Worth Repeating : James Montgomery Boice

“…if the death of Christ on the cross is the true meaning of the Incarnation, then there is no gospel without the cross. Christmas by itself is no gospel. The life of Christ is no gospel. Even the resurrection, important as it is in the total scheme of things, is no gospel by itself. For the good news is not just that God became man, nor that God has spoken to reveal a proper way of life for us, or even that death, the great enemy, is conquered. Rather, the good news is that sin has been dealt with (of which the resurrection is a proof); that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, so that we might never have to suffer it; and that therefore all who believe in him can look forward to heaven. …Emulation of Christ’s life and teaching is possible only to those who enter into a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus as their substitute. The resurrection is not merely a victory over death (though it is that) but a proof that the atonement was a satisfactory atonement in the sight of the Father; and that death, the result of sin, is abolished on that basis.

Any gospel that talks merely of the Christ-event, meaning the Incarnation without the atonement, is a false gospel. Any gospel that talks about the love of God without pointing out that his love led him to pay the ultimate price for sin in the person of his Son on the cross is a false gospel. The only true gospel is of the ‘one mediator’, who gave himself for us.”

James Montgomery Boice

Book Review : STIR

STIRIn the Christian church today, the ministry area that is often neglected and problematic is that of discipleship. For the most part, our churches understand evangelism and its importance in the growth of the church. For the most part, our churches understand worship and offer a variety of styles and formats. However, churches are struggling with how to effectively move believers along a pathway from spiritual infancy to maturity. Churches are beginning to ask questions such as “What is a disciple?” “What is the best way to grow a believer?” “Is there a program that will help me?” For the longest time, the church’s answer to “how will growth take place in a believer’s life?” has been “it just will”. In her new book, “STIR: Spiritual Transformation in Relationships”, Mindy Caliguire who is the executive director of Engage International of the Willow Creek Association, has written a book that she believes will help chart an effective course that will move believers toward maturity.

Caliguire writes “relational isolation just doesn’t fit with the way the church as a God-infused, God-centered community was designed to exist.” She argues that each believer, depending where they are in their growth process, will need certain types of relationships, guidance, and areas of study. In her opinion, one size does not fit all. Caliguire asserts that there are three stages in spiritual transformation. The stages are Learning Together, Journeying Together, and Following Together. These three stages and their individual elements and nuances make up the lion’s share of the book. In each of the three sections, Caliguire shares two critical relational elements: direction (levels of structure) and discernment (individual decision making based on guidance from God and others).

Stage one is Learning Together. The given objective here is that of settling on core beliefs and biblical literacy. Certain “signs of life” should be present in stage one. Caliguire believes that God-awareness, personal encouragement, openness to God’s wisdom, and new behavior will be present as believers begin to live their faith. Stage Two is Journeying Together. The given objective here is for the believer to develop a familiarity with one’s own story, allow brokenness, and develop a deeper dependence upon God. The signs of life here include a steady faith, freedom from the past, a growing dependence upon God, obedience, and growth in humility. Stage Three is Following Together. The given objective here is for the believer to discern God’s will based on solid biblical foundation and a dependence upon God. Again, the signs of life in this stage include openness to seek help, a desire to engage the world in service, name strengths and weaknesses, and enjoying a sense of fulfillment in service and sacrifice. In each stage, Caliguire discusses the types of relationships and the preferred type of leader that will provide the greatest possibility of success. As the believer moves from stage one to three, the level of direct supervision decreases and the lever of individual discernment increases.

STIR is a needed book in an area of church ministry that really needs the help. Caliguire writes with passion and conviction. Her offering of a fluid process is much better than a simple list of “dos and don’ts” This book makes a great deal of sense. I will be applying portions of Caliguire’s processes. I recommend this book to church leaders who are searching for help in growing believers in their faith.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : The Invested Life

Of all the Christian disciplines and practices, personal discipleship, the intentional one-on-one process of growing closer to Jesus Christ, is one that is perhaps the most easily neglected. This can be case for many reasons: too busy, lack of motivation, fear of failure due to a lack of knowledge, too messy, and a myriad of others. That being the case, the pages of the Bible as littered with references to, procedures for, an benefits of personal discipleship. In The Invested Life; Making Disciples of All Nations One Person at a Time, authors Joel Rosenberg and T.E. Koshy have written a thought-provoking look at this subject. They have crafted their book around two foundational questions: “Who is investing in me?” and “Who am I investing in?”

Rosenberg and Koshy write, as a premise for their book, “Christianity is not a solo sport. It’s about building strong healthy teams of fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ whom God can use to change the world. It’s about older believers taking younger believers under their wings to love them, help them grow in Christ, and help them reproduce their faith in the lives of other younger believers.” They develop their case intentionally by dealing with such topics as Christ’s model for discipleship, selecting a person to disciple, seeking out a discipler for yourself, and the subjects that should be part of an investing relationship. The Invested Life is grounded in scripture and pulls examples from within of disciple-making relationships and principles. They cite the relationships between Jethro and Moses, Jesus and His disciples, and Paul and Timothy.

This is a 270 page how-to, nuts and bolts look at discipleship. The authors give many lists, points, and checklists to get their point across to their readers. For me, this is great. I learn better by those methods. This may be a drawback to other readers. Woven into the scriptural mandate are personal testimonies and study questions to further develop their burden of discipleship. All in all, a good book that worth your time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Giveaway #2

I am giving away a copy of Jim Putnam’s book entitled “Real-Life Discipleship” from NavPress. To be entered to win, leave your answer to the question below in the comment stream. It’s that simple. Contest will stay open until midnight on Friday, March 9th. I will announce the winner on Saturday. Here is your question:

If you had to explain discipleship to someone, in 20 words or less, how would you do it?

Summer Reading 2011

Just thought I would share what I am reading over the summer.

How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture

The late Francis Schaeffer was one of the foremost evangelical thinkers of the twentieth century. He wrote and studied the decline of western culture. Schaeffer gives a personal analysis of the key moments throughout history which have formed our present culture, and the thoughts of the men who brought those moments to pass.

God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation

Dr. Andreas Kostenberger serves as professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  This book tackles the latest debates and cultural challenges to God’s plan for marriage and the family and urges a return to the original biblical foundation.

Futurecast: What Today’s Trends Mean for Tomorrow’s World

George Barna serves as president of the Barna Research  Group. Barna presents a timely look at the world in which we are creating every day and offers solid data to show the path and direction country is heading.

Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise

Dr. Carol Swain is a college-professor, award-winning author, and regular contributor to FOX and CNN News. Dr. Swain thoughtfully examines the religious significance of the founding of our nation and the deceptions that have infiltrated our daily lives and now threaten traditional families, as well as our government.

Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples

Jim Putman is the Senior Pastor of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho. Real-Life Discipleship explains what should happen in the life of every Christian and in every small group so that the church becomes an army of believers dedicated to seeing the world saved.

The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life

Robert Morris is the founding pastor of Gateway Church in the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex. Morris clearly explains that the Holy Spirit’s chief desire is for relationship–to offer us the encouragement and guidance of a trusted friend.

What are you reading?

DiscipleNow : Uncensored 2011

We had the opportunity this past weekend to host a DiscipleNow weekend at Port Royal Baptist Church. The theme for this year was “Uncensored”, calling on students to live a life uncensored for God and making personal purity a life priority. Over the course of the Friday-Sunday, there was an average of 80 students in attendance. Six churches came together to make this weekend possible; Port Royal Baptist, Shell Point Baptist, St Helena Baptist, Pine Level Baptist, Grays Hill Baptist, and Praise Assembly. We were blessed with the worship band “Soul” who led in worship the entire weekend and did a phenomenal job communicating the power and worth of God through music.

  

It was a blessing to see what unfolded over the weekend. As the students split into their small groups (middle school boys, middle school girls, high school boys, high school girls) leaders were able to share God’s desire for their purity on a level they could understand. Thank you small group leaders. Students went to the gym wall and put their prayer concerns in writing. Students laughed together, cried together, worshipped together, and prayed together. It truly was a moving experience.

  

I had the privilege as a pastor to spend some time with our students and student leaders over the weekend. As I watched individual student pastors work with their students and work with each other, it is clear they have a heart for the Lord and for students. I want to say how very proud I am of the student pastors that worked so hard for so many moths in order to make this weekend a reality. As I reflect on this weekend, a few thoughts come to mind.

1. Although teenagers may dress differently, speak differently, and worship differently than adults, those differences in no way diminish their heart and desire for God.

2. It speaks volumes to the power of the Holy Spirit when teenagers openly admit their sin before their peer group that is often their toughest critic.

3. I do not know who said that teenagers only think of themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

4. Student pastors are, in my book, both awesome and under-appreciated. I admire greatly those leaders who work full time and yet give full time love and commitment to their students.

To the best of our knowledge, four students made professions of faith in Christ over the weekend. For this, we rejoice. Many more made commitments to purity and to a closer walk with the Lord. In this, we rejoice. I want to thank every church and volunteer who had a part in this weekend’s event. From this pastor, I appreciate you. To the people of Port Royal Baptist Church, thank you for opening the doors and letting the students in.