The Importance Of Reading The Bible

November 11, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

God has always expected His people to read His word

It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes Deuteronomy 17:19 (NASB)

This was speaking of kings in Israel, that they must read the Old Testament Law every day! Obviously, not many of them kept this law, but this was what God wanted.

When do you read the Bible?

Do you read the Bible every day? What about maybe 3 days a week? Do you only read it when you are at church? I know of a number of people who leave their Bibles at the church building where they attend. While some may have other Bibles they use during the week, it is often a sign that they do not read at all during the week. Does that describe you?

If you read every day, how much time do you spend reading? You can read through the whole Bible in a year with only reading about 15 minutes a day, but shouldn’t we give God more time than that? This is how He talks to us! We need to be listening.

Why Read?

We just mentioned one reason—God speaks to us when we read the Bible. This is how we know what our King wants. We must read if we are to know what God wants us to do. We cannot guess what He wants, and we shouldn’t rely on the preachers to tell us what God wants. We can have God speak to us personally through His written word that was made for each one of us.

But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Matthew 22:31-32 (NASB)

Do you see what Jesus said to these people who were living hundreds of years after Genesis was written? It “was spoken to you by God.” The Bible was written to you! Don’t you want to know what it says?

In reading the word of God, we get help in overcoming temptations. There are so many temptations in this world, but if you have a good relationship with God and have been paying attention to what He has to say, you will be equipped to fight them with His help.

If you do not read the word of God, you will never be equipped to help others understand it. How sad would it be for someone who claims to follow the Son of God to live out their lives never able to help another person come to Him. You need to get into the book and learn for yourself.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. Hebrews 5:12 (NASB)

Do you want to know what God wants you to know? Do you want help in fighting temptation? Do you want to help others who are dying in their sins? Read your Bible every day! Learn! Grow.

Should Christians Defend Themselves?

October 24, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

From Kevin DeYoung – timely and important.

Christians in the West are familiar with apologetics as an intellectual or worldview exercise. We are less familiar with apologetics as a legal defense. This is an unfamiliarity that needs to be quickly remedied.

With pastors facing subpoenas for their sermons and wedding chapels being forced to conduct same-sex services under threat of imprisonment, Christians need a theology of defending themselves in the courts. While we certainly must turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love our enemies when faced with personal offenses (Matt. 5:38-48), we must not assume that defending ourselves—strenuously and sometimes even defiantly—before the governing authorities is inconsistent with being a follower of Jesus or antithetical to the propagation of the gospel.

We think of Acts as the great missionary book of the Bible. And it is: from Pentecost to persecution to Paul’s missionary journeys, we see the word of God go forth from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. But in addition to being a narrative of great missionary advance, Acts was written as a legal defense. Luke was at pains to demonstrate to most excellent Theophilus (likely a Roman official or a member of the societal elite) that Christianity was not hellbent on overthrowing Roman rule and was not in violation of the religious provisions of Roman law. Five times in the last main section of the book (chapters 21-28) we see Paul defending the spiritual and legal legitimacy of his gospel and his ministry: before the mob in Jerusalem (22:1-21), before the council (23:1-10), before Felix (24:1-27), before Festus (25:1-12), and before Agrippa (26:1-32). In these chapters we repeatedly find the word (or some variation of the word) apologia as Paul makes his apology or defense (22:1; 24:10; 25:8; 26:1ff., 24; cf. 19:33). The Apostle Paul in Acts is a missionary, a pastor, and a cultural apologist.

We should note four things about Paul’s defense, in particular about his first defense in Jerusalem (21:27-22:21).

First, Paul had reason to give a defense.

There was strong opposition to the Apostle Paul and his ministry. Part of this was owing to the serious theological differences between the Jews and the Jewish Christians. Part of the opposition was due to personal animus against Paul and part was owing to slander and misinformation. People were ready to believe the worst about Paul (or ready to make up the worst about him). They thought he had brought a Greek into the temple (21:27-29). They thought he belonged to a revolutionary guerrilla group called the Assassins (21:38). It was a perfect recipe for hatred and violent attack.

You can see why Paul was so thankful for those who were not ashamed of his chains (2 Tim. 1:16) and why it was such consolation to the persecuted Christians in Hebrews that Jesus was not ashamed to call them his brothers (Hebrews 2:11; cf. 10:33). There was a cost to associating with people like Paul. Like Jesus, he was controversial, embattled, and embroiled in legal wrangling. Paul did not float above the fray. He never found a way to be so comprehensively nice and invested in social justice (Gal. 2:10) that his enemies patted him on the back, or even left him alone.

Second, Paul was eager to give a defense.

There are times in the epistles where Paul refuses to defend himself (and then goes on to defend himself anyway). He understands that sometimes we get into more trouble by trying to respond to every accusation thrown our way. Jesus didn’t do much to defend himself. But that may not be the best example because his specific mission was to die an atoning death for our sins. The point is: no one should (or even can) defend himself against every opponent, every injustice, or every hurt.

But every is not the same as none. In fact, in the final chapters of Acts, providing a defense for his gospel ministry is Paul’s singular concern. When dealing with the Romans, he does not hesitate to claim his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29) or to let people know he hails from the impressive city of Tarsus (21:39). And when dealing with the Jews, he makes no qualms about emphasizing his Jewish credentials—that they are his brothers and fathers (22:1), that he can speak their language (v. 2), that he was trained by the most influential rabbi of his time (v. 3), that he was full of zeal (v. 4), that his conversion was attested by a devout and well respected man (v. 12), that like the prophet Samuel he was praying in the temple and received a vision (v. 17).

In his first defense in Jerusalem before the Jews, just like in his subsequent defenses before Roman magistrates, Paul is keen to show not only that his message is consistent with the Jewish religion and by divine commission, but that he has not broken any laws and does not deserve the mistreatment he is receiving. The same Paul who was not afraid to suffer in Jerusalem and did not count his life worth anything so long as he could preach the gospel (Acts 20:22-24), was not about to let his legal rights be abridged and the harshest allegations against him go unanswered. Paul understood that to quietly accept injustice could have been simpler and perhaps even personally satisfying (Acts 5:41), but in his case (as in an increasing number of our cases), an unwillingness to defend himself would not have served the cause of the gospel. His silence would not have strengthened Theophilus in the faith and it would not have helped the fledgling church. Paul wanted to show that this new faith was not anti-Jewish and was not inciting rebellion against Rome. Paul claimed his citizenship and challenged the likes of Felix, Festus, and Agrippa so that he might finish his course and bring the gospel to the heart of the Roman Empire. He knew that at times defending the faith means defending your rights.

Third, Paul’s defense was often ineffective.

In Acts 22 we see how monumentally unsuccessful Paul’s brilliant speeches could be. Paul can’t even finish his defense without the crowd crying out for his death (v. 22). He had truth on his side, but truth doesn’t always win out in a court of law, let alone in mob rule. True, Paul had more success making his case to the Romans than before his own countrymen, but even then he never received the strong vindication he deserved. His defense may have been convincing to the Roman magistrates, but they were still content to put political expediency above personal integrity. Acts 28 ends triumphantly with the gospel going forth (v. 31). And yet Paul is still under house arrest (v. 30) and will eventually be killed a few years later under Nero (2 Tim. 4:6).

Fourth, Paul used his defense as an opportunity to preach Christ.

It may look like Paul is obsessed with giving his testimony in the last chapters of Acts. But the only reason he wants to give his testimony is so he can testify to Christ. Time after time, when put on trial, Paul found a way to talk about the resurrection of Christ, about faith and repentance, and about the Messianic identity of Jesus. We can be quick to say “Let’s stop all this fighting, all this controversy, all this culture war stuff, and get on with the work of evangelism” as if Paul’s defense was not also evangelism! More than ever, we must be ready for someone to ask us a reason for the hope that we have–even if they mistakenly believe our hope to be hate.

For Paul, defending the faith was just as important as preaching the faith because he did not see the two as different tasks. He was a missionary at heart. His passion was the proclamation of the gospel. If that meant death, he was ready to die, so long as it was his death and not the death of freedom for the gospel to go out boldly and without hindrance.

Paul was willing for his life to be cut short if the work of the gospel could go on. But so long as the gospel itself was maligned, misrepresented, and unfairly marginalized, he wasn’t about to submit himself to slander or surrender a single civic right. He would keep preaching the Christian gospel. He would keep on defending the religious and legal legitimacy of the Christian faith. And he would not believe for a moment that the two tasks were aimed at different ends.

Celebrating The Reformation

October 13, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Happy Reformation Day! 497 years ago, Martin Luther boldly nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the chapel door in Wittenberg Germany, outwardly condemning both the selling of indulgences and the Catholic Church as a whole. Little did he know that this would spark, arguably, the most influential event in church history since the Apostolic Age and forever change the church of the future.As a tribute to Luther’s legacy and in honor of this special day, here is a brief history of the events surrounding Martin Luther’s involvement in the Protestant Reformation.
In the 16th Century, a law student by the name of Martin Luther experienced a close encounter with death, being nearly struck by lightning. After this near death experience, Luther, in an effort to repay God for sparing his life, left law school and became a monk.
For years, Luther dedicated himself to monasticism. He spent long hours in prayer and confession, but still felt far from God. It wasn’t until he was pointed away from continual focus on his sin, but on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Luther began to feel less guilt for his sin, and recognized that man is saved by faith alone.
In 1512, Luther left the monastery and went to teach theology at the University of Wittenberg, where his old friend Johann von Staupitz was the dean. It was here that Luther started to question a lot of what the Catholic church taught about salvation.
By October 31st, 1517, Luther had finally had enough. In an act of spite, he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg Germany. In this document, Luther criticized the current practices of the church at that time, most significantly the selling of indulgences.
Luther had written his theses in Latin, desiring more of an intellectual discussion with others in academia, but in January of 1518, some of Luther’s friends translated his Theses from Latin into German and printed mass copies of the document, then sent it out. Within only a few weeks, Luther’s Theses had spread all throughout Germany. After only two months, Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses had spread throughout all of Europe.Eventually, word spread to the Pope about what Luther had written, and on June 15th, 1520 he warned Luther of excommunication with the papal bull. Luther, in response, publicly burned the papal bull in defiance of the Pope.

In the year 1521, Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms, an assembly that was conducted over a period of time for approximately four months.

On April 18th, 1517, when asked to recant his writings, Martin Luther gave this quiet but famous response:

 ”Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they often err and contradict themselves, I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. May God help me. Amen.”
Luther had refused to recant. Over the next five days, a series of meetings was held to determine Luther’s fate. On May 25th, the Emperor declared Luther an outlaw and demanded his arrest and punishment as a heretic of the church.Even that couldn’t stop Luther. By the help of his friend Frederick III, he fled Wittenberg and went on to continue to write and even translate the Bible into German so that everyone, from the clergy all the way to the common man, could read the Bible.Martin Luther was a remarkable man, used by God to restore Biblical truth to the church. If not for Luther, the church as we know it today would be very different. Let us celebrate this day and remember just how important the Protestant Reformation was then and still is today!

Finding Elijah

September 22, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

In the far away and long ago past there was a trivia game called ‘Finding Waldo’. The objective was to look at a picture featuring thousands of faces and in that collage of individuals ‘find Waldo’. This exercise provides an analogy of the way in which churches call Pastors.
They accumulate a catalog of ‘faces’ (Resumes of aspiring Candidates). They sort through the myriad of potential candidates until they identify the ‘top five’. They then parade them through the assembly in what amounts to a popularity contest. This is the equivalent of a ‘Beauty Contest’. The ‘Winner’ becomes their next Pastor.
How does this process rate in terms of effectiveness? Not so well. The average Pastoral Tenure is four and one-half (4 1/2) years. There is a better way. PLEASE think carefully about this issue.
Analysis – Why does this process fail to produce effective long-term Pastoral Leadership?
1.  This process if focused on the wrong priority.
2.  This process is seeking leadership while looking in the rear view mirror.
3.  This process does not match the man with the church and the church with the man.
4.  This process is most often executed in the ‘tyranny of the urgent mode’. Find a man quick.
5.  This process fails to consider the most essential quality of a man – Character.
Recommendation – Secure the services of an Outside Voice that provides a time tested process.
When you have a heart attack, you seek the counsel of the best Cardiologist you can find. When you have a serious fracture, you seek the counsel of the best Orthopedist you can find. Does it not make biblical rational sense to do the same when seeking a man that will shape the Spiritual Formation of God’s people for years to come?
1.  This process is focused on the right priority.
2.  This process seeks leadership looking to the ministry future of the church not the past.
3.  This process carefully matches the man with the church and the church with the man.
4.  This process is deliberate and precise, not hasty and frantic.
5.  This process applies multiple Assessments and strategic vetting to assess the man’s Character.
Summary – Sin in haste and repent at leisure.
When seeking Pastoral Leadership the dividends secured by engaging the best possible counsel and resources are significant. The church secures the benefit of a Pastor who is a ‘FIT’. They have some certainty that all the necessary skills and competencies are present in this new leader that will guide their journey into God’s future for their assembly.
You may not be interested in finding Waldo (I never was), but Finding Elijah is Priority #1 for the assembly in which you worship.

Training <> Developing

August 25, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

There is a great chasm between ‘training’ leaders and ‘developing leaders. Think through this excellent profile that distinguishes the difference. IgniteUS is dedicated to DEVELOPING leaders. Join us!

The solution to the leadership training problem is to scrap it in favor of development. Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them. Where training attempts to standardize by blending to a norm and acclimating to the status quo, development strives to call out the unique and differentiate by shattering the status quo. Training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development. Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and above all else, actionable.

The following 20 items point out some of the main differences between training and development:

1. Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.

2. Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.

3. Training tests patience – Development tests courage.

4. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.

5. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.

6. Training is transactional – Development is transformational.

7. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.

8. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.

9. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.

10. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.

11. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.

12. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.

13. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.

14. Training focuses on problems  - Development focuses on solutions.

15. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.

16. Training places people in a box – Development frees them from the box.

17. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.

18. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.

19. Training places people in a comfort zone – Development moves people beyond their comfort zones.

20. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them. I have always said it is impossible to have an enterprise which is growing and evolving if leadership is not.

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/12/19/the-1-reason-leadership-development-fails/

 

How To Develop Self-Discipline

July 26, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Discipline is freedom. You may disagree with this statement, and if you do you are certainly not alone. For many people discipline is a dirty word that is equated with the absence of freedom. In fact the opposite is true. As Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “the undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions”. And in the longer term, the undisciplined lack the freedom that comes with possessing particular skills and abilities – e.g. to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language.

Self-discipline involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel in the moment. Often it involves sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life. Therefore it is self-discipline that drives you to:

  • Work on an idea or project after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away
  • Go to the gym when all you want to do is lie on the couch and watch TV
  • Wake early to work on yourself
  • Say “no” when tempted to break your diet
  • Only check your email a few of times per day at particular times

In the past self-discipline has been a weakness of mine, and as a result today I find myself lacking the ability to do a number of things which I would like – e.g. to play the guitar. But I have improved, and I can say that it is self-discipline that got me out of bed this morning at 5am to run and then write this article. Believe me, I would love to be curled up in bed right now, but this desire is subordinated by my inner sense of purpose.

If you struggle with self-discipline, the good news is that it can be developed. For example, it is only in the past two years that I have trained myself to wake early. The following are what I have found to be the five traits of self-discipline:

1. Self-Knowledge

Discipline means behaving according to what you have decided is best, regardless of how you feel in the moment. Therefore the first trait of discipline is self-knowledge. You need to decide what behavior best reflects your goals and values. This process requires introspection and self-analysis, and is most effective when tied to written expression. I highly recommend taking the time to write out your goals, dreams and ambitions. Even better, write out a personal mission statement. I found that writing such a statement gave me a greater understanding of who I am, what I am about and what I value. Dr. Covey has an excellent Mission Statement Builder on his site.

2. Conscious Awareness

Self-discipline depends upon conscious awareness as to both what you are doing and what you are not doing. Think about it. If you aren’t aware your behavior is undisciplined, how will you know to act otherwise?

As you begin to build self-discipline, you may catch yourself being in the act of being undisciplined – e.g. biting your nails, avoiding the gym, eating a piece of cake or checking your email constantly. Developing self-discipline takes time, and the key here is you are aware of your undisciplined behavior. With time this awareness will come earlier, meaning rather than catching yourself in the act of being undisciplined you will have awareness before you act in this way. This gives you the opportunity to make a decision that is in better alignment with your goals and values.

3. Commitment to Self-Discipline

It is not enough to simply write out your goals and values. You must make an internal commitment to them. Otherwise when your alarm clock goes off at 5am you will see no harm in hitting the snooze button for “just another 5 minutes….” Or, when initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away from a project you will struggle to see it through to completion.

If you struggle with commitment, start by making a conscious decision to follow through on what you say you’re going to do – both when you said you would do it and how you said you would do it. Then, I highly recommend putting in place a system to track these commitments. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets improved”.

4. Courage

Did you notice the sweat dripping from the man in the picture at the start of this article? Make no mistake, self-discipline is often extremely difficult. Moods, appetites and passions can be powerful forces to go against. Therefore self-discipline is highly dependent on courage. Don’t pretend something is easy for you to do when it is in fact very difficult and/ or painful. Instead, find the courage to face this pain and difficulty. As you begin to accumulate small private victories, your self-confidence will grow and the courage that underpins self-discipline will come more naturally.

5. Internal Coaching

Self-talk is often harmful, but it can also be extremely beneficial if you have control of it. When you find yourself being tested, I suggest you talk to yourself, encourage yourself and reassure yourself. After all, it is self-talk that has the ability to remind you of your goals, call up courage, reinforce your commitment and keep you conscious of the task at hand. When I find my discipline being tested, I always recall the following quote: “The price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret”. Burn this quote into your memory, and recall in whenever you find yourself being tested. It may change your life.
This article is from http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/self-discipline/#qlBuLbSgSVSYXEmj.99 and is acknowledged here.

Don’t Quit

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
 Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit -
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
~Unknown~

Freedom of Religion & Freedom of Worship

June 30, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Today (06/30) the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a verdict in the case of Hobby Lobby et. al. While the decision was not comprehensive it did strike a blow for the Freedom of Religion.

I want to distinguish between the Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Worship.

The Freedom of Religion, protected by the First Amendment, guarantees the free exercise of religious conviction in The Marketplace as well as in the privacy of a church, school or private home.

The Freedom of Worship is an entirely different matter. That simply means that the Market Place is off limits for such expressions. This language was used by Hitler and Stalin to suppress and deny the Freedom of Religion in Germany and Russia. Millions lost their lives as a result of the capitulation of such deception by Pastors and the church. The time to rise up against such distortion of language is at the first moment it is spoken.

Both the current occupant of the Oval Office and the former Secretary of State who wants to occupy that office use ‘Freedom of Worship’ in their speeches. Lies pure and simple.

I issue a call to all Pastors to rally against this distortion. Teach your people this distinction. Teach the historical consequences of acquiescence to such nonsense. Proclaim with all authority the Truth. Pray earnestly. Prepare to suffer. Never ever give up!

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

 

The Power of Purpose

June 12, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Purpose brings focus. The absence of focus leads to petty conflicts and energy invested in activities that are utterly and absolutely unproductive. This leads to the establishment of territorial turf. Then the perpetrator must defend their territory out of a sense of ‘duty to the Truth!’

How sad and descriptive of much of what passes for ‘ministry’ in local churches.

When everyone owns a purpose that is defined and developed by the mandates of Scripture the myriad of petty turf wars is diminished if not eliminated.

Purpose is characterized by:

1.  Unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ as LORD.

2.  Embracing as your ‘first principle’ the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

3.  Engaging each day with a passion to fulfill the tasks God has equipped you to accomplish.

4.  Understanding that the church is the Body of Christ.

5.  Living life “In Community”, putting others before self.

6.  An objective Metric by which effectiveness is evaluated – you did or did not accomplish the tasks.

7.  An Integrated life. All aspects of life are fulfilled with excellence.

So – - do you have PURPOSE?

Churches & Birds

May 12, 2014 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

We have a wide variety of birds that grace our lawn and the feeders we provide. They like the place.

Why are there so many and why do they frequent our lawn so often? Simple. There are ample trees and shrubs for nesting and protection. There is always food available. There is a constant supply of water for them to drink, Like I said – SIMPLE!

Now for the church. When people attend, do they discover a safe place where they are fed with accuracy and passion the unadulterated pure Word of God? Can they drink deeply from the riches that are Christ Jesus. Like I said – SIMPLE!

Want to see your church grow? Protection & Safety, rich portions of God’s Word accurately exegeted and delivered with passion and a constant supply of living Water. Like I said – SIMPLE!

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