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Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. That is God’s promise to His children in Psalm 37:4. The Hebrew behind “delight” literally means “to be soft”. Therefore, striving to be God’s pen (and nothing else), I often find myself writing from a desire or burden He has stirred in my heart.

That desire – the desire He has placed in my heart for this series of articles – is to participate with Him in raising up and fortifying houses that will stand in the storms of life; those houses being Christian people, families, and fellowships. Storms have always been indiscriminate; both good and evil people experience them more often than we would prefer. Storms can be devastating… and they can be opportunities.

Several significant storms are brewing over America and the world. They will likely continue into the rest of this decade. Many houses will fall under their pressure, including those of our sisters and brothers in Christ. These individuals, families, and fellowships will be looking around for a safe harbor. Jesus has promised that those who hear and do His sayings in the Sermon on the Mount will have well-founded and strong houses (i.e., places of refuge). From there, the wise builders will be positioned and purposed as God’s ministering agents.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to both learn Jesus’ sayings and to discover how to “do them”. Read the rest of this entry »

Recognizing that a storm is still coming (some would argue that it has arrived); and recognizing that the house that stands in the storm is the house built by the man who “hears these saying of mine and does them”; and recognizing that you cannot do something you have not heard; I am searching out the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM) – again – for the sayings that my Master would have me do. I hope you will join me.

This is not the first time I have endeavored to understand these sayings of Jesus. Here are a few past discoveries that will help in our most recent searching:

  1. The SOTM is filled with kingdom mystery. A mystery may mean something different to different people; and different things to the same person at different times. In any case, it must mean something. Each one is responsible to search out the meaning. The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are our teachers.
  2. In much the same way that the Law was given to reveal our inability to please God, the SOTM exposes our inability to live the normal Christian life. Only Jesus Christ can live that life. This does not excuse us to live some other life. Rather, it helps focus our attention on the way God intends to save us (Romans 5:10).
  3. While everything Jesus says is ultimately actionable, some sayings are more so than others. For example, “let him have your cloak also” is easily translated into a particular and ubiquitous action; whereas, poor in spirit is more about attitude and belief, manifesting itself in differing behaviors. At this point, I believe God will focus us on the more actionable sayings. However, it should be noted that the Beatitudes are positioned at the beginning of the SOTM for a reason. Giving up my cloak to someone that is suing me for my tunic is only possible for someone that is poor in spirit.

We are revisiting these sayings for obvious reasons: several significant storms are brewing over America and the world. They will likely continue into the rest of this decade. Many houses will fall under their pressure, including those of our sisters and brothers in Christ. These individuals, families, and fellowships will be looking around for a safe harbor. It is the desire of my heart as God’s pen to help raise up houses that will be ministering agents.

Furthermore, we plan to use this revisit, and a providential teaching opportunity, to produce a new book on the SOTM. Our prayer (please join us) is for God’s glory and the advance of His kingdom. You can also help in this endeavor by asking questions, challenging my thinking and providing additional input. God speaks in community; even virtual community. I expect He will use you to make me a more faithful steward of the mysteries of God.

In the meantime, God bless you with grace for the storms in your life and in the lives of those whom God has placed in your spheres of influence.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

Back in 2015, we wrote a series of articles based on the theme, A Storm is Coming, eventually collecting and publishing the series as an eBook. At the time, many were preparing physically for what they expected to be an economic storm (myself included). A Storm is Coming was written to redirect our attention to the spiritual preparation Christians should be making.

What follows is a reconstruction of one of the first articles in the series. It is offered as a reminder that preparation is necessary for those who will be used by God during the chaos that lies before us. As the chaos intensifies, we must be diligent to avoid worldly distractions (Colossian 3:2), that we might focus on participating with God as He works in us to will and to do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

It’s the Same, but Different

We must recognize that the spiritual preparation we are talking about is something we, as Christians, should have been doing anyway. There is nothing new under the sun. The church today is suffering in many of the same ways it has suffered over the past 2000+ years (e.g., division, apathy, worldliness). The solutions, though daunting, are unchanged (e.g., surrender, die to self, love God and love others, sacrifice, serve).

However, there are least two things that are different for the church during this season. First, there is a growing urgency. Whether from those that sense a storm is coming, or from those that have experienced the slow but growing decline of the church’s influence in society, those that will take their heads out of the sand and truly consider the situation will sense the growing urgency. Read the rest of this entry »

I am going to resist the temptation to restate the thesis of this three-part article and direct you back to Part One. There you will find a useful introduction and the individual application of what we are calling the anchor (think house, not ship) of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.

Part Two explores the bridge between the individual application of Part One and the community application we are exploring in this last part. The order is important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. So, once you have read Parts One and Two, you should be ready to dig in here.

Community Application

As we begin, it is important to note that, as it is with individuals, fellowships small, large, and in between, are also instructed and encouraged to offer themselves to God – to be used as corporate instruments of His sacrificial love. Furthermore, resisting conformity with the world and being transformed are best accomplished in community. In fact, it is impossible for individuals who are “members of one another” to be transformed separate from one another.

Now on to Romans 12:4-8.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8

The “for” found at the beginning of this passage connects our humble and sober thinking to our functioning as God intends in the community of faith. Some members may have more visibility or a seemingly more important function; others, less. In humility, we recognize that this is an unimportant consideration. Indeed, as we learn from 1Corinthians 12:23, greater honor is bestowed on those we think to be less honorable. This is sober thinking.

There are three considerations here that warrant our attention. First, there is our unity. We are not only members of “one body in Christ”, but “individually members of one another”. Spiritually, regardless of function, there are no boundaries between us. Our unity is a mystery beyond reason; only by faith and practice do we know it to be true.

Through faith, we function together in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13). This is the desire, vision, and attitude of Jesus Christ. As we lay hold of the mind of Christ, we are anchored to the theological foundation, in Romans one through eleven, that He has established for our life in community. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading through Part One of this article, I discovered an oversight. Having referenced Romans 12:1-3 as the personal perspective of the Romans “anchor”, I failed to comment on verse three. As it turns out, verse three can be viewed as a bridge. So, rather than go back and update Part One, we will cover it here before exploring the church-in-fellowship perspective of Romans 12:4-8 in Part Three.

Those of you that have not already read Part One will find it a useful introduction. The order is important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. Furthermore, there is a connection between the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2) and the way we are to think in the community of faith.

Humble and Sober Thinking

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3

As we endeavor to transition from theology to its practice, we must consider our mind and how it thinks. We have already learned from verse two that our mind requires renewal; it is not prepared for the life our theology requires. For many, this is a bitter pill to swallow. We have been encouraged since our formative years to trust our minds and our innate ability to reason. Our carnal mind has convinced us that it deserves the control most of mankind has given it.

We think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We desperately need to sober up and recognize that much of our thinking is humanistic. Even in the church, we have come to rely on the doctrines of man. We attempt to live out of our reason, rather than our faith. It is high time we become suspicious of the way we think, because much of our thinking is outside the faith.

Consequently, the introduction of faith at the end of the verse above would seem strange to many in the church. What does a measure of faith have to do with the way we think? Our perplexity demonstrates how far we have drifted from the truth concerning our heart and mind. We have allowed our blame-shifting carnal mind to convince us that our heart is corrupt.

But, how can this be? What do the Scriptures tell us? Read the rest of this entry »

You may notice an oversight in this first part: after referencing verse three, I failed to explore its meaning. Part two addresses this mistake. Please do not let it distact you here. 

Anchors may be the least thought about, most important component of a building. In tornado or flood, the best built home on the strongest foundation will suffer tragic destruction without adequate anchoring. The same applies to spiritual construction. We can be sure that Jesus Christ, as the Master Builder of His church, has provided adequate “anchor” between structure and foundation. One such anchor can be found in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

I recently discovered something about Romans that many of you might already know. The first eleven chapters contain Paul’s theological foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The remaining five chapters then describe the church structure that Christ is building. This being the case, we can understand and explore the first eight verses of Romans 12 as the metaphorical anchor that secures the structure of the church to its theological foundation.

From a process perspective, this portion of Paul’s letter serves as a transition stage, containing the personal and corporate worldview, attitudes, and commitments required to become the church Paul envisions – the manifested reality of his most comprehensive theology. Moving from Paul’s revelation of the gospel to its application, one must pass through this mandatory stage. It is, therefore, critical for us to understand how to apply this anchor in our personal lives and in the spheres of influence entrusted to us.

Generally, this passage presents two perspectives. The first three verses speak to the individual; the remainder to the church in fellowship. This order seems important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. That is not to suggest that the former can be accomplished outside of community encouragement and accountability. As Paul states in verses four and five, we are members of one body and members of one another.

In this article, we will focus on the personal application of the Romans anchor. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently read a small book that has given me hope for evangelism and discipleship in America. The book – God Guides, by Mary Geegh – chronicles her experiences as a missionary to India from 1924 to 1962. While on the mission field, she learned how to have the power of the Holy Spirit in her daily life and in her evangelistic outreach to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and fellow Christians.

A visiting missionary told her, “The first step is to ‘wait’… ‘be still’… ‘listen’. Then be definite about your sins – daily; with notebook and pencil write down the thing the Holy Spirit speaks to your mind; determine to obey. Then share with others who come to you for help how the power of Christ changes you.”

Mary disciplined herself to this practice, and applied it to every problem she faced. She taught others the same way: to hear from the God Who Speaks. I will leave it to you to get the book and read her stories and the many lessons she learned. My purpose here is to share an epiphany and the hope it has given me for the church in America. I suspect this applies more broadly, and would love to hear from my international readers about this subject.

Mary Geegh’s approach to evangelism was based on a very simple statement made by Jesus during one of His more profound and mysterious messages (perhaps this is why it has been overlooked).

It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  John 6:45

I feel the need to encourage you to resist the temptation to dismiss what you are about to read. You may do so for two reasons: it may seem too simple to be important, and/or it may not fit your doctrine or mindset for ministry. There is no danger in giving serious consideration to something that makes us uncomfortable. I too had to press through my initial reservations. If Jesus had not said it Himself, I would have difficulty accepting that:

People hear and learn from the Father before they come to Jesus!

Some may say, “Of course, the Father (or Holy Spirit) must draw them.” This is true; Jesus speaks of it in the previous verse. However, what many have failed to understand (myself included) is the method of that drawing; it is not some mysterious tugging at our heart.

The Father draws the unsaved by speaking to them, and teaching them!!

Individuals with a dead spirit and a heart of stone, without the Holy Spirit within them, and who worship other gods, hear and are taught by the Father… as a preliminary step to them coming to Jesus Christ. This is not a strange interpretation of the verse. The verse would have to be strangely interpreted to say anything else.

Please note: I am not suggesting a replacement for belief in Jesus, repentance, and baptism. The matter at hand is God’s method for drawing people to the Savior and our responsibility to that part of the salvation process. Is this not Biblical prescription? Why is it not being taught and practiced? What are we missing? Read the rest of this entry »

My experience in pursuing God has shown me that the farther down the difficult path we run, and the deeper we search out the mysteries of the kingdom, the more we discover things we do not have which He has either promised His children or He expects of us. This includes hearing, direction, discipline, fruit, gifts, faith, and understanding – just to name a few.

God has a way for us to receive and be faithful in all He has offered and commanded. He is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). His Son is making us and the Holy Spirit is transforming us through the renewing of our minds (Mark 1:17, Romans 12:2). It is by grace, through faith, that we are saved – to walk in the Father’s good work (Ephesians 2:8-10).

There is truly very little that we, the sons and daughters of God, bring to the table. We are not sufficient for such things. Knowing this, God has made provision. So, why is it so hard?

Most of us have a favorite and ready answer (e.g., “dying to self is hard”; or “our enemies are fighting us tooth-and-nail”). A dozen or more responses would be correct, but that’s not the direction we are trying to go with this. Here we hope to offer three spiritually practical steps every Christian can take to join the Godhead in the good work They are doing to save, sanctify, and transform us.

So, how do we lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of us (Philippians 3:12))? How do we become faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (1Corinthians 4:1)? How do we partake of the greater-than life (John 14:12)?

The following steps are God’s way for the deeper Christian life: Read the rest of this entry »

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. Matthew 10:24-25

Previously, we suggested there are two simple questions any Christian can use to assess their obedience to Christ and the effectiveness of their ministry:

  1. Who is discipling you?
  2. Who are you discipling?

The article seemed particularly challenging (I am only the pen); and more so for the shepherds of God’s people – pastors, preachers, teachers, etc. Being a member of this group, I was reminded: These two questions should be answerable by every Christian in every sphere of influence we have been given responsibility for as leaders.

A dear friend – and the man God has assigned to disciple me for the last 12-15 years – shared a perspective that may prove to be even more challenging. You may not like what you read. It may even offend some of you.

Generally, it’s best not to say such things at the beginning of an article. We are swimming against the current here simply because we do not want you surprised and distracted. This way, we can simply say it without a bunch of dancing around. I trust you will consider the truthfulness of it, and apply all that is worthwhile.

“Disciple Making Works”

That’s what my friend said, “Disciple making works.” He didn’t mean what I thought he meant. He went on to explain (this is the way I heard it), “Every leader is discipling everyone they lead into some understanding; and into the life that understanding prescribes. They are doing this whether they intend to, or not.

“We are either making disciples into some understanding about Christ and His Church, OR, we are making disciples to Jesus Christ Himself that He might make them as He is Himself. And it always works.” Read the rest of this entry »

There are two simple questions any Christian can use to assess their obedience to Christ and the effectiveness of their ministry:

  1. Who is discipling you?
  2. Who are you discipling?

If you cannot answer the first question, you are likely not being discipled. Unless you are in their inner circle, this is not your pastor nor your Sunday School teacher. Making disciples requires relationship.

It is impossible to underestimate the impact a disciple maker can have on a person’s life (mentor is the secular term). Much of God’s grace flows down the channels of authority He has assigned for every Christian. This is not limited to teaching, counseling, etc. The life of Christ is miraculously transmitted through the disciple making relationship (e.g., faith, courage, and peace).

The Great Commission is God’s prescription for our participation in the advancement of His kingdom. Finding those that He has designated for our spiritual apprenticeship is vital to our inclusion in His story. Furthermore, it is impossible to make disciples without first being made.

Regrettably, making disciples has fallen out of favor in the church that resides here in America. Consequently, you may have to ask someone to disciple you. Before you do, ask God to identify that person. He loves talking with His children about such things.

Failure regarding our second question is a strong sign of spiritual disobedience. This is a hard judgment. It is also fair, grounded in truth, and offered in love. Read the rest of this entry »

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