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The Western church is in decline.

It is hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with that statement. The evidence of our failing condition is overwhelming. Here are two (of many) examples:

  • Based on a 2019 Pew Research study, only 69% of Americans identify as Christian – down from 77% ten years earlier.
  • In a 2018 Barna Research survey, when asked “Have you heard of the Great Commission?”, only 17% of churchgoers said they had heard of it and could explain its meaning. 51% said they had not heard of the Great Commission at all!!

More than a few well-meaning and conscientious individuals and organizations have offered their opinions on how we might reverse our trending decline. Most of these prescriptions address symptoms, not the source of our unhealthy state (i.e., start teaching the Great Commission). Consequently, much of the Western church seems to have checked into hospice care, rather than pursue the cure for our disease.

To state the obvious, the cure we have been offered is God’s grace. The simplicity of that assertion does not make it any less true – particularly when we understand the meaning of grace. From Blue Letter Bible’s Outline of Biblical Usage, grace (charis) is:

[T]he merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Grace is the cure for all that ails us. So, how do we, as leaders, acquire the grace of God for the restoration and transformation of the Western church? How do we participate with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the good work they have committed to accomplish in our midst (Matthew 4:19, Philippians 2:13-14, 2Corinthians 3:18)? Read the rest of this entry »

Grace is appropriated through faith for the renewing of our minds – that we might be obedient to the faith and experience the perfecting of our faith through the work of grace.

This is not a play on words; it is the way we mature as children of God.

The grace I am thinking of:

  • The Father working in us (Philippians 2:13);
  • Jesus making us (Matthew 4:19); and,
  • The Holy Spirit transforming us (2Corinthians 3:18).

Isn’t it amazing and incredibly encouraging that each person of the Godhead has taken responsibility for our spiritual development and progress!!

So, how do we appropriate this inward grace? We do so by choosing to join the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the work they are doing (note: “choosing” is the operative word).

How does that happen? What can one do to engage in the sanctifying, transforming, and faith-increasing work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? How does one respond to their invitation of a good work, done in us?

We do so by practicing the grace-empowered disciplines God has provided!

For example, we are encouraged by Paul to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). This is a process and a challenge. We are not sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God (2Corinthians 3:5). To join in His process for the (re)setting of our mind:

  1. We must choose to hear Colossians 3:2 as God’s word for each of His children (Romans 10:17). That requires the disciplines of Bible study and prayer.
  2. We must choose obedience to the faith that now resides in our heart (Romans 1:5).
  3. We must choose to meditate on His word (another discipline), that faith and desire would increase.
  4. We must choose to commit our way to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, trusting them to bring our transformation to pass (Psalm 37:5).
  5. We must choose to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting when opportunities present themselves for the work of faith (James 2:22).

We must choose! Choosing is a big part of spiritual discipline! Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroscientists have concluded that 80+ percent of our thinking occurs subconsciously. In other words, a lot of our thinking happens off the radar, below the surface of our attention and consideration. Think about that in light of Paul’s assertion that the normal Christian brings every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5).

Of course, we are not sufficient for such things; our sufficiency is from God (2Corinthians 3:5). Lest we forget and become discouraged: we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). God has not commanded anything that He does not empower. He is working in us to will and do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). We need only participate in the Holy Spirit’s transformative work (Romans 12:2; 2Corinthians 3:18)

Unfortunately, our subconscious is the playground and base of operations for our carnal mind. From there, it attempts to distract and deceive for its self-focused intentions. It does so by affirming the voices of Satan and the world, and by adding its own words of deception and destruction. Yes, the carnal mind speaks to us… continuously.

Now get this: We are responsible for rejecting what the carnal mind is attempting to speak over us. Here is an example to illustrate the sinister and destructive consequences awaiting those who shirk this solemn responsibility. Read the rest of this entry »

I suspect, like me, you could use a little encouragement. It seems that we are turning the calendar into an increasingly uncertain and chaotic future. Perhaps God is stripping away our earthly foundations and shaking us free from the deceptions and distractions of the world, to get our attention and draw our gaze to His Son (2Corinthians 3:18).

Since the beginning of this ministry, we have taught that chaos is normal for the child of God. The Holy Spirit uses it to transform us from glory to glory – to work the bad stuff out and to work the good stuff in – all in preparation for God’s next assignment. That is our hope for you and those in your spheres of influence.

We can be encouraged that those submitted to His preparation (Philippians 2:13) will walk in the exceedingly abundant good work He has planned (Ephesians 3:20-21). Be encouraged that every good work is possible when it is by God’s grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). Patience in the preparation is necessary and critical, but the moment will come when we will walk out into His assignment – for His glory and our reward.

Year-end Report and Hope for the Future

2019 has been a year of faithfulness and preparation. By God’s grace, we have been faithful to make disciples who are transforming their spheres of influence. By God’s grace, we have been faithful to lead the ministries He has entrusted to our keeping. By God’s grace, we have been faithful to His preparation for more.

By God’s grace…

Two substantial matters of preparation will culminate in 2020. By God’s grace, I will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Not-for-Profit Leadership. Please pray with us as we seek God’s purpose and plans for this education and the degree He has invested with us.

Secondly, An Enemy Lies Within will be published in early February. By God’s grace, this new book will expose the carnal mind as our #1 enemy and help Christians change the way they think and believe. God will use it to restore and renew the Western church. You can check out the preface here.

Of course, we want you to be a part of God’s good work through An Enemy Lies Within. Our marketing strategy depends on organic, grass-roots distribution of the book. We hope that you will buy An Enemy Lies Within for yourself, for those in your spheres of influence, and for the leaders you know. As you plan your end-of-year giving, please consider your participation in this life-changing endeavor.

We are also looking for a few individuals, companies, or ministries that wish to play a more substantial role in this project. If that is you, or someone you know, please contact me.

We are eternally grateful for your participation with us as instruments of God’s grace and glory. Your prayers, encouragement, and financial support are essential elements of His grace; and by His grace, we will continue to advance His kingdom together.

God bless you in the coming year with discernment, encouragement, and His presence in the chaos.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

The three R’s we have in mind are responsibility, rebellion, and rights. There is a relationship between these three which we plan to expose in the next few hundred words to better prepare you for the battle against your carnal mind.

Let’s begin with something on which most of us agree: Rebellion corrupts everything.

Yes, everything! And the seed of it is in every one of us. As the Scriptures assert, every human being is born with the sin. Not just “sin”, but “the sin” (i.e., our rebellious nature). Adam and Eve’s fateful decision to eat from the forbidden tree was more than an act of disobedience, it was the evidence of their treason against God.

For His own good reasons, God does not free us from the influences of our rebellious nature when we are born again. Instead, He has given us the responsibility and the grace to overcome it. This is an ongoing battle. Those that choose to ignore their responsibility suffer the consequences. Responsible warriors enjoy alliance with the Holy Spirit.

That enemy – our #1 enemy – is our carnal mind. Our carnal mind, hiding away in our subconscious, encourages rebellion in subtle and destructive ways. The carnal mind is at enmity with God, working to turn what God intends for good into some of the worse kinds of evil. Take responsibility for example. Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts fly in and out of our subconscious like bats from a cave. This wouldn’t be such a concern if our subconscious were not the base of operation for our carnal mind. Given that 95% of our thinking is off the radar of our conscious awareness, it is important that we force ourselves to make conscious decisions regarding the ways of this world which potentially contradict the principles of the kingdom and the commands of Christ.

Many times, reasoning drives us to compromise, and we find ourselves trying to live from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – a poor substitute for the Tree of Life. When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, mankind’s ability to reason was forever tied to the rebellion which separated us from God.

Each one of us is born into this rebellion and its result, our incredible self-centeredness. Just ask any parent. We are subsequently trained – through grammar school, middle school, and high school – to rely on our reasoning capabilities. In college, we are convinced that mankind’s ability to reason is worthy of worship. We have grown up into the Age of Reason and its doctrines.

Thankfully, 95% is not a fixed number. In fact, Christians are commanded to actively expose what naturally remains hidden. We are commanded to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5) – a discipline required for the renewing of our minds.

There are several methods of capture, each with their own measure of effectiveness. Most attempt to capture thoughts with a butterfly net, as they fly by our consciousness like bats. We eventually learn that method is not very effective. Others try securing a net over the cave opening, attempting to trap their carnal thoughts before they get out. But nets tear and those pesky bats have a way of finding other openings. All the while, Satan and the world are busy digging new ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing the right words to say can be a challenge. I often find myself attempting to communicate beyond the words that are readily available in my mind. Failure to “find” the right word makes me feel ignorant, dumb, even foolish. Choosing the wrong word can be confusing to the listener, and frustrating to the speaker. This is one reason I prefer writing over public speaking.

Listening and reading are also more complicated exercises that we might think. Much of our comprehension occurs at the subconscious level; there is more going on in our minds that we consciously recognize. With familiar words, we assume we know the meaning. Even words with multiple meanings are sorted out by the context of their use. The mind truly is a remarkably powerful instrument.

But what if the word doesn’t mean what our subconscious determines it to mean? What if the writer intended something entirely different? What if the word we assume to understand was translated from a language that gave richer meaning to the original? Could we misunderstand the author’s meaning and not know we have committed the error?

Let’s consider one example.

…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 (NIV)

As you can see, the New International Version (NIV) uses the word “obey” whereas the New King James Version (NKJV) translates to “observe”. According to Merriam-Webster, to obey is to follow the directions or commands of another. To observe can mean much the same thing (with less intensity), or it can mean to inspect or take note of (again, a less intense meaning).

What are we to do with these differences in meaning? Well, our subconscious picks one.

Should we trust our subconscious to make the appropriate determination? Perhaps, but keep in mind that our subconscious is the operations base and playground of our carnal mind.

How about consciously considering which meaning is closer to God’s intention? After all, He created the Greek language to communicate the richer meaning and mysteries of His kingdom. Perhaps there is a mystery here.

What might we discover with a little searching? It is the glory of God to hide a matter, and the glory of kings to search them out (Proverbs 25:2). What might God be hiding for His glory and ours? Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, we suggested that the most important thing every disciple of Jesus Christ needs to know is the identity of their number one enemy. I lamented not knowing sooner in my life that my carnal mind has been an active and aggressive ally of Satan and the world since my childhood.

Not knowing for myself means I have been unable to share the same with the hundreds of people I have attempted to disciple over the years. Furthermore, every time I brought my carnal mind into the church, I was helping the enemy gain or strengthen their position in the camp I was at least partially responsible for protecting. The same is true for every sphere of influence God has entrusted to my responsibility.

Yes, it is a sobering thought.

It is counter-intuitive to think that well-intending Christians can be enemies of the church. Only as we recognize that an enemy lies within each one of us will we come to understand how this can be so. Failing to identify and deal with our carnal mind, we have not only injured ourselves; we have brought into our fellowships and ministries, the number one enemy of God’s kingdom. In doing so, we have helped open the door to Satan and the world.

Furthermore, concession to our carnal mind is a blatant form of double-mindedness. We have been given the mind of Christ; to trust in any other is idolatry. The carnal mind is at enmity with God, and can be nothing else (Romans 8:7).

These are hard words to write and read. Perhaps they are too harsh. Perhaps I am missing something. You be the judge of yourself and your ministry. As for me, I stand convinced and convicted. Something has to change. I must deal with my carnal mind.

If this has also cut you to the heart, then I dare say you and I are in good company… and the response remains the same. Read the rest of this entry »

It is frustrating to discover something at sixty that you really needed to know when you were thirty. Of course, I might not have listened, or the information may have had little application in my life at the time, but I still wish someone had made the attempt. Maybe they did and just I don’t remember.

Those of us that place an importance on obeying the Great Commission would do well to ask God, “What does this person I am discipling need to hear right now that will dramatically change their life?” God will answer that question, over and over again. I hope and pray you will consider the following as one installment in that process.

Enemy #1

Perhaps the most important thing every disciple of Jesus Christ needs to know is the identity of their number one enemy.

Most would suggest that Satan is the number one enemy of God and His children. “The devil made me do it,” popularized by Flip Wilson in the 1970s, has found its way into the Western church. It is the way we like to think. The devil is our most popular enemy. In our confusion, we have ignored one of the most astounding claims in all of Scripture:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Satan has no power over the resisting Christian! Perhaps something else is inhibiting our resistance.

Other well-meaning Christians point to the world as our number one enemy. The government and big business are particularly favorite targets. Turning to Scripture, we again find a flaw in our thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Several years ago, we published a series of articles entitled These Sayings of Mine. The table of contents for that series is posted here. For those who prefer something more succinct (or a checklist), the following contains a brief summary of the 50+ commands Jesus has given for those who desire to become houses that stand in the storms of life.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

How can you do “these sayings of Mine,” if you do not know them? Are we foolish enough to think that we are exempt from the commands of Jesus because we have not taken the time to study them? Will our house stand because we have been purposefully ignorant?

Of course, these questions are rhetorical. Christianity is not a passive, laissez-faire religion. If we love Him, we will obey His commandments, including those found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Storms have come and storms are coming. Tribulation is promised to every Christian (John 16:33). Is your house standing? Will it stand? These questions are not rhetorical. They are two of the most important questions Christians should be asking themselves.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey (J. H. Sammis; 1846-1919).

As we consider the list, let’s call on the One who is willing and able to assess the soundness and security of our house. Participating with Him in the inspection is quite simple: for each saying, answer the questions, “Am I doing what Jesus commands here? Am I living my life according to His will?” Read the rest of this entry »

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