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Intentional Grandparenting: What? Why? How? #3

My good friend, Phil, recently asked how I "re-imagine" discipling in today's world. My reply to him, as you'll see here, does not point to trendy technology or novel approaches. It points instead to timeless truth and ancient paths -- for ourselves and our grandchildren.

  I re-imagine that we'd "zero-base" our goals and strategies for cultivating Christlikeness in ourselves and others. Starting at zero, we'd re-examine the Scriptures for key goals and strategies. Ten steps would emerge, which we'd take ourselves. Then we'd recommend them to other God-followers whom we influence:

  1. Trust Jesus Christ--and Christ alone--for His redemption of9570812857?profile=original your "wages of sin" (Romans 3:23).
  2. Bask in the Bible and in the presence of God.
  3. Ponder the interrelationships among, and implications of, these scriptures: Matthew 5:14-16; I Corinthians 13; and Ephesians 4 & 5.
  4. Ask the RIGHT questions – the core, “Why?” questions -- about these scriptures.
  5. In prayer and unrushed reflection, with God’s Spirit filling your heart and mind, embrace God’s answers to those questions.
  6. Decide what you will say “no” to in your current swirl of goals and activities, so that you can say “yes” to focusing on and cultivating #5.
  7. Go out and do it. Walk as a child of light (Ephesians 5:8-10).
  8. As you walk, look for others whom you may influence in this same way.
  9. Be available to them; develop a healthy, Christlike relationship.
  10. Speak mostly with your life, not your words. As appropriate, share your journey with them in ways that encourage them to walk as “children of light” who influence others in their world likewise.

  Questions for journaling or discussion:

  1. Which particular steps (above) reflect Deuteronomy 6:4-7?
  2. What scriptures come to mind in support of step #2?
  3. What key goals and strategies do these steps suggest to you as you convey your spiritual legacy to your grandchildren?

(c) 2019 John Garmo

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Today's Question: Broadly speaking, what are the major issues James confronts in Chapter 2, and what is the gist of his arguments?

In Chapter 2 James discusses three important correlations that all Christians would do well to heed. The first (verses 1-9), addresses the relationship between the rich and poor. James scoffs at Christians who cater to the rich while ignoring the plight of poor people, and speaks of scoffers as unrighteous judges with evil thoughts. He also makes the point that such actions contradict the faith exemplified by Jesus, and redefines riches to no longer be based on material wealth, but on the priceless value of a poor person’s faith. James also teaches that even though it is the rich who oppress and blaspheme, true believers should still love them. Lastly, he informed us that those who put the interests of the rich ahead of the poor, commit sin by their actions.

 

The second correlation (verses 10-13), addresses the relationship between mercy and judgment, and those who fail to extend mercy to others will not receive God’s mercy during judgment! James informs us that it is a fallacy to believe that a Christian can get into Heaven based upon his/her own righteousness, because if a person breaks any part of God’s law, they have broken it all! Therefore, all must come before God’s judgment seat. The difference is the merciful also will receive God’s mercy because mercy triumphs over judgment!

 

The third correlation addresses the relationship between faith and works, and James nullifies any faith that is based strictly on belief (or mental assent), because true faith impels Christ’s true followers to address the prevailing needs of the downtrodden. That need may be food, shelter, or clothing, but if all a Christian does is pronounce a blessing on that needy person, when it is within his/her power to supply that which is needed, their blessing is meaningless because faith without works is dead! James gives examples of two Biblical characters who were rewarded for living out their faith through action: Abraham and Rahab. And just like a body without any spirit is dead, James teaches that faith without works is also dead, vain, and meaningless!

Next Week’s Question: There should be little disagreement that discrimination remains a part of the social fabric of America, so what are the underlying problems with showing partiality or favoritism, as commanded by James in James 2:1-9?

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Philip L. Hilliard - Who Am I?

Who am I? I am Rev. Philip L. Hilliard, the Senior Pastor of Austin Corinthian Baptist Church (ACBC), located on the Westside of Chicago. ACBC, was founded by my father, the late Rev. Clarence L. Hilliard – my mentor and spiritual leader, and I studied and received Biblical training under him. Therefore, I have no formal Bible Training since my undergrad degree is in business and I spent over 30 years in the Information Technology field; most of which was spent traveling coast-to-coast managing the implementation of and building computer information systems as a consultant. I assumed the role of Senior Pastor in 2005 when my dad went home to be with The Lord!

My dad was a Black Evangelical Prophet who put The Lord first in everything he did, and his whole focus was to build up the Kingdom of God by spreading unadulterated Gospel Truths to everyone he encountered. He grew up in Buffalo, NY and was a civil rights leader who fought for justice and fair housing. Because he championed justice, he received hate mail, but that never deterred his fight for justice, and he is noted for the following:

  • Cohorting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by driving him around when he visited Buffalo, NY;9570813274?profile=original
  • Debating Malcolm X on the University of Buffalo South Campus in 1963;9570813298?profile=original
  • Developing the Funky Gospel (an abbreviated version appeared in Christianity Today in January 1976) – an equivocal message that Jesus challenges (then and now), the status quo and sides with the poor, powerless, and oppressed;
  • Being forced out of his team pastorate position at Circle Evangelical Free Church, a church that sought to bridge the racial divide by adopting, what it called, the Open Church;
  • Holding long time Board Chairmanship for National Black Evangelical Association (NBEA) and simultaneously holding position of Social Action Commission Chairperson for NBEA and NAE (National Association of Evangelicals); and 
  • Championing the cause of social justice, with his dissenting viewpoint, at the Consultation on World Evangelization conferences in Lausanne, Switzerland and Pattaya, Thailand.

My mother, Annie Pearl Williams Hilliard, grew up in Oxford, North Carolina, the daughter of a sharecropper. She experienced first-hand the discrimination and injustice imposed upon Blacks in the south. Her own father was arrested and on the brink of a lynching until an influential police officer, when he saw it was Bennie Williams, intervened because of his “good family name.” Eventually, my grandfather left his sons to farm the land, traveled to Buffalo, found work, and saved money to move his family.

A major focus of ACBC’s ministry has been to bridge the racial divide, because that is what the Kingdom of God (which is already among us), is all about! To that end, I meet with a multiracial group of Pastors and others, at least weekly, in different forums to address issues that are dividing God’s Kingdom. It is hard to miss the fact that God’s Word is taking a backseat to political ideology, fearmongering, racism, nationalism, injustice, and equality. On Wednesdays I lead a thought-provoking Bible Study, and we are currently studying James 2 which I believe speaks to various spiritual issues that plagues today’s Church and Evangelical Communities. Each week I will post a question and on the following week my answer and another question. God is a God of justice, so when we live His way, everyone benefits equally!

Today's Question: Broadly speaking, what are the major issues James confronts in Chapter 2, what is the gist of his arguments?

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Paul was the disciple and discipler par excellence. While his and our perfect example is the Messiah, and we are commanded to "walk as He walked" (1 John 2:6) Christ was sinless and we are not. 

Because Paul had a sinful nature just as we do, and for several other important reasons, Paul understood the outworkings of the high calling as no one else did. Therefore Paul could make this astounding declaration "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

The primary aspect of being a disciple is in inward preparation which will never end.

The secondary aspect of being a disciple is to be a discipler; it is a call to invest our lives in only a few others. 

Jesus had the twelve but interestingly, He invested His life more in three out of the twelve. The beneficial outcome was clearly evident to the Church and Paul who wrote: "James and Peter and John, who were reputed to be pillars" Galatians 2:9.

Paul focused on Timothy, Barnabas, Silvanus, and a few others because of his travels; Sosthenes and Titus among others. His disciples were encouraged to do the same (2 Timothy 2:2).

So we would not think that walking with Christ gave an advantage to James and Peter and John that we could never have, thus giving them an advantage over us, God chose Paul the rebel with the gospels as a background, to show us that the same result could be possible for us today. The Holy Spirit gave us a clear view of the life, the thoughts, and the ways of Paul and thus provide us with a pattern to live by. There is much to say about all of this of course.

"Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Beginning with us individually first, and as the second coming is approaching, God is calling us back to basics as He restore the Church He had after the resurrection; both in its theology (Jude 3) and in its function. "And that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time" Acts 3:20-21.

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By Allen White

The American church is off-mission.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

That may seem like a ridiculous statement considering the number of growing megachurches and multisite churches around the country. How could the church be off-mission with record crowds? Well, let’s go back and look at the church’s mission statement:

Jesus said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).

Regardless of how churches can rephrase and reframe their mission statements, this is the mission: to go and make disciples. The church is not called to make converts. In fact, to lead people in a prayer without offering them a pathway and companions for the journey is irresponsible. The church is not called to make leaders. In Jesus’ view, the first would be the least. This doesn’t sound like western leadership. It sounds like discipleship. The church is not called to make volunteers to staff the weekend services. In fact, to reduce the ministry of the church body to guest service roles is an affront to the New Testament church. The church is not called to draw crowds. The church is not called to build buildings. The church is not called to make money. We are called to make disciples.

But, how can megachurches or any church for that matter make disciples?

Disciples Aren’t Processed. They’re crafted.

Many churches attempt to convert their crowd into some form of discipleship through an assimilation process. Take this class. Make this commitment. Sign this card. Yet an assembly line process doesn’t work with people. They aren’t raw materials. They don’t all start from the same place.

Who are you the most like? What is your default? While we would all like to say, “Jesus,” the reality is that you and I are more like our parents than any other people on the planet. We think like them. We talk like them. We parent like them. We relate like them. Our habits are like them. Their example is ingrained in us. Some of us had great parents. Some of us had loving parents who did their best. Some of us had parents who were complete nightmares. Regardless of what type of parents we had, what’s ingrained in us is difficult to overcome. Even the example of the best parents can be improved upon. No one’s parents are perfect.

Then, in addition to parents, we can add experiences, tragedies, pain, addictions, suffering, career paths, relationships, and so many other things that shape our lives. Discipleship is not making widgets on an assembly line. Widgets are made from pure, raw materials. Disciples are made from broken and sinful people who long for transformation. But, it doesn’t disappear all at once. As Pete Scazzero says, “Jesus may be in our hearts, but grandpa is in our bones.”

Processes are inadequate to make disciples, yet how many churches have an assimilation process, department, or even pastor of assimilation for that exact purpose? In college I had a double major in biblical studies and missions. What I learned in cross-cultural communication and anthropology is that assimilation is the process of helping people adapt to a new culture. They take on the language, the customs, the mannerism, and the wardrobe of their adopted culture. Once they look like, talk like, and act like the new culture, they are regarded as being assimilated. So if we are assimilating non-church people into becoming part of the church, we are teaching them how to look like, talk like, and act like people who belong to the church. What is lacking is actual life transformation. Mimicking actions, language, and appearance does not make a disciple. It makes a cultural Christian and that’s a lot to live up to. Disciples make disciples, but not in mass quantity.

And while we’re at it, stop using the V word: volunteer. Churches should not have volunteers. The church, meaning the people or the body of Christ, have been equipped with spiritual gifts, abilities, and passions to fulfill a divine calling. By reducing the focus to serving and helps, a church is effectively ignoring about 20 other spiritual gifts. The “real” ministry is reserved for paid staff members. This flies in the face of what Paul taught the Corinthians, the Romans, and the Ephesians about the nature and use of spiritual gifts. Paul admonishes the church that no one part of the body can say to the other “I do not need you,” but that’s exactly what the American church is saying today. The attractional movement told people to sit back, relax, and leave the driving to us. That was Greyhound’s slogan. When was the last time you took the bus?

People are reluctant to get involved because the opportunities churches offer them are beneath them. That doesn’t mean that they’re too good to serve. It just means that the only opportunities most churches offer to their people are menial tasks that feed the demands of the weekend service. When CEOs are handing out bulletins and entrepreneurs are parking cars, this is a great misuse of their gifts and talents. They have so much more to offer.

Processes are inadequate for making disciples. Any mass approach to discipleship is a failure. Assimilation doesn’t make disciples. Worship services don’t make disciples. Sermons don’t make disciples. As Mike Breen says, “People learn by imitation, not instruction.” Yet, most churches attempt a programmatic process of making disciples that does little to help people overcome the powerful models they’ve come to imitate. People can be very inspired by sermons, yet within a day they resort to their default behavior. The only way to help people change and grow is to provide personal encouragement and accountability, and of course, all of this is built on the expectation that every member should apply God’s Word to his or her life. If the expectation is for people to come back next Sunday, then we’ve missed an opportunity and are relying on the weekend service to have a greater impact than it possibly can.

Disciples are crafted, not processed. After all, it takes a disciple to make a disciple.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great among other titles, coined this term for when success organizations set out to achieve ridiculous levels of growth. They didn’t settle for being stalled or accepting mediocre, incremental growth. They went for it.

Jesus spent three and a half years of His life pouring into 12 men. The impact of these disciples is still felt 2,000 years later around the globe and involves over 2 billion people. Jesus set the BHAG in Acts 1:8. Propelled more by persecution than ambition (Acts 8:1), the disciples spread a movement worldwide to transform lives.

How can you activate your disciples when most are intimidated by the thought of evangelism and distracted by the busyness of life? Groups could be the answer. You could argue that many people don’t have the time or the desire to lead a group. Some don’t even believe they can. I think we’re going at this all wrong.

Jesus didn’t call us to make leaders. Jesus called us to make disciples. And, disciples make disciples. Do you get it? You don’t need to recruit leaders to lead groups to make disciples. You could, but you don’t have to. You need to equip disciples to make disciples. Who in your church couldn’t be a disciple?

Often in the church today, we embrace the definition of disciple as “follower” or “student” when in reality we’re just working hard to increase the size of the crowd. The crowd are not disciples, if they were, they would be making disciples. In Jesus’ ministry, He spent 73% of his time with His disciples. Jesus could have easily built a megachurch, but He spent very little time with the crowd. The modern American church has flipped Jesus’ ministry on its head. Most churches choose to rapidly add people rather than invest in multiplication. This has a diminishing return.

A Disciple-Making Moonshot

So now that I’ve poked at the church and pointed out what’s broken, let’s fix it. Rather than putting our energy into mass efforts of corralling the most people we possibly can at the fastest rate, let’s focus on the 1/3 of your congregation who has enough of a spiritual basis they could each disciple two other people. Who would be on that list? Church members? Leaders? Long-time members? Then, with the church’s guidance, curriculum, and coaching, you could equip these disciples to make disciples. If the church can get 1/3 of its people to disciple the other 2/3, then you’re making some significant progress. You don’t need to do this all at once, but you certainly could. And, it’s doesn’t need to be just groups of three. You could use church-wide campaigns and host homes to get them started, but don’t leave them there. Or challenge people to get together with their friends and do a study. The bottom line is to stop intimidating people with the thoughts of leadership and evangelism and challenge them to offer what God has given them in community with other believers. What they lack, they can learn from a coach, a resource, or relevant training.

We measure what is important. When you think about the metrics used by most churches, they count nickels and noses. Maybe they count the number of groups or the number of people in groups. Maybe they count the number of people who are serving. But what if churches focused on a new metric? This metric would dynamically impact all of the other metrics. What if the measurement of success became the number of people actively discipling other people? It could be a person discipling two other people as I described above. Or it could be a person discipling eight other people. And of course the intention of all of this discipling is to produce more disciples who make disciples.

What Kind of Church is Yours?

Not all pastors and churches are doing a bad job at making disciples. But, not very many are doing a good job either. Pastors and churches fit into one of four categories when it comes to making disciples:

Content: These pastors and churches are happy with what they have. Often discipleship and small group pastors in these churches are content with the groups and discipleship efforts they have because they have met the expectations of their leadership. They are satisfied with a good job that’s keeping them from achieving a great job at discipleship.

Confused: These churches and pastors believe they are making a greater impact with discipleship than they actually are. Often these churches are led by brilliant teachers who can captivate an audience. The thought is if the pastor gives the people more of the truth, then they will learn and become more like Christ. This is a result of the Enlightenment. Knowledge is king. But, we must remember that “Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1, NIV). How many people know a great deal of God’s Word, yet it’s not reflected in their actions and attitudes? Great teaching alone won’t overcome the average person’s default which was established by imitating their parents and other role models. They need the support and accountability of others to apply God’s Word to their lives. One service or series won’t dramatically change someone’s daily habits. In fact, a call to change without the means to change will lead to tremendous frustration.

Frustrated: These pastors are trying to make disciples in a church that doesn’t support their efforts. Make disciples anyway. These churches have a spiritual growth/discipleship/assimilation/small groups department for the minimum purpose of preventing members from complaining about a lack of discipleship. When someone asks what the church is doing to help people grow or to go deeper, these pastors and churches just need to point to the department. If you are a pastor who’s discipleship efforts or small group ministry as been relegated to a complaint department for unchallenged members, you have my sympathy. In your church, the weekend service is king. But, in your circumstance, you can still make disciples who make disciples despite the limitations.

Disciple-making: These pastors and churches are making disciples who make disciples. They use worship services and sermons to catalyze commitments that lead to next steps in discipleship groups, support groups, or whatever next steps people need in their spiritual walk. In every worship service, every event, every church initiative, these churches provide an opportunity for people to take the next step of working through issues, applying God’s Word to their lives, finding their unique calling as part of the body of Christ, overcoming sin and addiction, and so many other things. A worship service alone will not resolve these things, but it can motivate people to take their next step. People need someone to disciple them. Disciples make disciples.

Which church are you? Isn’t it time to stop striving to become the megachurch you will never be? Isn’t it time to come to grips with the fact that bigger is only better as long as the church stays on-mission to make disciples? The alternative is wearing yourself out trying to raise money, build buildings, market strategically, and recruit volunteers to maintain a large weekend gathering that doesn’t make disciples in and of itself. Then you wonder why you don’t have any energy to fulfill the church’s calling to make disciples. If your church’s focus is not on making disciples, then what are you making?

This is why I am calling churches to the 100 Groups Challenge in 2020. We have got to make up for this deficit of discipleship in our churches. We need to give 100% effort to either connecting 100% of the weekend attendance into groups, reaching 100 total groups in your church, or starting 100 new groups in 2020.

If you are ready to go for it and join the 100 Groups Challenge, you can find out more here. There is no cost. My goal is to help 100 churches start 100 groups in 2020 and effectively disciple 100,000 people. Over the last eight years, I’ve helped churches to start over 16,000 groups and connect over 125,000 people into groups. My BHAG is to do the same in 1 year! Will you join me?

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Why #Reimagine?

To reimagine is not to change what we believe but how we think.

If we are unable to differentiate between our beliefs (theology, doctrines) and thoughts (ideas, applications, systems, best practices), then we will ultimately be unable to defend our values and discern the foundations of social change and political preferences.

To reimagine, is to rethink, review and revise, prompted by a Holy Spirit revealed fresh-for-our-times application of the unchanging truth of Scripture. We  are blessed by and greatly benefit from but are not bound by tradition. 

To reimagine is not to rely on human imaginations; just the opposite, it is a yielding to the revelation of the Holy Spirit that infuses human thinking with the mind of Christ which allows us to know the will of our Holy God. A  unique application to our times and our trials. 

To reimagine, individuals – cohort groups - congregations – collaborations, must employ the gifts of the Holy Spirit (especially prayer) and the resource of scripture.

To refuse to reimagine, is actually an act of disobedience, because we are commanded to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we ( individually and corporately) demonstrate God's will is good for all. So that means  our leadership and ministries,  not just our personal moral life  must be transformed: our disciple making, prayer, evangelism, church itself…

We should expect the renewing of our mind, a reimagination led by the Spirit, to result in great works for a great God.

Take faith! #Reimagine

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Live a Life of Distinction

Larry (not his real name) lived across the street during high school. We played on the golf team together, but Larry was a much better golfer. After I trusted Christ, I share the good news with Larry. He called me soon afterward and said, “Mark, I placed my faith in Christ and am so excited. Can I see you?”

I couldn’t wait to see Larry. I lived off campus. Larry knocked on my door, and we talked awhile. “Let’s go to a park and share our faith,” Larry said. “Sounds like a great idea,” I said.

Larry and his father were very close. A few weeks later, Larry called me. “I shared the gospel with my father and he said I’m too fanatical about my faith. Our family doesn’t believe like that. I don’t want my father mad at me!” That’s the last time I heard from Larry. 

Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton wrote in their book, Soul Searching, that many people live what they call, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Faith is reduced to rules for a happy life, religion is a self-help tool, and God is a removed and distant being. This religion won’t offend anyone.  

How can we live a life of distinction so we stay consistent in the midst of persecution while drawing non-believers to Christ?

  1. Exploit God-provided situations

One of the Pharisee leaders watched Jesus closely when He asked, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" Jesus healed a man suffering from dropsy. He reasoned that you would pull a son or ox out of a well on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6). Minister to needs that come across your path.

  1. Humble yourself

Jesus spoke a parable to invited guests after noticing they picked places of honor at the table. Instead, He told them to sit in the last place so the master may say, 'Friend, move up higher', resulting in honor instead of disgrace. "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:7-11). Humble yourself to be exalted.  

  1. Spend time with the needy

Jesus told the host not to invite his friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors, lest they invite him in return. When giving a reception, invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to be blessed since they can’t repay. Wait for payment at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:12-14). Spend time with the poor, crippled, lame and blind.

  1. Leave your comfort zone

Jesus shared another parable about a man who invited many to a big dinner. They made various excuses why they couldn't come: oversaw a piece of land, tried out five yoke of oxen, and married a wife. The master told his slave to go immediately into the streets and bring in the poor, crippled, blind and lame. After finding there was still room, the master said to "go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." None invited shall taste of His dinner (Luke 14:15-24). Leave your comfort zone so the poor, crippled, blind and lame can experience a personal relationship with Christ

  1. Make Christ your first love

To be a disciple, one’s love for Christ is like hate for family and his own life. Being a disciple involves carrying a cross. Count the cost to become a disciple like building a tower or being strong enough to win in battle. Put possessions in proper perspective. Not paying the price of discipleship results in being tasteless and ineffective (Luke 14:25-35). Make Christ your first love in order to influence others.

Action Steps:

  1. Do I minister to needs that come across my path or walk on the other side to avoid them? 
  2. Am I humble not expecting attention or exalt myself to feel important?
  3. Do I spend time with the poor, crippled, blind and lame (either physically or spiritually) or only hang out with important and beautiful people?
  4. Do I leave my comfort zone to help the poor, crippled, blind and lame experience a personal relationship with God or hide away at home, in my office or church building?
  5. Do I pay the price in loving Christ more than other things or love other things more than Christ?

I will repent of my sin, ask God to change my heart, and obey Him doing what’s listed first in each question. 

Sync with God app (still being built): www.syncwithgod.com
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The Myth of Indispensability

It’s humbling to discover you’re not indispensable. This unpleasant experience happened to me a few months ago when I had to go on medical leave from work.

The whole thing was unimaginable. Within days I went from having a full-time job I loved to no longer even having a workable scan key to get me into the building.

Most humbling of all was having to encounter the painful Myth of Indispensability. Put simply, this myth says people can’t survive without us. We’re irreplaceable and thus have unlimited job security.

To be honest, it feels good to think you’re indispensable. You feel like a person of exceptional importance, with skills no one else possesses. What an ego trip.

However, humbling as it has been, I discovered in recent months that the world at Inspiration Ministries was quite capable of going on without me. To my deep regret, the suddenness of my departure certainly made things much more difficult for everyone, but they rose to the occasion and life went on.

Is anyone truly indispensable? Perhaps you’re somewhat irreplaceable in your role as a spouse, parent, or grandparent. But in just about any other setting someone else could take your place.

Some of us predicted the quick demise of the Apple brand after the untimely death of Steve Jobs in 2011. But although they lost a great innovator when Steve died, they somehow are doing quite well without him.

Throughout the Bible, we see the Myth of Indispensability confronted…

  • How could anyone replace an amazing leader like Moses? Yet the Israelites’ leadership passed into the hands of Moses’ 40-year understudy, Joshua. Although Joshua must have experienced considerable trepidation at his new assignment, he was encouraged by the Lord to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:1-9). The result? Joshua took God’s people further into their destiny than Moses has been able to do.
  • Elijah seemed like a unique and totally irreplaceable prophetic voice. “I alone am left,” he grumbled to God (1 Kings 19:10). Yet the Lord told him to quit complaining and go train his replacement, Elisha (v. 16). Not only did Elisha perform many of the same miracles as Elijah, but Bible scholars point out that he seems to have done twice as many as his mentor!
  • Queen Esther appeared to be the only person with even a small chance of defeating Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jewish people. Yet Esther’s cousin Mordecai told her something incredible: “If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place” (Esther 4:14). Even Queen Esther was replaceable in fulfilling the purposes of God. If she wasn’t willing to step up to the occasion, Mordecai was confident the Lord would find someone else.

The Indispensability of Jesus

Far beyond these other examples, Jesus provided us with the most stunning example of the Myth of Indispensability. On the one hand, He’s the only Person in the universe who truly IS indispensable. His disciples came to understand this, so they must have been shocked and dismayed when He assured them that it would be to their advantage when He no longer walked with them in His physical body (John 16:7).

While the disciples must have wondered how they would even survive Jesus’ physical departure, He told them they would actually thrive. They would do the same works He had done when He was with them…and even greater works (John 14:12).

You see, Jesus was the kind of leader who recognizes the folly of the Myth of Indispensability. He easily could have told His disheartened disciples, “Guys, you clearly suck at this leadership stuff, and things are bound to fall apart after I’m gone.”

Instead, Jesus said just the opposite. He assured them they would receive such great power from the Holy Spirit that they would be able to extend His kingdom far beyond Jerusalem and Judea…to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Notice the stark contrast: Insecure leaders, like King Saul, try to hold on to the reigns of power rather than invest themselves in the next generation. Exceptional leaders, like Jesus, confront the Myth of Indispensability by freely dispensing their lives into the lives of others.

If we are truly “indispensable” in our leadership role, something is clearly wrong. It’s a clear indication that, over the course of months or years, we’ve failed to dispense ourselves into those who are called to carry the leadership baton into the future.

But we’ve all seen churches that end up shutting down after the founding pastor dies or must leave his post for some other reason. And countless businesses have to be sold or shut down when the original owner can no longer provide leadership. How sad. Success without a successor often ends in failure.

So what lessons can we learn when forced to admit we’re not as indispensable as we thought? Painful as this experience is, it’s also amazingly liberating. It leads to an acknowledgement that the government of the universe doesn’t rest on our shoulders, but on the Lord’s (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Facing our limitations and vulnerabilities will also help us focus on the Biblical mandate to train our replacement. We’ll be challenged to greater intentionality in dispensing our lives into the lives of others in the months and years ahead.

When the Myth of Indispensability is shattered in your life, it can feel pretty traumatic. I picture it like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the curtain is pulled back on the “great and powerful Oz.” How embarrassing…

But it’s time to come out from behind the curtain, acknowledging our dispensability and our need for others. Instead of trying to impress people with our own importance, we can transform lives by helping people unleash their own remarkable potential.

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The Sentence of Death?

As most of my closest friends already know, doctors have recently diagnosed me with cancer. Unbelievable. I certainly never thought it would happen to me.

Although this is supposedly a highly “treatable” form of cancer, that’s not particularly comforting. In the old days, cancer was virtually a death sentence, which has caused me to reflect on some insightful words from the apostle Paul:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV).

Paul wasn’t dealing with a cancer diagnosis at the time, yet his overwhelming circumstances and tribulations felt like “the sentence of death.” While Paul would write elsewhere of God’s faithfulness in providing a way of escape during times of trouble or temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), here he admitted that the trials seemed “far beyond our ability to endure.”

You see, cancer isn’t the only circumstance that can feel like a death sentence. In Paul’s case, he encountered severe persecution and countless other hardships (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). For you, the problem may be a job loss, insurmountable financial pressures, divorce, or addiction in your family.

I’m really glad Paul honestly shared about his tumultuous circumstances and inner turmoil. It’s somehow comforting to know that the mighty apostle – God’s man of faith and power – had his own dark days. Yes, Paul knew how to pray, but sometimes he experienced the Lord’s sustaining grace despite a “thorn in the flesh” that refused to immediately go away (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Thankfully, Paul learned an incredible lesson amid his apparent death sentence: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

What a great message for us when we encounter overwhelming challenges in life. The purpose of our trials is to teach us to rely upon the Lord instead of upon our own strength and ingenuity. Even if it seems we’ve been given “the sentence of death,” we have nothing to fear: Our God even raises the dead!

No matter what you might be facing today, I hope you experience the joy of knowing you have nothing to fear. How liberating!

In my situation, I know there’s a Name far above the name of cancer (Ephesians 1:19-21). For that reason, I have no need to fear cancer, chemo, or even death itself (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Actually, since the days of Adam and Eve, all of humanity has been under a death sentence – it’s just a matter of time (Hebrews 9:27). However, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:53-57). As believers, we know a day will come when we’ll be “absent from the body.” But that’s okay, Paul says. When that day comes, we’ll be “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Like the three Hebrew young men who faced the prospect of a fiery furnace, I’m confident that “the God we serve is able to deliver” (Daniel 3:17-18). Isn’t that good news?

Paul’s conclusion ended up being remarkably similar:

[God] has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:10-11).

Paul’s confidence of victory over his present and future trials was partly based on how God had faithfully rescued him in the past. Can you relate? If the Lord has helped you overcome some previous “death sentence,” He can surely do it again.

It’s also beautiful to see Paul’s recognition that the prayers of his friends would play a huge role in His expected victory. In recent weeks, I’ve never had so many people praying for me – and I know they’ll share in my victory when it comes.

Although I don’t fully know what lies ahead for me on this health journey, I’m sure God will be with me every step of the way. And if you are passing through a dark, shadowy valley during your own journey today, let me assure you of His presence with you as well (Psalm 23:4).

The Bible warns that this life will not be trouble-free, even for believers (John 16:33). But although you may have to pass through deep waters or fiery trials at times, Isaiah 43:1-3 says to fear not!

Of course, the natural human response is to desire immediate deliverance from our difficult circumstances. That is certainly my preference as well. I know that God is a supernatural God, and He can change things in a mere moment.

However, in spite of my desire for speedy relief, I have an even greater desire that my journey will reflect the heart of Jesus. His soul was troubled as He neared the cross. But instead of praying for an escape plan, He said, “Father, glorify Your name!” (John 12:27-28).

May that always be our quest, for there is no greater victory.

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Vital Signs of Discipleship

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If you want to be my follower you must love me more than

your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters –

yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.

You cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me.

Count the cost. No one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me.

Luke 14:26-28a, 33 NLT

 

Sanctify your heart—consecrate your inner being to Me.

In grateful response to My mercy, love Me wholeheartedly.

Live passionately—prioritize My cause above earth’s trivial pursuits.

Live thoughtfully—ponder behavior, and reside in the moral highlands.

Live energetically—serve Me with all your strength and health.

Live creatively—allow Me to work through your unique personality.

Live loyally—make Me your Center of Gravity.

Live lovingly—adore Me with sincere affection nothing can kill.

 

Shoulder your cross—carry responsibilities willingly, without griping.

No difficulty or frustration begins to match the cross I carried for you.

Do not run from suffering—it is part of the landscape of obedience.

I endured excruciating pain for you—it is your turn to hang in there for Me.

There is only one way you can bear the cross I give you—grace.

Live unselfishly—put aside egocentric ambition and focus on others.

Live courageously—splinters from the cross should not surprise you.

Live nobly—follow my example; walk in My steps.

 

Surrender your life—count the cost of being My disciple.

Live for my glory—never seek your own.

Hold nothing back—renounce the idea of ownership.

Recognize My sovereignty—acknowledge that I rule and overrule all.

Be totally sincere in working for Me—take My business seriously.

Live humbly—do not be self-assertive; remember your place.

Live hopefully—practice downward mobility and I will promote you.

Live carefully—calculate the cost of obeying, and the higher cost of rebelling.

Live radically—give up everything for Me and finish the Faith Marathon.

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© 2013 Pastor Johnny R. Almond, Day 317 Gentle Whispers from Eternity

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Prayer Is Discipleship

9570811301?profile=originalThere are many methods that we can look to in order to develop a dynamic prayer life. But what if the best method isn't a method at all, but rather a viewpoint?

What if the best way to view prayerfully sitting before the Lord is to see it as one-on-one discipleship with Him - or as I like to call it; "The One-on-one discipleship"?

Reading through the Old Testament we get to read front-row accounts through centuries of Heroes of the Faith learning how to walk by faith not by sight before the Lord. At the beginning of that journey, Abram has no idea what's about to hit him when the Lord offers him the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17). Abraham's descendants struggle to maintain a pursuit of God that resembles that of their forefather. Centuries later again - Moses comes along at a crucial moment and proposes what had to have been just the most radical notion to them - to trust God to lead them from slavery to independent nationhood.

Again - a few centuries later and now God's chosen people are pitching God their own vision - they want a King. God warns them.

Does this remind you of how God introduces His vision for our lives to us - and then walks us through it? Sometimes we get what He's talking about right away. Sometimes we don't.

Discipleship is first and foremost what happens as God teaches us and reveals to us His heart as He answers this prayer with a resounding yes, says no to that one, and waits silently for us to lean in ever closer and closer to hear Him better on this other matter.

In the beginning when we're young and full of youthful certainty oh my do we love His yeses. But as we grow older, and hopefully much wiser - we learn to love all of His answers. They are all Him. They all reveal His tender-loving Father heart for us. They are all a part of His holy discipleship.

That's all! Thanks for reading. May the King of the Universe disciple you closer to His heart every day.

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An alarming report recently grabbed my attention:9570812857?profile=original

A seven-year study of the causes of death among teens in America observed that the top three causes of death were accidents, homicide, and suicide.* Almost half­ of those tragedies—about 68,000 deaths—were accidents, and most of those accidents—about 46,000—were by motor vehicle.

  Sit back for a moment and reflect with me. What led to those 131,000 deaths? Bad choices. The general principle: Bad choices take away life; wise choices add life.

  Those dramatic statistics help me focus on a vital priority in my “intentional grandparenting”: I need to help my grandchildren become wiser and wiser. They need to show in their attitudes and behavior that (1) they understand the consequences of their choices and (2) have the wisdom to choose well.

  My lead-off blog in this series about “intentional grandparenting” focused on the alarming message of Judges 2:10. It challenged us to engage intentionally in the ministry of “intergenerational discipling” by praying for—and influencing—each of our own grandchildren to begin their individual, redemptive relationship with God.

  Once they begin that relationship with Him, they need to nourish it by cultivating wisdom. God’s Word says much about living and choosing wisely. It is a lifelong commitment that builds on “fearing” the Lord (Proverbs 1:7) as a way of life.

  The Hebrew word in the Old Testament that is translated “wise” is used in various contexts. In the context of life in general, this word describes a person who is skillful and practical at living in harmony with God’s expectations. We find this word most often in the “wisdom literature”: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

  How does wisdom show in our grandkids? Proverbs 3, 4, and 5 show us that the proof of our grandchildren’s developing wisdom is their increasing knowledge, understanding, and ability to make the right choices at the right time and in the right way. Are they understanding and choosing wisely in a few situations, or in many situations? Their consistency in this is a measure of their developing maturity.

  What difference does wise living make? Its impact is significant:

  • A lifestyle of walking wisely is our highest offering of worship to God (Ephesians 4:1; 5:1-2; James 3:13, 17).
  • Walking wisely brings personal peace in relationships and situations, rather than anxiety and chaos (Proverbs 1:32-33; James 3:14-18).
  • Our wisdom is a witness to those living in darkness who watch us (Deuteronomy 4:6).
  • Walking wisely helps our children and grandchildren set an influential example as they teach their future children and grandchildren the wisdom of loving and walking in harmony with God (Deuteronomy 4:9).

  Loving Father in heaven, please help    (name of each grandchild)    to take another step forward in Your wisdom this month. Please open my eyes to a way that I can be an example for them and an encouragement to them along their journey into the wisdom of honoring You by choosing well. For Your glory and in Jesus’ name, amen.

 

© 2019 John Garmo

 

* NCHS data brief, no. 37. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2010.

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Panorama of Praise

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Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer and did not withdraw his unfailing love from me.

Psalm 66:20 NLT

 

I have not rejected your prayer—I have responded to you.

When you confess your wrongdoing, I cleanse your soul.

When you cry out in desperation, I pay attention to your pain.

When you plead for help, I do not turn a deaf ear.

Prayer is always a local call—wherever you are, I can hear you.

Praise Me for an audience with the King.

 

I have not restricted your praise—I have released you.

You do not have to hide your faith as a secret disciple—breathe free.

You do not have to stifle your joy—sing My praises for the entire world.

I have made you genuinely rich by giving you a contented mind.

Praise Me for invulnerable joy greater than any earthly happiness.

 

I have not refused your pleas—I have reinforced you.

My awesome miracles on your behalf irrefutably prove My love.

Enemies of your soul, including the evil one, cringe at My power.

Trust in Me—and trouble will not get you down.

Stay close to Me—and the prince of the world will not conquer you.

Praise Me for supernatural assistance.

 

I have not removed your problems—I have refined you.

Adversity is My University—trust Me and pass the tests of your faith.

Low points teach you lessons you would never learn any other way.

The fiery crucible purges filth—trying floodwaters remove debris.

I defend in guilt, comfort in sorrow, and encourage in frustration.

Praise Me for being your Travel Companion on rough roads.

 

I have not renounced My promises—I have redeemed you.

My Son became a Sacrificial Lamb to buy your freedom from sin.

I keep all My promises to you—I am the God of My Word.

With all my heart, I love you—love Me the same way.

Praise Me for the honor of serving the God of Truth and Love.

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 © Pastor Johnny R. Almond, Day 217 Gentle Whispers from Eternity

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From Church Culture to Mission Culture

Joe and Mary enter the church and talk to long-term friends. They get a cup of coffee and ask how Sarah how she’s enjoying their new house. Joe and Mary sit down in their familiar seats by the center aisle so they can leave quickly. They sing some songs, hear a message, and then go home.

A church culture has dominated a mission culture in many of our churches. Too many "Christians" are busy playing church instead of seeking the heart of Jesus. As a result, the church is declining in the US.  Jesus’ example and teaching
in Luke 5 helps us change a church culture to a mission culture.

  1. Obey Jesus’ word

After not catching any fish, Jesus asked Simon to let down his nets in deep water for a catch. By obeying His word, their nets broke with so many fish.  Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' feet saying he was sinful. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." They left everything and followed Him (Luke 5:1-11).  Obey  Jesus' word and admit sinfulness to bear fruit in evangelism.

  1. Pray for spiritual power

A leper was cured immediately when he saw Jesus and begged to be made clean. Jesus ordered him to see a priest and make an offering for his cleansing as Moses commanded and as a testimony. News spread as great multitudes gathered to hear Jesus and be healed of their sicknesses.  Often times, Jesus would slip away to pray alone (Luke 5:12-16).  Pray to provide power for physical and spiritual healing

  1. Show compassion for sinners

Because of the crowd, some men carrying a paralyzed man went up on the roof and let him down through tiles to set him in front of Jesus. So skeptical and condemning Pharisees would "know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins," the paralyzed man rose from his stretcher where he had been lying and went home, giving glory to God (Luke 5:17-26). Show compassion instead of condemning sinners.  

  1. Share a clear verbal witness

Jesus told a tax-gatherer named Levi to follow Him. He left everything behind and followed Him (Luke 5:27-28). Witness verbally and challenge people to follow Christ so they will repent.

  1. Socialize with those who need to know Jesus

After Levi invited other tax-gatherers and gave a big reception for Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes grumbled at His disciples saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax-gatherers and sinners?" Jesus answered that since the sick need a physician, He was calling sinners to repentance, not the righteous (Luke 5:29-32). Influence sinners by having meals and personal relationships. 

  1. Delight in God's presence

The religious leaders said John's and Pharisees' disciples fast and offer prayers, but "Yours eat and drink." Jesus answered that it was appropriate for his disciples not to fast since He, as the bridegroom, was present with them now and not later (Luke 5:33-35). Delight in God's presence and have fun relating with others

  1. Use new methods

One doesn't tear a piece from a new garment and put it on an old garment since it won't match the old. You also don't "put new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough'" (Luke 5:36-39). Use new methods for greater effectiveness in making disciples.

 

 To move from a church culture to a mission culture, I will do the following:

  1. Obey Jesus' word and admit sinfulness to bear fruit in evangelism  
  2. Pray for physical and spiritual healing
  3. Show compassion instead of condemning sinners
  4. Witness verbally and challenge people to follow Christ so they will repent
  5. Influence sinners by having meals and personal relationships
  6. Delight in God's presence and have fun relating with others
  7. Use new methods for greater effectiveness in making disciples

 

For more posts, go to www.markpomeroy.com

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And You Think YOU Have a Crazy Family Tree?

Father’s Day is a special time for families—but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy time. Like any holiday, Father’s Day can either be pleasant or painful, magical or mayhem. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on the heritage you’re leaving as a parent or grandparent, but that can be a cause for either celebration or concern.

Picture the family line of a good friend of mine. If the whole gang could somehow be brought together for a family reunion, I can only imagine the sparks that would fly.

  • One of my friend’s female ancestors slept with her father-in-law and bore him twin boys.
  • Another member of the family tree was a prostitute, known for being a very convincing liar.
  • The family line included someone from a despised ethnic group that had its origins in incest between a father and daughter.
  • Two ancestors were involved in an adulterous relationship, and the man ultimately killed his lover’s husband to keep the affair from being discovered.
  • Several ancestors had multiple wives, and others were known for worshiping idols.

And you think you have some crazies in your family lineage?! The good news is that God is able to redeem terrible situations like these and transform them with His amazing grace.

How do I know? Because the Friend I’m referring to is Jesus.

Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 reveals all of the sinful and dysfunctional ancestors I’ve described, and yet this was the human lineage of the Son of God. Instead of being able to boast of a spotless family lineage, the Bible describes our spotless Lord and Savior as “a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2).

So what does this mean for you and me? Several things:

  1. Experiencing and extending God’s grace. You need to experience God’s grace and then extend it to your imperfect, dysfunctional family members—just as you’re hopeful they will offer grace to cover your If the twisted members of Jesus’ family tree could find grace enough to become a part of His royal lineage, then surely there’s hope for your weird relatives as well.
  2. No more blame-shifting. It’s time to quit blaming others and making excuses for our past. Sure, your family upbringing may have been a mess. But God stands ready to turn your MESS into your MESSAGE—if you’ll let Him. Through divine intervention, your family tree can undergo a new beginning today. You don’t have to fall into the same old sins and strongholds of your earthly heritage, because you’ve been redeemed from the futile way of life inherited from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). In Christ, you’re a new creation, no matter who your earthly ancestors were (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  3. Facing the facts. If I were writing the book of Matthew, I would have been tempted to doctor the records and “sanitize” Jesus’ family tree. Couldn’t Matthew have just listed all the success stories and none of the embarrassments of Jesus’ ancestors? Yet the beauty of the gospel is that it transforms sinners—people like you and me. If people were already perfect, they wouldn’t need to be transformed. So the next time you wish you could erase some names from your family tree, think again. Face the truth, and let it set you free (John 8:32).

During this special holiday, perhaps you’ll experience some regrets or face some things that deserve repentance. Yet as you allow God’s grace and mercy to fill your heart, you will be able to see your heritage in a new light, celebrating your family lineage more wholeheartedly than ever before.

Armed with this new grace-inspired vision, I pray the Lord will use you to bring hope and healing to those around you who need it most.

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God has no grandchildren.9570812857?profile=original

Reading through the Old Testament book of Judges recently, a sentence jumped off the page and jabbed at my heart: After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel (Judges 2:10 HCSB).

 

Really?! How could this happen to people whose parents and grandparents had “worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua,” and who had seen all that the Lord had done for them (Judges 2:7)? And what were the consequences?

 

The answer to that last question comes clearly and dearly in the next four paragraphs of Judges 2: They abandoned the Lord. They embraced idols. Their loving but justifiably angry God disciplined them through defeat by neighboring nations. Their hearts turned toward Him only when they were under duress. Whenever He intervened and relieved their stress, their hearts returned to their rebellious ways.

 

The answer to the first question, apparently, is that very little intergenerational disciple-making happened within those families — or it was very poorly done.

 

I thought about our grandchildren. Will they grow up not knowing the Lord or the works He has done for us, his chosen people (1 Peter 2:9)?

 

Not on our watch,” my wife and I declared. Although their parents are a primary influence on our grandchildren, we as grandparents are a strong secondary influence on them in such matters.

 

This blog series outlines key steps that we, and other kindred spirits, are taking to become even more intentional about our spiritual legacy — our impact — as grandparents. We’ll focus on clear understandings, firm convictions, strategic tools in our grandparenting treasure chest, and fruitful outcomes. Let’s begin . . .

 

Our commitment to intentional grandparenting is founded on certain rock-solid realities. Our convictions drive our values, and our values drive our attitudes and behaviors. That so, here is one basic conviction (of several) that wise grandparents embrace:

It’s true: God has no grandchildren.

 

In Judges and throughout the Bible, we see that a person’s relationship with God is not “grandfathered” through someone else’s relationship. We may have a relationship with God that is similar to that of an ancestor or mentor—but our relationship with Him comes directly and only through God the Son.

 

“So what?” you may ask. One implication of this for grandparents is that we need to recognize that relationship as spiritual priority #1 for each grandchild. We need to pray for their saving and growing relationship with God. Then we need to enable or support it appropriately.

 

Questions for discussion or journaling:

  1. In my situation, what are one or two appropriate ways to enable or support their relationship with God?
  2. In my situation, what are one or two inappropriate or risky ways to enable or support their relationship with God?

 

O Father in heaven, please bring each of my grandchildren into a saving and growing relationship with You. Help me to enable that and to encourage them in appropriate ways that You ordain. In Jesus’s name and for Your glory in and through them, amen.

 

© 2019 John Garmo

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Fulfilling Your Purpose

Recently I woke up thinking about an intriguing phrase in Paul’s statement to the Colossians:

27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Colossians 1:27-29 NASB).

Wow. Paul knew what his purpose in life was! He realized he had a mission to proclaim Christ and make disciples, and he also recognized that God’s mighty power within him was enabling him to fulfill that mission.

So what is YOUR mission and MY mission? Do we have a clear grasp on the answer to that question?

Of course, to some extent our mission should be exactly the same as Paul’s – the Great Commission given to every Christian. However, in other ways, our purpose is a unique and personalized calling the Lord has given us. For example, Paul and Peter were contemporaries and both were apostles. Yet they didn’t have exactly the same calling and focus.

A few more thoughts…

  • Paul said he had been given a “high calling” and “upward call of God” (Philippians 3:14). In the same way, we should recognized that we’re called to go HIGHER! We must resist the temptation to settle for a LOW or substandard Christian life.

 

  • Acts 13:36 says David “served the purpose of God in his own generation.” That should be our objective too! In each generation, God has certain things that are particularly on His heart. Do we know what He desires to do in this generation?

 

  • For each of us, there are SEASONS for how God’s calling is being walked out in our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Ecclesiastes 8:5). For example, when we’re raising young children we must inevitably give that responsibility a great deal of our time and attention.

So…

I encourage you to prayerfully write a personalized mission statement like Paul did, ending with his conclusion: “for this purpose I labor.”

Psalm 84:5 promises, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.”

Blessings to you on the pilgrimage to your high calling!

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All You Need Is Love?

If, as the Beatles say, all you need is love and if, as the scripture says, God is love, is it possible to have authentic,  transforming, forgiving empowering, love without a relationship with God?

If you say you believe in God, you cannot not have love as your motivation and message in everything you say and do.

If you truly believe that all you need is love, and there truly is a God who is love, you cannot say a relationship with that God is optional.

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Sermons Don't Make Disciples

Sermons do a lot of things, but sermons don’t make disciples.

Here’s the dilemma: the church’s mission is to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20). If sermons don’t make disciples, then how does the church fulfill its mission? If sermons don’t directly fulfill the church’s mission, then why is so much emphasis placed on the weekend worship service and the sermon?

What Do Sermons Do?

I’m a preacher. I have nothing against preaching. I take exception, however, in depending on preaching to accomplish what it cannot accomplish.

Sermons serve to inspire, inform, and motivate. People can come to Christ as a result of responding to a pastor proclaiming the Word of Truth. Preachers are brokers in hope. They can help people reframe their lives from a context of frustration and despair to embrace hope and God’s love. Sermons anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit are dynamic things that can make an impact. Yet, sermons don’t make disciples.

If discipleship was a uniform process or the mastery of a body of knowledge, then the information delivered in a sermon would certainly add to knowledge acquisition. But, that’s not what discipleship is. Disciples aren’t processed. They’re crafted.

How Do You Make Disciples?

Disciples make disciples. While much of Western Christianity has depended on the definition of a disciple as a student, then placed the student in a class and delivered thorough teaching, it has ended up with very educated, yet disobedient students. Here’s the proof: what they know is not adequately reflected in their attitudes and actions. I’m not building a case for perfectionism. But, I am a believer in the principle that what people truly believe is reflected in what they do. Or, put another way, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).

Now, I realize that some at this point will wonder if I am advocating some works-based approach to Christianity. This is where I’m going: if church-goers have no desire for the things of God, then I would question whether they truly belong to God. As Paul writes to the Philippians, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). We don’t work for our salvation, but we work out our salvation because God is working in us.

If disciples aren’t merely students, then what are they? The word “disciple” is derived from several different words including follow and “to rub off on.” The model Jesus gave us was to spend 75 percent of His time with His disciples and 25 percent with the crowd. How much time is spent on the sermon? How much time is spent making disciples?

Why did Jesus spend such a disproportionate amount of time with a small group of people? Jesus knew how we learn. People learn by imitation, not instruction.

Who has been the most powerful influence in your life? For most people, they would say their parents. You act more like your parents than anyone else. After all, you could read a dozen books written by experts in marriage, yet your default is a marriage that more closely resembles your parents’ marriage than anything presented by the experts. (Depressing thought, huh?) Change requires intentional effort, committed support, and better models to imitate.

Paul challenged his followers to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:9). Imitation requires transparency. Imitation requires time and attention. Disciples make disciples.

Why is the Sermon so Important Then?

Sermons can start something. A presentation of the Gospel can help someone start their relationship with Christ and their journey of discipleship. The sermon can lead a congregation to love their neighbors, to focus on the majesty of God, and to hold on to hope. But, the result of a sermon is not another sermon. The result of a sermon is a next step – make a decision, join a group, lead a mission, serve your neighbor, pray…you get it.

This is why I’m a big believer in alignment series and groups that help church-goers take their weekends into their weeks. The sermon can deliver a challenge, and the group can provide the support and accountability necessary to meet the challenge. The sermon by itself, however, is forgotten usually within 48 hours. If they can’t remember it, how are they supposed to do it? Groups help with this.

On any given weekend, pastors have the opportunity to lead a large portion of their congregations to take a step. The weekend service is the largest things a church does in any given week, but it’s not the most important thing they do. After all, sermons don’t make disciples. Disciples make disciples.

For most pastors, whether their churches are 100 people, 1,000 people, or 10,000+ people, would view the sheer scale of disciples making disciples as completely daunting. The key is to start small and multiply. Jesus invested in 12 disciples which multiplied over 2,000 years into some 2 billion people. If pastors invested in just eight people, and then those disciples made disciples within four years the church would have 4,096 disciples making disciples (8x8x8x8). Without disciples making disciples, pastors have audiences for their sermons.

Concluding Thoughts

Back in college a speaker challenged us to think about 5 sermons that influenced our lives for Christ. To be honest, most of us couldn’t come up with one – not even the sermon from last Sunday. Then, the speaker asked us to name 5 people who had influenced us for Christ. Those names immediately came to mind.

The key to discipleship is not a process or a proclamation. The key to discipleship is a disciple.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Allen White helps Take the Guesswork Out of Groups. We offer books, online courses, coaching groups, and consulting.

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The Path of Blessing

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You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

John 13:17 NLT

 

Reverence My path of authority—know and understand that I am Lord.

     My Father gave Me dominion over everything—I am Sovereign over all.

          I Am Who I Am—I Will Always Be Who I Have Always Been.

          I am Alpha and Omega, God’s Holy Alphabet—First Light, Last Word.

          To receive My blessing of peace, surrender to My absolute control.

     I came down from heaven to save the world—I am the Son of God.      

          I have always loved you and I always will—there is no greater comfort. 

          I am the Way to Truth of Life—the key to reality, wisdom, and eternity.

          To receive My blessing of optimism, believe I am who I say I am. 

 

Walk My path of action—practice daily the way of Life I teach you.

     I condescended to become a human being—and to live as a servant.

          Earthlings are intent on upward mobility—I model downward mobility. 

          The way up is down—Servant Path winds through neighborhood pain. 

          I went around doing good, so be careful that you do not just go around.

          Christianity is made for the road, not just for the church building.

          To receive My blessing of friendship, obey Me unquestioningly.

     I change you from inside out into My holy image—sanctifying your life

          Focus more on holiness than hygiene; value character above reputation.   

          Let Me wash your hands—let everything you do in your body honor Me.

          Let Me wash your head—let all you think with your mind please Me.

          Let Me wash your feet—let everywhere you go bless your soul.

          Stay on the path of everlasting life—avoid self-destructive detours.

          I give you a clear conscience, a joyful melody, and a buoyant step. 

          To receive My blessing of purity, plead for mercy and count on My love. 

 

Follow My path of affection—demonstrate to the world that I am Love. 

     By example I have shown you to be sympathetic

          The law to love equally is old—the order to love sacrificially is new.

          Loving neighbors is Old Testament—loving saints is New Testament. 

          Cry tears with the brokenhearted—let your heart care like I do.

          I proved My love on Skull Hill; now prove yours wherever you live.       

          To receive My blessing of fulfillment, learn to really care for others.

     Love people in My church—give the world a sign you are My disciple. 

          Don’t say you love the invisible God, if you don’t love visible humans. 

          The mark of genuine discipleship is love for those who walk in My steps.  

          To receive My blessing of purpose, help those walking the way with you. 

 

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© Pastor Johnny R. Almond;  Gentle Whispers from Eternity

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