A good friend shared Job 39:13-18 with me a few weeks ago and I've been continuing to learn from the topic of that particular passage: the ostrich.
I've been able to share with the Lord has been teaching me in two different churches in the last month and so thought I'd share it here as well. May it encourage you to discover the unique ways that you have been gifted and the unique ways that God is wanting to work through you to expand His kingdom and declare His glory.
You can watch the sermon above.
A short video sharing a framework for understanding suffering. This framework has helped me understand the role of suffering in the life of the disciple of Jesus. The sound quality isn't perfect, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. What would you add to this framework? How have you been developing a theology of suffering?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
In the 18th chapter of the book of Luke, Jesus encounters the rich young ruler. If you’ve been a follower of Christ for long, it is probably a familiar story. If not, stop and read it here.
A devout man approaches Jesus wondering what he must do to be saved. Jesus walks through the commandments - have you obeyed these? The man replies confidently that he has kept the commands all of his life. And then Jesus does a curious thing. He asks the man to do one more thing: sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.
The story follows that, because the man was very wealthy he became very sad and presumably, walked away. Following Jesus is a tall order.
My friend Justin uses this story in trainings to highlight the reality that Jesus isn’t looking for lukewarm Christians. This isn’t the only time that Jesus’ words and teaching drive away potential followers. There’s that crazy scene in John 6 where “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Jesus is looking for committed disciples. He will build his kingdom not with crowds but with dedicated disciples. While the world yearns for numbers, Jesus is looking for committed men and women.
Justin lays out what this commitment might look like using the great commission. He draws out five commitments from the passage and they provide a helpful rubric through which I can reflect on my own heart. I think they will be helpful for you as well.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Five Commitments To Be A Disciple of Jesus
It starts with our willingness and commitment. If you are a leader, a good question to ask first is, "Am I willing?" but the next question has to be, "Are the people I am investing in willing?" Are they committed disciples or merely lukewarm attendees. You can fill the pews with the latter but Jesus wants to transform your community, your city, your state and nation - he will turn the world upside down with unschooled, ordinary men and women if they will commit themselves to living the surrendered life and being with Jesus.
As we answer this question we can begin working toward the next question as well: Are they able?
It is no mistake that Jesus bookends his commission with authority and presence. I can do much in my own power but Jesus reminds me that unless I live the surrendered life which I can only do if I abide in Him and experience His presence, little of what I do will have any eternal impact.
Justin leads a great ministry called Primary. He would love to come alongside you and coach you and your fellowship into the committed life of disciple making. Contact Justin
Covid-19 is an unprecedented world event that is unlike anything anyone now living has ever seen.
It has interrupted life. It has caused hardship. And if the Surgeon General is correct, it's going to get worse. As followers of Jesus there is much that we can and will do in the coming weeks and perhaps months to be His hands and feet, to demonstrate His love, to share the truth and hope of the Gospel.
But the most important thing we can do, is to abide in him.
Last week I sent an email out to a number of pastor friends asking if there were any specific ways I could be praying. As responses came in it became increasingly apparent that these leaders were stepping into uncharted waters. Life was getting crazy as they tried to figure out what to do about Sunday morning services, how to shepherd well despite social distancing and how to care for their own families.
And of course it's not just pastors. Everyone is struggling to make heads or tails of our current situation. Across the globe the Coronavirus is wreaking havoc.
And so more than ever before, as the people of God we must turn to Jesus for guidance and help, and according to Jesus in John 15, we have only two choices:
And so with today's article we want to share a three resources that we have found helpful to help disciples abide in Christ.
Cornerstone Reading Plan: Any reading plan will do as long as it gets you reading the word of God. This particular plan will have you read four chapters a day and allow you to immerse yourself in the whole story of the Bible.
S.O.A.P.S Bible Reading: As you are reading the Bible, the S.O.A.P.S reading tool will help you to interact with the word, obey it and share with others.
Prayer Wheel: The prayer wheel will give you a process to pray for one hour, five minutes at a time, prayerfully interacting with God in a number of ways. This particular resource is a pdf with three bookmarks so be sure and share it with a couple of friends as well.
There are many helpful resources to help us abide in Christ. But above any particular resource, we must follow the example of Jesus who often withdrew to lonely places to be with the Father.
As the new year approaches we all have opportunities for new beginnings. It’s a time of both reflection and of setting goals, and as we look ahead, we at E2E would like to offer 10 ways that you can invest more focus on the great commission in 2020.
1. Start The Year In The Word
If you have not yet, we’d encourage you to find some time in the coming days to work through the Father’s Heart Bible study. It will help you to discover the desires of God for the nations. N.T. Wright reminds us that, "Mission is not something added on to 'biblical theology.'...The story of Scripture, focused in the Gospel events concerning Jesus, is about mission from start to finish." Here are a few other studies and resources that will help you immerse yourself in God’s word to begin the new year:
2. Start The Year In Prayer
Prayer is the foundation of every move of God. When we pray, God begins to shape our hearts toward those things that we are praying for and so if you want your heart to grow in its commitment to the great commission, to the mission of God, then prayer is one way to do that. Here are a number of resources that will help you pray more for the nations and God’s mission:
3. Subscribe to a Podcast
Listening to interviews, missiologists, on the ground practitioners and prayer warriors on podcasts is an easy way to fuel your missions focus. Subscribing to a podcast or two ensures a regular dose of great commission inspiration.
4. Eat Out with Friends
One simple way to both enjoy time with friends or family and inspire a heart for the great commission is to eat out at ethnic restaurants. Not Taco Bell or Panda Express but a restaurant owned and operated by an immigrant family.
5. Watch a Movie
Movies are a great way to spend time with friends and family and can also be a great tool for inspiring and motivating people towards a great commission focused lifestyle. Watch one of these movies at home or gather a group from your church for a movie night.
6. Read a Good Missions Book
Books are a great way to dive into the story of God’s mission to redeem the lost to himself. They are great gifts as well and so make sure you are both reading and passing along books to others. Here are a few lists of books to get you started:
7. Buy a World Map
Visual reminders of the world that God created and that we live in help us remember to pray for the unreached. Consider buying a world map to help keep you focused and inspired. Here are a few creative ideas:
8. Write an Encouraging Letter to a Missionary
As someone who lived cross culturally, there is little that brings more encouragement than a hand written letter from a friend or supporter. Do you support a missionary? Get their mailing address and send them a letter in the mail.
9. Give a Beginning of the Year Gift rather than an End of the Year Gift
Many end the year with a little extra end of the year financial gift to missionaries or mission agencies and that is amazing and super helpful for those raising full time support. But what would it look like if you started your year by giving an extra financial gift of blessing. It seems it might focus the trajectory of your heart and your year! And it would be a huge blessing to the missionaries you support.
10. Commit to serving Locally, Nationally and Globally
Most mission trips - whether they be local, national or international trips - take a fair amount of planning and preparation. Commit now to taking a trip this year! Here are a few organizations and trips worth considering:
As with any endeavor - if we want to grow - we have to invest. We have to invest time, energy, effort, thought and often, finances and when we do we find ourselves becoming the thing we wish to become. It is no different with developing a life shaped by and living for the great commission.
Take steps today to shape your life around the fulfillment of the great commission!
One of the really cool tools on your smartphone is the You Version Bible App. It's a great resource for reading the Bible but also offers some really helpful reading plans and devotional plans which you can use to grow. One really helpful aspect of many plans is the ability to read through them with others and to interact with one another and the content of the plan.
Come, Let's Go! Discipleship and Evangelism is a new plan that was recently created by the folks at Zume. This is a seven day reading plan. Each day has a short devotional reading which includes a short teaching video from Zume. Then there are a number of Bible passages to read. Finally, there is an opportunity to talk it over, answering the question,
"Based on today's reading, what is one thing God is saying to you?"
(If you do not have the You Version Bible app you can get it at your app store on your phone or learn more here: www.youversion.com/the-bible-app)
Starting tomorrow, anyone who would like to join from the E2E community will begin reading through and interacting with this study. You can sign up now, but we'll start reading tomorrow, October 2nd.
Here's How It Will Work
Everyone is being discipled by something.
All the time.
The messages we hear, the words we read, the shows we watch - all of it is shaping us. Drip by drip our worldviews and beliefs are being formed and these shape the way we think and the actions that we take.
The dominant messages in our lives will shape us. There is no way around that. If we listen to talk radio all day long, guess what - we will begin to think and process our world through a lens shaped by the message of the radio shows we listen to.
If we watch prime time television and late night talk shows daily, guess what - we will begin to think and process our world through a lens shaped by the messages of the shows we watch.
What we watch, listen to and read are all shaping us.
We have no power over the shaping but we do have the power to chose what will shape us.
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.
What is shaping you?
I’ve been enjoying Paul Kroeker’s book In The Way of Jesus. It is a book I’d easily recommend to anyone concerned with the state of the church and disciple making today.
One part of the disciple making journey is humility.
Kroeker relates a story of a time he took a group of young adults to inner city Chicago for a week of ministry among the urban poor. Their first day of action found them serving at a soup kitchen where they washed dishes most of the day.
The second day found them back at the soup kitchen and back at the dish washing. When the third day rolled around and they found themselves headed back to the drudgery of the dishwasher, the group became visibly upset.
When asked about it one young man replied, “I didn’t come all this way just to do dishes. I could do that at home. I thought we were here to do something more exciting, like ministry.”
The response from the leader of the ministry was this:
“Until you can do dishes to serve the poor, I’m not sure we can use you anywhere else. Humility is the posture of Jesus. When we see that quality in you, we know we can ask you to serve anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
What does true humility look like though? The anointed and future King David gives us a picture of humility in 1 Samuel 19.
Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him. But an evil spirit from the Lord came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.
I’ve most often been drawn to the spear in this story. It’s hard to miss Saul trying to pin David to the wall with it. But in this passage we see the true character of David.
It begins with war and glory. David leads the men into battle and once again routes the enemy. He is the top dog, the leader of men, the hero of the hour. He should be given the key to the city, a ticker tape parade, his picture on the front of The Jerusalem Times.
But rather than all of that, David returns to playing his lyre as a servant of the king.
He returns not to a hero's welcome but to step again into his position as one of the court servants.
David doesn’t dwell on what he deserves or what is the best use of his time. He skips all the questions of prestige and honor and his rights.
He has just one question to answer. It's a question we all need to answer:
How can I serve the King?
In the great commission, Jesus commands his disciples to “teach them (new disciples) to obey everything I have commanded.”
Here is a question for you:
What is the first command that you would teach a new believer in Jesus to obey?
Teach them to obey?
If you’re like me - someone who grew up in an American evangelical church - then maybe that phrase sounds weird, legalistic or even a bit foolish.
Shouldn’t the question rather state, “What is the first thing you would teach a new believer to know?”
It’s an interesting distinction but to be true to scripture, Jesus doesn’t command us to teach them to “know” what he has commanded. Knowledge seems secondary - important, but secondary.
If we are to become a people who make disciples who make disciples then this is a distinction we must learn to make. We must move toward teaching and modeling obedience to Jesus.
And if a push toward obedience sounds weird, legalistic or foolish then either Jesus got it wrong or we have gotten it wrong.
What do you think?
“If you love me, obey my commands.” --Jesus
*I've added this great video from Curtus Sergeant.
It was noon and I was meeting my new friend Musa* for an hour over my lunch break. We’d decided to meet at our favorite coffee shops to connect. I’d first met Musa when he had reached out looking for someone to practice his English with. He’d had a lifetime of classroom instruction in his home of Cairo, Egypt* but had few native English speakers with whom he could practice.
The first time we met we covered the bases of getting to know one another. Where are you from? What is your family like? What do you like to do in your free time? The sounds of Arabic were all around him in the busy Cairo coffee shop where he sat.
I then asked Musa what he did for a living. He is a young guy, in his early twenties and had just gotten started working as a mobile phone app developer.
Then he returned the favor and asked me what I do. I’m in full time ministry so this is always an interesting question to answer. But I dove in.
I help people in churches in America understand and follow Jesus. That is pretty broad but it involves teaching, training, coaching, encouraging and casting vision with leaders and regular people. I'm not going to get rich, but I do find tremendous fulfillment in doing the things that I believe that God has made me to do. I bet that sounds a little crazy, but that's what I do and really it's who I am.
I could tell He didn’t completely understand what I was talking about so he asked a few more questions but then moved on, wondering if I’d been to Turkey. He’d recently visited Istanbul and loved the city. I told him of our four and a half years living there and how much we loved the people we knew there.
We meandered in and out of topics and then he asked a serious question, “I hope to hear an emotional situation you have been through?”
I thought for a few minutes and then told him about a recent struggle I’d been facing and about how our family had spent time praying for God’s wisdom and healing. It was good to be transparent with my new friend even though it felt a bit hard and I wasn’t sure he was following everything. Musa’s English is good but he hasn’t had a lot of experience talking about personal topics.
When I was finished, I said, “What about you? Have you been through any hard situations in life?”
Musa was contemplating his answer when he looked at his watch. He gave me a wry smile. “I’ll have to tell you next time. I’ve got to go now. But let’s make sure and meet again.”
As Musa left, I wondered about our conversation. Had I said too much about what I do? Should have I asked more questions about his faith and beliefs? Should I have offered to pray for him before he left? What if I had said something wrong?
I spent some time praying for our time together asking the Lord to use it for his glory and to reveal himself to Musa.
And then I removed my headphones and shut down Facebook Messenger on my laptop computer. I got up from my seat in the corner of my coffee shop in South Dakota, grabbed my mug and headed up to the counter for a refill.
Though we were half a world away, Musa and I had enjoyed a great cup of coffee and better conversation.
We continue to connect regularly, oftentimes just texting back and forth, sometimes hopping on a video chat to say a quick hello and at other times, setting aside an hour to grab a cup of coffee for an extended talk.
To my surprise, Musa had quickly moved into questions of faith. I’ve introduced him to Discovery Bible Study and we are slowly working through a creation to Christ story set. We read a passage of scripture - I paste it into Messenger and he reads the Arabic and I read the English. We then ask some simple questions to help us discover what the story says about God, about people and about how we should live our lives.
It’s been slow because Musa often brings up his own questions - questions that are stretching me and forcing me to dig into my own faith and theology. We started with his questions about the Christian idea of a triune God. We’re now pressing into the validity of the Bible. And those conversations are packed in between talk of family and culture and food and movies and dreams for life.
It’s a whole lot of fun.
I am the only true follower of Jesus that Musa knows. I’ve been able to pray for him and continue to pray for him regularly. Musa is one of many young guys that I am connecting with online all across the Muslim world and someday, I hope I will be able to meet all of them in person, if not in this life, then in the eternity of heaven. That is my prayer for each of them.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today and collectively, Christians are sending one missionary into the Muslim world for every 405,000 Muslims.
This has to change.
John Stott has said, “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.”
Because of advances in technology and the globalization of our world, millions of people throughout the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animistic and un-religious worlds are working to learn English. They are going online to try and find people with whom they can practice speaking.
A new door of missionary activity has opened and it is open to everyone who is a follower of Jesus and has an Internet connection. Geography is no longer a barrier to your relationship with a Muslim like Musa.
C.T. Studd said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
Will you sacrifice an hour a week to invest in a relationship with a young man or woman in the Muslim world who is looking for friendship and someone to practice English with?
*For security, names and places have been changed.
1 - http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats
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