Holy Spirit

GMO-Free Community (part 2)

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon

My parents are gardeners. Growing up I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I vividly remember the juicy taste of tomatoes and strawberries.

Yet, I remember the outward appearance of these naturally grown fruits was always different.

Organic community is both consistent and diverse.

What is the seed of organic community?

In the previous post I said organic community must have a raw and organic beginning, similar to how organic fruit or vegetables start with non-GMO seed. God is the original seed of community.

In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz states,

God’s triune nature means that God is social or relational— God is the “social Trinity.” And for this reason, we can say that God is “community.” God is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who enjoy perfect and eternal fellowship.

From the very beginning God reveals that his way of life is not singular but plural. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Genesis 1:26).

God is the consistency and we are the diversity of community.

The organic community of the early church

Looking at the birth of the early church, we see evidence of organic community.

In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus came together with expectation. Imagine the emotions in the room!

Jesus left them with no formula but a simple command to wait for the promise of the Father,

“which you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4).

Many times we desire a formula on how to create community. We want to be told how to muster up results. Organic community is the opposite of that.

There are no formulas because the organic seed is God who is a relational being.

Diversity is the basis for organic community

God loves diversity. Organic community reflects the diverse and creative nature of God.

When the Holy Spirit encounters the disciples in the upper room, the result is not identical tongues (languages). The result isn’t a call for uniformity.

The result is a diversity of tongues (languages) calling together a diverse crowd of people. In Acts 2:9-11, the author mentions sixteen different regional locations.

Diversity was welcomed in the early church.

What shall we do?

Throw out your formulaic approach to community.

I've been training my mind to think differently about community. I avoid saying I want to create community, and replace that with, I want to nurture and foster community.

Embrace a relational view of community.

God is a relational being working within humanity. He is the creator of community because he is community. Community will always look different from the outside but will feel the same on the inside.

I encourage you to simply ask God what He is creating around you.

Are there dear relationships in your life? Invest your time and effort there.

God resides within people, we (believers) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16).

Look for God in His people, and you will find yourself in community!

This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

3 Simple Observations and Truths

unsplash-stainglass_maninpew_KFredrickson-compressor Something was missing. At first, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew a significant shift took place in the fifteen years I lived overseas.

It wasn't one specific thing, but an accumulative process that brought this shift. "What happened," I wondered?

It wasn't so much what happened as what didn't happen.

Something missing

My first indicator was the general biblical ignorance that existed.

This was puzzling. More biblical teaching was available, in more ways, than when I moved overseas (1990).

Resources for biblical studies had multiplied, through books, audio, video, and online products. There was plenty to choose from and the consumer-oriented American Christian wanted more of it.

But with all that was available, something was missing.

[bctt tweet="A general biblical ignorance exists and it's not for lack of resources" username="tkbeyond"]

Was it community? Or leadership? Or commitment? Yes to all the above and more. But why?

A pattern

It finally dawned on me that what was common in the '70's and 80's was lacking in the new millennium.

Intentional, relational discipleship was a primary element of the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's into the '70's. It was a natural, organic if you will, element embedded by God.

It didn't just happen by itself, but it wasn't a well-outlined curriculum or program. That came later.

[bctt tweet="Intentional, relational discipleship was a primary element of the Jesus People Movement" username="tkbeyond"]

This seems to be a pattern with us humans.

God does something sovereign and dynamic, then we try to systematize it. We try to codify and quantify it—axioms, rules, and numbers—in order to replicate it. In doing this, we end up stifling whatever God did or is doing.

The process of replication needs to reproduce disciple-makers, not a program.

The human-effect turns a movement of God into an institution. We try to organize the spiritual dynamic or life of the movement, which quenches the river of life God sets in motion, by attempting to channel or contain it.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)

Not a spiritual growth program

Discipleship is not a spiritual growth program. It's not a follow-up or aftercare program for those who've said the sinner's prayer.

Discipleship is the natural progression of evangelism. They aren't synonymous, but they aren't separate either. Robert Coleman's classic book, Master Plan of Evangelism, makes this clear.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship ought to be the natural progression of evangelism" username="tkbeyond"]

This isn't rocket science, as they say. A person doesn't need a degree nor professional training to be a disciple-maker. Nor does a disciple-maker need a title or official role.

Yes, a disciple-maker needs to be grounded in the truth of God's Word and led by God's Spirit, but they don't need a certificate to make them an authorized disciple-maker.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is not a spiritual growth program" username="tkbeyond"]

3 simple observations

  1. Discipleship is not a cognitive skill to be learned or taught—it's a way of life.
  2. Discipleship is a life with purpose—that purpose is revealed as the person is discipled.
  3. Discipleship requires some type of challenge to pursue the goal—the goal is following Jesus and being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

3 simple truths

  1. The Lord Jesus saw discipleship as an intentional, relational process. It's not a phase, but an integrated whole. Discipleship is following Jesus with a community of believers—Matt 16:24; John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42-47.
  2. Discipleship is the pastoral responsibility of the church. Not the institution or corporation, but the community of believers under the Lordship of Jesus and led by the Holy Spirit. This is made clear in Ezekiel 34:1-24, and by Jesus in John 10:7-16.
  3. Discipleship is the community-based process of sanctification. This is shared pastoral care among a community of believers. It's not relegated to one leader or a select group of leaders, although leadership is important. It is a shared commitment of each believer to one another—John 8:34-36; Acts 4:32-35; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is following Jesus with a community of believers" username="tkbeyond"]

This is not all that can be said about the subject, far from it!

Do you need more insight on any of the 3 observations or truth above? Let me know!

But, it's my hope these simple, brief observations and truths help confirm whatever God may be stirring in your own heart.

So... What is God stirring in your heart about discipleship and following Jesus?

Let me know, and thanks for reading and sharing this post!

A Living Sacrifice

Photo credit: lightstock.com Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ (NIV)

The concept of sacrifice is obscure to most people in western cultures, by choice. In a world filled with mystical images and animation, how could it be otherwise?

More and more people have a hard time distinguishing between the imaginary and real. Self image (selfies anyone?), along with physical power and beauty, is idealized and idolized. We want to escape pain, risk, and loss of any kind, not embrace such things.

In a sense, we want to be worshipped, not worship someone else.

It's no wonder that offering our bodies as a living sacrifice doesn't appeal to most people. But this exhortation points us (believers) back to Jesus, to remember His life poured out so we could have and know true life.

How can we ...offer our bodies as a living sacrifice? By swimming upstream against the flow of popular culture, not conform to it.

It's a choice—an act of free will—to choose what is pleasing to God, rather than pleasing ourselves or others. Choosing to be transformed by God's truth and Spirit, rather than conforming to what everyone else and the culture around us chooses. This results in true and proper worship of God.

Want to know God's will for your life? Consider God's great mercy, then surrender your whole life to Him. This is what He chooses for those who follow His Son. ©Word-Strong_2016

What Does It Mean to Flourish?

Photo credit: OceanCityChurch.org Comparisons are valuable in choosing one thing from another, such as an appliance or car. But making comparisons between ourselves and others is never valuable, unless you're trying to make yourself miserable.

What's worse is when we carry on conversations in our mind, it's called self-talk, where we belittle ourselves for not measuring up. Measuring up to what? Who? What standard? That's exactly the problem.

When we condemn ourselves on the basis of our performance as a person, it's so nebulous and random, and we're the only one who hears it. Sound familiar?

A universal problem

All of us battle negative self-talk. It leaks into our thoughts in spite of our intentions and desires to curb it. Why is this so? Too many reasons to list, and they're different for each of us.

Most of it comes from what we heard growing up, but interpreted and filtered by our own perceptions of what we heard said, and done in some cases. Then, doing what comes natural—estimating how we size up in comparison to others—and that is a losing battle.

Who's to blame for it all? Go back to the first garden and the fruit from a certain tree (Gen 3:1-7). Forget about blame, what can be done about it all?

A simple solution

Just last week, I saw a video that features some of my family, narrated by my son's lovely wife, LeAna. As I watched and listened, I was captivated and encouraged by what she said.

It's something that needs to be heard by everyone, especially Christian believers.

I hope you'll read through LeAna's thoughts (echoed in the video) and watch the video below. It's well done and worth the few minutes it takes.

Take it to heart, and run it through your mind instead of all that negative self-talk.

LeAna's thoughts...

I felt like the Holy Spirit impressed something on me just recently. I felt like he gently said to me a few days ago this phrase, “LeAna…you live under a cloud of guilt.” hmmm…WHAT was that, HS?! Where’s that coming from??

But as i’ve thought about that, I see exactly how that is true of me.

Here are thoughts that constantly run through my mind…

“I should be doing more…”

“I’m a crappy wife…”

“I suck as a mom…”

“Why does anyone want to me my friend?”

“I’m far too much for people to handle. They don’t want any of that!”

“I need to be doing more for God.”

“I’m simply not doing enough…”

“I need to reach out to more people.”

“I’m not spending enough time with God.”

“I need to work harder…”

It might sound like a bad case of low self esteem…for sure there are definitely some insecurities all over those thoughts, not the least of which is comparison to anyone and everyone who might seem like they are doing it better than me.

But its more than that.

I feel like the Holy Spirit was sweetly telling me that I live and operate out of a belief system…a false belief system, that keeps me under a cloud of condemnation.

I’ve heard the phrase before in my life, “i love you, but I don’t really like you.”

Sometimes I think God says that about me. “I love you LeAna…(almost cause He has to say it…He’s God)…but my enjoyment of you comes and goes, based on what you are doing or not doing.”


Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 NIV)

What does it mean to flourish?

Ocean City Stories: Flourish from Ocean City Church on Vimeo.

Here's LeAna's original blog post that this post and the video are adapted from– Receiving

In that post, you'll see my lovely daughter-in-law and two of our grandchildren when they were much younger.

Thanks for reading and watching! I hope this video blesses you as much as it did me!

How I Got Theology– Part 3

Photo credit: unsplash.com_NCollins American evangelical churches have worked hard to reach out to younger generations over the past couple of decades. It's not gone that well.

Sure, more mega churches dot the landscape, but a great many people, especially younger ones, have left the organized church, or simply left the Christian faith.

Much effort has gone into attracting and drawing people into church, while others focus on being missional. Sadly, the foundation for faith is often neglected with these efforts.

An assumption

Aristotle is credited with the postulate that nature abhors a vacuum. A vacuum existed in the mid-sixties—a lack of spiritual integrity and substance. This vacuum got filled with philosophy, religion, and cultural trends. Life is cyclical. There is an ebb and flow to everything on earth.

An assumption was made by organized churches in the years preceding the Jesus People Movement. It was assumed that young people had no interest in studying the Bible. I see a similar assumption at present. It was a wrong assumption 50+ years ago and it's wrong now.

The opposite is true. Many young people are seeking the truth and are interested in the Bible. And, many people want mentoring, but they reject authoritarianism.

[bctt tweet="Many young people seek truth and are open to be mentored" username="tkbeyond"]

A hunger

A great biblical ignorance exists today. Not a lack of Bible knowledge or resources, but ignorance. Why? Much of what is presented and promoted is not processed thoughtfully and spiritually by those who receive it. The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart" username="tkbeyond"]

A great hunger and interest in the truth existed when I came to faith over 45 years ago. Yep, I'm old. I'm a holdover from the Jesus Generation, as it was called.

I remember hours of shared engagement studying the Bible with other people of my generation. We did it in churches, often sitting on the floor, in homes, on our own, or outside in public. We couldn't get enough. I couldn't get enough.

It wasn't listening to well-crafted messages from the Bible, it was a personal encounter with Jesus. He (Jesus) has a lot to say about the value of digging into the Scriptures—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39 NIV)

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. (John 6:63 NCV)

“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NCV)

 “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. (John 17:17 GW)

A personal encounter

Is there a difference between attending a Bible study and studying the Bible? Yes. I've seen many people attend a Bible study, taking in what is said as valuable information. But, if that information doesn't become life-giving truth for them, it is simply Bible knowledge.

Bible knowledge isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't transform a person, it informs them.

[bctt tweet="Bible knowledge doesn't transform a person, it informs them" username="tkbeyond"]

If our study of the Bible isn't a personal encounter with Jesus, but only a pursuit of truth, we miss the most important thing. As Jesus said, "these very Scriptures speak about me!" (John 5:39 GNTD)

So, how does Bible study become a spiritual encounter with Jesus? Here are some things that help build a good foundation for your own personal theology to develop—

  • Prayer—perhaps too obvious, yet so vital it must be mentioned—we need to ask God to reveal His truth to us (Matthew 16:17).
  • The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17)—How can we receive God's revelation apart from His Spirit?
  • Reading and listening to the Scriptures—there is nothing that can replace this. No one else can do this for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Regular study of the Bible—if not daily, weekly—a consistent digging into the Scriptures so your faith is founded on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27)

Need more?

This is the final of a 3-part series that began with How I Got Theology– Part 1. It's my personal answer to three questions posed in a previous post called Got Theology? where I look at how we all develop a personal theology.

If you'd like more guidance on how to study the Bible in a personal, yet systematic and objective way, you can download my 7-page Primer on Inductive Bible Study. It is a simple guide to Inductive Bible Study (IBS) developed from many years of training pastors, leaders, and other followers of Jesus, here in the US and overseas.

Just click on the link below, fill out the short form, then download it.

Click Here to Download the Basic Primer on Inductive Bible Study

Deep Sorrow and Endless Heartache

Photo credit: lightstock.com As a Christian, I’m telling you the truth. I’m not lying. The Holy Spirit, along with my own thoughts, supports me in this. I have deep sorrow and endless heartache.

I wish I could be condemned and cut off from Christ for the sake of others who, like me, are Jewish by birth. They are Israelites, God’s adopted children. They have the Lord’s glory, the pledges [covenants], Moses’ Teachings, the true worship, and the promises.

The Messiah is descended from their ancestors according to his human nature. The Messiah is God over everything, forever blessed. Amen. (‭Romans‬ ‭9:1-5‬ (GW)

Doctrine is important, worship is valuable, but prayer is essential to spiritual growth. Prayer also is a strong indicator of where our heart is with God. Honest prayer. This simple prayer of the apostle Paul reveals his heart for his people.

At the end of Romans Chap 8, we're reminded that both the Holy Spirit and Jesus are intercessors on behalf of believers (Rom 8:27, 34). Chap 9 of Romans opens with Paul interceding for the people of Israel, so that they may know the Messiah—Jesus.

He opens his heart to God and lets us see inside it. It pleads with passion for his own people—Israel—who have the Lord's favor, the covenant promises, and true worship guided by the Law. Jesus the Messiah was descended from Abraham, through King David, and He is God in nature.

But Israel was blind to this, even as it is now. So also, many nations with some heritage of the gospel in their history need interceding believers. Yes, we need to reach the unreached and unengaged. Still, many nations formerly reached and engaged with the gospel need intercession once again.

The question is—Are we interceding on behalf of our own nation? Are we praying for their blind eyes and closed hearts to be opened to the Lord? ©Word-Strong_2016

Got Theology?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Theology, gotta have it! Even atheists and agnostics have a form of theology—one doesn't believe God exists and the other is unsure or indifferent. It's still a belief about God.

Many different types of theology exist. Some theology is complex, it requires a PhD to know authoritatively. But most people have a much simpler theology based on their personal experience with spiritual truth.

We all believe something about God, no matter how we define or describe it. 

A (very) basic understanding

Christian theology is categorized in various ways. The most common one is systematic theology. It's a system of beliefs, but often with an embedded view-point.

Systematic theology sets out to be objective, but the starting point can be subjective based on certain beliefs, such as—Evangelical, Reformed, Pentecostal, or Roman Catholic perspectives.

Another major area of Christian theology is Biblical theology. It's based on what is revealed from the written Scriptures, and is, I believe, more likely to bear the original intent of the Holy Spirit's inspiration (2 Tim 3:16).

Of course, Biblical theology can be both objective or subjective depending on how it's approached. If an objective approach to exegesis is applied, even an inductive study, the theology gained should be more objective, systematic and trustworthy.

[bctt tweet=" It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others" username="tkbeyond"]

A cultural theology is also common for many believers. This tends to be highly subjective and personal. In other words, it's distinctively un-objective. One example of an American version of this became known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Gaining a good theology

Unless you're a seminary grad or highly motivated Bible student, most Christians believe what they're told or taught by influential leaders in their lives. These would include pastors, evangelists, and popular speakers and authors.

It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others, unless you develop an objective and systematic approach for studying the Bible.

Paul the apostle's exhortation to the young leader Timothy reflects this—

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

This is the value of an approach like Inductive Bible Study, or IBS. A very basic description of how it's done is expressed in the three primary steps to the IBS approach—observation, interpretation, and application.

Perhaps in the next week or so, I'll talk about this in more detail. If that sounds interesting, let me know!

Belief-based or relationship-based theology

One question I think we all need to answer is this—How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology? A follow-up question is—How have we developed our personal theology?

We've all developed our own theology, whether we're aware of it or not. It develops over time as we learn and internalize truth as we understand it. That's the key thing. How do we understand it?

[bctt tweet="How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology?" username="tkbeyond"]

It comes down to whether we have a belief-based or relationship-based theology. What's the difference? One is grounded in certain beliefs, but often leads to dogmatism. The other is grounded in relationship, but based on the truth revealed by God's Spirit (see John 14:26 and 2 Tim 3:16-17).

When dogmatism becomes the basis of a person's spiritual assurance, a person's faith can be shattered if something undermines their belief. When our theology is relationship-based, it grows out of an abiding, continuing relationship with Jesus and His word abiding in us (John 15:5, 7-8).

A few more thoughts and a caveat

Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment (1 Cor 2:10-14). I know this from experience. As mentioned in my book, I read the Bible every day for about two years before I began to understand it.

My openness to God was the key, not the time I spent reading. When I opened my heart to the Lord, He opened my eyes to understand the truth in His word (the Bible).

But God has shown it to us through his Spirit... Some people don't have the Holy Spirit. They don't accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Things like that are foolish to them. They can't understand them. In fact, such things can't be understood without the Spirit's help. 1 Cor 2:10, 14 (NIVR)

[bctt tweet="Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment" username="tkbeyond"]

So, how can we develop a sound theology and a true understanding of God? A rule of thumb that's helped me is found in John's gospel where Jesus rebukes some Jewish religious leaders—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus. If we only gain more biblical knowledge, then we become more like the Pharisees than Jesus' disciples.

[bctt tweet="Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus" username="tkbeyond"]

Finally, everyone needs to be careful about how they interpret the Bible. It isn't just how it suits one person or another, nor how it should be understood from a certain religious viewpoint.

It needs to be consistent and congruent with what the author of the Scriptures intended. The author is God via the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter reminds us—

No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. No prophecy ever originated from humans. Instead, it was given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God’s direction. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (GW)

A personal challenge

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What's been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

You can respond to this post directly or on the social media where you see this post.

Would you like to know my answers to these questions? Then, let me know!

BTW, the photo for this post was downloaded from unsplash.com and the photographer is Aaron Burden, check out his photos... he's a fellow believer!

If God Is For Us

Photo credit: lightstock.com What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us? God didn’t spare his own Son but handed him over ⌊to death⌋ for all of us. So he will also give us everything along with him.

Who will accuse those whom God has chosen? God has approved of them. Who will condemn them? Christ has died, and more importantly, he was brought back to life.

Christ has the highest position in heaven. Christ also intercedes for us. (‭Romans‬ ‭3:‭31-34‬ GW)

This summarizes a few chapters of detailed doctrine on the grace of God. The short of it is this—God has got it all covered for those who trust in Jesus.

God held nothing back to secure the believer's access to full forgiveness, life transformation, and eternal life. He gave His Son Jesus, whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven guarantees all of this for us who believe.

There's no catch, but there is a requirement. All of these blessings and promises require a genuine, personal relationship with God through trusting in His Son and His work of redemption on the cross. This is known by a believer living a life led by the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence and power.

This is why no one can stand against us, accuse us, or condemn us. They would have to get past the Son and the Spirit who intercede on our behalf. Jesus has gone before us into heaven, and the Holy Spirit continues with us—dwelling in us and empowering us to live a changed life.

So, when it seems you are being opposed, accused, or condemned, if you trust in Jesus, rest assured—God's got it all covered. ©Word-Strong_2016

Inexpressible Groans

Photo credit: lightstock.com But if we hope for what we don’t see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words.

The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants him to. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:25-27‬ GW)

We've all been at that place of not really knowing how to proceed. Perhaps we're in shock or confusion, or it could be a case of analysis-paralysis. Regardless, here's the good news—as believers filled with God's Spirit, God's got our hearts.

Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit who would live in us, teach us, and guide us, and He would be known as the Helper or Comforter (John 14:17, 26). Here we are encouraged that God the Spirit will help us when we don't know how to pray. Even when we don't know how to put what we are struggling with into words, He knows and He prays for us.

Think about it. God created a failsafe process for prayer. We don't need to worry about how to put our requests or our cries for help into words. The Holy Spirit knows what it is and how to convey it to God the Father. Amazing!

Even when we are the most discouraged, we can be encouraged. We are not abandoned or lost, even though we may be at a loss for words. ©Word-Strong_2016

Our Problem with Grief

Photo credit: unsplash.com_VOlmez Grief is most often connected to death or tragedy. When someone close to us dies, we grieve because of the loss. We can also experience grief with natural disasters, a terrorist attack, or any significant loss, even a loss of freedom.

Grief is a personal sorrow, and our natural need is to be comforted. Where does this comfort come from? We can look to God and others as sources of comfort.

But what about when we cause grief for others? Can we even grieve God? Yes indeed! Continue reading

This is a guest post on the Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale Daily Devo blog. Click here to read the whole post— Our Problem with Grief

Creation Groans with Us

Photo credit: lightstock.com I consider our present sufferings insignificant compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us. All creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal who his children are. Creation was subjected to frustration but not by its own choice.

The one who subjected it to frustration did so in the hope that it would also be set free from slavery to decay in order to share the glorious freedom that the children of God will have. We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.

However, not only creation groans. We, who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts, also groan inwardly. We groan as we eagerly wait for our adoption, the freeing of our bodies ⌊from sin⌋.

We were saved with this hope in mind. If we hope for something we already see, it’s not really hope. Who hopes for what can be seen? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭18-25‬ GW)

No one likes to wait. But waiting is a necessary part of life. When we are young, we wish to be old. When we age, memories occupy more and more of our time.

When we look forward to something, time seems to creep at a snail's pace. Believers look forward to the time we will see Jesus face to face with new indestructible bodies (1 Cor 15:50-54; 1 John 3:2-3).

But it's not just those who've been redeemed and await the Lord Jesus' return who wait, all creation waits too. Even the physical world will experience a restoration when the Lord returns (Rev 21:1). The effect of sin isn't just a personal problem, it's global, even universal. So also is the impact of redemption global and universal.

Until then, we wait. How? We wait with perseverance—a committed patience based on a real hope. Thankfully, this hope lives within every genuine believer, because God's Spirit lives in us. ©Word-Strong_2016

Abba! Father!

Photo credit: lightstock.com Certainly, all who are guided by God’s Spirit are God’s children. You haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba! Father!”

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

If we are his children, we are also God’s heirs. If we share in Christ’s suffering in order to share his glory, we are heirs together with him. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭14-17‬ GW)

My wife and I have seen and experienced adoption from two points of view. We've seen well over a hundred adoptions while in the Philippines. We've witnessed the bonding and union between adoptive parents and children. It's powerful and defies description, but it's genuine.

We also experienced our own adoption into God's family. It also was powerful, genuine, and beyond description.

Human family adoptions are very personal and not without their struggles. Spiritual adoptions into the family of God are the same—personal and with some struggles. The struggles come as we go through an internal transformation.

When a person has a genuine relationship with God, they know God as "Father." They experience an intimate, internal, spiritual communication with the Father. This is why we cry "Abba," which loosely translates from the ancient Aramaic as, "Daddy" or "Papa!"

When we come into a personal trust relationship with God, we're set free from fear and the power of sin, and our inner heart calls out to God as Father. There are struggles along the way, but this is expected.

God holds nothing back from us. We are freely accepted into His family, and we need to fully embrace Him as our Father. ©Word-Strong_2016

True Life and Belonging

Photo credit: lightstock.com But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. But whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ.

Your body will always be dead because of sin. But if Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life, because Christ made you right with God.

God raised Jesus from death. And if God’s Spirit lives in you, he will also give life to your bodies that die. Yes, God is the one who raised Christ from death, and he will raise you to life through his Spirit living in you.

So, my brothers and sisters, we must not be ruled by our sinful selves. We must not live the way our sinful selves want.

If you use your lives to do what your sinful selves want, you will die spiritually. But if you use the Spirit’s help to stop doing the wrong things you do with your body, you will have true life.

 (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭9-13‬ ERV)

We can believe something with our mind or heart. When belief is anchored in our heart, it impacts our thinking and choices. Belief in the mind doesn't always transfer to the heart and will of a person.

Belief in God needs to go beyond conceptual understanding and become relational trust. Then it becomes genuine faith. True faith is not a matter of correct doctrine or theological beliefs, it's based on a personal relationship with God.

Unless our faith is grounded in relationship, our belief will lack power to bring transformation. Spiritual transformation, real life change, must take place internally and spiritually, not just mentally.

This will only take place when we have a right relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Then we will have God's Spirit—the Holy Spirit—and God's power living in us, in our heart, our inner being.

Transformation doesn't come through correct beliefs and will power, but through the work of God's Spirit within us. The indwelling presence and power of God's Spirit in us shows we truly belong to Christ. ©Word-Strong_2016

What Controls Your Thinking?

Photo credit: lightstock.com People who live following their sinful selves think only about what they want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about what the Spirit wants them to do.

If your thinking is controlled by your sinful self, there is spiritual death. But if your thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace.

Why is this true? Because anyone whose thinking is controlled by their sinful self is against God. They refuse to obey God’s law. And really they are not able to obey it. Those who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God.

But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you.  (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭5-9‬ ERV)

We are all, by nature, selfish beings. This is the reality of every human born into the world. The only way this can change is with God's intervention.

But this intervention needs to be continuous and internal, not temporary and external, which is how our selfish nature would prefer it. Why? Because we don't like to surrender our will to anyone, even God.

The contrast between a life led by our selfishness and a life led by God's Spirit is dramatic. A life surrendered to selfishness leads to a tyrannical state of slavery. A life in submission to God's Spirit, brings freedom, peace, and a life of joy.

The battle of the will takes place in our mind. What we choose to focus our thoughts on each day, throughout a day, determines what rules our life. Either we choose the old tyrannical way of self, or we choose the freedom found only in surrendering our will to God. ©Word-Strong_2016

Not Guilty

Photo credit: lightstock.com So now anyone who is in Christ Jesus is not judged guilty. That is because in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made you free. It made you free from the law that brings sin and death.

The law was without power because it was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do: He sent his own Son to earth with the same human life that everyone else uses for sin. God sent him to be an offering to pay for sin. So God used a human life to destroy sin.

He did this so that we could be right just as the law said we must be. Now we don’t live following our sinful selves. We live following the Spirit. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭1-4‬ ERV)

Being "in Christ" is not complicated. It means having a personal relationship with Jesus and, so we can do what He says in John 15:4, "Abide in Me...." Once we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it is a continuing trust in Him personally as God the Son, and in His work of redemption on the cross.

When it speaks of "the law of the Spirit," it's a reminder that this is an intrinsically spiritual relationship based on the power of Christ's resurrection. The indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit enables a believer to be free from the law of sin and death.

We can't free ourselves. We can't make our selves good enough, because we lack that power. But in relationship with Jesus, we gain this power to be free. We become not guilty—free from a sentence of sin and death.

Because Jesus was both human and divine in nature, He could take our place as a payment for sin's debt of death, and destroy its power. Our relationship with Him provides a rightness (or righteousness) with God and His law. So, we have a new way of life.

This new way of life is to follow the guidance of God's Spirit within us rather than our old selfish ways. ©Word-Strong_2016

Some Thoughts on Discipleship

Photo credit: unsplash_JQuaynor What is discipleship? Here are a couple of dictionary definitions—

A person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another (Dictionary)

One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another (Free Dictionary)

That's what the dictionary says, but what does Jesus say? Is discipleship simply a matter of following and spreading the teachings of Jesus?

My thoughts on discipleship

My simple definition of discipleship is— the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework of one on one, or one to a few. It requires a mutual commitment of time, willingness, respect, patience and discipline.

Too often, discipleship can be reduced to a plan or program of training. But it is not something to be learned through lecture, study, and assignments. Nor can it be reduced to the idea of being caught rather than taught.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework"]

This idea that it is caught can be a copout for a passive or lazy style of discipleship. This would put most of the responsibility onto the disciple, rather than the discipler. Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...," (Matt 28:19)?

As we look at the most obvious example of the Lord Jesus, our supreme model for discipleship, we see His simple method. This is explored in some detail by Robert Coleman’s book, “The Master Plan of Evangelism,” as well as other books by the same author.

Many other books on discipleship provide plans or methods, but how can we really hope to improve upon the Lord’s example?

Intentional and relational

Discipleship—to be effective and to have a lasting impact—needs to be intentional and personal. It needs to be relational. Inherently, it requires mutual discipline and commitment.

It has no specific style nor format, and can be personalized and subjective. Although this may seem likely to produce doctrinal errors or biases, it appears to be the method of choice in the New Testament.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, it requires mutual discipline and commitment."]

Paul says in 1 Cor 11:1, “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” This is echoed in his exhortation to Timothy, his “true son in the faith,” in 2 Tim 2:2. Although there are other models, there are no ironclad, standardized patterns.

The obvious models are Jesus, Barnabas (who mentored Saul/Paul), Paul (and his instructions to Timothy and Titus), and others recorded in the book of Acts, including Peter and what he wrote in his epistles.

More recently, notable leaders of movements within the church have mentored others who, in turn, are discipling people. Are these perfect models? No. Are there idiosyncrasies of the mentor passed onto those discipled? Undoubtedly. Yet, it appears this was understood by the Lord.

The Jesus model of discipleship

The Lord’s confidence in this method of discipleship—His model—rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27). A review of the Gospel of John (chapters 14 through 16 [1. John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15.]) makes this clear. So, why would we do it any differently?

Reluctance is more likely based on a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit, and our human tendency to put our own imprimatur on the process. Or perhaps, it's concern about error being passed on, or the disciple not grasping everything we think they should get.

[bctt tweet="The Lord’s method of discipleship rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit"]

Whatever the reason for this reluctance, one thing seems clear to me over the past couple decades. There is little intentional, relational discipleship taking place in the US. Sadly, because of our influence upon the rest of the world, it has not been common where western missionaries have been.

The good news is, Jesus is still the Head of His church and is quite capable of maintaining a remnant who disciple as He did. Discipleship has become a hot topic in the past decade or so in the US. Church planting movements driven by intentional, relational discipleship are alive and well globally (such as T4T).

The question is— Are you (and I) following Jesus so others will also follow Him?

The command of Jesus remains— 

So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time. (Matt 28:19-20 ERV)

For some more of my thoughts on discipleship, check out— Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Peace with God

Photo credit: lightstock.com Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (‭Romans‬ ‭5:‭1-5‬ NLT)

The immediate benefit of a personal relationship with Jesus is peace. It's a sense of harmony with God that remains within us, because we know things were made right between us and God.

A little child who is assured of the love and acceptance of her parents has both peace and joy—an inner contentment. And so it is for us as believers.

This peace and joy remains within us as we continue trusting in the Lord's grace given to us. This carries us through life's difficulties. We can endure these because of His grace at work in us—in our innermost being.

As this work continues in us, and as it develops endurance and character within us, we gain a hope that buoys us through the storms of life. How? Because God continues to pour out His love into our hearts through the presence of His indwelling Spirit.

Even as we mature as believers, we can experience a childlike contentment as God's children.


Who Jesus Is

Photo credit: unsplash.com People have sought spiritual truth for centuries. Make that millennia. Philosophers, theologians, and religious people of all persuasions. For the most part, spiritual truth has passed from one person to another, both in oral and written forms.

The truth of the Bible is unique. It was first passed down from God to humans, then from person to person. Of course, many philosophers and theologians who do not accept the Bible's veracity dispute this.

Beyond rhetoric and posturing, the Bible tells the story of God Himself appearing to humanity. This was confirmed by sources other than those who accept this revelation within the Bible, as well as the Bible's internal evidence. And yet, there's even more to the story than many people realize.

The second question

Last week, we looked at the first question Jesus asked His followers, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” People today have lots of different opinions about Jesus, just as they did then. What's important for us is to understand where people stand, what their understanding of Jesus is.

We need this understanding before we launch into any attempt share the gospel with them. People need a frame of reference to understand things, especially spiritual truth.

But when the opportunity arises for us to share our faith in Jesus, we need to be clear about who He is. As we pick up the story in Matthew's gospel (Matt 16:13-20), we look at Peter's answer to Jesus' second question.

The right answer

Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question gives a compact, complete understanding of the Lord. Jesus commends Peter on his answer, but tells him the source of his understanding was not Jesus’ physical presence, but a direct revelation from God, the Father.

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17)

Peter’s response is more of a declaration than a simple answer. He declares what he and other disciples had come to know. Jesus says it’s not Jesus’ physical presence among them, but revelation from God the Father.

Does this seem contradictory or paradoxical? Perhaps, but it is the same for any believer sharing the Gospel—spiritual truth is made known by God’s Spirit, not mere words, nor physical proof.

The Messiah

Two important truths are declared in Peter’s answer. They are not two separate truths, but two parts of a whole truth. First Peter says, “You are the Christ.” The title Christ is an interchangeable term with Messiah. Then he says, “ . . . the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus is both Messiah and God’s Son. Most people are familiar with the title Christ, meaning Anointed One. Christ is taken from the Greek word, Christos. Messiah is taken from the Hebrew word, Mashiyach, or more commonly, Mashiah. Although the term or title Christ is more familiar, the title Messiah helps keep the context of Peter’s declaration more precise.

This Anointed One was the Hope of Israel, long-awaited by those looking to God for deliverance. The Messiah would come as the direct representative of God—a Prophet-King, a Deliverer and Savior—made known to the Jewish people.

The Son

The second part of Peter’s confession, “Son of the Living God,” speaks of who Jesus is in nature—the personal presence of God upon the earth. Jesus and the Father are of one nature.

Although Christian believers are spoken of as children of God, even sons, we are not by nature God. When someone is born again, they receive a new nature and become a new creation, but they don’t become God in nature.

People are human in nature. When a person becomes a genuine believer, a new nature is brought to life internally. They are born again.

The expression, “...Living God,” is a more familiar Jewish sense of God. Israel was to be a “light to the Gentiles,” because they worshiped the One, True, and Living God.

Israel was to be distinct from all other nations (people groups) as God’s Chosen People. This was God’s purpose in establishing the people of Israel as a nation.

The Rock

Jesus’ response to Peter’s declaration of faith includes something not easily understood—the Lord’s play on words with Peter’s name. His name is taken from the Greek word meaning rock or stone. Jesus says, “you are Peter (a stone), and on this rock I will build My church.”

First, Jesus speaks of those included in the church Jesus would build and their need to believe this truth Peter declared—that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Secondly, Jesus is the Rock the church is built upon and no one else. The important thing is having a personal relationship with Jesus, which is only possible by God’s grace, through faith.

The apostle Paul speaks of the church being built upon “the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Note verse 20 (italics mine)—

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV)

Jesus also says His church will have a prevailing power, which indicates there will be a spiritual battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. It is a great assurance to know the church will prevail against the devil and his kingdom of darkness.

The right answer, the wrong time

What the story says in verse 20 is surprising.

Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matt 16:20

Imagine you are with the disciples at that moment. Jesus commends Peter on his answer, and makes other strong statements related to it. The disciples would be encouraged and excited, especially Peter. After all, Peter came up with the right answer!

But, following all of this discussion, Jesus tells the disciples to keep this revelation to themselves. He doesn’t just tell them, but commands them. It seems opposite of what we might expect. I imagine it surprised them too.

It was the right answer, but it wasn't the right time. Not yet. In a matter of months, Jesus would be arrested, sentenced, and crucified. But there's more to the story, much more, and that will have to wait for now.

Has God revealed the truth of who Jesus is to your heart?

Are you ready and willing to share who Jesus is with others?

This post is another excerpt from my book on the Essential Gospel.

To learn more about Jesus and the gospel, get a copy of my book– The Mystery of the Gospel

The Deep Things of God

Photo credit: unsplash.com |Jeremy Bishop The blogosphere is filled with theological debates and diatribes based on biased and dogmatic positions. They are not true discussions. It reminds me of the religious leaders in Jesus' time who asked questions to test Jesus, not because they sought the truth.

Reading through the devotional book Daily Light, by Samuel Bagster, I came across this verse for the evening devotion for December 16—

The deep things of God. (I Cor. 2:10 KJV)

What's deep? The love of God. It's far deeper than we'll ever comprehend.

Can it really be that simple?

The famous theologian, Karl Barth, when asked (in 1962) to summarize all his writings reportedly said, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Here is the last Scripture selection for the evening devotion mentioned above—

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Notice it says, "...the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge...."

Seekers and believers often make the simple complicated, and the deep shallow—far too often.

Why do we complicate things? Simple truths are often much deeper than we realize.

What's the key to the deeper things of God?

Let's take a closer look at 1 Cor 2:10—

...these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

Truth is revealed by and through God's Spirit. We see the role of the Holy Spirit here as Jesus told His followers it would be (John 14:26; 16:13).

[bctt tweet="Truth is revealed by and through God's Spirit."]

It is not gained from God because of intelligence, experience, or education. Those things are helpful, but are not requirements. What is required? Relationship with God. Intimate relationship with Him.

Intimacy with God

If you want to know the deep things of God, then your relationship with God needs to deepen.

Various spiritual disciplines are valuable, but the more important thing is intimacy with God. This involves spending concentrated, focused time with the Lord.

[bctt tweet="If you want to know the deep things of God, then your relationship with God needs to deepen"]

Looking at the second part of this verse, we get a glimpse of the intimate relationship of the Triune Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The relationship of the Triune God is our gateway to the deep things of God. Consider their relationship with one another—

  • The Father— God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)
  • The Son— Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will also know my Father. (John 14:6, 7)
  • The Holy Spirit— “The helper whom I will send to you from the Father will come. This helper, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, will declare the truth about me. (John 15:26)

[bctt tweet="The relationship of the Triune God is our gateway to the deep things of God"]

Going deeper

In what way can we go deeper and more intimate in our relationship with God?

It's simple, don't complicate it or spiritualize it.

How would you deepen your relationship with another person? Yes, spend more time with them, but it's also the quality of the time. King David gives us a word-picture of what His relationship with God looks like—

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; 
all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (Psalm 42:7 NIV)

Do you see the picture?

As we become immersed in our relationship with the Lord, it will deepen, and God will reveal both Himself and His truth to us.

Have you experienced a time of immersion in your intimacy with God?

Have you pursued God to gain a more intimate relationship with Him?

ROI Expectations

Photo credit: unsplash.com A popular term bandied about now is ROI—Return on Investment. It can apply to various types of investments such as time, energy, personnel, finances, and so on. It originated in financial circles where investors wanted to know what to expect as a profit for their investment.

It seems more than reasonable that investors would expect a profitable return on their investments. After all, that’s their business. Even hourly wage earners expect something in return—a paycheck—for their skills and time at their job.

Jesus taught about a lot of things, including ROI. Think not? Just look at a some of His parables and other teachings.

Continue reading

What has God invested in you personally? What has He given you the capacity to do?

What are the gifts God has entrusted you with? Who can you bless with your life?

This is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Click on the link to read more– ROI Expectations

We'll return to our study in Ecclesiastes next week.