Three Reasons Why He Must Increase and I Must Decrease

Three Reasons Why He Must Increase and I Must Decrease

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO site

He must increase, but I must decrease. Jn. 3:30

There is something about our flesh that thinks, “While Jesus increases I can increase too.” Have you ever desired your influence to expand while expanding Jesus’ kingdom? Perhaps more people involved in your small group, or any area of ministry in or beyond the local church? Many of us have, and I confess that I have too.

John 3 records when Jesus came to Judea, multitudes received Him and were baptized. John the Baptist’s ministry was established and thriving, but now people were going to Jesus rather than John. John’s disciples were concerned. From their perspective John was “The Guy;” John, however, knew he wasn’t. John’s mission was to proclaim and point to Jesus who is the Christ – The Guy. John realized the ministry success he experienced was the result of God’s blessing and not anything inherent to himself, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” [27]. John likened himself to the best man at a wedding (in this case the marriage of Jesus and His Church) who understands that the groom is to be blessed, and that the best man’s joy flows from helping to bring the bride to the groom and the groom’s contentment [29].

Then John declared the Kingdom principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease” [30]. The reason for this principle flows from John’s next declaration, “He who comes from above is above all …” [31]. The reason Christ must be preeminent or exalted is because He is above all or has all authority. This all seems very reasonable to us as church leaders – He mustincrease. The stumbling block is the condition “I must decrease.” For us to be effective leaders, we need to become less visible or prominent. It must be both He must increase and I must decrease.

The consequences of failing to decrease are truly significant. Here are three reasons why he must increase and I must decrease:

  1. First, as a church leader, you compromise experiencing the joy John the Baptist discovered. The formula: He must increase and I can increase too – does not produce lasting joy, only intermittent glimpses of happiness that are connected to the church leader’s perception of ministry success or prominence.
  1. Second, but more important, is the negative Kingdom impact. Failing to decrease hinders the growth and development of other Kingdom leaders. The longer we continue to hold onto the illusion that we are “The Guy” or “The Gal,” the longer we keep others from being used by the King for His Kingdom purposes.
  1. Third, and most important, our failure to decrease hinders the contentment of Jesus. When the best man or friend of the Bridegroom fails to graciously take their rightful place in the background, Jesus’ contentment is impacted for Christ and His glory are obscured.

When we decide to live the principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” we are declaring our belief that He truly has all authority. That step of faith is likely to be tested. When our local church made the transition to a teaching rotation, some people who had been part of our church for years left for other local churches. Of course, our leadership was concerned, and some expressed that we should leverage my teaching to correct the decline. Nevertheless, we determined to stay true to the conviction that developing Kingdom leaders was what we were called to do. At the end of the first year the average attendance was the same as the preceding year (actually a one person variance). God was gracious indeed as He brought people who were blessed by the vision of a teaching team and the development of Kingdom leaders.

Again, in the second year when the growth of the church appeared stagnant, some urged me to become more prominent in the teaching ministry and leverage the gifts God had given me. I recognized that if I returned to a more prominent role I would not, in fact, decrease, as I believe God called me to do. So we remain committed to a course of developing Kingdom leaders and God has graciously blessed our transition towards being a more Kingdom minded local church.

The transition to Kingdom leader development requires a commitment to live the principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” that will inevitably be a challenge of faith and a struggle for some, or perhaps many, church leaders. For example, imagine a plan to develop multiple worship leaders and teams. The best worship leader and team are clearly ready for the big room – or Sunday morning gathering, but on the other hand, the other leaders and teams are gifted and anointed but clearly not as capable as the best. Putting the B-team on the platform is likely to be perceived as a potential risk to the local church. You can imagine the concerns: people won’t be attracted to the church, or people will leave. Those concerns tend to put a chilling effect on developing Kingdom leaders because of presumed threats to the “personal kingdom.” Nevertheless, you can’t develop Kingdom leaders without choosing to decrease and trust God.

If it’s all about Christ and not about you, choose to decrease so that He can increase. Come to grips with your own desire to be “The Guy” or “The Gal.” Decide to discover an area where you can decrease, then develop, share, and implement a plan to live the principle.

Three Essential Truths About God’s Building Plan

Three Essential Truths About God’s Building Plan

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

I have a certain admiration for handy people. The kind of people that rise early on a Saturday to gather building materials, tools, and supplies at their local mega-home improvement store, and then complete a home building project before the sun sets. There is a satisfying allure to the do-it-yourself [DIY] mystique. That message seems to be particularly attractive in a western culture that values individual achievement generally more than communal accomplishment.

I’m not a handy guy, but through the years I’ve discovered that God has called all of us to be builders. We are called to build with God in every realm of life. In considering the relationship between the labor of God and man it can be challenging to discern the proper balance or division of labor generally. Even more challenging is to understand that balance in the context of the various realms of life: personal, marriage, family, career, community, and calling. In an effort to discover the labor of God and man in every realm let’s contemplate Ps. 127 – a psalm for builders. Here are three essential truths about God’s building plan, or the FYI on DIY:

A. God must build: Unless the Lordbuilds the house, they labor in vain who build it [Ps. 127:1]. Without God’s divine leading and blessing, all of Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, workers, and wives were futile for what he was called to build. Man’s effort apart from God is vain or useless to produce any eternal or godly good. Earthly wisdom and resources are inadequate to build the house that God has planned. We are instructed to look to God and depend on Him for all that we are called to build. People tend to neglect God in the areas where they are strongest. Where I am most gifted by God (talented) I am likely to be lulled into thinking DIY. Similarly, as a result of experience and gaining a certain comfort level in any endeavor including marriage, parenting, career, or serving in a local church believers can engage in those routines without an awareness of our need for God.

B. Man must build; It is vanity for man to work to build the house [1], guard the city [1], or work long hours generally [2] apart from God’s blessing. Nevertheless, man is to work in the building endeavors that God has called Him to. Where I struggle to build I am most likely to avoid my work. I can justify my lack of building effort by pointing to God’s sovereignty [“His perfect will is going to happen regardless of what I do or don’t do”], or His grace [“It’s all about what Jesus has done, so I don’t have to do anything”]. Accordingly, we can attempt to justify our lack of building, and essentially shift all of our work in some areas to God. In every realm, the labor of God and man is called for.

C. The house is big: What does “the house” refer to? Certainly Solomon had experience building the temple and royal palace, and David would have instructed his son about the building of the temple. But the Psalm also refers to family [3-5], and the city [2]. There is clearly more than the temple or royal palace involved. Let’s consider the need for God and man to build in every realm:

  1. Personal: Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount with an exhortation to be wise and build your house upon the rock [Matt. 7:24-27]. The wise man hears the teaching of Christ and does them. The greatest foundation for life is found in dependence upon Jesus and obedience to Him. Our labor is to do what Christ commands.
  1. Marriage: God has ordained marriage, created the institution of marriage, and blesses marriages. Yet a good marriage does not happen without effort. Married couples experience a unique reward for their labor, because there is no other human relationship where two become united as one [Eccl. 4:9-12, Gen. 2:24]. A good marriage takes work but a bad marriage takes more work. Thus it is wise to make the effort to bless your marriage along with God.
  1. Family: Ps. 127:3-5 reminds us that children are a heritage and reward from the Lord, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them …” God has established and blessed the family to pass the Christian faith from one generation to the next [Mal. 2:15]. Parents are responsible to model a healthy Christian life and transmit their faith to their children. Although a local church should support the family, it is primarily the parents’ responsibility and blessing.
  1. Career: Ps. 127:2 warns of the futility of excessive labor that is not required by God, It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Working to advance in your career or gain material wealth that jeopardizes personal and relation health with God and others is unwise. God will give us the strength to accomplish all that He has called us to do. And whatever we do should be done to please God. But God has called us to a balanced work life, “He gives His beloved sleep.” We are to enjoy the Sabbath, and a healthy measure of sleep each night, as we trust God’s provision.
  1. Community: Ps. 127:1 draws our attention to the community, “Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” God is the ultimate source of protection and blessing for a community. And God’s people are called to love their neighbor’s as they love self. It requires effort, sacrifice, and margin to invest in befriending and building relationships where we live, work, study, and play. We are to be the ambassadors of Christ to our communities to transform our neighborhoods with the gospel.
  1. Calling: The house of God is a place where God’s people gather to worship. Jesus has assured us that He will build His Church [Matt. 16:18]. Yet each of Christ’s followers has received gifts to be used to build up the Body of Christ. The calling realm is where we advance God’s kingdom beyond the home and career spheres. Our labor in the calling realm is often connected to a local church or Para-church ministry.

What have you discovered about the labor of God and man?

Four Revolutionary Ideas For a Revolutionary Church

Four Revolutionary Ideas For a Revolutionary Church

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching are profound and marvelous. They are full of life, and intended to inspire a revolution. Jesus is not an anarchist, but He is a revolutionary. And Jesus intends His church to be revolutionary. Revolutions are always sparked by an idea. An idea that is so clear, compelling, and catalytic that masses of people are inspired to overcome the inertia of the status quo. Jesus challenged the status quo of religious observance in countless ways. His death, resurrection, and Spirit are what give life to the revolution, but it is His clear, compelling, and catalytic idea that is the essence of the revolution.

Jesus’ revolutionary idea is the essence of all the declarations of God (the law and the prophets) as follows: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … And … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” People called to lead the masses to realize the ideas of the revolution in order to experience the ideals of the revolution, must never lose sight of the idea that sparks the revolution. When the idea is lost or obscured, the revolution fails. Here are four revolutionary church ideas:

  1. I must radically love God: The revolution begins when I respond to God’s amazing love for me with amazing love for Him. As I consider the cross and the gracious sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf, it is reasonable for me to respond with love for God. To love God with all that I am – all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength – is truly a radical idea and a glorious ideal. To experience this ideal, I must confess and repent of my love for this world. I must be led by His Spirit and not controlled by my flesh. I must discover more and more the extent of God’s great love and love Him.
  1. I must radically love my neighbor: Jesus linked the idea of loving God and neighbor not as a revolutionary manifesto. He was making it clear that you don’t truly love God unless you love our neighbor as you love yourself. How did this clear idea become obscured? Well meaning leaders of the revolution started to think and declare that the way that we proved our love for God was as follows: regularly read your Bible, regularly gather to worship, regularly pray, regularly serve the Lord, regularly give, occasionally share your faith, love one another. The leaders of the revolution forget to declare and demonstrate the idea: I must radically love my neighbor as I love myself. Imagine for a moment treating yourself as you treat your neighbor. It is not too attractive an idea to ignore, neglect, and not genuinely care about yourself.

Revolutions become institutionalized, and then the leaders of the revolution become distracted by seeking to maintain the institution. Unfortunately the desire to preserve and advance the institution generally obscures the ideal of the revolution. In the context of the local church, the programs and ministries that are intended to help people to love God and their neighbor become so consuming to the leaders and the congregation alike that there is no margin to befriend and build relationships with my neighbors where I live, work, study, and play. Until we create margin in the church, and our lives generally; and love our neighbors like we care about ourselves, the revolution is lost.

  1. I must decrease in a revolutionary way: John the Baptist understood, “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease” [Jn. 3:30]. Many of the leaders of Jesus’ revolution affirm this idea, but there may be a tendency to think, “Jesus must increase and I can increase too.” Our flesh is a constant foe and the desire for significance can be an idol that impedes Christ’s revolution.

Imagine a world where Christ’s followers gathered in groups in a local neighborhood and learned to love God. As a display of their love of God, they befriend and build relationships with neighbors where they live, work, study, and play. The extravagant displays of love stir people to interest in Christ and His gospel. Ultimately people are moved by the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus. In this scenario, the priesthood (role) of individual believers is elevated and celebrated. It is a revolutionary paradigm when compared to most local church experiences that tend to elevate and celebrate a gifted leader. The more “successful” a leader has been, the more challenging it becomes to decrease. All the institutional forces pressure a leader to continue the status quo. Instead the revolution requires church leaders to change the dynamic so they and others are on the same level – loving God and their neighbor.

  1. I must encourage and equip revolutionaries: The church leader who embraces Jesus’ revolution creates margin in the life of the church and their own life. They begin to shift their attention from the church to their neighborhood; they befriend and build relationships where they live, work, study, and play; they discover the challenges and blessings of having meals with people they are in proximity with who have a different worldview; they create time to ask neighbors, “How are you doing?” They have time to listen to the reply. They ask, “Can I pray with (or for) you?” They ask, “What can I do to help?” If possible, they do what is asked for. And they even volunteer and do the Christ-like thing without even being asked. The church leader who does those things has become a revolutionary leader who can encourage and equip revolutionaries. Until church leaders live revolutionary lives the revolution is unlikely to prevail. Once leaders can model the attitudes and behaviors of Christ’s revolution, then others can be encouraged and equipped to do the same.

How are you living a revolutionary life?

Evangelism Through Invitation

Evangelism Through Invitation

By Travis Sinks

Sometimes we think that inviting people to a church service isn’t “true” evangelism. As the pendulum has swung from one end to the other, we’re in a place where many people think they have to personally share the Gospel and see someone saved to do any good in someone’s life, and that’s simply not true.

We don’t want to neglect our call to personally tell others about Jesus and His love for them, but it’s also just as important to be inviting others to Sunday services and community groups. Here’s 3 reasons.

1. Our witness together is greater than ours separately.

One of the things Jesus said about our community together as believers was that non-christians will know that we are followers and disciples of Him by our “love for one another” (John 13:35). This teaches us that not only are we supposed to be together frequently to display that love (which is one of the many reasons being a part of a local church is so important), but it also tells us that we should be inviting people to be a part of our gatherings – how else will they see this love between us?

Sometimes we think that our witness is merely regarding our individual life, but our witness together as a body of believers sacrificially loving each other is a greater than any of us could achieve on our own.

2. It allows a non-believer to experience Jesus’ people

Although you are a part of the church, you are not the whole church. If you were a basketball player but your friends never came to one of your games, they wouldn’t have the full experience of the basketball team, or even what a basketball game is like if they’ve never been to one before.

When you invite someone to church or a community group, you are inviting them to experience Jesus working through all of the members of His local church in a much fuller way. Although you have good words to share and know them well, Jesus may choose to use someone else in the church to reach out to that person in a way they will respond. By bringing them to church and community group, you are asking others to participate in reaching out to your friend or family member rather than trying to do it all yourself.

3. Coming to a service gives them uninterrupted time with Jesus

One of the reasons we try to plan our services with as little interruptions and distractions as possible is to give people uninterrupted time with Jesus.

The reality is that people are busy.
They are tired.
They are bombarded with information.
Ideas.
Thoughts.
Marketing.
Noise.

We try to have our services be a place away from all of those things. By bringing a friend, family member, or even a stranger to church, you are providing uninterrupted time for them to reflect on the most important questions we have to answer: Who is God? Why am I here? What is truth? Who is Jesus?

You will have, and should continue to, utilize opportunities to share the Gospel one-on-one, and we know that Jesus can save a person in the blink of an eye, but by bringing the person you’re praying for to church you are offering them an opportunity to step out in faith to seek God and have Jesus reveal Himself to them. They may not accept Him the first time, second, third, fourth, or even ever. But we are called to persevere, pray, reach out, and seek the lost for Jesus regardless of their response. We should be taking every opportunity God gives us to love people, share Jesus with others, and invite them to come see what He is all about.

We have seen Jesus change so many lives through being invited by a friend to church. We’ve seen people saved on Sundays, in community groups, and even throughout the week because of new relationships they’ve made. This is an opportunity we don’t want anyone to miss.

So, who will you invite to church this Sunday?

This post is shared from the Redemption Church Blog.

How to Be Marsha in a Mary or Martha World

How to Be Marsha in a Mary or Martha World

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

Many of us read the tale of two sisters, Mary and Martha, and tend to identify with one sister more than the other. If you are a Martha-type distracted with much serving then you likely feel guilt that you are not more Mary (or at least more merry). If you are a Mary-type seemingly sitting constantly at the feet of Jesus you are likely to justify your life because Jesus declared that, “Mary had chosen that good part, which would not be taken away from her” [Lu. 10:38-42]. Rather than choosing the Mary or Martha life, perhaps we should pursue them both. Imagine a third sister, Marsha, who embodied the best of both Mary and Martha? What would Marsha be like? Here are three keys to be a Marsha in a Mary or Martha world:

A. Serve Jesus with healthy boundaries:

Martha loves Jesus and welcomes him into her home, Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house” [Lu. 10:38]. Martha would sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to her Lord. We sometimes overlook the fact that Martha was a devoted worshiper who sat at Jesus feet, but here it is, “Martha had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet” [39]. The fact that Martha’s sister Mary also sat at Jesus feet means that Martha did too. The problems arose when Martha arose to serve.

When Martha felt that it was time to get to work serving Jesus she failed to create and respect healthy boundaries. The problem is not serving. Jesus does not correct Martha for her desire to serve Him. Serving Christ is good and noble when there are healthy boundaries. Here are four healthy boundaries to consider when serving Jesus:

  1. Don’t let the serving distract.Martha was distracted with much serving” [40]. The Greek term speaks of being over-occupied, too busy, or pulled apart. In this case, Martha was pulled apart from Jesus and her own spiritual health. I can so relate to the experience and feeling of being pulled apart from Jesus, because I was over-occupied and too busy trying to serve Jesus.
  2. Don’t question whether He cares. Martha approached Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” [40]. Sometimes when I am trying too hard to serve the Lord, and I feel that others aren’t I can question whether Jesus cares. Of course He cares. He may simply have not called me to do what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. Or perhaps, I’m simply not realizing that my expectations of others may not be God’s expectations (no matter how reasonable I might believe they are).
  3. Don’t order the Lord and tell Him what to do. Martha continues, Therefore tell her to help me” [40]. Martha was frustrated with her sister, perceived that Mary is lazy and compelled Martha to do all the work. Martha effectively orders Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s chutzpah is remarkable to me, but also convicting. I’ve undoubtedly done the same in prayer. It is much healthier for me to simply serve the Lord with reasonable boundaries then to presume to tell Him to order others to share in the work I feel called to.
  4. Don’t be uptight.Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things” [41]. The Greek terms relate to being anxious, troubled with cares, and can relate to seeking to promote one’s interests. Whenever I’m uptight in serving God it is an indicator that I’ve neglected healthy boundaries. It can be manifest by worry, troubled with cares, or promoting my interests (even if they are also arguably God’s interests).

B. Worship Jesus with focused attention and abundant adoration:

Mary loves Jesus and sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word [40]. She is a role model of devotion and worship. She avoided striving and stayed centered in the Lord’s love. Here are three truths about worship:

  1. Worship is needed. Jesus gently corrected Martha and made clear that worship (focused attention and abundant adoration of Him) is what is needed, “But one thing is needed” [42]. Serving Jesus is important, but worship is the priority. We must create healthy boundaries that provide margin for us to spend quality and quantity time with Jesus.
  2. Worship is a choice. Jesus declared, “Mary has chosen that good part” [42]. You must choose to worship. Once you create margin then you have a choice of what to fill that margin with. You must choose to prioritize and protect the time with Christ. There are countless things competing for our attention, devotion, and adoration. Choose wisely, because you become like whatever you choose to worship.
  3. Worship is worthy of protection by Jesus. Once you create margin and choose to worship Jesus will honor your choice by helping to protect it. Jesus was quick to honor and protect Mary from her sister, “which will not be taken away from her” [42], and later from the disciples [Jn. 12:7].

C. Keep growing in grace, knowledge, and faith in Jesus:

Mary and Martha both loved Jesus, and like us they needed to keep growing. When their brother Lazarus died, Mary fell at Jesus’ feet weeping and said, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus groaned and ultimately was moved to tears [Jn. 11:32-35]. Presumably Jesus is not crying about Lazarus for He knows that his life will soon be restored. Perhaps Jesus is moved to tears due to his love for Martha and Mary and seeing their pain. But I suspect that Jesus wept, because He felt that if there was any worshiper who understood that He was the Christ and had all authority over life and death it was Mary. And Mary’s response revealed the limits on her understanding about Jesus.

Jesus’ miraculous restoration of Lazarus, and simply their continued experiences with Him helped Mary and Martha to keep growing in Christ [Jn. 12:1-7]. Martha served without complaint. Apparently Mary helped prepare the supper. And Mary extravagantly anointed Jesus as an expression of love and worship. Both Mary and Martha blessed Jesus. Instead of choosing to be either Mary or Martha, let’s seek to be “both and.”

How have you learned to be a Marsha in a Mary or Martha world?

Do You Know His Voice?

Do You Know His Voice?

By Laura Williams

Do you ever wonder if you have ever heard God speaking to your heart? Really heard Him for yourself? Or have you ever had a thought come into your mind out of the blue and thought, “Is that my own imagination? Is that God speaking to me?” Those are questions that I think we all ask. How can I know when God speaks to me? Or, on the other hand, what if I THINK God is speaking to me, but really it’s just my own thoughts?!

The verse we hear most often in reference to “hearing the voice of God” comes from Jesus in John 10:27 where He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This has often led me to wonder why it is that I don’t always know when I am hearing God speak to my heart. I’m left wondering how I can be His sheep and still not know His voice. But notice that Jesus said that not only do the sheep hear His voice, but He KNOWS them.

Jesus knows how to speak to each one of us, and He does this differently for us all. For example, in the Bible we can read about how the Lord spoke out loud to Abraham, but a burning bush is what caught Moses’s attention when He first heard from God. He directed the children of Israel with a pillar of fire at night, but He called Samuel in a familiar voice when he was sleeping.

It is important to know that God doesn’t want to play games with us–He is not a God who wants us to struggle to hear Him and then laughs when we make a mistake. You can read in Matthew chapter 7 how Jesus compared the love of our Heavenly Father to that of our earthly dads. He wants to bless us, He wants us to hear and know Him, and He delights in His children. You can trust that God will speak to you as a loving Father who intimately knows the way you think, the doubts you may have, and the inmost person of your heart.

Another important thing to consider is HOW we come to recognize His voice. Just as with anyone, we LEARN to recognize His voice the more we listen to Him. And the primary way that we can hear God’s heart, His voice, and His words is through the Bible! As you spend time reading His Word, you will become accustomed to the quiet way the Holy Spirit teaches you in it. When you read a passage of the Bible, and sense God’s conviction and are reminded of His promises to you, this is the voice of God speaking to you!

To become familiar with the voice of our Savior is to let His Word penetrate our hearts on a daily basis that we might begin to recognize His voice!

 

Another beautiful part of spending time in the Bible is that we also receive a firm foundation of truth–Jesus said to His Father in Heaven, “Sanctify me by your truth–Your WORD is truth.” So as we read and study the Word of God, the truths He teaches us will also resonate with us when we hear His voice outside of our reading time. You may be at the grocery store on your way to the car when you see an item in the cart that you forgot to pay for by accident. And a voice in your heart says, “Go back. It doesn’t belong to you. Be honest.” And perhaps this may follow with in inward dialogue on the ethical benefit of paying for the item–“Really is it worth that much anyway? I mean, Walmart already has bazillions of dollars, do they really need the $2.27 for this dish soap?!” (may or may not have been me stalled with my cart in the middle of the blazing parking lot debating this with myself last week 🙂

So, in those moments (that we ALL have, I know) we will be able to recognize the voice of God in us as the same voice we hear in His Word! Does the voice in your head match the heart of God you see in the Bible? When you feel “prompted” (a Christian word for a hunch or thought that isn’t exactly your own) to go and tell someone God loves them, or maybe to ask your waitress if you can pray for her, ask yourself, “Is this consistent with the heart of God?”It would certainly make sense for God to want to use you to share His love with someone, or to reach out and pray for a stranger. However uncomfortable that may be! 🙂 But the truth is, because God is such a loving Father, even IF it were only your own thought and you acted out of obedience to what you believed to be God speaking to you, He loves you! God is never disappointed in us for acting in faith! 

We won’t be perfect–that day is saved for Heaven, but take comfort in knowing that you have a Father in Heaven who has made His voice known to you in His Word, who KNOWS how to speak to you, and loves us even when we make mistakes. There will certainly be times we hear God telling us to take a step of faith in our heart (like speaking to a stranger or even returning dish soap) and we may not always obey. And as the Holy Spirit gently convicts us of our lack of faith or our unwillingness to listen, He always restores us and speaks to us again.

Be comforted knowing that Your Father in Heaven delights in you today. And spend time getting to know Him and His voice in His Word today. He always speaks to us there. 🙂

This post is shared from the Redemption Church Blog.

Five Reasons Why We Should Gather In the Temple and House to House

Five Reasons Why We Should Gather In the Temple and House to House

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

Some of us like the intimacy of a small community group gathering. Others like the experience and dynamic of a larger gathering associated with weekend worship. Most of us have a preference. If we had to choose the small group experience, or the large group experience, we have an idea which one we would choose. Furthermore, week after week, month after month, and year after year people make preferences known by participating generally in one or the other.

What if God wanted us to experience the benefits of both the larger gathering and the small group? The early church met in the temple and house to house [Ac. 2:46]. This may be more than a mere description of their activity, but may be prescriptive for us. Here are five reasons why we should gather in the temple and house to house:

  1. The larger assembly of people can magnify and manifest the Presence of God. The larger assembly (temple experience) can magnify and manifest the Presence of God in a way that is distinct from the smaller group. In both a small and large group, believers assemble and God’s presence is manifest. But in a larger assembly the experience and dynamics may be different because of the critical mass. I love the experience of gathering with hundreds and thousands and praising God together. The early church continued with one accord in the temple [Ac. 2:46]. The Greek term homothymadon refers to being of one mind, with one passion. The word is used only twelve times in the Bible and ten of them occur in the Book of Acts. The word is a compound of two words meaning to “rush along” and “in unison”. The image of a larger community of faith displaying common passion for God and one another is beautiful to behold.
  1. The larger assembly provides a setting for all to share their talents, and amazing gifts to be leveraged. Again, the larger assembly provides a setting for all to share their talents, and gifts to be leveraged that is distinct from the smaller group. One aspect relates to the diversity of people and gifts, and the generally much greater opportunity to use them. Another difference relates to the opportunity to receive form very gifted leaders. The people who have special gifts of hospitality, intercession in prayer, ministering to young children, serving youth, teaching the Bible, and leading worship, are available for us to receive from. Together we can be blessed in a united experience that glorifies God as the giver of these gifts.
  1. The small group helps to develop encouragement to love God and live His word. The New Testament contains more than twenty-five distinct exhortations to “one another.” We are to love, serve, and pray for one another to name a few. The small group (house to house experience) provides an ideal setting to grow in biblical knowledge and develop biblical character – they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [Ac. 2:42]. It is an ideal setting to grow in our love for God. In a small group we can test our love for God by how we treat and relate with one another. Small groups can be messy, because they should compel us to grow by revealing that others are messed up, and we are all messed up, and need to grow in Christ. When I think poorly of another person in my smaller community I am often convicted that my attitudes are wrong, my judgment is inappropriate, and that they are a gift from God who is highly valued by Jesus. These experiences help me to discover where I need to submit to Christ and grow in order to actually live His word.
  1. The small group helps to develop community and accountability. The house experience is likely the best place to create intimate community (koinonia or fellowship). The sharing of Christ, meals, prayers, praise, doctrine, resources, and life builds bonds of unity [Ac. 2:42-47]. More than twenty-five years ago I was in a home Bible study where I learned to love God and live His word, and where I experienced biblical community. Despite the passage of a quarter century, and moving to a new area over twenty years ago, many of those people are still dear friends. Their love and community, and the accountability to show up and grow up, helped me to mature as a follower of Jesus. Smaller groups tend to create better accountability because they promote relationships where we know one another. In a larger assembly (temple) people may not realize whether you are there or not. But in smaller community (house to house) people know if you are there or not. That accountability can help us to grow.
  1. The small group provides a platform to saturate a geographic area with the gospel and to more effectively love neighbors. The temple can draw a larger group but the temple has a limited geographic focal point. In essence, People have to come to the temple. On the other hand, the house approach of smaller groups creates a platform to saturate a community. Instead of saying, “Come and see” we can “Go therefore and make disciples.” We can love our neighbors as we have been commanded. We can love where we live, work or go to school, and play. If we join with others in geographic proximity to us, and discover God’s love, then we should love God, one another, and our neighbors. That love is radically attractive and helps people to desire Christ and respond to His gospel.

When we gather in the temple and house to house we are likely to discover the added benefit, And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved [Ac. 2:47].

What other benefits of gathering both in the temple and house to house have you discovered?

What We Believe About Systematic Theology – Part Two

What We Believe About Systematic Theology – Part Two

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

A. What is the difference Calvinism vs. Arminianism? Calvinism and Arminianism are two systems of theology that attempt to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in the matter of salvation.Calvinism is named for John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509-1564. Arminianism is named for Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609. Both systems can be summarized with five points.

  1. Calvinism holds to the total depravity of man while Arminianism holds to partial depravity. Total depravity states that every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin; therefore, human beings are unable to come to God on their own accord. Partial depravity states that every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that human beings are unable to place faith in God of their own accord. Note: classical Arminianism rejects “partial depravity” and holds a view very close to Calvinistic “total depravity.
  2. Calvinism includes the belief in unconditional election, while Arminianism believes in conditional election. Unconditional election is the view that God elects individuals to salvation based entirely on His will, not on anything inherently worthy in the individual. Conditional election states that God elects individuals to salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will believe in Christ unto salvation, thereby on the condition that the individual chooses God.
  1. Calvinism sees limited atonement, while Arminianism sees it as unlimited. This is the most controversial of the five points. Limited atonement is the belief that Jesus only died for the elect. Unlimited atonement is the belief that Jesus died for all, but that His death is not effectual until a person receives Him by faith.
  2. Calvinism includes the belief in irresistible grace, while Arminianism says that an individual can resist the grace of God. Irresistible grace argues that when God calls a person to salvation, that person will inevitably come to salvation. Resistible grace states that God calls all to salvation, but that many people resist and reject this call.
  3. Calvinism holds to perseverance of the saints while Arminianism holds to conditional salvation. Perseverance of the saints refers to the concept that a person who is elected by God will persevere in faith and will not permanently deny Christ or turn away from Him. Conditional salvation is the view that a believer in Christ can, of his/her own free will, turn away from Christ and thereby lose salvation. Note: many Arminians deny “conditional salvation” and instead hold to “eternal security.”

Conclusion: So, in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, who is correct? It is interesting to note that in the diversity of the body of Christ, there are all sorts of mixtures of Calvinism and Arminianism. There are five-point Calvinists and five-point Arminians, and at the same time three-point Calvinists and two-point Arminians. Many believers arrive at some sort of mixture of the two views. Ultimately, it is our view that both systems fail in that they attempt to explain the unexplainable. Human beings are incapable of fully grasping a concept such as this. Yes, God is absolutely sovereign and knows all. Yes, human beings are called to make a genuine decision to place faith in Christ unto salvation. These two facts seem contradictory to us, but in the mind of God they make perfect sense. The Scriptures teach both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. If you take either of these positions to an extreme, to the denying of the other, you’re likely to have problems.

B. End times matters:

The dispensational system results in a pre-millennial interpretation of Christ’s second coming and usually a pre-tribulational interpretation of the rapture.

  1. Pre-Trib rapture: Jesus promised that He would come again for His disciples so that where He is we shall be also [Jn.14:1-3]. The concept of the rapture is described in 1Th.4:17 where the living church is “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air so that we shall ever be with the Jesus. In Jereome’s Latin translation, the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Greekharpazo is raptuse which yields our English rapture. While we recognize there are differing views regarding the timing we believe the best evidence supports a pre-trib rapture. In essence, the church is delivered prior to the seven year Great Tribulation described in Revelation 6-19. Keep in mind the Rapture is not the same as 2nd coming [Mt.24] at the end the Tribulation.

Date-setting: no one knows the day or the hour however Jesus urged us to know the “Season” [Mt. 24:32-35 parable of the fig tree] or prophetic signs leading to His return. Why do we hold the view of a pre-trib rapture:

a. The church is not appointed to wrath (God’s judgment) [1Th.1:10,5:1-9]. God will not judge the righteous with the wicked [2Pet.2:5].

b. Attitude of expectancy: The exhortations to watch and be ready for His imminent return. We are told that Jesus comes as a thief in the night – unexpected, imminent. In the Olivet discourse [Mt.25] Jesus told a series of parables. The moral of each is to watch and be ready for His return at any time. The theme is, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” [Mt.24:42]. Paul, echoes the theme to the church at Thessolonica [1Th.5:1-4]. If the Lord would not return until the middle or end of the Great Tribulation then His return would not be unexpected. It appears to be God’s plan that every generation live in constant expectation of His imminent return.

c. Revelation 4-6: Rev.4:4 the 24 elders as representatives of the church, are present in heaven before the Great Tribulation. In Rev.5 as Jesus receives the title deed to the earth the 24 elders sing a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; or You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Only the church can sing the song of redemption. The chronology shows the church in heaven before God’s throne prior to the Great tribulation beginning in Rev.6.

d. OT types: Lot was removed before judgment of Sodom [Gen.18:23-19:25; 2Pet.2:7-9]; Enoch [Gen.5:24] and Elijah [2Ki.2:1-11] were “raptured” before judgment, and Daniel was gone as 3 Hebrews were cast into fire [Dan.3].

e. Israel and prophecy: Most end times problems occur when we replace Israel and the Church in passages. God is not through with Israel [Dan. 9-12. Romans 9-11]. In 1948 the nation state of Israel was established and this appears to be a key event in Biblical prophecy. Israel [the Jewish people who have yet to receive Christ] goes through the Tribulation not the Church. Noah and Daniel’s 3 friends are a picture of Israel preserved.

f. Arguments used to support the view that the church is present during the Tribulation:

i. The Last Trumpet: Some assert the last trumpet in 1Cor.15:51-52 is related to the seven trumpet judgments of Revelation, however the trumpet of the Rapture is sounded by God [1Cor 15:51-52, 1Th.4:16], whereas the trumpets of judgment are sounded by angels [Rev.8:13].

ii. Martyrs Rev.20:4-5: The martyrs that John sees and describes in heaven are tribulation saints not the church [Rev.7:13-14].

iii. The gathering of the elect Mt.24:29-31: Immediately after the tribulation Jesus gathers His elect. Although the church is frequently referred to as God’s elect, the Jews/Israel are also described as the elect. Here, the promise relates to Israel, not the church [Is.11:12].

iv. Antichrist makes war against the saints Dan.7:21, Rev.13:7: Since the Antichrist prevails against them they are not the church [Mt.16:18] but are tribulation saints [i.e. those who come to Christ during the tribulation].

g. Practical implications of a pre-Trib perspective: First, the expectation that Jesus could come at any time creates anurgency for the work of ministry to reach the lost as quickly as possible. Second, It helps to create a proper perspective of material blessings. We won’t cling as tightly to the things of the world if we believe we can leave this world at any moment. Third, it helps to establish and maintain purity in out lives [Mt.24:46, 1Jn.3:2-3]. We believe that the Lord is coming soon, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed [Rom. 13:11].

C. General Systematic Theology Notes:

  1. Descriptive vs. prescriptive hermeneutic: There are some passages that describe how the church functioned but they do not necessarily prescribe how the church must function. For example the church at Troas [Ac. 20:7-12] met on Sunday and they broke bread [presumably the Lord’s Supper]. This describes what they did but does not necessarily mandate that the church must meet on Sunday, as opposed to Saturday or any other day. Nor does it require the church to partake of communion every Sunday when it gathers.
  2. The negative vs. positive hermeneutic: Simply because a practice isn’t mentioned in the Bible doesn’t mean the early church didn’t do it or that the church today shouldn’t do it. As long as a practice doesn’t violate a clear biblical principle then God has given you freedom to do it or not.

How Jesus Taught

How Jesus Taught

By  Trip Kimball

Our family moved to the Visayan region of the Philippines, in the summer of 1990. I joined an existing ministry that trained pastors and leaders how to study the Bible inductively. My wife had vision to care for abandoned babies and children, which became Rainbow Village Ministries.

Although I planted and pastored a church in Southern California for twelve years prior to our move, I learned how to teach in the Philippines.

Learning to teach

I was challenged to reexamine how I taught after several months in the Philippines, while traveling and teaching seminars. How I learned to teach before wasn’t wrong, but it seemed less effective than in my pastoral experience in the US.

I stumbled into a new way to teach without any strategy for learning it. This pretty well sums up my learning style for most everything I’ve done in life, including marriage and parenting.

All I know is, the more I became engaged in the learning process, the better I learned to engage others in teaching. At the same time, I developed a passion for simplicity. The challenge was finding a way to teach in a simple way without compromising the depth of truth in God’s Word.

Little by little, I learned how to teach in a more simple, effective way. Studying and teaching through the gospels was critical to my learning process, as I saw how Jesus taught.

Jesus’ style of teaching

How did Jesus teach the crowds, His followers, and even those who opposed Him?

Yes, of course, the Holy Spirit empowered His words and enlightened the people. But even when the people and His disciples didn’t understand what Jesus taught, they marveled at it. Even those who opposed and challenged His authority had to marvel at Him (Matt 22:15-22).

So, what was it about His teaching that carried so much authority?

If we look at the greater context of Matt 7:28-29, we see Jesus taught on many subjects. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chaps. 5–7). Much of this teaching seems to be a reframing of the covenant law to its original intent. Jesus would say to the people, “You have heard… But I say to you…” (Matt 5:21, 22).

It’s a great example of what’s commonly called exposition.

Some basic observations

Two things stand out to me about Jesus’ teaching—He told a lot of stories (parables), and taught in an interactive way with His disciples.

A friend shared an article with me that sums up what I learned in the Philippines, and what I see in Jesus’ teaching.

“Jesus provoked thought so that truth could be understood and internalized.”@tkbeyond

I’ve come to value biblical storying for its simplicity and power. Two sources helped me gain this insight—a Filipino pastor whom I’ve mentored for many years, and ministries connected to the International Orality Network.

My Filipino brother is planting churches and training leaders using the training he received from Simply the Story. This pastor trains people who are well-educated and those without education.

One of his students, who is an oral learner (non-literate), pastors a church he planted in a remote mountain area. My friend trained two other leaders to be missionaries in Hong Kong. Their method of evangelism and discipleship is biblical storying. I could go on, but you get the picture (I hope).

Interactive discipleship

We gain insight to how Jesus trained His disciples within the narrative of the gospels. Sometimes He explained parables to them (Matt 13:10-17), other times He used situations and simple illustrations (Matt 18:1-6), and chided them when they lacked understanding (Mark 8:14-21).

“Jesus interacted with people, He didn’t just lecture them.”@tkbeyond

This became a major change point for me. I began to be more interactive with students, whether in a seminar, classroom, and in more informal settings. I probably learned more from my mistakes than my observations of Jesus’ way of teaching.

Several years ago, a missionary friend shared another valuable piece of my learning process. He shared on several things, but one stuck with me—how Jesus learned as a young man.

The example of young Jesus

Let’s go back to the time when Jesus was young. In Luke 2:41-52, we find Him in the temple with the Jewish teachers. They were all amazed at His understanding and answers. What does it say He was doing? He was “listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46).

“Early on we see the foundation for Jesus’ interactive style of teaching.”@tkbeyond

A few weeks ago, I shared something similar with some alumni from the Bible college I founded nearly 20 years ago. How did I do it? Interactively, of course—I asked questions! They were familiar with that, but then I shared something else.

I asked them, “How do you think I develop my questions? How do I ask questions that engage people so they will answer?”

Then I told them that I need to listen to those whom I’m teaching. I need to see if I’m connecting with them, and if they are understanding what I’m trying to explain.

It’s my responsibility as a teacher to communicate the truth so those who hear it can understand it.

Are we listening?

I have a couple of questions for pastors, leaders and teachers to consider. Are we listening to the people we are serving, or are we too busy speaking? Are we asking questions only to answer them ourselves?

These are questions I had to ask myself, and still do.

In last week’s post, I expressed the concern that something was missing in spite of all the resources available for Christians. I don’t know that it’s just one thing, but I’m concerned that inner, personal transformation is one thing that’s missing.

I believe that intentional, personal, and interactive discipleship is essential to meet this need. And, it’s how Jesus taught and discipled people.

 


 

trip_0Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com

Five People You are Destined To Love

Five People You are Destined to Love

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

Who do you love? There are so many people that come to mind. Nevertheless, they might not be the ones that God has destined me to love. Have you ever wanted to know, “Lord who are the people that I am destined to love?” The author of the Book of Hebrews has some clues for us. Before I reveal your true love list, it is necessary to briefly recall what the Book of Hebrews is about.

The Book of Hebrews makes a compelling case that Jesus is greater than: angels, prophets, Moses, the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the temple, and His New Covenant is superior to the Old. Jesus’ greatness inspires great love! Jesus’ followers are to reveal that Jesus is greater than anything else by how they live, and whom they love.

In difficult times we tend to focus more on our circumstances and selves, instead of focusing on Christ and others. Hebrews is addressed to Jewish Christians who were suffering for their faith in Jesus, and were tempted to abandon Jesus for ritual Judaism. After demonstrating how Jesus is superior, we are then challenged to live like Jesus and love others rather than being self-focused. In addition to loving Christ supremely, here is a list of your five true loves:

  1. Love other believers: Let brotherly love continue [Heb. 13:1].Love one another like a family. Before it can continue it needs to exist. If you are isolated from a true community of other believers you need to seek it and develop it. Once it exists you need to vigorously maintain it. Loving other believers and being loved by them is enriching and transforming. Furthermore, it stirs the world to jealousy. Genuine love among believers is the evidence that we are Christ’s disciples (Jn.13:35), and that kind of community is so attractive to non-believers.
  1. Love those who are unable to benefit you materially: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also [Heb. 13:2-3]. Strangers, prisoners, and the mistreated rarely have much to offer in the material sense. Showing hospitality to strangers and prisoners is often inconvenient, and occasionally frightening. In context, the author of Hebrews was likely thinking of those who were suffering because of their faith in Christ. But the principle has broad application. We are encouraged by the unexpected benefits, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. You never know whom you are blessing. You might entertain an angel like Abraham did (Gen. 18:1-22), or simply discover the great value of loving without expectation of any return. Undoubtedly, you will show the type of love that draws people to Jesus, the source of that love.

You might be surprised that people are not always “what or who” they appear to be. One time when I was speaking at a conference, I saw a man who appeared “homeless.” I tried to show the love of Christ by approaching and engaging him in conversation. We were talking for quite a while, right up until the host introduced the worship leader for the event, and my new friend excused himself to go on stage. You just never know, it might be Jesus that you are showing kindness to (Matt. 25:35-36). So treat those in need like a fellow human being created in His image, rather than a project.

  1. Love your Spouse: Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge[Heb. 13:4]. Marriage is the most noble and blessed relationships between people. There is no other relationship designed by God to forge two distinct people into one (Gen. 2:24). Marriage is to display the love that Christ has for His bride the church (Eph. 5:32). Sexual intimacy is reserved for the marriage relationship. It is one of many fringe benefits of marriage (1 Cor. 7:2-5, Song of Solomon). Respecting God’s boundaries will display your love for Christ as well as your love for your spouse. Be faithful and don’t defile your marriage by sexual intimacy prior to marriage (fornication) or sex outside of your marriage (adultery). That type of love for Christ, and for your future or present spouse is noteworthy, and attracts people to Christ.
  1. Love your neighbor: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lordis my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” [Heb. 13:5-6]. The principle is to be content not covetous, yet covetousness is related to our neighbor (Ex. 20:17). Coveting is primarily an attitude, but here the directive relates to behavior, “Let your conduct be without covetousness …” If I am jealous of my neighbor’s house, spouse, kids, wealth, career or other stuff, and long for my neighbor’s life (coveting) I have effectively lost the ability to show how great Jesus is.

On the other hand, when I display the reality that Jesus is greater than all my neighbor’s stuff, then it is reasonable for my neighbor to be jealous and want what I have – Jesus. You are even reminded why Jesus is better than your neighbor’s stuff. First, He will never leave or forsake you [5]. Stuff and people, are always separated from you, but Jesus never will be. Second, He is ever present to help you so you need not fear [6]. Real contentment in this life flows from trusting Jesus not things. Jesus brings greater security than stuff. When you are content in Christ, you can love your neighbor.

  1. Love your spiritual leaders: Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct [Heb. 13:7]. Those who teach sound doctrine, live sound doctrine, and lead with sound doctrine are a gift from God. Love and respect them and follow them as they follow Christ. Let them lead with joy and not grief, because ultimately it will be best for you [Heb. 13:17].

Who else are you destined to love? Share your thoughts with us.


 

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN]