simple

Real Harmony

Photo credit: lightstock.com So those of us who have a strong ⌊faith⌋ must be patient with the weaknesses of those whose ⌊faith⌋ is not so strong. We must not think only of ourselves. We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith.

Christ did not think only of himself. Rather, as Scripture says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.

May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus. Then, having the same goal, you will praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.  (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭1-7‬ (GW)


It's easy to overanalyze things. Action item lists are popular and success formulas are sought by many. A lot of time is invested to figure out what makes one thing successful where another one fails.

In doing this, we tend to overlook what's obvious and simple. The realm of spiritual truth is no different. The secret to unity among believers doesn't require psychological tests or deep theological treatises.

First, we need to be patient with others who don't measure up spiritually to our expectations (verses 1-3), and learn from the example of faithful believers before us (verse 4).

But the most important thing is to follow the example of Jesus together (verse 5). We need to accept one another as Jesus accepted us (verse 7).

Think about it. That may seem a tall order, but the simple focus is Jesus—His gracious, humble example.

The key to real harmony among followers of Jesus is treating one another with the gracious humility we see in Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

Well Fed

Photo credit: babycentre.co.uk Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time, but their self-will is in full-bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat. They're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves, even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process, and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters, and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock. It can even get messy at times.

Last week, We looked at leading with unselfish love, as we see in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadershipfeed. Again, We'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation, although they're important. Certain priorities impact our preparation of any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people, His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple, well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this? First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus, not the people we lead, nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

[bctt tweet="Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do"]

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

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)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for the past thirty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

[bctt tweet="We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!"]

"E" also reminds of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what you teach, then you can teach it to anyone. This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others don't always make things simple for the average hearer.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp. First, use stories and parables, but learn to tell them rather than just read them. The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral, not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice, but it's very doable, and makes the truth more understandable.

[bctt tweet="If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone"]

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...."  (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used, but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, a pouring into the life of others what God has poured into you.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching, but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth, but they can close their mouth or spit it out. Also, there's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Jesus, as always, is our example. His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed. They continued what Jesus began with them.


Here are some related posts related you might find helpful—

How Did Jesus Teach?

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Lasting Fruit

Here are a couple of links of people I trust regarding inductive Bible study (aka IBS)—

Dan Finfrock

Jeremy Brummel

If you'd like a copy of the workbook I've developed for IBS, contact me and I'll let you know how you can get one.

Thankfulness and Contentment

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SUnrau Thanksgiving Day, as an American holiday, is set aside for remembrance. A time to reflect on God's goodness and be thankful. This was its original purpose as a holiday as designated by Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Aside from the commercialism of our day, it can still be just that. People can wring their hands and lament the degradation of the holiday as a time of gluttony, drunkenness, and consumerism, or simply be thankful and content.

Our nation still affords us the opportunity of free choice and many other freedoms.

Many years ago, I worked as a janitor at a large church during the Jesus Movement days. One of the young pastors was having a rough day. He sarcastically asked me what my purpose in life was and why I was happy. Though I knew it was sarcastic, I answered him with the following Bible quote—

...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Phil 4:11-12 NIV)

We were big on quoting Bible verses in those days, but this was what I read in my morning devotions that day. We laughed about it, yet it rang true.

Since that time, I recall the simplicity of my faith then. It's what I choose to remember.

When I am thankful, I'm content, and because I'm content, I'm thankful.

[bctt tweet="When I am thankful, I'm content, and because I'm content, I'm thankful"]

I realize Thanksgiving Day is not a happy time for everyone. It can be a lonely and sad time, while others ignore it altogether.

But the truth of the Scripture above reminds us that our circumstances shouldn't dictate our disposition. I choose to be thankful and content.

Discipleship Made Simple

Photo credit: unsplash.com_LRaper What does it take to be a disciple-maker? One might assume a seminary education would be a basic requirement. Perhaps expertise on personality traits and leadership qualities, possibly organizational skills.

All of these may be useful, even helpful for large-scale discipleship models. But is this what Jesus had in mind? Is this what we see in the early church?

No seminaries existed in those days, nor any personality trait tests. How did they do it? Like many things, it's a lot simpler than you might think.

Like Jesus but different

Jesus is the obvious model for a disciple-maker. He discipled the first leaders of the church, and gave the command to make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). We call this the Great Commission. I've written about this earlier.

All Christian believers are called to follow Jesus, but we aren't all exactly like Him. Each of us have different personalities, gifts, skills, and backgrounds.

So, is there another more ordinary example to follow besides Jesus, or Paul and Peter the apostles? There is.

Joseph the generous man

We get our first glimpse of our ordinary example in Acts 4:36. His introduction is sandwiched between a wonderful testimony and a woeful one.

A heart-warming insight of the early church's life is found in Acts 4:32-25, and Joseph is part of that. He sells some land and donates the proceeds to the church for the benefit of everyone. This view of the church reaches back nine verses earlier (Acts 4:23-31), and even earlier than that (Acts 2:42-47).

But an abrupt shift follows Joseph's generosity when one couple's deceit and greed costs them their lives (Acts 5:1-11).

Joseph known as Barnabas

Joseph was best known as an encourager. In fact, his name changed to Barnabas, which means son of encouragement. This became his identity. It was what he was known for, and this is seen as we track his life through the Book of Acts.

Our first insight into the character of Barnabas, our ordinary example, is that he was unselfish, faithful, generous, and an encourager.

In this man, we see discipleship in a simple form. It wasn't a planned out program. It flowed out of his life in a natural way.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship should flow out of our life in a natural way"]

A simple example of discipleship

Barnabas, first known as Joseph, is only mentioned five times in Acts, but each time is significant.

A stand up guy

After Saul, later known as the apostle Paul, converts from Judaism to the new Christian faith, Barnabas is right by his side. We pick up this story in Acts 9:26-30. Saul, who had once been an enemy of the faith, now proclaimed the Christian faith.

When Saul (Paul) tried to join in fellowship with the church in Jerusalem, they were still afraid of him. So Barnabas stepped up. He stood up for Saul and spoke on his behalf before the apostles, so Saul was accepted into fellowship.

Barnabas was a stand up guy, as we might say today.

Someone you can trust

The church began to expand into other territories, often without proven leaders. They sprung up from the life example and testimony of new believers. In Antioch of Syria, many non-Jewish people became believers.

When news of non-Jewish believers reached Jerusalem, the leaders sent someone they trusted to check this out. Who was that? They sent Barnabas (Acts 11:20-26).

When Barnabas saw the work of God's grace among the people, he encouraged them to continue in their new-found faith. He also saw this was the ministry God had called Saul (Paul) to do (Acts 9:15-16). So Barnabas brought Saul from his home in Tarsus, and the church was discipled by these two partners in the gospel.

This is Barnabas' testimony—

Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith. (Acts 11:24 NCV)

A true leader

As a leader among leaders, Barnabas was sent out on a mission with Saul (Paul), in Acts 13:1-3. This is the first intentional sending out of missionaries by the church, the daughter church of Jerusalem.

This mission resulted in many conversions of faith and several churches being planted. Barnabas was a humble partner with Paul, he didn't need to be the primary leader. He was the one who encouraged Paul to step into the ministry God called him to do.

A man of integrity

One test of character is how we handle opposition. When faced with a situation that could compromise us, how do we respond? Barnabas shows integrity of character in Acts 15:36-40.

On the first mission, Barnabas and Paul took the young man John Mark to assist them. But when things got rough, John Mark left them for home (Acts 13:5, 13).

When these partners in ministry were set to go out on their second mission, they argued. About what? Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark with them, but Paul did not. They ended up going in separate directions.

I've heard people say Barnabas was wrong, which was proven by his name never being mentioned in Acts again. But Barnabas wanted to give a young man a second chance.

I'm glad he did. I'm thankful for those who've given me second chances. In the end, Paul was glad Barnabas stood up to him and insisted on including John Mark in the ministry. [see Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24]

Our take away

What do we learn from the life of Barnabas—the son of encouragement? 

First, he was known as an encourager. This became his identity. That's not a bad identity to have. Wouldn't you like to be known for being an encourager of people? I would.

I've had and have several people in my life who are encouragers, both in word and deed. Sometimes people need more than encouraging words. They need acts of encouragement that flow out of our life example.

Barnabas shows us integrity of character in many ways

Barnabas stood up for Saul, but also stood up to Paul. How? When he stood up for Saul (Paul) before the apostles, and when he took John Mark under his arm to mentor him.

You could say that we have Barnabas to thank for the epistles Paul wrote, and for the Gospel of Mark. Why? Because Barnabas believed in Jesus and saw Jesus in others, and he encouraged them in their faith. This is simple discipleship.

Do you see how these qualities see, in Barnabas' life don't require a special education or skill-set? They flowed out of his character—who he had become as a follower of Jesus.

Barnabas made disciples who followed him in the same way Barnabas followed Jesus. It's a simple pattern—be who you are as you trust in Jesus each day, and share it with others.

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?

Transitions in Life and Ministry

Photo credit: DeathtotheStockPhoto The past several months brought the reality of transition back into focus for me. Ten years ago, I began a long, even difficult time of transition—in life and ministry.

Living on the other side of the world, life seemed more simple. It was often busy overseeing two full-time ministries, with leadership involvement in our local home church.

It was a full life with plenty of challenges, yet it was simple. My purpose in life was clear.

A major change in life

Life on this side of the earth (FL) was full of busyness, but my purpose was not so clear. Some things were quite clear. We moved back to the US to care for my parents.

But I went from a person of importance in ministry to near anonymity. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't doing what I was gifted and called to do by God, or so it seemed. I also wasn't in charge of any ministry except at a distance.

After about a year or so, I found a place to serve in a local church body. Finally, I was able to employ some of my ministry gifts, which was good. But our first year back was very difficult. At least three different full-time ministry opportunities evaporated.

Learning a new thing

After a few more years, I began to write and eventually self-published a book. This was something I wanted to do for many years, but it also was a great challenge. I found out that writing is a lot different from speaking.

I learned a new craft and it was a sharp learning curve for me. I also went out to search for a regular job to pay the bills, which also was a challenge. I found out there wasn't a big market for a former church planter and missionary like myself.

Learning a new way

Presently, it seems I'm in a new time of transition. I'm learning a new way of putting to work the gifts and calling of God. It's a new phase of walking by faith.

Right now, I'm enjoying it. I like the challenge and have a renewed sense of vision. I work at keeping expectations realistic, which includes managing my time and energy in a different way.

The nature of transitions

This seems to be the nature of transitions. They are a time full of challenges and change. Things are different, unfamiliar, and sometimes bewildering.

Handling transition well is both simple and complex. A big part of doing it well depends on our attitude and outlook. Do we see transition as an opportunity or obstacle?

A balancing act

Over the past several months, I've been helping others navigate transitions. My role requires an objective view of things, while drawing on past experience. It's kind of a balancing act. I can't just fall back on how I've done things before, but I still draw from my experience.

I'm learning that a good mentor or coach needs to learn how to adapt what they know from experience and apply it in different ways, different situations, and with different people.

We're all different. We have different gifts and skills and experience. And yet, many things are similar. Management is management in various fields of work or ministry. People are people, work is work, and God is ever faithful.

Navigating transitions in life and ministry requires a genuine walk of faith, if we want to do it well.


What are some of the life or ministry transitions you've gone through?

How have you navigated them so far?

What would you do differently or wished you'd known going into a transition?

 

Confidence in God

Photo credit: Anthony Easton-cc I’ve heard the sentiment, “religious faith is just a crutch,” expressed many times over the years, but never understood or accepted it. Perhaps it’s a variation of Karl Marx’s famous quote, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

The idea is that those interested in religion or spirituality are somehow less than those who aren’t. The assumption is that when people exercise faith, they toss reason aside. I don't believe this.

Religion isn't a cure

Why don’t I believe this? For one thing, when there’s pain or injury, it’s both wise and reasonable to provide care. Sin causes pain, and it injures everyone in some way. But the cure for sin isn’t religion, it’s faith in Jesus who conquered sin by His death and resurrection.

Have you seen someone spin a basketball on one finger? Have you ever tried spinning a ball on the tip of your finger? I have and didn’t do it well. But I’ve watched people who are good at it.

It seems like they could keep spinning the ball forever. When it begins to wobble and starts to fall off the tip of their finger, one confident and deft tap of their hand keeps it spinning.

The difference between unbelief and faith

“He [Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.”—Roman 4:20 (NKJV)

What I notice in this verse is the contrast between unbelief and faith. It’s the opposite of what some people might think. Faith isn’t anti-reason, it’s greater than reason. Unbelief causes a person to waver. It creates a resistance to trust.

Faith is strength, not weakness. Real faith, genuine trust in God, sees beyond what others focus on. It doesn’t see the ball wobbling, it sees the ball spinning strong.

Abraham’s confidence was in God, not himself. He believed God’s promise of a son, though he and Sarah were past the age of bearing children. Faith, true faith, sees beyond the doubts of others, even discouraging circumstances.

Abraham's confident faith

Abraham didn’t waver with unbelief, he trusted God with confidence.

He honored God and God honored him because of his faith. Abraham is our example—an example of strength, not weakness. Abraham didn’t have the benefit of the written Scriptures and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as believers do today.

Yes, he had very personal encounters with God that most of us may not experience, but he still lived by faith. The majority of his century-long trust in God was lived in simple faith, which is the same life of faith each follower of Jesus is called to live.

What challenges your faith? In what areas of life do you struggle with unbelief?


Click here to see the original post, as it appeared on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

 

Beginning and Ending in Faith

Photo credit: lightstock.com I must serve all people—those who share in Greek culture and those who are less civilized, the educated as well as the ignorant. That is why I want so much to tell the Good News to you there in Rome. I am proud of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes—to save the Jews first, and now to save those who are not Jews.

The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself. God’s way of making people right begins and ends with faith. As the Scriptures say, “The one who is right with God by faith will live forever.” (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭14-17‬ ERV)


God's gracious good news is for everyone. Demographics are not a limitation or restriction, as far as God is concerned. People make an issue of culture, status, and education, but not God.

God is inclusive and gracious, but He has one nonnegotiable requirement—faith. Those who come to Him, who desire forgiveness and eternal life, must come in faith. Faith is simply trusting God exists and that He honors a person's trust in Him.

It is not faith in faith, nor a vague belief, it is a genuine, continuing trust in God Himself. As with so many things, God makes it simple, and people complicate it. ©Word-Strong_2015

 

The Perils of Pretentiousness

Photo credit: lightstock.com

We live exaggerated lives. If you live in a wealthy western nation, the chances are great that you live beyond your means. That's one way we live exaggerated lives.

Many of us have homes much larger than we need, which are filled with more things than we can manage. So, we fill up our garages with stuff, then rent storage units for everything else.

We have more knowledge at our fingertips than we can learn in a lifetime. That's not an exaggeration! But how much does all this benefit us? Are we wiser than previous generations? Are we happy and content?

It doesn't appear we are wiser, happier or vaguely content, though we consume vast amounts of... just about everything.

Scripture

Wise children take their parents’ advice, but whoever makes fun of wisdom won’t listen to correction. Those who are careful about what they say protect their lives, but whoever speaks without thinking will be ruined.  [vss 1, 3]

Some people pretend to be rich but really have nothing. Others pretend to be poor but really are wealthy. The rich may have to pay a ransom for their lives, but the poor will face no such danger. [vss 7-8]

Pride only leads to arguments, but those who take advice are wise. Money that comes easily disappears quickly, but money that is gathered little by little will grow. It is sad not to get what you hoped for. But wishes that come true are like eating fruit from the tree of life. [vss 10-12]

The teaching of a wise person gives life. It is like a fountain that can save people from death. People with good understanding will be well liked, but the lives of those who are not trustworthy are hard. Every wise person acts with good sense, but fools show how foolish they are. Spend time with the wise and you will become wise, but the friends of fools will suffer. [vss 14-16, 20]

(Proverbs 13:1, 3, 7-8, 10-12, 14-16, 20 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 13]

Key phrase

Spend time with the wise and you will become wise

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are the benefits of listening to sound advice and being careful with our words?
  2. What are the perils and problems of unchecked pride and pretending to be more than we are?
  3. What are the challenges of having wealth, and the benefits of good stewardship?
  4. What are the benefits of being wise, gaining wisdom, and living wisely?

Reflection...

Increased wealth and wisdom carries with it greater responsibilities. Life gets more complicated when we have more, of anything. I hear people marvel at the happiness seen in the faces of those we call the working-poor in other countries.

How can they be happy with so little? Because their lives, their expectations, are more simple. Hard, yes. But simple and less distracted in many ways.

Many of us in the west have a lifestyle only millionaires knew decades ago. We don't want to wait or be denied what we want. But it costs us more than we can afford. It costs us in ways that can't be quantified.

Make it personal...

How is your life better or different from your parents? If better, how do you measure this?

Is it difficult for you to wait to buy the latest gadget or style of clothing? Do you often find yourself looking for more?

When have you found yourself most content? When have you experienced deep peace or joy?

Are things or people most important to you? If people, how is this seen in your life?

Re-framing John 3:16—a follow up

Photo credit: lightstock.com How can we (believers) communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well? There are many different forms of communicating the truth of God's Word—conversation, tracts, Bible studies, preaching, biblical storying, blogs, and more.

We need to choose a way that fits the person we're talking to and the situation at hand. Using only one approach or method forces people to fit into our grid, as if one-size-fits-all. Each of us is different in our own way, and so are the people we come in contact with everyday or randomly.

So, we need to be ready to share our faith, and share the truth of God's Word, with whoever we come in contact with, wherever we might be.

Re-framing John 3:16

Last Monday's post included some practical guidelines on making the truth of God's Word (the Bible) simple and clear. This is a follow-up to provide an example of following those guidelines. Hopefully it will help you communicate Scripture truth so others hear it and understand it.

[bctt tweet="There are many different forms of communicating the truth of God's Word"]

Here are the summarized guidelines—

  • Read (or listen to) the Scriptures in different versions of the Bible
  • Identify key words in a verse and how they are interrelated
  • Use a dictionary and thesaurus (for word meanings including Bible dictionaries)
  • Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture explanation
  • Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

[see the second half of last Monday's post for more details on each guideline]

Making it simple and clear

[bctt tweet="We need to share the truth in a way that fits the situation and person we're talking to"]

I'll apply these guidelines using John 3:16 as an example—

Read (or listen to) the Scriptures in different versions

[All references taken from https://www.bible.com/ | for audio versions try– Listener's Bible]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV) [also available in audio]

  • For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (John 3:16 AMP)
  • God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NCV)
  • God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. (John 3:16 GW)
  • For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT) [also available in audio]

Identify key words in a verse and how they are interrelated

  • Key words– God / so loved / world / gave / only Son / whoever / believes / not perish / eternal life
    • most of these words are straight forward, but some need further insight into their original meanings in the Greek, which I've put in bold
    • one of the best online Bible text study tools can be found at– My Study Bible (when you hold your cursor over a specific word, a pop up box will give you further insight into its meaning)
    • the progression of words all stem from the first key word– God
      • God so loved the world
      • God gave His only Son
      • whoever believes in the Son (God's only son) should not perish
      • whoever believes...have eternal life

Use a dictionary and thesaurus (for word meanings–including Bible dictionaries)

  • Ex– believe from <G4102> (pistis); to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ) :- believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with
    • [this is taken from My Study Bible and shows the Greek word (pistis) and the corresponding number (G4102) in a Strong's concordance]
  • Ex– only from <G3441> (monos) and <G1096> (ginomai); only-born, i.e. sole :- only (begotten, child) [also taken from My Study Bible]

Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture explanation

This is especially important with words that are somewhat generic or have broad meanings, like God, love, world, gave, only Son, etc. Here are a couple examples of what I mean by reframing and expanding the explanation with a picture.

  • Ex– God Which God? One of the millions of Vedic gods of Hinduism? Or the God of Deism? It's important to consider words from the perspective or point of view (POV) of others (especially non-believers).
    • In John 3:16, the apostle John speaks of the Father, who is also the Creator– (see John 1:1-3, 14)
  • Ex– love Which kind of love? In NT (koine) Greek, there were four different words describing for kinds of love— agape, philia or phileo, storge, eros. In John 3:16, the Greek word for love is agape (agapao), which is often referred to as unconditional love, or a love that is willed more than felt.
    • God has an all-encompassing love, which is non-exclusive, intentional, and unconditional. It is similar but greater than a mother's love for her child (Isaiah 49:15-16a)

Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

  • Here's my IYOW version of John 3:16—
    • The Creator of the universe showed great compassion on those whom He created by sending His one and only true Son as an expression of His love, so those who put their trust in Him will not experience eternal judgment, but everlasting life beyond their life on this earth.

Keep it simple and give it a try

I've given a lot more information than you might want to use, but I wanted to provide some clear ideas about how I approach putting the truth of Scripture in my own words (IYOW).

You don't need to go through this long process each time, especially as you become more familiar with the whole Bible. As you gain more experience and understanding in God's Word (2 Tim 2:15 NIV), and read various versions, it will become more natural.

Again, keep it simple, but give it a try!

Post your own IYOW version on social media or in the comments section below.

Feel free to share this post with others– http://word-strong.com/re-framing-john-316-a-follow-up/ –and thanks for reading!

Getting Beyond "John 3:16"

john316sign When we hear something over and over, we tune it out at some level. It becomes too familiar, or we tune it out because we don't want to hear it.

This is what children do with their parents. "Are you listening to what I'm telling you?" Uh, that would be no! When we hear an ad or announcement repeated ad nauseam, we tune it out as a means of self-preservation.

Perhaps this is why people are indifferent to the good news of God's redemption. They either tune it out because it's redundant and repetitive, or they just don't want to hear it. Then again, it could be something quite different.

Signs of the times

Christian believers and non-believers alike, tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes. This is especially true for quoting Scripture references. The ubiquitous signs at sporting events are more of an irritant than inspiration.

[bctt tweet="People tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes"]

Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel? They don't. Only those familiar with these references know what they mean. Are sports fans suppose to have their Bibles handy to look up these references?

For me, this is spiritual laziness. It is useless effort. It doesn't communicate the truth of Scripture. (Want to know I really feel?...lol)

[bctt tweet="Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel?"]

Tuning in

If a believer is genuinely concerned about lost souls hearing the truth of the gospel, then they need to communicate it well. How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?

I'm a believer of reading and hearing God's Word (the Bible) in different versions. It helps me see and hear the truth in a fresh way and in different wording. It keeps me from tuning out what I think I already know.

[bctt tweet="How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?"]

I found this helpful while teaching in the Philippines where English is a second language. Language is often a barrier to understanding, especially going from one distinct language to another. But obstacles exist within the language that's most familiar to us.

Often, certain words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all. Here is where we need to learn to communicate the truth of God in a simple and clear way.

[bctt tweet="Certain Bible words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all"]

Making it simple and clear

How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well? Here are some suggestions I've found helpful while teaching in the US and in cross-cultural settings.

[bctt tweet="How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well?"]

I'll give you an example in my next post, so stay tuned!

Give it a try yourself!

 

Do You Hear the Call of Wisdom?

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Some people study for years in pursuit of wisdom. Other people may see themselves as dispensers of wisdom.

Sadly, many people seem to be without wisdom at crucial times in their life. Some even ignored it when it was available.

What about you? Have you heard the call of wisdom? If you did, how did you respond, or did you ignore it?

Scripture

Wisdom calls to you like someone shouting; understanding raises her voice. On the hilltops along the road and at the crossroads, she stands calling. Beside the city gates, at the entrances into the city, she calls out: “Listen, everyone, I’m calling out to you; I am shouting to all people. You who are uneducated, seek wisdom. You who are foolish, get understanding. [vss 1-5]

Listen, because I have important things to say, and what I tell you is right. What I say is true, I refuse to speak evil. Everything I say is honest; nothing I say is crooked or false. People with good sense know what I say is true; and those with knowledge know my words are right.[vss 6-9]

Choose my teachings instead of silver, and knowledge rather than the finest gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies. Nothing you could want is equal to it. [vss 19-11]

(Proverbs 8:1-11 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 8:1-36]

Key phrase

Listen, everyone, I'm calling out to you...

Digging Deeper...

  1. How is wisdom personified in the first few verses? What are we told wisdom is doing and where this is happening?
  2. What does wisdom cry out? To whom is she calling to? Does this seem to be in contrast to the seductive adulteress in Chapter 7?
  3. What are seven things than can be gained from heeding wisdom's call? What are we assured is not in her words?
  4. What is wisdom's value compared to? Why should wisdom be pursued rather than these other valuable things?

Make it personal...

Are there times when you've been impetuous and not sought the wisdom of others you can trust?

Are there godly people in your life whom you can seek wisdom?

What is your usual source of wisdom, if you have one?

Has God's written Word become a valuable source of wisdom for you? If not, why not?

Reflection...

A simple, working definition of wisdom is understanding what we have come to know in a useful way. You won't find this is in a dictionary, but I think it's a simple and clear way of viewing it.

Too often wisdom is put in such a lofty sense it seems out of reach for the average person. In Proverbs, as in this chapter, wisdom is extended to anyone who will hear it. Ah, there's the problem—hearing it.

Sometimes we need to shut off the voices around us, like the TV, radio, MP3 player, podcast or whatever, and be still. So many voices vie for our attention, both outside our heads and inside. How can we hear Wisdom's voice unless we stop to listen?

Need Some Help on Sharing Your Faith? (part 2)

©word-strong/tkbeyond 2013 Several years ago I escorted a couple young missionaries from our Bible College in the Philippines to Thailand. These two young women were graduates, and were called as missionaries to Thailand.

They grew up in very simple and poor homes (by American standards). They weren't highly educated, but did well in their studies and ministry at our school. I helped get them settled in Thailand with the American missionary who oversaw their internship.

[This is the second part (follow-up) post of an earlier post this week.]

I knew this missionary from previous ministry trips to Thailand, and through relationship with others in ministry. He had several years ministry experience within Thailand and was fluent in the Thai language (a complex and tonal language).

He briefed them on what life would be like in Thailand, the challenges they would face within the culture and with the language. They would begin with at least six months to a year in language school. He also made it clear they would not be able to do much in the way of sharing their faith. This proved to be partly accurate.

A real-life example

It was a big adjustment for these young Filipino women. They had not lived on their own and away from their families. They experienced the sense of isolation all missionaries encounter living in a foreign country. But Filipinos, by nature, are very social beings. They are gifted (I believe by God in a strategic sense) to learn other languages and adapt to other cultures easily.

In the small sparsely furnished apartment they lived in, they began to build relationships. Soon they offered to pray for the landlord and her family. In a fairly short time, they led one of their neighbors into a personal relationship with the Lord. They had developed great favor with the Thai people they lived among.

This is no small thing within Thailand, a staunchly Buddhist nation. In fact, to be Thai is to be Buddhist. Many Thais who hear the Gospel are open and responsive, but afraid they will be giving up their Thai identity if they are no longer Buddhist.

Following Jesus' example

Consider how this took place. These young women reached out in friendship to the Thai people they were living among. Since they were learning the language, they did a lot of listening and asking questions. It sounds like what we read about Jesus as a young man in the temple (Luke 2:41-50).

Too often, what is simple and almost effortless is unappreciated or discounted because of its simplicity. (Click to Tweet) I believe personal, intentional evangelism is one of those things.

Sharing your faith in this simple manner requires no extensive training or education. It requires a willing heart and an interest in others, including their eternal destiny. A knowledge of your own life story, and of God’s story, is also important.

It is helpful to have a sense of how to share your own life story in a simple, brief and genuine way. (Click to Tweet) **

This would take some thought, maybe writing a few things out to be ready to share it with others when opportunity comes.

Knowing God’s story is gained by reading through the Gospels and becoming familiar with God’s story of redemption for humanity. Of course, knowing God’s story can be developed further, but it’s not a requirement to share the Gospel in a simple and genuine way.

©word-strong/tkbeyond_2013

The hardest part is to just do it

Being ready and willing is important, but at some point there is the step of actually engaging someone in conversation that requires action on our part.

It's much easier to learn to engage people in conversation without the pressure of having an agenda to “save them.” (Click to Tweet)

Showing interest in others is the first step. Just as the young women did in Thailand, adapt your approach to the people you want to engage in conversation. This requires observation. Get to know them as they are, and relate to them in a way that best connects for them.

It also coincides with the first step of the basic call of discipleship, “If anyone would come after me, let him (her) deny himself...” (Matt 16:24). In other words, learn to be more interested in others than yourself.

Look beyond your own agenda or scheme of sharing your faith. Engage people at their level of faith (or lack of it), and their life experience.

Sharing your faith is not complicated, it's simple. (Click to Tweet)

Here's a summary—

  • Know God's story and be able to tell it in your own simple words (IYOW)
  • Build relationship with others– get to know them as a person
  • Be genuine
  • Keep your own life story short and simple
  • Be ready for whatever opportunities come to share your faith

** Here is a simple outline for sharing your own life story (testimony)— Guidelines-Pers Testimony_2013

If this post (parts 1 & 2) have been helpful, please share it with others.

You can use the share buttons at the bottom of this post, or copy and paste the link into your own post or comment on the social media of your choice. Thanks for reading (and sharing)!

How Does Someone "Accept Christ?"

Photo credit: http://tw.gs/Q6t0ix We live in an exceptional time. If you're not sure how to do something, just ask! Nearly endless online help is available to guide you through car trouble, DIY (do-it-yourself) projects, romance, and even religious concerns.

Is there online help for becoming a Christian? Sure! Of course there is, this is the 21st Century!

I looked up a well-known Christian phrase and found more information than I wanted. It included varying and even opposing thoughts. I'll spare you all that, though you could explore it yourself if you're so inclined.

One of the earliest questions I remember during the Jesus Movement (late 60's through early 70's) was, "Do you want to accept Christ into your heart?" Many variations of the phrase exist, such as, "Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" But I don't want to travel down the path of examining all these related phrases. It's a long one.

I'm more interested in finding ways to explain and communicate common Christian phrases and Christianese into simple and clear words. Or, as I like to express it, IYOWin your own words.

Here's what I put in the glossary at the end of my book, "The Mystery of the Gospel"—

Believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior by faith, usually by saying a prayer of confession and trust (also called the Sinner's Prayer). [Common Christianese Terms, page 205]

As with many words and phrases, other terms and expressions are associated with the idea of "receiving Christ." But how does a person put such a popularized phrase IYOW?

I won't give a sure-fire bullet list of steps, but I'll give a brief walk through of the process I use.

What does it mean?

First, I need to understand the intent of the term used, whether it's a word, phrase, or cliché. This requires some thought. For me, asking questions helps me process things.

Where did this term come from? Is it (or something similar) found in the Bible? If so, how and where is it used? If not, how was it coined? And most importantly, what idea, thought, or truth is it supposed to convey?

You would need to adjust the questions to fit the term or cliché used, but the idea is to explore the meaning for yourself.

Put it in your own words (IYOW)

Then I need to come up with a non cliché version in my own words (IYOW). This is not as easy as it sounds, but it is vital.

You'll want to avoid making it a technical definition. The goal is to make it clear and interesting, not obscure and boring. Keep who you want to explain it to in mind, or else, they'll be indifferent and uninterested. You don't want to hear, "What are you talking about?"

More and more people have less and less knowledge about the Bible, Jesus, church, and Christianity in general. Even though they are familiar with certain terms, they often don't understand them.

Give it a try

Lastly, you need to try it out. Make the effort to ask or answer a person in simple, non-religious sounding words. It will take some practice, but most people will appreciate your effort. I've had people within the church and outside of it tell me so.

Also, try to avoid answering people's questions with Bible verses. If you need to refer to a Bible verse, put that IYOW too. And give some frame of reference (context) to the verse. But please, don't bore them with lengthy exegetical explanations and definitions of Greek words. It will not help your effort to make things simple and clear.

So, how would I explain "accepting Christ?"

First of all, I try not to use terms like these, even among Christians who are familiar with them. It's how I practice putting things in my own words (IYOW).

Generally, I want to talk with them about having a personal relationship with God, and how Jesus, His only Son, is the personal link to that relationship. It is by having faith, a confidence in Jesus being who He said He was in the Bible. If they ask about what Jesus said, then I need to be ready to tell them—in my own words.

So, I want to convey the idea that what a person "accepts" is the freedom from sin that Jesus' death and resurrection brings into a person's life, spiritually. Depending on how the conversation goes I'll give more insight as they ask for it. I don't want to overwhelm them with too much information at one time, nor push to "close the deal" by getting them to pray right away.

Now you try it!

________________

Here's some resources you may want to check out related to "Accepting Christ" and Christianese (just click on the link or copy and paste it into your browser)

How do I accept Jesus as my Savior? — http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content?topic=how_do_i_accept_jesus_as_my_savior_article

http://www.eternallifeministries.org/wfb_evang.htm

http://www.bible.ca/g-sinners-prayer.htm

http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/

Does Anybody Really Understand?

Photo credit: Bing search We live in a specialized world. We are way beyond information overload. It's now over the top.

YouTube videos show you how to do, well... almost anything. News media parade experts on top of experts with conflicting and opposing views, and the amount of websites, blogs, and email traffic number in the billions.

Are you worried about the rising oceans from global warming? Forget about it! We're flooded with a tidal wave of information inundating our lives every day, enshrouded in terminology and acronyms that require an interpreter.

Does anybody really understand what's going on?

It's the language

It would be easy to jump off from here into a discussion on the end of the age, and signs of the Lord's return. Especially with all that's going on in the Mid-East.

But I want to talk about the importance of language. Not the need for becoming bilingual or multi-lingual, although that would be valuable and advisable in our current times.

The language we use in everyday life is what I'm interested in.

Over the past several months, I've had the pleasure of interacting with many people of different backgrounds from mine, in various work environments. I've gained insight into the inner workings of street gangs, and gained some perspective on the current worldview of twenty-somethings.

Working three part-time jobs has given me this opportunity. Each work and social environment has its own collection of terms and catch-phrases. Thankfully, when I ask for explanations and clarification, people are happy to help me. Some also admit their own ignorance of these things at one time.

But there is one field that uses specialized terms and catch-phrases, and over used clichés, where ignorance seems to be bliss. I'm referring to Christianity.

An Illusion

A typical American Christian uses obscure, even archaic, language with the expectation everyone knows what is being said. But this is an illusion.

It may be a self-imposed, although I suspect for most it is unintentional. As a general rule, Christian believers are oblivious to this illusion. Because I'm in contact with non-believers and nominal believers in God, I'm keenly aware of this.

Photo credit: www.briancromer.com

When talking to non-believers I find it necessary to use simple, non-Christian wording to explain spiritual truths and concepts. When I answer a question about why the Bible says this or that, I'm intentional to explain things without the usual Bible terms, common clichés, and phrases Christians often use.

Does it matter? Yes it does...a lot!

An obscure language

I read somewhere this week that an obscure language in a far away land will become extinct soon. Why? Because only a few people know and speak it, and they will die soon.

In a way, this is my hope for Christianese—the general term for all those Bible words and Christian catch-phrases and clichés. I would like to see Christianese become a dead language of sorts.

It's already dead in one sense—only those who speak it know what it means. Even many of those who speak it don't understand it well. It's self-limiting in that way.

Why? Because it closes off understanding for those who don't know anything about God, and confuses those who have a limited knowledge of God.

Is there a solution? Yes!

Christian believers need to use simple and clear words when they share about their faith in Jesus. Even the simplest of words, like faith for instance, need to be explained without quoting Bible verses and or using theological terminology. It's ok to use those terms and biblical wording, just make sure to explain what they mean with simpler words.

So "stay tuned to this station," I'll be coming back to this topic from time to time as I mentioned in a previous post.

In the meantime...

What is your experience with confusing Christian lingo?

I'd love to have you share it in the comments, and maybe I'll write on one of your experiences. ;-)

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post!

Acronym-ically Speaking

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo Acronyms. Gotta love 'em… lol (laughing out loud)! Whether it's government agencies or texting lingo, they've become an integral part of everyday life, at least for most of us. Like them or hate them, they are part of our information-overload culture.

But acronyms, as a rule, are context dependent. Unless you know the context they're used in you won't understand what they mean.

I know a group of believers and a ministry that goes by CIA—Christians In Action. Of course, when most people see these initials the Central Intelligence Agency comes to mind. BTW (by the way), that reminds me of a great line from the movie, Red October— Capt. Bart Mancuso: "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms."

Acronyms

Terminology and phrases used over and over often get shortened into acronyms.

When I did some work in the chemical dependency field we wrote reports for intake and assessment interviews. Comments were made about a client's social history (Hx) and recommended treatment (Tx). These abbreviations are common within social services and helping professions.

Acronyms are shorthand abbreviations for terms. It saves time and energy. But if you're not familiar with the context they're used in, it can cause confusion.

Christian lingo

Herein lies one of my pet peeves—the use of Christianese. It is a generic, catch-all phrase for Christian lingo and terms. I also call it Bible-talk. For the uninitiated (non-believers or new Christian believers) it is unintelligible talk. It doesn't make sense because there's no frame of reference to understand these terms and phrases.

As with most things I learn, I stumbled into a way of dealing with the overuse and abuse of Christianese. It wasn't discovered through research and study, but a desperate attempt to help my students understand the Bible and theological terms.

In 1995, I established a Bible school in the Philippines with a curriculum based on the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. Working with students for whom English was a second language (ESL), I needed to find a way to help them learn beyond the typical transfer of knowledge—copying and repeating.

How could I get them to understand well-known Bible verses beyond a surface familiarity? How could I help them understand what it means to be born again or what redemption is?

IYOW

I developed the expression IYOW, for In Your Own Words. I asked the students to define words and express Bible verses in their own words. It proved to be a challenging yet fruitful process.

Several years ago we had a group of Americans come over on a short-term mission (STM). They went out with our first-year students for an outreach mission in another area. As part of our curriculum, the students had a class on personal evangelism along with the outreach (OR). This class required them to redefine common Christian terms related to personal evangelism.

I was glad to see how well the students did, but confounded by how the Americans struggled with the assignment. They had a hard time transferring what they knew into words of their own. They seemed to be bound by unspoken rules, as if it wasn't proper to decode these terms into simple words.

A useful tool

I realized I had stumbled upon a useful tool for teaching the truth. Not only for my students, but those who think they know the truth.

You try it. Take a common biblical term (i.e.: salvation, communion, etc.), Christian expression (i.e.: altar call, accept Christ, etc.), or well-known Bible verse (like John 3:16) and put it into your own words (IYOW). You may find it more challenging than you expect.

Next week I'll begin a new category of posts called, IYOW. From time to time I'll try to decode certain terms used in Christian circles (ie: church). I hope it will be helpful and insightful, and maybe a little fun along the way.

What are some Christian expressions or biblical terms you'd like to understand better?

Let me know. Just put them in the comment section. Maybe I'll use one of the suggestions in another post.


For a fun look at Christianese check out this video (still one of my favorites)— Christianese

For a more in-depth view of Christianese, here's a resource in development that might help, and give you a chuckle or two— http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/