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“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

These passages are so familiar to most Christ-followers that we have become numb to their significance and relevance. So I’d like to visit these passages with the idea of showing how many (myself included) have become desensitized to Christ’s command to go to all the world. I think you will see along the way why so many have called our reaction to this mandate as “The Great Omission.” 

First, let’s see that this was a personal dictate. Jesus didn’t say, “they will go.” No, Jesus “came near” (HCSB) to them and said, “[You] go!” Can you envision the scene? He huddled with them to lay out them the game plan for the expansion of His church and kingdom. And it was a personal command. They, and us by extension, are summoned to go. This is not to overlook that we are called to go in community and as the church universal, but it’s so easy to just write a check to a local or foreign missions group (and I praise God for them) or consider the church where we give a portion of the money God has generously given us to be a “missions-minded” church. But this does not exempt any of us from personally going and making disciples. We must not let our giving to (or praying for) missions replace the individual “good news journey” that’s to be an integral part of our daily lifestyle (more on that later). 

Second, this command is to be done with His power. It is His authority that makes our going come alive. It is not our own power that we go with. As ambassadors of Christ we go with His Kingly approval and authority. We must not think that there is anything else but His boundless energy that brings life-changing transformation to those who hear His Word. Though often times weary and weak in our calling to go and tell and train, we must be dependant upon Him and rely on His limitless resources to empower our going and sharing. If it is from us or about us, it is ultimately destined to fail. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 

Third, we see the purpose of our going. We are to make disciples not just “converts.” Our goal (as is His) is to see people radically transformed by the Gospel. This is not just about counting those that raise their hands during an invitation, pray a scripted prayer, are baptized, or become “church members.” This is about people fully embracing His calling to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) and “take up their cross, deny themselves, and follow (absolutely surrender to) Jesus (Luke 9:23). This is where evangelism and discipleship must merge (as if they were ever designed by God to be different, segregated functions).

Which leads us to the fourth point – the practice that is part of making disciples. This practice is a lifestyle of obedience. Disciples, according to Jesus, are to observe all (not some) of His commands. They see Him not just as Savior but as Master and Lord of all aspects of their lives and being. Discipleship is not just intellectual assent to who Christ is but also capitulation to His Lordship and obedience to His commands. As John Calvin once said, “We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone.” This, in a sense, is an extension of the 3rd point. But, given the cultural landscape (Watchman Nee described American Christianity as “three thousand miles wide but only one inch deep”) we can’t overemphasize that our call is to see people drawn to the light of Christ and live in it. And this synergistically leads to multiplication and exponential growth in going and making other disciples. 

…to be continued in the next post.

 Reblogged from One Bondservant’s Diary:

“No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a basket or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand so that those who come in may see its light. – Luke 8:16 HCSB

We won’t win this argument by bringing corporations to the ground in surrender. We’ll engage this argument, first of all, by prompting our friends and neighbors to wonder why we don’t divorce each other, and why we don’t split up when a spouse loses his job or loses her health.

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Although I don’t always agree with him, Dr. Moore never fails to suprise me with his thoughtful take on things. He certainly makes some really good points here. I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 10:4: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Thanks to Don at One Bondservant’s Diary for sharing this insightful article.

On Tuesday, March 27th Ed Bergdorff passed from this life to the next one. He was 65 years old. The last time we saw him was less than a month ago and we had our usual Bible study. The last devotional was about the throne room of Heaven (Revelation 4). Rebekah and I went to visit him as often as possible, even though he spent his last days in a nursing home nearly an hour away. Ed meant so much to us. He became a friend, someone we cried over and cried with.

It is our sincere prayer that Ed has entered glory, He is in the majestic and radiant presence of Jesus, and is waiting on us to come and stay with him for all of eternity, and not just an hour or 2. Although unsure who might feel this same way, we love and miss Ed, and we long to see him again. Over the last 2 years, since the post below was written, we have seen a real change in Ed. He loved to hear the Bible read and explained, he longed for our visits and prayers, he confessed his sin when he did wrong, he was kinder to those who waited on him, he seemed to have a sense of peace despite his very troubled life. We believe this was evidence that Ed had met Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification was under way.

This post is over 2 years old. Suffice it to say, the Ted in this story is Ed Bergdorff. This is in memory of him:

It’s Not Too Late for Ted (3/20/10)

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

Ted is a drug addict. Due to multiple back surgeries and other debilitating illnesses he is hooked on numerous prescription drugs. I watched Ted groan and writhe in pain and nausea as he suffered from unintended morphine withdrawal. After a trip to the ER and the healing power of an IV bag dripping the necessary medications back into his desperate body, he was back to “normal” within 24 hours. The hospital visit precluded what I thought was the perfect day to share the Gospel with Ted. But God, in His divine orchestration, had determined that this Saturday was not His perfect time for an explanation of His unfathomable free offer of grace and forgiveness. That was ordained to take place 72 hours later.

Ted was forthright on that overcast Wednesday, “I’ve committed every kind of sin. I’ve even killed a man…not because I wanted to but because I had to. My life has been a mess since I turned my back on God.  I got saved and baptized as a teenager but chose other things over Him.”

He described the day that defined his life: “I was 18 and standing outside of a pool hall. The preacher was on the other side of the street. He told me to leave the joint, cross the street, and do the right thing. You know, to come over to that side. I wanted to. I knew I should. But I turned around and went back into the bar and never looked back. My life has been a mess ever since”.

Now in his mid-60’s, Ted has been homeless, sick, hurt, medicated, fighting, alone, and just surviving for most of his life. He is also illiterate. There is no family and but one friend to care for him. Ted now sits in a government furnished apartment for the indigent having nothing more than the bare necessities. He worries constantly about his Medicaid coverage and Social Security check and whether his pain and panic medicines will be available and affordable. He has a dark past, a dreary present, and, seemingly, a hopeless future. Ted is the type that most folks, including our society in general, have given up on. But, in His infinite love, Jesus (and Ted’s one friend) hadn’t.

Ted started listening to some tapes he had been given that shared “The Gospel Made Simple.” As much as I was suspicious of that tagline, I found the tapes to be an accurate representation of the true message of salvation. Not forgetting the faith of his youth, these tapes reminded Ted of the essentials of being born again; our sin, God’s holiness, the necessity of righteousness, the rightful judgment of God against our rebellion, and, most of all, how Jesus has made a way for sinners to be redeemed, forgiven, and receive eternal life (see John 3:14-18). Ted understood the Gospel and knew it was all wrapped up in Jesus and the cross of Calvary. He knew he had to know Christ as his only hope and believe and receive Him through the power of God (see John 1:12-13).

Ted said on that providential weekday,“But how can this be? I’ve been too bad for that. It’s too late for me.” Quoting Romans 10:9-10, I told him there were a few simple things necessary to experience God’s mercy and unmerited favor, receive forgiveness for all his sins, and inherit eternal life in the presence of Jesus; sincerely believe (“if you believe in your heart”), have a life so transformed that it confesses Jesus as your Savior (“and confess with your mouth”), and surrender your life to the dominion and lordship of Christ (“that Jesus is Lord”).  To ease Ted’s concern his sin was too great, I shared that Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). “What you have to do,” I explained to Ted as clearly as I could, “is to cry out with genuine desire the prayer of the wretched tax collector; ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (see Luke 18:9-14).  Then I waited in deafening silence.

With his eyes fixed on mine, Ted paused. Finally, his emphysema filled lungs gasped and he carefully, tearfully, and emphatically said, “That is what I need.” An interminable, stunning silence ensued. “And that is what I want…I want to live the rest of my life for Jesus. Will you pray with me?” And we did.

Do I know with certainty the state of Ted’s soul? I do not. That is in our Lord’s hands. I do know, however, this opportunity came about because one devoted, sacrificial woman, a true follower of Jesus, took Christ’s words to heart: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). She came often to visit Ted and brought food, love, and prayer. She took her Saturdays to make sure his meds and refrigerator were stocked. She came with warm, caring words and a comforting presence. She also introduced me to Ted. And, just maybe, by God’s grace and through her demonstration of Christ-like love, reintroduced Ted to Jesus.

And, by the way, I’m so blessed to have married this woman –  Ed’s friend and my Rebekah.

For more of my commentary on the Reason Rally see – The Reason Rally: Atheists Out of the Closet

Now read this: Atheists Rally for Reason; Urged to Mock the Religious, Christian News

My response to Richard Dawkins? Bring it on! I want to be blessed and joyful! And Jesus said I will be if I’m persecuted for righteousness’ sake and on His account:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

With this in mind, I’d like to share a chapter from my yet to be edited, yet to be published devotional commentary on Colossians.

Joyful Suffering With and For Jesus

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” (Colossians 1:24). 

Max Lucado says, “Please understand, [God’s] goal is not to make you happy, His goal is to make you His. His goal is not to get you what you want; it is to get you what you need…Earthly discomfort is a glad swap for Heavenly peace.”[i]

Joyful suffering, if you understand the message of the Gospel, is not an oxymoron – a paradox, maybe, but not a contradiction. Here is a sample of some passages that assert, despite our natural aversion to it, suffering and persecution is an inherent and beautiful part of our faithful following of Jesus: 

  • His followers rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:41). 
  • Suffering providentially compels us to be dependant upon God and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). 
  • Spiritual maturity and character are developed through suffering (Romans 5:3-4). 
  • Suffering for Christ reminds us and others of the Treasure to come (Hebrews 11:25-26). 
  • We will be uniquely blessed if we are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10-12). 
  • “The Spirit of glory and of God” rests on those who suffer for Him (1 Peter 4:12-16). 
  • Those fully surrendered to Christ view suffering for His name as a divine gift (Philippians 1:29). 

But this suffering and persecution is not fatalistic, purposeless, or hopeless. It has a mysterious yet divine purpose in us and for a lost world: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death,to the other a fragrance from life to life.Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

So we see two potential reasons that we are called to suffer for Christ; the presentation of the Gospel and our identification with Jesus.

First we see in Colossians 1:24 that the spread of the Gospel is facilitated by the suffering of Christ’s servants. When commenting on this verse John Piper explains, “Paul suffers, and he says that in his sufferings he fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? What does that mean? Here’s my answer in summary: What’s missing is the in-person presentation of Christ’s sufferings to the people for whom he died. The afflictions are lacking in the sense that they are not seen and known among the nations. They must be carried by ministers of the gospel. And those ministers of the gospel fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others. Paul sees his own suffering as the visible reenactment of the sufferings of Christ so that they will see Christ’s love for them.”[ii]

Secondly, suffering for Jesus identifies us with Him (see Acts 9:15-16). When we suffer for Him we are, due to the mystery of our spiritual union with Him, actually, in sense, suffering with Him. When Jesus accosted Saul on the road to Damascus He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-8). So we see that Paul’s persecution of the church was a persecution of Jesus. So everything that is done to the body of Christ (us) is also done to Jesus. Paul later explained this as “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). 

But Jesus had already told us this would be so: “You will be hated for my name’s sake,” he said (Mark 13:13). And especially in John 15:18-21: 

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” 

The joy we find in suffering for and with Jesus is that we are honored to image forth His beauty and the glorious Gospel of our Lord.  In our union with Him we magnify Him by demonstrating His suffering. For it is through His cross of suffering that He has saved our souls. And what a privilege it is to point others to Him, through our temporary afflictions for His name, knowing what eternal and indescribable glories await us in Jesus: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (1 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Apply It:

Meditate on Isaiah 53 and contemplate Jesus as the “suffering servant.” Spend time considering how much He suffered for you. Thank God for the infinitely valuable sacrifice of His only son, our perfect substitute. Seek the Lord’s guidance on how that translates to following Him. Ask yourself the penetrating question: Am I willing to suffer with and for the One who suffered for me so that I might live eternally with Him?  Ask God to give you the courage to do so with joy, if given that privilege.

[i] Lucado, Max. Colossians and Philemon (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 6.

[ii] Piper, John, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 268.

Sometimes the story within in the story is as compelling as the primary story. Such is the case with the story of Titanic passenger John Harper. Check it out!

A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Have you ever heard of John Harper? No, not John Piper. I bet you haven’t. When Hollywood made a movie on the Titanic I bet they skipped and conveniently ignored the most beautiful love story of all. The story of John Harper  the evangelist (and his God) on the Titanic.

John Harper was born to a pair of solid Christian parents on May 29th, 1872.  It was on the last Sunday of March 1886, when he was thirteen years old that he received Jesus as the Lord of his life. He never knew what it was to”sow his wild oats.” He began to preach about four years later at the ripe old age of 17 years old by going down to the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in earnest entreaty for men to be reconciled to God.

As John Harper’s life unfolded, one thing was…

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And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering…Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses…And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:8-10, 15-16, 21-22).

One theme is Scripture is quite evident – God demands the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin (atonement means the covering of our sin). This scene in Leviticus is a clear portrayal of Christ’s work as the spotless Lamb of God and our ultimate high priest, whose sacrifice cleansed His people once and for all. The writer of Hebrews explains:

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second…And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4, 10-11).

As priceless and precious as this is, we often forget about the 2nd offering, the scapegoat depicted in Leviticus 16. They needed forgiveness, the removal of the penalty for their transgressions, but they (we) also needed the guilt of sin displaced. Many people have received God’s gracious forgiveness found only in Christ but have failed to embrace the removal of guilt that includes. We are forgiven! Completely! I know this is hard to accept, but it is true. And when Jesus said, “it is finished” while hanging on that grace-filled yet cursed tree, it was a God-breathed fact. So the Lord directed the Israelites to demonstrate this with the scapegoat. Sending it far away and leaving it there (there is a Hebrew tradition to actually follow the goats into the wilderness and push them off a cliff to make sure they did not come back).

What a picture! Off goes the goat and off goes our sin (on to the bleeding back of Jesus) – removed as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12), buried in the sea of God’s forgetfulness (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12), to be remembered no more (Yes, I know, sovereign God hasn’t forgotten anything but it is as if He has blocked out the vision of our rebellious transgressions as He gazes on the glory of Calvary and adores His Son’s payment for His chosen – “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake;  and I will not remember your sins”).

We need to claim this. Not to live in license and unrestrained sin; that’s not the way of one who has surrendered to and follows this beautiful Savior and Lord. But it is freedom (see John 8:32 and Galatians 5). Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). And there is no accuser whose claims against us will be upheld in the courtroom of an infinitely merciful and just God (Revelation 12:7-12).  We can thank the shed blood of Christ for that.

We would do well to remember and savor the words of Hebrews; as the writer continues:

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified…then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:12-14, 17-18).

And now the lyrics from Nothing but the Blood, written in 1876 by Robert Lowry:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

    • Refrain:
      Oh! precious is the flow
      That makes me white as snow;
      No other fount I know,
      Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-16).

Reason Rally

U.S. News – Westboro church pastor’s son to face off against dad’s picketers at atheist rally

Today, March 24th, the Reason Rally will take place in Washington, DC. I would urge you to click the first link and study this site, examine this rally’s purpose, and make special note of the speakers at this event. It is quite obvious that nontheism has become quite chic and en vogue.

Here are some excerpts from the site I would like to highlight and comment on:

When will the Rally be held?
On March 24, 2012, from 10:00AM – 6:00PM at the National Mall, nontheists from all corners of the nation will descend on Washington, D.C. en masse to deliver the good news: “We’re huge, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing.”

Why are we doing this?
Across America, in every city, every town, and every school, secularism is on the rise. Whether people call themselves atheists, agnostics, secular Humanists, or any of the other terms used to describe their god-free lifestyle, secularism is coming out of the closet. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (PDF), the percentage of people with no religious affiliation grew in all fifty states.
The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society.

  • Let’s be clear – in America, these folks have every right to gather and exercise both freedom of speech and religion. Despite their objections, I do believe this is a religion – it is a belief system of disbelief. And I support these constitutional rights as the original authors intended them. Actually, I’m thankful that, generally speaking, we are allowed to voice our beliefs without fear of retribution, even though it seems orthodox Christianity is now more often the target of censorship than other belief systems.
  • Why do they have to come out of the closet? Actually, I thought they already were – they have had several NYT best-sellers in recent years and the news is flooded with stories about an unbeliever joining forces with the ACLU to suppress religious expression. Really, what are they hiding from? They are protected by the laws of the land and, however wrong I think they are, I support their right to believe in disbelief and live their faith openly. And, after all, it is faith; as they can no more scientifically disprove God than we can prove Him.
  • They use the phrase “the good news.” How ironic they have hijacked terminology that is most identified with the Gospel (good news) of Jesus. There is no need to elaborate on their definition of good news being vastly different from God’s. I’m terribly chagrined that our culture is embracing a worldview of meaningless living and hopeless dying, not that the Gospel has lost its power, but because on some level the church has failed to live out the principles of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 5-7).
  • My view is that much of the attraction to nontheism is actually an aversion to religion. When wounded and burned by the church, nontheism is the logical place for flight. It’s not that it is an attractive belief system but many adherents so detest Christianity that they find some sort of solace in being as far away from that culture as possible. In some cases, Christians and institutional religion bear some responsibility for the violent reaction of some who have fled to a godless ideology. If we call ourselves His followers, failing to pursue a life and love like Jesus is wrong.
  • As Christ-followers we should know what we believe, why we believe it, and never compromise on Scripture as our primary source of our faith. Although reason and science can and often confirm our worldview, we must always be ready to give an answer for our hope. Are we able to defend our faith in light of the growing opposition to it? We must be able to because we are command to. We must boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word, the hope-filled message of the cross of Calvary, and the person and work of Jesus.
  • Sometimes unbelievers can’t hear us over the hate (that’s the reason for the second link). Yes, I know much of what they call hate is really the truth running against the grain of their self-destructive flesh, pride, and self-determination (it does the same to me). But sometimes it is hate, or at least hateful. We are to clearly enunciate truth but speak it through tears of love and sadness over their rejection of God as He is revealed in Jesus.

I’ve got a crazy (and probably unpopular) idea. Let’s pursue friendship with a nontheist. And let’s start today. I’m not saying we condone what they believe but let’s reach across the philosophical chasm and treat them with respect and dignity. Let’s love them like Jesus would so that we might be able, empowered by the wisdom and Word of God, to share our reason for believing and living to glorify God. And then let’s keep loving them with undeniable joy while the Holy Spirit does His work.

I religiously follow several blogs, but none of them are evangelical rock stars that have throngs of fans and easily recognizable names. I follow folks like Don Simpson (One Bondservant’s Diary), T. E. Hanna (Of Dust and Kings), Kevin Nunez, Patricia Szymanski (Reading the Bible in 365). Why? Their writings resonate with me and remind me that we don’t have to pastor a mega-church or have a TV ministry for God to speak truth through us. These people are using their gifts for God’s glory. Their voices, and others like them, need to be heard – especially by me. This is a reblog from Bryan Daniels (The Chief of the least) and I just love his stuff. I pray you will be blessed by his wit, wisdom, and warmth as much as I have. I don’t personally know Bryan, but am thrilled (like with the others) to call him my sibling in the faith. Actually, I have met only 2 of those mentioned above. As for the others, along with Bryan, I joyfully anticipate meeting you in this life or in Heaven – for I think we will have much to celebrate and talk about. Grace to you!

Chief of the least

I sometimes wonder if the Nike Marketing Group has had a hand in influencing the modern American church’s gospel message. There is a certain level of “Just Do It” fervor in the sermons and Sunday school lessons of evangelical churches.

In our zeal to get God’s work done we tend to lead and end with an exhortation for every man, woman and child to go “invite, tell, contextualize, evangelize, and do whatever you can” to get the gospel out. Just do it, just do something, because doing anything with a Christian flavor is better than nothing!

There may not be anything wrong with this.

In a sense this can be a very biblical exhortation (Colossians 3:23). A little bit of Bible study can quickly show us that the Great Commission is the last charge Christ made to all who would claim to be His followers (Matthew 28:19-20).

But a little bit of…

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“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

Have you been to a church fellowship recently? Maybe a Super Bowl party? If so, what was it like? Typically it involves a lot of food (put me down as a “chips and dip” man) and some conversational banter. This seems to be the modern definition of “fellowship.” It’s all about “getting together” in a cloister or a holy huddle with most, if not all, energy being focused on self-oriented “feeding” or being “fed.” I’m not saying this is totally wrong but I’m of the persuasion this is not the complete biblical model.

Have you recently heard church leadership talk about the importance of fellowship, living in community, or doing life together? These are important as well, as long as these activities aren’t done in a vacuum and we become isolated from the culture we are called to engage with the Gospel. As we all know, fellowship, as we’ve come to define it, can be overtly comfortable and myopic, especially if it is an end and not a means to something larger and more outward in focus.

Let me make it clear that fellowship is important! After all, it was one of the key activities of the early church (see our focal passage above). But the Greek word for fellowship (koinonia) used in Acts 2 has much broader implications than just self-focused social gatherings. As it is used in other New Testament passages, the word demonstrates something more sacrificial and missional than what we have become used to. It can also be translated as “partnership,” “sharing,” “communion,” and, get this, “contribution.” Many of its uses in Scripture point to a sacrifice or service to one another, not some gluttonous social festivity. Here are some examples of this word and its context (the word(s) translated from koinonia is highlighted):

  • “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints– and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5).
  • Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16.).
  • For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26).
  • “For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you” (2 Corinthians 9:12-14).

I think it should be clear now that koinonia is much more than a party or idle, shallow chit-chat. It is about loving and doing and serving among one another (do a biblical word study on the phrase “one another” and you’ll get an even more in-depth look at what true fellowship is). It is such a dangerous, radical, sacrificial expression of community, in its deepest sense, that it produces a Gospel scream that pierces the insulated walls between us and unbelievers. For this type of dynamic fellowship inevitably grants us favor with outsiders (Acts 2:43) as we become reflections of the favor (grace and goodness) God has shown to us. This, in turn, is used by God to draw those observing to Himself (Acts 2:47).

In other words, the rich, self-denying fellowship Scripture describes can be the very tool God uses to transform those who don’t yet know His favor. And something tells me, if what we call fellowship isn’t touching the community around us, we aren’t experiencing the same type of koinonia that God expects.

Along with this humorous video, here is a link to a TV piece on a church in Knoxville that encourages texting during the service – West Knoxville church goes mobile with its message | –
Does your church have a cell phone policy? Both of these churches do but they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. So what do you think?

A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

On a lighter note, I do love this advert on cell phones in church:

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