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Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsAre we consumers or are we being consumed? Consumers or Christian Disciples?

 

I read once about a species of jellyfish that lives in the Bay of Naples. Apparently these slimy little creatures love to eat a certain kind of snail with a hard shell the jellyfish cannot digest. The snail fastens itself to the inside of  the jellyfish and slowly eats away on its host. Before long the jellyfish has been consumed by the snail. Reading about these jellyfish reminded me that we are sometimes consumed by the very things we consume. We have appetites for things that look, smell, and feel good, but in the long run can destroy us. Even things that are good for us in appropriate amounts, like food and work, can destroy us when consumed in inappropriate amounts.

I’ve been associated with Habitat for Humanity for almost 30 years. Its founder, Millard Fuller. Fuller rose from humble beginnings to become a millionaire as a very young man of 29.  But while his business flourished, his personal life suffered. He began to reassess his values, and after some serious soul-searching made some major changes in direction.

Fuller reconciled with his wife. The two of them renewed their commitment to God, sold all of their possessions, gave their money to the poor, and joined Koinonia Farm, a Christian community near Americus, Georgia. There they began to build low-cost, affordable housing on a not-for-profit, no-interest basis. Over a period of time this program developed into Habitat for Humanity. This organization has now built hundreds of thousands of homes for the working poor around the world. I’ve even partnered with them to build houses for tsunami victims in Sri Lanka.

Millard Fuller summed up his life work like this: “I see life as both a gift and a responsibility. My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help his people in need.”

Not everyone is called to do what Millard Fuller did. But he is right that life is both a gift and a responsibility. Can you imagine how the world would be different if each Christian took God’s call on our lives seriously. What if each one of us simply invited someone to church this Sunday? We don’t have to feed five thousand like Jesus did. What if each of us fed just one hungry person? What if each one of us introduced just one person to a loving God? What if each one of us just visited one lonely or sick person? What if. . . (You fill it in!)

QUESTION: What is your “What if? Please respond in the Comments section below.

Logo Transparent jpeg without words “What is the most important thing I can do in each of my personal roles that will have the greatest positive impact?”

 

Stephen Covey, Roger Merrill, and Rebecca Merrill include a great idea in their highly acclaimed book First Things First. It’s just a small step in their life planning process, however, I find it a wonderful but simple tool anyone can use even if you don’t engage in the rest of their strategy.

Write down the various roles you personally fill such as Parent, Wife, Mother, Sunday School Teacher, Manager, Salesperson, Neighbor, etc. For each of these roles ask yourself the simple question: “What is the most important thing I can do in this role to have the greatest positive impact?” 

Covey and company explain:

If one of your roles deals with your own development, your goals might include such things as planning time for a personal retreat, working on a mission statement, or gathering information about a speed reading course. If you are a parent, your goal might be to spend some one-on-one time with your child. If you’re married, it might be to go on a date with your husband or wife. Job-related goals could include setting aside time for some long-range planning, coaching a peer or subordinate, visiting customers, or working on shared expectations with your boss.” 

What I really like about this idea is that it encourages you to DO SOMETHING. In the church, as I have written before, we are great at talking the talk. We can be quite good at making plans. What we aren’t so good about is actually DOING SOMETHING. Many times we are simply immobilized by the magnitude of the tasks that need to be accomplished. We can’t do everything so we do nothing. Covey’s idea recognizes we can’t do everything but we can do something. This question is a good one to help us decide where we should start and it can get us the greatest bang for our buck. 

QUESTION: Where will you start? Let us know how this idea works for you by responding in the Comments section below.

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsDionne Warwick sang, “That’s What Friends Are For.” Stevie Wonder sang, “I just called to say I love you.” Many of the popular shows on television are based on close friendships.

 

Some experts are saying that  friendship was the “sociological signature” of the 80’s, but I would argue this has always been the sociological signature of humankind. In recent years, as the American family has become more mobile there has been a blurring of lines between family and friends. Traditionally, the family has been our primary support group. Unfortunately, the traditional family is almost the exception. Dr. Froma Walsh, at the University of Chicago, has said, “The increasing need for friendship is closely associated with the increasing divorce rate.”

What does all of this say to the church? It means Continue Reading…

 

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsOne of the foundational difficulties in discussing Christian discipleship is the diversity of opinion regarding the requirements for “salvation.”  The question is, “What must I do to be saved?” 

 

Of course, this is the question the jailer at Philippi put to Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30. Many Christians have memorized their simple  answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your entire household.” This is frequently quoted by Christians. Just yesterday I passed a truck on an interstate highway with a sign on the tailgate that boldly quoted the King James Version: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

The problem with this simple verse is simply this. Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without words“I am somewhat disappointed in your children. Since they are Christians, I expected that they would be concerned about spiritual things. Instead, they are more materialistic than the Marxist youth in my country. They seem to be devoid of any lofty, idealistic vision.” And this coming from a Marxist!

 

In his book Wake Up America!: Answering God’s Radical Call While Living in the Real World Tony Campolo tells about once giving a group of top educators from the old Soviet Union a tour of his ministry’s work. The group included the rectors of two very prestigious universities and the Russian Deputy Minister of Education. Tony showed them their children’s programs, their youth clubs, even their Christian school for disadvantaged children.

Finally, after a long day of visits, interviews, and much note taking, they joined in a time of debriefing. Tony asked them what they thought about what they had observed throughout the day. Their response was surprising. Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsWhere are you placing your trust these days? We’ve tried trusting in mammon. Maybe its time we trusted Jesus and really tried it God’s way.

An airplane was flying through some turbulent air. It was so bad, even the crew were frightened. While the passengers all buckled their seat belts and gritted their teeth, there was one little girl that sat relaxed, playing with her doll.

The lady sitting next to her asked the child, “Aren’t you afraid?” “Oh, no,” the calm little girl answered. “My daddy’s the pilot and he knows I’m on board.”

I’ve faced my share of turbulence in life. I suspect you have as well. But, through it all God has been  Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsGod is doing a new thing with Christians around the world and it’s finally coming to the United States. Of course, it’s not really a new thing, its actually an old thing. It’s called “making disciples.”

 

The 2013 Verge Conference was held this year in Austin Texas, the first two days in March. The theme was “Disciple Making.” The Exponential Conference is coming up April 22-25 in Orlando; the theme is “DiscipleShift.” This conference will be discussing Jesus’ Great Commission to His followers. Speakers will include Francis Chan, Ed Stetzer, Rober Coleman, Alan Hirsch, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren, Wayne Cordeiro, Mike Breen, Randy Frazee, Neil Cole, and many others.  

This Exponential Conference will stress five shifts that churches need to make in order to effectively develop growing disciples of Jesus Christ. The following is copied from the conference web site: 

Shift 1 – From Reaching to Making DiscipleShift occurs when Continue Reading…

CLogo Transparent jpeg without wordsan a little doubting be good for the soul? Perhaps more than we might realize, if Thomas and the other apostles are any example to be emulated.  

 

Dr. Jana Childers teaches homiletics at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She was once invited to preach at a Good Friday service at Allen Temple Baptist Church, an African-American congregation in Oakland. Seven women preachers were invited to preach on the seven last words of Jesus.

A young man about ten or eleven years old was one of the soloist for the service. Jana said he started out “a good two blocks from the key the organist was in.” But the boy got plenty of encouragement from Continue Reading…

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The world is full of people who need someone to come along beside them and care about their brokenness.

 

I was in my office at the church one Saturday morning working on a writing project when the phone rang. There was a very distraught individual on the other end of the line who began to tell me his story. He was a single father who had just lost his job because of his drinking. He had sent his son to live with relatives because he had no food in the house. Tom (not his real name) wept as he explained he was at the end of his rope and simply did not know what to do. As we continued to talk I began to realize this man was desperate and might even be contemplating suicide.

I invited Tom to come down to my office where we could Continue Reading…

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Lukewarm faith that surrenders to the values of secular culture will not accomplish the mission God has given us.

 

Yesterday I received an email from Antonio Cordero, a psychologist from Venezuela who holds a doctorate in science management and serves part-time as a youth pastor. He had been reading my blog and wished to respond.  He began by mentioning several issues he feels presents “a gloomy spiritual future for the nation of America.”  

Mr. Cordero explained: 

“Well I believe there is still a fundamental misunderstanding in very many American Christians today: They confuse their own culture with Christianity. Somehow main stream historical denominations of Christianity are engulfed within a culture, which they define as western, civilized and Christian. But, the truth is that the suburban American way of life has mostly succeeded in placing the message of the gospel inside some sort of cultural cocoon, where it Continue Reading…