Luke 9:23-24 (HCSB)
23 Then He said to ⌊them⌋ all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.
Galatians 2:20 (HCSB)
20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
The Church, as has said the great French preacher, Lacordaire, was born crucified and until, like her Divine Head, she falls into the ground and dies, she abides alone, the life-giving streams cannot break forth from her bosom. It is not, as some one of our British brethren has said, a great stir in the realm of fleshly doing, but a Divine dying, which will bring the Church again to a flaming Apostolic zeal, and a fruitfulness comparable to that of primitive Christians.--F. J. Huegel
Satan is Real. Therefore, we must wake up!
1 Peter 5:8 (HCSB)
8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.
Are you on the alert? Are you walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)?
Luke 4:13 (HCSB)
13 After the Devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him for a time.
Are you humbly walking in total surrender to Jesus, the only Perfecter of our faith?
Adapted from Tony Reinke:
“We have reached a period in which all forms of cultural life have surrendered to the sovereignty of Technology,” warns Arthur Hunt. “We are now under a Technopoly, which says absolutely nothing is going to stand in our way of technological progress. We put so much cultural stock in sort of headlong rush into the future without any clear telos [goal]. The only real telos is it has got to be bigger, it has got to be faster, and it has got to be newer. Somebody might ask: Well, what is wrong with this? Well, it advances the notion that our purpose in life is to be a satisfied consumer of material goods. So the next big thing is not the coming of God’s kingdom, but the coming of the curved TV screen.”
In fact Christians do have a clear telos, says David Wells. “Our objective in life is to become God-centered in our thoughts, God-fearing in our hearts and God-honoring in all that we do. This is a society of distraction. If we allow it to overwhelm us and press us into its mold, will take time away from those things that are central: our focus upon the reality and the presence and the glory and the goodness and the greatness of God. So in that sense it becomes a real competitor.”
The aim of technology and the aim of the Christian life can easily run counter.
Whether we are interrupted by external beeps for notification, or interrupted by internal cravings for distraction, our minds are changing. And this gets to the most serious concerns David Wells has for younger Christians. “We are losing the capacity for attention, by which I mean the ability to focus on something and to think about it. And if we lose our capacity to focus, how will God be the central organizing thing in our lives? How will we become God centered in our thoughts, if we are fragmented in our thoughts? And how are we going to be God-honoring in our lives, if our lives are just bits and pieces of information? That is the problem.”
But where do we go from here? How does Scripture help us navigate these concerns? How do we protect our time and attention to focus on what is eternally relevant? Hunt and Wells offer five takeaways to help us survive life in Technopolis.
1. Count the personal costs of a device along with the benefits (Hunt). “First I think the Bible informs us to walk circumspectly with eyes wide open. To some extent I think we should be like the children of Issachar, men who understood their times (1 Chronicles 12:32). We live in a world that is constantly changing and telling us that we need this new gadget and what this new gadget will do for us. We should be asking: What is this new gadget going to do to me personally? And what is it going to do to my family, to my community, to the world?” Every gadget comes with benefits. Every gadget comes with relational costs.
2. Be the master over your technology, don’t get mastered by it (Hunt). Don’t be a passive recipient for technology, but use technology to achieve the ends of your life. “We need to be masters of our technologies and not the other way around. The consumer should not be consumed.”
3. Moderate your use (Hunt). We are not monks. Separating ourselves from technology completely is not an option for us. Thus, “we should practice the virtue of moderation, or what the Bible calls self-control. We should learn to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). Time is short, because we are going to die. Therefore, we need to make the best use of our time.” And our attention is finite and limited. Create patterns in your life to strategically withdraw from technology.
4. Hone your skill to distinguish the significant from the insignificant (Wells). “We must learn to organize our internal world. If we don’t do that, we cannot see the distinction between things that are really weighty in life from those that are ephemeral and flashy and superficial; those that are true from those that are wrong; those that really matter from those that we can brush off. The capacity to do that is what the Bible talks about under the language of wisdom. We today might think of wisdom today as smarts. But in the Bible it is really not. It is a heart thing, the ability to see life for what it is by our knowledge of God. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, because we are seeing our lives with the rays of eternity (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7;9:10). When you see life in that sort of light, it looks very different from the way that life looks like on the Internet.”
5. Discipline yourself by reading books (Wells). “We need to keep exercising our minds by reading, because it exercises our minds to understand sentences and follow narratives. We need these abilities to study Scripture.”
For the health of our soul, we must learn to get alone undistracted.
Only in thoughtful silence can we order (or re-order) our lives by the greatest and most relevant news in the universe. “The greatest, deepest, most glorious thing that we can know is what God has revealed to us of himself in his love and his holiness,” Wells reminds us. “Everything else pales into insignificance. If you focus on the shiny stuff that glitters for a moment, at the end of your life you will find that your hands are empty.”
Applying The Word
- What does the passage say?
- Why does the author say in this way?
- Why does the author say it here?
- Why does this passage belong at this point in the Bible story?
- What response did the author want from his readers?
- What response should we make today?
In short: ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ and ‘So what?’ It is the ‘Why?’ question that too often get missed out as people expound the Bible along with the question about what response the original author was looking for. Basic Principles for Understanding Scripture by By Tremper Longman III
Seek to answer these questions as you approach Scripture
- Look for the author's intended meaning.
- Read a passage in context.
- Identify the genre of the passage you are reading.
- Consider the historical and cultural background of the Bible.
- Consider the grammar and structure within the passage.
- Interpret experience in the light of Scripture, not Scripture in the light of experience.
- Always seek the full counsel of Scripture.
· What does it say? This is the face value of the words.
· What does it mean? This is the meaning within/behind/inside the words, like reading between the lines.
· What do I learn about God?
· What do I learn about my relationship with God?
· What do I do with it?
· How does God want me to live?
· What steps of obedience do I need to take?
Great word for us, as we seek to make disciples of all nations! May God do something here that only He can do!
Producing a Comeback Church by Ed Stetzer and Mike Norman
In a study that resulted in our book Comeback Churches
(B&H Publishing), 324 comeback churches were surveyed in order to seek answers to the questions of what and how to make a comeback from a trend of spiraling downward, both spiritually and numerically. How did 324 churches start growing again after experiencing a pattern of plateau or decline? Based upon the information gathered in this study, some church change factors were perceived to be more important than others by comeback leaders. Guidelines to Attain Revitalization Leadership is the most important factor in making a comeback.
Leadership is rated as the factor having the highest impact by comeback leaders. Leadership is about influence. Churches that are in a pattern of plateau or decline need strong leaders who will point the way to revitalization. Comeback leaders illustrated the truth that church renewal, in many ways, does occur based on strong, effective leadership.
But what kind of leadership does the church need? Comeback leaders identified several important components of leadership in their responses—the development of an attitude of growth, intentionality and proactivity, shared ministry and the activation of a shared vision. Comeback leaders are not willing to settle for a slow or no-growth mentality; maintaining a small-church mind-set is not an option. They are willing to identify and make necessary changes and set growth goals. Survey respondents describe an environment where the ministry is shared with the people based up on a common vision. Vibrant faith is a significant factor in revitalization, particularly in three faith factors: renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church, servanthood and strategic prayer.
If the percentages hold true in the larger picture of North American churches, then what churches believe about the person and power of Jesus and about God’s mission for the church, how you follow Him as a servant leader and your prayer relationship really matter. Creating a renewed focus and emphasis on Jesus is vital to making a comeback. Believers need to experience the reality of Jesus Christ in their everyday lives. Then, in order to create an atmosphere of renewed belief, comeback leaders will want to find ways to translate that belief into practical activity. Laypeople becoming actively involved in meaningful ministry is a significant factor in church renewal.
Creating an atmosphere of lay mobilization is very important in the revitalization process. Increased expectations, equipped people and empowered people are key components of developing an atmosphere of lay ministry involvement. Churches will want to be more intentional about their evangelistic efforts.
Those churches that make plans to reach out to the people in and around their communities, and then, prepare people to engage in those outreach efforts will be more likely to experience renewal. In addition, churches should not necessarily expect to discover only one effective evangelistic strategy. These 324 comeback churches used many different strategies and methods of outreach. Thus, the discovery of evangelistic methods or strategies that work best for a given church may take awhile to discover. Those churches that have the desire to be revitalized will want to engage in intentional outreach efforts, become active agents of community service and pray for the Spirit of God to draw people to Jesus. A “celebrative” and “orderly” mood of worship is a huge factor in revitalization.
If worship in a church cannot be described as “celebrative” and “orderly,” then that church might want to consider exploring some ways to gradually introduce some new energy, enthusiasm and contemporary flavor into its worship experience.
In some cases, churches and pastors
might want to consider making changes in regard to other factors such as small groups, facilities and marketing, but these factors are not as important or influential as leadership, vibrant faith, lay ministry, evangelistic efforts and worship, according to the finding of this study. Overall, the most significant aspect of this study is that it proves revitalization can occur; 324 churches are comeback congregations. Revitalization can happen, and this study reveals some insights that will help churches that want to get on the comeback pathway. Comeback Obstacles
In one of the summary questions, survey respondents were asked to identify the biggest challenges they had faced in regard to making their comebacks. The two most prominent issues identified by comeback leaders were attitude and finances.
If a comeback movement is going to take place in North America, these same issues will likely be obstacles for many other churches as well. Many other plateaued or declining churches will probably struggle with a small church mind-set, a slow growth mentality, a no-growth mentality, a maintenance mind-set regarding traditions or a fear of change. The issue is, “Do the people in plateaued or declining churches really want to grow?”
According to some of the comeback leaders interviewed, these attitude issues can be addressed in practical ways. In many cases, an attitude of growth can be created by utilizing good tools and resources like the Purpose Driven materials. In all cases, an attitude adjustment toward growth will involve influencing people to change. Comeback leaders believe that attitudes can change.
In regard to finances, money is always a necessary resource to conduct ministry and live life. Some plateaued and declining churches will perceive that a lack of finances in a major obstacle to revitalization. Some of the follow-up interviews reveal the need for prayer and creativity in overcoming the obstacle of finances. Grab for What Lies Ahead
Keep thinking and reaching forward (Philippians 3:14
). Don’t get stuck in the past, whether that means traditions or accomplishments. Too many churches choose their past over their future, their heritage over their growth and their traditions over their children.
Simply put, churches need a fresh new vision because some ways of doing evangelism just do not work the same as they once did, and wise churches realize that. That may bother you, but it shouldn’t. You probably already know it to be true. That’s why, if you’re like most churches, you ended the morning radio show in the 1940s, quit doing Sunday school enrollment campaigns in the ’50s and stopped the bus ministry in the ’80s. God uses different approaches at different times. Our task is to find new ways to reach people with the unchanging message.
Ultimately, it is just the gospel — and the gospel transforms, but God has led us to use different strategies over the years to help us share the gospel broadly and widely. Our churches need to press ahead toward God’s plan to reach their communities today, not the plan that was used in 1954.
Here are some suggestions:
· Set some God-sized goals and go for it. Every church needs to be dissatisfied with its current condition, not because it needs more numbers, but because each community is made up of people without Christ who need to be reached. John Knox cried, “Give me Scotland or I die.” We need to pray the same for Salisbury.
· Remember Jesus has commissioned you for this purpose. According to Ephesians 3:10
, the instrument that God uses to make known His “manifold wisdom” is the church—your church. He placed you where you are for such a time as this.
· Stick with it. Not everything you try is going to work, but don’t quit. One of the keys to success is perseverance, not necessarily following the latest ideas and fads. Used by permission from Comeback Churches by Ed Stetzer and Mike Norman. B&H Publishers. Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.
What if Ferguson came to Salisbury?
If the events of what are taking place in Ferguson, Mo took place in Salisbury, how would we respond?
1. Who is our neighbor?
Read Luke 10:25-37
2. Look at the Cross
The crucifixion of Jesus was and is the greatest act of social injustice humanity will ever see. Yet, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were all necessary for sinners from all ethnicities to have equal opportunity to be lavished with forgiveness and redemption (Eph. 1:7).—D.A. Horton
3. We all fall short
It’s not about “us and them” but “we.”
Acts 17:26 (HCSB)
26 From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.
Romans 5:12 (HCSB)
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.
Romans 3:23 (HCSB)
23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Galatians 3:28 (HCSB)
28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
4. We must be driven by a new identity
Colossians 3:11 (HCSB)
11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
· We are not an Oreo. We are the body of Christ.
5. The church must shine
Ephesians 3:10 (HCSB)
10 This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.
· Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Show others Jesus.
6. Our church must look like the Kingdom
If we start to see more churches so alive to the gospel that they are not segregated out as “white” or “black” or “Hispanic” or “Asian” or “white collar” or “blue collar,” we will start to reflect something of a kingdom of God made up of those from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language (Rev. 5:9). And as we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to speak up for one another, including in the public square.—Russell Moore
7. We must take a holistic approach to our community
We must take an active approach in the arenas of community life. Don’t wait on the leadership—how is God leading you to be involved? Remember, you are missionary commissioned by Christ to make disciples of all ethnicities (Matt. 28:18-20).
8. Pray for those in Authority
We’re commanded to pray for everyone, especially those who are in authority (2 Tim. 2:1-4). Our command to do this is not dependent on the attitudes or actions of those in authority. The gospel reminds us that if our authority figures do not know Jesus, it is our privilege to pray for them and present them (if possible) with the gospel message.—D. A. Horton
9. Don’t Get Sucked In
Don’t believe the hype. Only God knows the whole story (Jer. 17:9). Our job is to live out the reality of Romans 12:9-21.
God, in His providence, has positioned you during this moment of redemptive history, so use it to His glory. Are we using this situation to show others the compassion and the hope of Christ? Remember, those around us are our neighbors in need of gospel-centered social justice that’s rooted in a healthy community of God-fearing, Christ-exalting, and Bible-saturated believers.
He became the Son of Man, and made believers (us) with Himself sons of God. He descended to earth, to prepare a place for us in Heaven. He took on our flesh, to bestow on us His immortality. He took on weakness, to make us strong in His strength. He submitted to poverty, to transfer us to the riches of Himself. He took upon Himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were burdened, to cloth us with His eternal righteousness.
Hebrews 13:12-14 (HCSB)
12 Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood.
13 Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace.
14 For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come.
Suffering prepares us for glory. Suffering burns away our self-sufficiency. It helps us to focus on what’s really important. It strips away the temporary and makes us yearn for the eternal. It helps us to see how God alone is the lover and pursuer of our soul.
Romans 8:10 (HCSB)
10 Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Here is how it happens. When the Spirit of God works savingly through the Word of God in a person’s life, God regenerates the heart (i.e., He gives him new birth), making him a new creation. As a new creation this newborn Christian
recognizes his sin and turns to God for forgiveness. God enables him to believe the Word. This is always the case (John 6:37). This belief is what God uses to bind or unite someone to Christ. It is through this union that we then experience the benefits of Christ’s work. We are considered righteous because we are now able to inherit Christ’s righteousness. It is
imputed to us or considered effective in our life. We are not just innocent, but positively righteous. Moreover, since Christ is life (John 14:6), once we are united to Christ, we inherit abundant, eternal life from Him (John
What We Have:
1. I have a new heart
2. I am a new creation
3. I see sin for what it is
4. I can run to the Father
5. I can now believe and obey His Word
6. I have godly fruit
7. I am righteous, because of Jesus
8. I have life worth living
9. I will live forever with the Triune God