or 3DM’s site.

 

 

 

Disciples are the only thing that Jesus cares about, and it’s the only number that Jesus is counting. Not our attendance or budget or buildings. He wants to know if we are “making disciples.”

Jesus has not called you to build his church. In fact, in all of the Gospels he mentions the church only two times. One time he mentions it, it’s about conflict resolution. The other time? To say that he will build his church. Our job, our only job and the last instructions he gave us, was to make disciples.

Teaching is incredibly important. Theology is incredibly important. Doctrine is incredibly important. But Jesus wasn’t able to compartmentalize teaching, theology, and doctrine into ethereal, cognitive realities. Teaching and theology were ways of describing reality, and then he showed his disciples how to live in that reality.

Good leaders always define their own reality. No one else can build a discipling culture for you—it must begin in your own life and then overflow into the lives of those you lead.

We need to externalize the things that have been going on internally. Change doesn’t happen in private.

Prayer was as fundamental an element in the life of Jesus as breathing. He inhaled his Father’s presence so he could exhale his Father’s will.

Many Christian leaders fall into the trap of being so ministry-focused that they spend too little time enjoying God. Sermon preparation takes the place of delighting in his presence. Prayer is something done mainly for the benefit of others, and the familiarity of worship may not necessarily breed contempt but indifference.

A leader’s demand for our time and energy will always exceed our capacity, working harder and longer is not the answer. Jesus said “I only do the things I see my Father doing.” He didn’t get a three year download to his Outlook calendar at his baptism, rather, each morning he had to retreat and establish the priorities for that day.

Christian Life, Commentary, Discipleship

The Voice of God

June 29, 2015

A disciple-maker’s greatest task is to help the people they are discipling hear God’s voice and do what He says. The goal isn’t to fill people with exhaustive knowledge of the Bible or get them to lead a city-impacting ministry. It’s to bring them into a space where they can encounter God and get to know him on a level where they are able to discern His voice and obey His commands.

Samuel was one of the great men of the history of Israel as both judge and prophet, one of the few that remained faithful throughout his whole life. God anointed David as king through Samuel’s ministry, restored Israel to worshiping the true God, and judged the nation. None of those things would have taken place if it hadn’t been for the instruction he received in his childhood that helped him discern the voice of God.

In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel, still a boy, lies down to sleep in his usual place in the temple. As he’s lying there a voice calls his name. Thinking it’s Eli, his master, he runs to Eli and asks what he wants. Eli tells Samuel to go lay back down – he didn’t call him.

The voice calls a second time, and Samuel again runs to Eli to ask what it was that he wanted. Eli sends him back to bed. Then it happens a third time, and Eli realizes something bigger is going on. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (1 Sam. 3:7)

It’s not until Eli tells Samuel that it’s the Lord calling him that Samuel is able to identify God’s voice. Samuel listens to Eli and believes him. The next time he hears the voice he responds by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” and the Lord declares the first of many prophecies to Samuel.

This incident is the launching pad for Samuel’s ministry. Eli’s brief instruction apparently reveals the word of the Lord to Samuel and enables him to discern God’s leading for his life – a leading that shapes the course of Israel and ultimately leads to the messianic line being established.

Teach the people who you are discipling to discern God’s voice and obey; his voice both in the written word and the word that he so often speaks to us through the Holy Spirit on a day-to-day basis. As we and those we are discipling learn to hear, discern, and obey, we will encounter God in massive new ways that will radically shape our future and the futures of the people around us.

The goal of discipleship isn’t to get people to do what you want them to do or be who you think they should be. It’s to empower and release them to do what God has called them to do. Let’s be that kind of disciple maker.

Christian Life, Discipleship

Faith and Brutal Facts

May 27, 2015

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Luke 5:1-7

 

I want to be a man of great faith – someone who goes beyond living in that quickly dying “cultural christianity” and walks a kind of life that would fit in the middle of the book of Acts or alongside Jesus as one of his disciples.

In his seminal business leadership book Good to Great, Jim Collins delves into six key factors that help organizations shift from average to great. The pivot point of the move from good to great sits on the action that he calls “confront the brutal facts (yet never lose faith)”. I believe this is a critical part to growing a true and great faith. We see it at work at the outset of Simon’s interaction with Jesus in this passage in Luke 5. This scene is the seed of what grows into a powerful faith that leads Peter into leadership among both the disciples and the entirety of the early church.

We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything

Regardless of what modern skeptics crow, the Christian faith is no blind faith. In the midst of pain and difficulty it acknowledges the hard truths and brutal facts. It is not unaware of the harshness of reality. It is Simon, answering Jesus’ command to cast the nets out again with the reality-acknowledging “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”

The man of faith doesn’t float through life in a glistening cloud of comfort and fairy dust. Quite the opposite. Scan the scriptures and the history of Christ’s people throughout the millennia; those who follow him most closely confront most frequently the harsh and often violent sting of reality. Bear witness the Apostle Paul’s scarred back and oft-broken bones, Hudson Taylor’s loss of child after child and the loss of his wife during his time in China, Stephen’s stoning, thousands of Christians thrown to lions in the Roman empire, dozens of Christians executed by ISIS, and countless more. The man of faith knows well how to confront the brutal facts, however, he never stops there.

But because you say so

Instead, faith goes through the brutal facts to the transcendent truth that the God who spoke the earth into existence still speaks. His word overrides any appearance of something contrary to his word. God’s – Jesus’ – word creates the reality that it declares and gives what it commands. His authority overrides reality because his word is what creates reality. When he speaks to Simon and tells him to let down the nets on the other side of the boat, it is “because you say so” that Simon obeys. It’s not a blind step to obey someone who has all authority.

Faith faces the brutal facts and embraces them, knowing that if the Father, Spirit, and Son have given word then no manner of facts can stand in the way.

I will let down the nets

Has God declared a truth about you that your situation makes seem impossible? Has God declared truth about your future that the current reality makes almost nonsensical? Acknowledge that. Face it. List those brutal facts, but don’t stop there. Side by side with them list the character, power, and provenness of your King. Let the authority of Christ be the bridge across your river of impossibility.

When Jesus calls, let down your nets, even though your years of experience and common sense says nothing will be there to catch. How different would Simon’s life have been if he had kept his nets in the boat that morning? His submission to Christ’s authority – his faith – was a step through a doorway into a life that would radically impact the trajectory of the entire world and shape him into a rock for the foundation of the early church.

Jesus has the same call for you today, in tiny things that don’t seem to be important and in great things that don’t seem to make sense. Jim Collins tapped into a key truth in Good to Great. Confront the facts and don’t lose faith. Doing so will lead you into encounters with Jesus that carry you into spiritual depths that you have yet to delve.

It doesn’t matter what reality says. When Jesus calls, let down the nets my friends. Pretty soon you’re going to be calling others in to help you celebrate and carry all that He will bless you with.

Christian Life, Discipleship, Quotations

Spurgeon and the means of salvation

December 5, 2013

…to whom does God tell us to look for salvation? O, does it not lower the pride of man, when we hear the Lord say, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth?” It is not. “Look to your priest, and be ye saved:” if you did, there would be another god, and beside him there would be some one else. It is not “Look to yourself;” if so, then there would be a being who might arrogate some of the praise of salvation. But it is “Look unto me.”How frequently you who are coming to Christ look to yourselves. “O!” you say, “I do not repent enough.” That is looking to yourself. “I do not believe enough.” That is looking to yourself. “I am too unworthy.” That is looking to yourself. “I cannot discover,” says another, “that I have any righteousness.” It is quite right to say that you have not any righteousness; but it is quite wrong to look for any. It is, “Look unto me.” God will have you turn your eye off yourself and look unto him.

The hardest thing in the world is to turn a man’s eye off himself; as long as he lives, he always has a predilection to turn his eyes inside, and look at himself; whereas God says, “Look unto me.” From the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy; from the Garden of Gethsemane, where the bleeding pores of the Saviour sweat pardons, the cry comes, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” From Calvary’s summit, where Jesus cries, “It is finished,” I hear a shout, “Look, and be saved.” But there comes a vile cry from our soul, “Nay, look to yourself! look to yourself!” Ah, my hearer, look to yourself, and you will be damned. That certainly will come of it. As long as you look to yourself there is no hope for you. It is not a consideration of what you are, but a consideration of what God is, and what Christ is, that can save you. It is looking from yourself to Jesus.

From Spurgeon’s sermon titled Sovereignty and Salvation. Read the full text at Spurgeon.org

Discipleship, Leadership, Theology

David, Discipleship, and the Sovereignty of God

October 22, 2013

O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”

– 1 Chronicles 29:18-19, ESV

When we follow Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations we need to remember that we are going in service of the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. When we forget that mighty truth and begin to take the weight of souls on our shoulders the work becomes a burden too great for us to bear. We don’t have the power to change people’s hearts. I don’t have any real way to ensure that the 20 or so people who regularly join our Threshingfloor community will stay faithful to Christ tomorrow, much less a year from now.

David’s prayer at the end of his kingship over Israel gives us a picture of the attitude that we need as disciple makers. David is passing off the crown of a massive kingdom, leadership of tens of thousands of people, and, most importantly, the task of building the temple that he has been stockpiling resources for. Quite literally, David is turning the kingdom of God on earth over to his son. From this moment on Solomon will be the leader of God’s people. Where does David turn for assurance that things will go well? How is he able to entrust so great a task to someone else?  His prayer gives us the answer.

First he acknowledges God’s sovereign control of the human heart. David prays, “keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.” David trusts that God is the one who directs people’s hearts. Because David knew the sovereign power of his God he was freed to empower others. We need to know the same.

Discipleship without faith in the sovereignty of God inevitably becomes manipulation. We leverage Bible verses, peer-pressure, small groups, and the human conscience to get people to change and call it discipleship.However, when we believe the biblical truth that the Holy Spirit is the one who guides and shapes the hearts of those we disciple we are freed from the need to manipulate or cajole people into obedience.  We are enabled to entrust them with the Gospel truth, trusting that God is the one who establishes his kingdom.

Like David we stockpile the treasures that the Lord has given us through our time with him and entrust them to others. God is in control of what happens next. Jesus passed the treasure of the Gospel off to a small team of incapable men when he ascended back to heaven, knowing that his Father would take care of the rest. Like David, Jesus knew that our hearts are “a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

In your journey of disciple-making don’t lose sight of our Lord’s sovereignty. Without him having all authority we will fail. But if he does indeed rule over all then we can move forward in joyful confidence that his kingdom will be built and more and more men and women will become temples and priests to our God, living stones in a house built for the glory of his name.