Learning to Appreciate the Silence

Silence is uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it can be. I believe it’s so, because silence gives us opportunity to think, to ask questions, to contemplate the world around us; and that makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we tend to avoid it. Instead, we fill the air with the sounds of music, television sets, YouTube videos, or our own voices, and our mindseye with images from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (just to name a few). We’d rather listen to (or read, or view) insignificance than be forced to ponder anything of real importance. However, as believers, it’s often in these moments of silent contemplation that God reveals to us His greatest lessons.IMG_3503

Lately, I’ve been reading “Missional Motherhood,” by Gloria Furman. In one section of the book she talks about how God created us to be consumers of His Word. However, the devil, knowing that God designed us to be consumers, works at getting us to feast on things other than the Word: on stuff. Let’s face it, between social media and television, there’s no lack of exposure to “stuff.” Whether it’s material things, relationships, vacations, children, new recipes, organizational hacks, or makeup how-tos, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to preoccupy our time, energy, or thoughts. In fact, in our attempt to avoid silence and our own thoughts, we’ve become very good at silencing and drowning out the voice of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Particularly as a new mom, it’s easier to sit in front of the television with a sleeping baby, or mindlessly scroll Facebook or Pinterest while nursing, than it has been to turn the pages of my Bible or talk with the Lord. But this needs to change. If we want our children to seek the Lord, then they need to see and hear their parents seeking the Lord. If we want them to have a heart for the lost, then they need to see our heart for the lost, His heart for the lost. If we want our children to live the Word, love the Word, and be consumers of the Word, then that’s what they need to see in us!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Yet, let’s not stop there, the gospel message is something our children should both see evidence of and hear.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the moments of silence in our lives. Let us instead, appreciate them, make more opportunities for them and use them appropriately. This year–and every year, for that matter–let’s strengthen our relationship with the Lord, let’s listen intently for His voice, and let’s teach our children to do the same.

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Multiply: Week 6

Part II: Living as the Church

3: The Global Church

I, again, apologize for not writing on a more regular basis. I’ve started riding the train to and from work, which means I leave my home earlier and get home later in the evenings, leaving me less time to do other things during the week. It’s going to take some getting used to and some serious time management skills, since I’ll be returning to school in a few weeks, as well. Before I begin chapter 14 of Romans I thought I’d continue our discussion of Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, because chapter 6 is about the global church and I feel it has much in common with previous chapters of Romans.

As important as the local church is, God’s plan extends way beyond your town. As much as God wants you to reach the people in your community, He has no intention of stopping there. God’s plan of redemption reaches into your neighborhood–and to every other city, village, and jungle around the globe! (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p.77)

The Bible makes a point to explain that the fall of Adam and Eve affected all of humanity; not just a certain ethnic or geographical group. In the same manner, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–the grace of God–is meant for all! If we’re not trying to make some sort of effort to reach those in other parts of the world, then we’re not truly being obedient to the call of Christ, through the Great Commission to share the gospel.

A few days ago I was reading Romans chapter 10…

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:11-15)

The word “believe” in Greek is pisteuo, which means “to adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on, to depend on.” Therefore, how can anybody have a relationship with–adhere to, cleave to, trust, rely, or depend on–Christ if they don’t believe that He exists? They have no faith. How can they have faith (or a relationship) with Christ if no one has ever told them about what God has done for them? And how can they hear about God’s grace and mercy if someone doesn’t tell them? God commands us to share the gospel with the world. We must tell others, so that they may hear and believe (adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on, to depend on).

“But how can I reach the globe?” you may be thinking to yourself. I had to ask myself the same question. Francis Chan answers it this way:

We all need to consider whether God is calling us to follow Him onto the mission field, but we have to remember that this is not the only way of working to fulfill God’s plan to reach every nation. If we decide that God wants us to remain in the area in which He has placed us for the time being, then we need to be using our resources to further the mission around the world. Even if we find our primary ministry in the people directly surrounding us, we need to be praying for our fellow workers in other parts of the world. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 85)

In other words, “The question is not whether or not we will be working to spread the gospel around the world, but what role we will play in this” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 86).

I would love to take a missions trip one day, but until that day comes I’ll continue to share the gospel through other means. For me, that means continuing to write this blog. I’ve delightfully discovered that many of my readers are from various places around the globe; from countries that can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. This excites me and motivates me to focus my writing solely on what God wants me to share. I also do my part by supporting a child through World Vision, and although my financial situation is a little sticky, I continue to give because I know that my gifts have a great impact on the life of my little friend and his community. And every time I see a Facebook post or Tweet about fellow believers suffering persecution or imprisonment for their faith, I send out a prayer for their protection and ask that God would envelop them with His love and peace; I also send out retweets and sign petitions for their release. But this is just how I reach the world.

In what ways do you attempt to reach the globe and share the message of Christ?

Multiply: Week 3

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

3: The Heart of a Disciple Maker

Tonight we’re going to discuss chapter 3 of Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s book Multiply. This is a short and very direct chapter, so there won’t be much quoting from the text this week.

Basically, Francis Chan discusses the issue of our hearts, or our motives, for becoming a disciple maker. Why are we preparing to be disciple makers? To please someone? To look good or gain someone’s praise or approval? Out of obedience?

Francis Chan reminds us that the Pharisees were quite good at keeping up appearances, but their motivation was hardly that which God accepted as pure and pleasing to Him. Neither does God want us to minister to others out of obedience, or obligation, to Him, but out of joy. Francis Chan states it this way: “God wants us to enjoy the privilege and pleasure of ministering to others. He wants us to be cheerful when we give (2 Corinthians 9:7)” (p. 41).

Francis also reminds those of us who feel led and passionate about sharing God’s message, that we should be cautious as leaders, because teaching others is a very serious thing. Remember what the book of James says about teaching and the power of the tongue:

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:1-6)

Leaders, teachers, and ministers have the power to set someone on the wrong course, if they’re not careful!

Most important, according to Francis Chan is that “making disciples isn’t about gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. The real focus is not on teaching people at all–the focus is on loving them.” This is where God wants our hearts!

Jesus’s call to make disciples includes teaching people to be obedient followers of Jesus, but the teaching isn’t the end goal. Ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. It’s about bringing them to the Savior and allowing Him to set them free from the power of sin and death and transform them into loving followers of Jesus Christ. It’s about glorifying God by obediently making disciples who will teach others to love and obey God. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 44)

This is what I’ve been trying to encourage my readers to do in previous posts (Speaking in Truth, Burning One, & All-Embracing Love); to teach and share the message of Christ out of love for the lost!

And finally, Francis Chan encourages us to teach by example. Oddly enough, the passage of scripture I read today was Romans 2:17-19, which asks us how can we call ourselves wise teachers of the lost and yet do everything that we teach others not to do?! In other words, it calls us hypocrites! Romans 2:24 states “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” This was written to the Jews, but I feel like this can most certainly be stated today. Many non-believers see all the things people who claim to be Christians do and say, and figure they’re no different from non-Christians; but this is not what God intended! Remember, we’re supposed to be holy and set apart. We’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be following in Christ’s footsteps. We cannot make disciples if we’re not living the life of a disciple.

Francis points to Hebrews 13:7, which states “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” New believers need godly examples to follow; and if we’re going to make disciples, we need to be putting our faith into practice so that others can imitate our faith. As Francis Chan states, “this doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect before you start. Perfection is a lifelong process that won’t end until eternity (see Philippians 1:6 and 3:12-14). But it does mean that you need to ‘count the cost’ (see Luke 14:25-33) and allow God’s truth to change your life” (p. 47).

If we want to see transformation in the lives of others, we must allow transformation to occur in our own lives.

Well, that concludes our discussion of Multiply this week. Stay tuned for next week! Take care and God bless.

Multiply: Week 2

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the 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, even unto the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Part I: Living as a Disciple MakerWhy-is-the-Earth-round[1]

2: The Command to Make Disciples

When Jesus rose from the grave He left His disciples with one final command: to take His message to the world (known as the Great Commission). Can you imagine what would have happened if the disciples hadn’t been obedient? Christianity would have ceased to exist before it began! The disciples took Jesus’s words very seriously, traveling, teaching, and baptizing many; turning what began as a tiny off-shoot of Judaism, into Christianity, as we know it today.

Francis Chan writes, regarding the Great Commission:

Reading the New Testament , it’s not surprising to read that Jesus’s followers were focused on making disciples–it makes sense in light of Jesus’s ministry and the Great Commission. The surprise comes when we look at our churches today in light of Jesus’s command to make disciples.

Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like. (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 30)

Ouch! It hurts to hear the truth, doesn’t it? Next, Francis Chan goes on to talk about how “The Great Commission uses three phrases to describe what disciple making entails: go, baptize people, and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded” (p 31).

But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult to put into practice. Let’s start with baptism. In your church setting, baptism may not seem like that big of a deal. Maybe that’s why so many Christians today have never been baptized. But in the early days of the church, baptism was huge. Baptism was an unmistakable act that marked a person as a follower of Jesus Christ. As Jesus died and was buried in the earth, so a Christian is plunged beneath the surface of the water. As Jesus emerged from the tomb in a resurrected body, so a Christian comes out of the waters of baptism as a new creation…

Just as baptism is more significant than we might have thought, so teaching people to obey Jesus’s command is an enormous task. Realistically, this will require a lifetime of devotion of studying the Scriptures and investing in the people around us. Neither of these things is easy, nor can they be checked off a list. We are never really “done.” We continually devote ourselves to studying the Scriptures so that we can learn with ever-greater depth and clarity what God wants us to know, practice, and pass on . (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 31-32)

I find this part so important. I’ve realized that the more I study God’s word, the more I want to share it, and pour it into the lives of others. Right now, as I study the book of Romans, I find myself sharing things not just with my blog followers, but with coworkers, family members, and my brothers & sisters in Christ. We cannot disciple others if we don’t know what God’s word says and aren’t putting it into practice in our own lives!

However, I’m also going to admit to you, that this has been no easy transformation in my life. I grew up wanting to be loved and accepted by everybody. Now, I’ve come to the realization that I’d rather be hated for speaking truth into the lives of others than to keep my mouth shut and let those I love and care about be left behind when Christ returns, or even worse, find themselves in the pit of hell; all because I was afraid of not being liked. It seems rather selfish, doesn’t it? We have to remember that we are not of this world.

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: “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. (John 15:18-20)

Right now you’re probably thinking of all sorts of excuses as to why you can’t minister to others (I know, because I used to think the same way and still struggle with this sometimes), however, “as convincing as these excuses may seem to us, Jesus’s commands don’t come with exception clauses. He doesn’t tell us to follow unless we’re busy. He doesn’t call us to love our neighbors unless we don’t feel prepared” (p. 35). As Francis Chan states:

God made you the way you are; He has provided and will continue to provide you with everything you need to accomplish the task. Jesus commands you to look at the people around you and start making them into disciples. Obviously, only God can change people’s hearts and make them want to become followers. We just have to be obedient in making the effort to teach them, even though we still have plenty to learn ourselves. (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 35).

Thanks for joining me for this week’s look at Multiply by Francis Chan & Mark Beuvig. I hope you’ll return next week for chapter three. Take care and God bless.

Multiply

I love to learn and I love to share with others the things I learn; and one of the reasons I began this blog is so that I could do just that: share the things I learn. This week I began reading Multiply by Francis Chan (with Mark Beuving) and as I read the introduction, I realized the book is really meant to be a Bible study. Therefore, I decided to read/work through it with my blog friends 😉

If you don’t know anything about the book, it’s all about teaching disciples of Christ to do just what God called us to do…make disciples of Christ. Yes, you read that right, it’s about teaching disciples of Christ to make more disciples of Christ. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll understand why I really wanted to read this book.

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

1: What is a disciple?multiply_square_black1[1]

We’ve talked about what it means to be a true follower of Christ in previous posts, such as Justified By Faith, Burning One, and Watchful Eyes, but Francis Chan describes it this way:

The Word disciple refers to a student or apprentice. Disciples in Jesus’s day would follow their rabbi (which means teacher) wherever he went, learning from the rabbis teaching and being trained to do as the rabbi did. Basically, a disciple is a follower, but only if we take the term follower literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is as simple as obeying His call to follow…

It’s impossible to be a disciple or follower of someone and not end up like that person. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). That’s the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate Him, carry on His ministry, and become like Him in the process.

Yet somehow many have come to believe that a person can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. A “follower” who doesn’t follow. How does that make any sense? Many people in the church have decided to take on the name of Christ and nothing else. This would be like Jesus walking up to those first disciples and saying, “Hey would you guys mind identifying yourselves with Me in some way? Don’t worry, I don’t actually care if you do anything I do or change your lifestyle at all. I’m just looking for people who are willing to say they believe in Me and call themselves Christians.” Seriously? (Chan, 2012, pp.16-17)

(Lol, I love the fact that Francis Chan is so straightforward when he writes!) The big question we must ask ourselves before we continue this study is, of course, are we really a follower of Christ? Or have we just taken on the name?

If you’ve found that you’ve only taken on the name of a  “Christian” but aren’t serving Christ in your lifestyle, then you need to realize that you’re still living in sin and that repentance is required.

Jesus says we need to repent. This implies that we all need to turn from the way we are current thinking and living. Romans 3:23 explains that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person reading this sentence has done things that are evil and offensive to this King [God]. Romans later explains that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Because of our sin, which is an offense to God we should expect death. But then comes an amazing truth.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The death penalty we should have faced from this King was actually paid for by someone else. The King’s Son, Jesus Christ!”

The Scriptures then say, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is all about who Jesus is and what He has done. Part of our repentance is to turn from believing that there’s anything we can do to save ourselves–for everything was accomplished by Jesus Christ. (Chan, 2012, pp. 18-19)

What an amazing God we serve! A God who loves us so much that He offered His one and only Son to suffer and die on a cross for our sins! I know I don’t deserve it; but that’s what’s so incredible…He did it, even though we don’t merit it! And all we have to do is believe! However, with that being said…

Faith in Jesus Christ means believing that He is Lord (according to Romans 10:9). Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that He is your owner–that you actually belong to Him?

Paul is so bold as to tell us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The same Lord who by His grace set us free from sin and death now owns us. We belong to Him, and He calls us to live in obedience to His rule.

The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life. (Chan, 2012, pp. 20-21)

Woo!! This part of the book really speaks to me, for a number of reasons. 1) Because I lived this way before I re-dedicated my life to Christ; I “believed,” but I wasn’t living in obedience to His word. 2) Even after re-dedicating my life to Christ I had (and, sometimes, still have) trouble relinquishing full control over my life to Him. There are certain “callings” on my life that I’ve been fighting for a long time, because I wanted to be like everybody else and I wanted to be liked by everybody else; but as much as I tried, I’ve realized that I’m not like everybody else and I will never be liked by all, simply because of the calling on my life, which I can no longer deny.

Francis Chan ends this chapter describing how we obey God out of our love for Him, not because we have a need to earn His love; but because we know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-40), and because the way we show that we love God is by obeying His commands (John 14:15).

Most of this is not new; if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll notice we’ve discussed much of this before, but it’s always nice to read another’s words in order to gain new perspective, and to confirm things perviously written. I tried not to copy the entire text here, but there was just so much truth in Chan’s words that I think I got a little carried away 😉 Stay tuned for next week’s continuance of Multiply.

Watchful Eyes

It’s so funny how one can read the Bible over and over again, and yet realize something new, every time you read it. For instance, today as I read Luke 12, I noticed that God expects more from believers than unbelievers. “Well duh!” You may be thinking to yourself. Now, hear me out…In verses 35-46 Jesus tells the parable of the men waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, the man on the lookout for the thief, and the wise manager whom the master puts in charge of his servants. The point of each of these stories? To be prepared for whenever the Master (Jesus) returns; to not be caught unawares. To instead, be caught doing exactly what the Master has called us to do. So, what happens if we’re caught not doing our Father’s will?

That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47-48)

“Woah! Okay, so you’re telling me that those of us who know what God’s will is for our lives and what He wants us to do….If we don’t do it, we’re in just as much trouble as those who are ignorant of His will?” No, I’m telling you that you’ll be in even more trouble. It’s like when you were little and you and your younger sibling got caught doing something you weren’t supposed to. Who got into more trouble? You! The older sibling always gets into more trouble because he/she should have “known better.” That’s how God sees Christians…we should know better.

God didn’t just send His son into this world to be beaten, die, and raised to life, for us to sit around on our hands and keep this free gift of life to ourselves! He tells us to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We tend to think of the world is these huge terms; we think of the little boy or girl in a small rural community with little to eat. But the world is at our very fingertips; it’s our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, our cashiers at the grocery store, even the people who follow us on twitter (or our blogs). And our “making disciples” usually doesn’t begin with words, but with our actions, attitudes, and desires…and there’s always someone watching.

What are your actions, attitudes, and desires saying about you? Are they saying you live for Christ? That He’s the center of your world? Or are they saying He’s an afterthought? A great addition to your already busy schedule? Something to make you feel good? When you’re frustrated or angry how do you respond? Is it Christlike? Or do you spout obscenities? Are you mean/treat others with disrespect? What are the things you aspire for? Are they earthly/worldly (ex. the latest iPhone/iPad, car, computer, a bigger house, more clothes/shoes)? Or spiritual?

God has given us much…LOVE, GRACE, MERCY, HOPE, LIFE; therefore He expects much. Who are you going to share it with?