Month: December 2014
“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Now those are words to live by. Jesus himself recognized how important this verse is, when–faced with hunger that undoubtedly none of us has faced– quoted it rather than seek out food.
Yet in spite of how precious the Word of God is, we often neglect our time in it. We neglect it, not for lack of good intentions, but because we fail before we have even started–we fail to plan.
Make 2015 different. Commit to read through the entire Bible in an entire year. Do it from Genesis to Revelation. Do it chronologically. Do it with little portions of the Old Testament and New Testament each day. However you choose to do it, would you commit to live out Deuteronomy 8:3 this year with me?
The dear brothers and sisters at Crossway Publishing, have compiled a helpful array of Bible reading plans. You can choose from the different approaches above, and you can even have them email you a reminder each day.
Check out their website here:
Join with me as we seek to know our great God a little bit more this year, day by day.
Spiritual warfare. When people mention it, most of us think of Hollywood renditions like The Exorcist or The Omen. And while I don’t deny that spiritual warfare definitely consists of possession and what not, is that the primary battlefield where Satan attacks us?
I am currently reading in the book of Ephesians, and I came across this verse:
‘Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.‘ (Eph. 4:26-27)
When we read those verses, we are drawn to the first part of the verse and the issue of anger. Much ink has been spilt on what it means to ‘be angry and do not sin’. But what about the second part of this excerpt?
Paul writes this command in the midst of a discourse on holy living–how we are to live holy lives in the midst of the Christian community. So why is there a mention of the devil in the midst of regulations for holiness? Because the primary spiritual battlefield in every believer’s life is their growth in holiness. Paul’s statement here speaks volumes. He writes this to the Ephesian church, one of the most spiritually charged contexts in the ancient world. Read Acts 19 to get a small glimpse of the Ephesian context. Throughout Paul’s letter, he refers to ‘principalities and powers.’ The infamous ‘armor of God’ is found in this book. Paul is writing to a church immersed in the spiritual world, a church that had witnessed exorcisms (cf. Acts 19:11-20). And yet he doesn’t mention the more ‘sensationalistic’ expressions of spiritual warfare; instead, he places spiritual warfare on the moral battlefield. A several months ago while reading Ephesians, I wrote this:
“Paul’s command places a greater importance on moral purity. I have frequently found myself surrendering or putting up a half-hearted fight in my battle with the flesh, because I always saw it as a fight within me between the old and the new. Because of the gradual sanctification process, it was easier to just say, ‘That’s just the old Jordan. He’ll die eventually.’ Spiritual warfare was a different game–battle with the enemy was all about supernatural attacks, demon possession, etc. That is what the armor of God is for. Let us not neglect the moral battle that we must wage everyday.
Now, please understand me: our struggles and shortcomings are not always (or even most of the time) the direct cause of some demonic working in our life. Paul makes that clear in these verses, that Satan may gain a foothold, not that he is the cause of our sin. If we have persistent sin in our life, that can be used by the enemy of our souls. Let us recognize the gravity of our quest for holiness, and put on the armor of God, that we may continue to be created in the image of God’s Son, Jesus.
In his book, Leading Across Cultures, Dr. James Plueddemann (former International Director of SIM) writes:
“Leadership development is at the heart of world missions” (cf. 47-48).
Wait a minute. Isn’t the spread of the Gospel at the heart of world missions? Is Plueddemann’s statement just the first in the slippery slope to the Social Gospel?
In a word, no.
Leadership development is essentially the fulfillment of the Great Commission. As Christians, we are not called to merely just proclaim the Gospel: we are called to train up believers who, in turn, can train up believers themselves. The movement in missions today (which I whole-heartedly think is the right movement), is toward equipping local Christians for the work of the ministry.
Another way of phrasing leadership development, I believe, is to change it to discipleship. Without discipleship, missionaries create an unhealthy (and unbiblical) culture, where the only one with the power (and access to God) is the missionary. By providing healthy training and leadership for local churches in world missions, the missionary empowers the church to grow without the missionary, and the Great Commission is fulfilled more effectively.
Thanks be to God for this new movement in world missions.
A book I read a while back is Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling. In this book, Tripp addresses several of the difficulties that pastors (and future pastors) face (or will face). Tripp grounds his book in experience as a counselor for pastors and their families, as well as teaching as a seminary professor. Check out this quote on the danger of too much ‘knowing’ and not enough ‘going’:
“Academized Christianity, which is not constantly connected to the heart and puts its hope in knowledge and skill, can actually make students dangerous. It arms them with powerful knowledge and skills that can make the students think that they are more mature and godly than they actually are. It arms students with weapons of spiritual warfare that if not used with humility and grace will harm the people they are meant to help.”
(I am reading the eBook version, so I do not have a page number for this quote; apologies).