Free Gift: Modernized Expulsion of Sin by a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers.

I thought I had lost this. But I found it deep in the archive of my email.

THE EXPULSION OF SIN BY A NEW AFFECTION by Thomas Chalmers. Whew!

One of the best writings on how to expel sin from our lives not by hyper-focusing on the sin, but on the goodness of God.

As part of spiritual disciple, I used to grab Puritan writings and modernize them to force me to slow down and meditate on what these rich authors were saying. Their language is typically difficult to read. I leave the original in the left hand column and put the modernized version in the right hand column.

I thought I’d throw it up on my personal blog in case any of you want to download it for reflection. It truly is a powerful work.

CLICK BELOW TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE PDF

The Expulsion of Sin by a New Affection Thomas Chalmers

Hope you enjoy it!

How to Be a Discipler (According to Paul)

How do we make a disciple? In I Thessalonians 2, the Apostle Paul gives us one of the clearest road maps to becoming an effective discipler of others. As I read it today, several things jumped off the page that I wanted and needed to capture in writing. This chapter is  packed with instructions to us to  reach people and build lives.

The Initial Action of a Discipler

 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.

Start and end with the Good News of Jesus. A Christlike life and ethic follows the Gospel not vice versa.

The Confidence of a Discipler

For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

  • If you fear your own ability to disciple someone, don’t fret. You’ve been entrusted to be a disciple maker by God Himself. Even if you are merely a few steps ahead of someone in your Christ following journey, you can turn to them and say, pothole here, I hit it (or almost hit it), be aware. That act of self-disclosure is an act of disciple making
  • You and I aren’t in this process to gain worldly accolades as “greatest disciple maker of the year award.” It’s a long and steady process.

The Disposition of a Discipler

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

These two verses are packed with wisdom.

  • All discipleship starts with truly caring about the person you are discipling. Paul states his deep affection for those whom God has entrusted to him. People must be dear to us before we can disciple them. They are not widgets. It will get messy. If you want to see neat and tidy, go to a morgue–death. The birthing room at the hospital is messy–life.
  • We have to be willing to not just block off discipleship to convenient teaching sessions. Paul says it is an imparting of life by living life on life. I remember an acquaintance of mine who only had two weeks to disciple a new believer before he left the country. He said to the new believer, “You are going to come live with me and we are going to do life together 24/7 for two weeks. You are going to see my in work clothes all the way until I am in my underwear for bed.” Underwear discipleship, good concept.

The Content of a Discipler

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 

Paul, and our, central point of what we are imparting is the Gospel of Jesus. He kept the main thing the main thing and so should we, as disciplers. Doing apologetics has a role, but when we get down to questions like, “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” we have to steer back to the main thing.

The Behavior of a Discipler

10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

We serve God and the disciple. It’s not the other way around. We don’t ask selfish things to seek self-gain from the disciple or our motives may be questioned. We are NOT TV evangelist (give to me and you’ll get blessed) but servants (I am blessing you because I’ve already been blessed by God).

The Activity of a Discipler

11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Our primary activity is to:

  • exhort-means to come alongside and remind them of what Jesus said and to clarify its application. The Greek word for exhort is paraklesis, which is very similar to the word Jesus uses of the role of the Holy Spirit in John 14. The Holy Spirit clarifies and reminds of what Jesus said in that passage (Thanks Pastor Jed Walker for a great teaching on this). We are to do the same.

 

  • encourage-doesn’t simply mean to compliment. In literally means “to put courage into someone.” This is key, for every disciple will face challenges and even failure. They must have a hope beyond themselves. This is exactly the message of the Gospel.
  • implore–to call to action, not merely knowledge
  • We do this in the same way we were shepherd our own children.

The Hope of a Discipler

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

At the end of the day, the empowering of the disciple comes from God, not us. We are merely to be faithful. The Holy Spirit enacts the results. This is our hope.

The Proof to a Discipler

14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16 hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.

  • Paul says he knew he had made a disciple when they too became disciplers. This is the meaning of imitator.
  • Another key sign of that a disciple had been made was that they were able to stand up under challenge and opposition, even persecution. Disciples aren’t sailboats blown by the wind. Rather they are propeller driven ships who can push through a storm.

The Desire of a Discipler

17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face18 For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us.

We should love those we disciple to the degree that we eagerly desire to spend time with them.

The Crowning Glory of a Discipler

19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

At the end of the day (and of our lives), our joy is in those who have responded to the Gospel and become fully developed followers of Jesus Christ. We get to be a part of this process. Everything else will pale in comparison to this when we stand before the Father.

 

Falling Down and Laughing

Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram…. 17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

Have you ever experienced awe and doubt at the same moment? Good news…

God is big enough to take our awe-filled worship and doubt simultaneously.

Abram fell before the awesomeness of God, yet in the midst of this experience his full humanity is seen. He didn’t fall down laughing. He fell on his face in worhips, yet laughs in doubt at God’s plan. He actually chuckles when God says to him. “You will have a son.”“No, God, you see Sara and I are too old.”

In fact, Abram goes on to present a Plan B to God. “Well, God you know Sara and I thought we’d speed up your plan by me having relations with Sara’s much younger handmaiden Hagar. And that produced us a son. Let’s use him, God”

God doesn’t blast him for this doubt, but merely restates clearly His divine plan. “You’ll have a son from Sara.” This exchange gives you and me incredible hope. God can handle me simultaneously loving, trusting, and worshiping Him EVEN WHILE I have remaining doubts about Him, His nearness to me, and His plan for me. He is growing us. Even as we say, “No, God, I am (that is) too _________________.”

We don’t have to have it all figured out or fake it. Be transparent and honest before God about both your awe and your doubt. We see this again and again. Even in a man’s encounter with Jesus who was asking Jesus to heal his son:

“And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Whew!

A Christmas Video of Hope: Don’t Miss This

Taking a break for all the strategic marketing talk to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas! I want to share this video with you as a true reminder of the meaning of Christmas.

Jesus Christ left the riches of heaven to come to the squalor of earth, lived a life in perfect obedience and union with the Father. He was crucified to undo the sinful affects of the Fall and our own failures, was buried, and resurrected from the dead. He now sits at the right hand of the Father as our advocate. He will return to establish a new earth. (If this all sounds farfetched see tomorrow’s post on great reads on the rationality of Christianity). This was not merely to perform an act within history, but so that you and I could be ADOPTED into a new spiritual family. If you are a Jesus follower, celebrate your radical adoption like Meredith, with overflowing gratitude.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of iadoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ… The Apostle Paul Romans 8

Church and Public Relations Challenges — Some Questions

Churches are filled with people. People who fill churches are imperfect. Their is only one perfect person. His name is Jesus. Yet those outside the Church seem to think that those inside should be perfect or near perfect, an impossible task. This is not the Gospel the church preaches. Followers of Jesus are to strive, empowered by God, to press toward the high calling of Christ Jesus but they will never arrive anywhere near perfection in this lifetime. (Philippians 3:12-14) Thus, the potential for a true public relations challenge when these people, who trust in Jesus’ vicarious sacrifice for their perfection, fall short–especially when it is the staff member of a church. How does the church communicate in a way that is true, beneficial, and necessary?

A Case Study

Recently a prominent mega-church had to terminate their student pastor for improper conduct. It was alleged, and strong evidence produced, that he had an inordinate amount electronic contact with a woman other than his wife. He denied that anything other than that the e-correspondence had occurred. I will not go into more detail, as it is not crucial to the argument. I also will name neither the church nor the individual staff member as it is unimportant to my point, and in fact could be contra-biblical.

What was the Public Relations response of the church?

This church terminated the staff member. They then chose to hold a meeting with its students and their parents where the lead pastor clearly outlined the case for dismissal. He did this tactfully yet providing clear evidence for the firing. This called meeting was the right move in both the biblical and public relations sense. As the staff member in question, according to church, had not yet fully acknowledged and repented of his behavior, denying it for a long period of time even at direct confrontation, the church family rightly was made aware of the reasons for termination. If he had come forward, himself, with a repentant heart, another tact in the disclosure could have been taken while maintaining the biblical instruction in this regard. (I am not commenting on the point of dismissal here, but the nature of its disclosure.)

The message the lead pastor made that night to the church family that night was on target, and thoroughly lined up with the biblical mandates given the situation.

Did this church go wrong PR wise?

Did this church make a biblical and public relations mistake in what it did with that message? It posted a video of the message for open, public viewing on its website. Then at least one of its staff members tweeted the link to the video, announcing its presence to his numerous followers outside their inner church family. While I am not for subterfuge or opaquing, was this  an inner-family dialogue that should not be on the open internet?

What if?

What if a full disclosure could have been made to the church family by emailing out a private link to the video for those unable to attend the meeting requesting they view the link rather than public tweets and notices? What if a more general statement could have been made to the press if there was inquiry? While the link could have made its way public by any of its receivers, it is obvious that the hearers listened to request of the pastor, as the internet is not full of gossip regarding this situation. This private invitation would also line up with Matthew 18 where the church is told to bring it before the church family and the spirit of I Corinthians 6.

Would this be comparable to the Catholic Church’s public relations debacle? No, a full disclosure would have been made to pertinent and necessary parties, the church membership. This is in stark contrast to the unwillingness of the Catholic Church to acknowledge their serious problem to even their own parishioners.

Would not making this announcement public have stopped those outside the church seeing the Gospel at work? Perhaps, as the lead pastor did an excellent job explaining how grace works. His prime emphasis did not appear to be “we were right in all that we did, so ‘take that’ any who would dissent from our actions.” This, unfortunately, is often the motive of the imperfect people, including leadership in some churches, resulting in the public flagellation of its staff for only covering-our-butts reasons. Not the case here. The Gospel was present.

What if the staff member would have made the initial approach to lead staff  with full disclosure and a repentant heart? A much different announcement could have been made to the church family, much less specific in nature.

Can this individual ultimately return to ministry? This individual is not exempt nor pardoned from ministry now, as that is simply not an option for a Jesus follower. This is true for whatever reason he or she leaves full-time ministry–for personal sanity, moral issues, or otherwise.  It will simply look different in that he or she won’t earn a paycheck from the ministry that God has called them to. One of the best ways to heal is to continue to reach out to others, specifically the hurting even when you are yourself, with the good news seen in Jesus. Nor does it mean that he or she will never be able to be in full-time ministry again.

What other actions should be taken? If the church chooses to leave the video posted for viewing, it should be for a very limited period of time. (I have no clue as to whether this is their intent or not.) To leave it up ad infinitum is not necessary or beneficial for the church or the former staff member.

Concluding Thoughts

All in all, this church did an excellent job communicating a difficult circumstance. This especially considering that they were not sure of the response of the released party, as it outwardly appears he never fully admitted to the behavior in question. The church is full of imperfect people seeking to have the perfection of Jesus credited to them through His death, burial and resurrection. No one in the church will ever be perfect. As such, our communication and public relations as Christians will never be perfect either.

Do you agree or disagree with these thoughts? I am open for dialogue. (Notice: If you name names, your comment will not be approved.)

 

On Atheism and Intelligent Design.

This week I watched two view worthy documentaries on atheism and intelligent design.  (I also watched a documentary called The God Who Isn’t There but it well lacked the scholarly weight of the two I am recommending).

The first, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was written from intelligent design perspective of the always witty Ben Stein.

The second, Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, was hosted by the likeable and friendly atheist Randy Olson (I mean that).

Both documentaries are available on netflix. They pair to make a nice viewing from two opposite perspectives. Both hosts are guys with whom you would generally love “to hang.” Watching these reminds me of the degree of faith that both sides must use in defense of their case. It also spurred me to further reading as I go back and revisit the subject of philosophical atheism. I am reading at the far ends of the spectrum. Click the book cover to view in Amazon. Save paper and shelf-space with a Kindle.

One book by a former evangelical pastor who turned atheist.

Another by one of the foremost former defenders of atheism now turned theist.

_________

One book by a respected astronomer on intelligent design.

One re-reading of a book by a vehement evangelist of atheism.

________

And finally one by a renowned scholar who argues for the veracity of the Gospels based upon the fact that they are eyewitness accounts and not merely the gathering of distant oral traditions. This because so many atheists and Jesus Seminar types still lean on the legacy of form criticism to doubt the historical reliability of the Gospels as redacted to serve only the faith communities’ interest regardless of truth.

Of course I am doing a lot of Bible reading alongside these with a bit of lighter-fun reading so I don’t lose my mind or my soul in the process..ha!

I will review some of these here after I complete them or point to other solid reviews. I will also recommend a couple of more works that I have already read or plan to read soon on this topic in the next few days.

How To Rest Well

You eagerly lay your head on the pillow but find yourself staring at a shadowed ceiling, sleepless. Mind racing, you suffer from a troubled soul that offers no concessions to your wearied body. When battered by the chaos of life, we need to learn the art of resting. Not merely physical rest but a deeper soul rest.  True rest is actually something we learn from God and gain access to through Christ.

God rested

In Genesis 1 after God created order from the chaos, He rested. That doesn’t mean that God disconnected from creation for a moment of respite in His heavenly hammock. By saying God rested, the author of Genesis means to convey that God had demonstrated His sovereignty over the forces of chaos in the creative week.

In the Old Testament, after the Temple was built, God was said to rest there (I Chronicles 28:2, Isaiah 66:1, 2 Chronicles 6:41, etc.). Though the Holy of Holies could not completely contain the omnipresent God, this sacred place within the Temple was said to be God’s footstool. The Temple was built after after Israel had defeated its enemies and entered the promised land. In fact, David and Solomon both note that God has given them rest by defeating their enemies and, thus, they are able to build Him a temple which may serve as His place of rest (I Kings 5:4-5). In a sense, God’s enemies and their foreign “gods” had been put under His feet.

God promises rest to His people.

God promises rest to Adam  if he took care of the Garden (Genesis 2:15 the Hebrew word for put is not the normal word but one that carries and overtone of rest). He promises rest to Israel if they lived faithfully in the promised land (Exodus 33:14, Deuteronomy 3:20, 2 Samuel 7:1-6).

How we get in on God’s rest.

Soul rest is a realization that God has defeated His enemies and dwells with us. Biblical rest is not merely being inactive physically, or chillaxing as my 11 year-old daughter says, though sometimes that plays a part. Rather, it is understanding that God’s presence is with us and that we, in Christ, can overcome the apparent chaos that surrounds us and causes us anxiety and turmoil.

True rest stems from the following understanding:

  1. We are now God’s temple where Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit takes up residence. Our hearts are, in that sense, like the Holy of Holies in the Temple, God’s resting place.
  2. That in Christ, we have entered His rest (Hebrews 4:2-4), meaning that we trust that our sovereign God has defeated, is defeating, and will fully defeat our enemies (sickness & death, evil, Satan) and bring order to the chaos that seems to be the root of our anxiety and lack of rest.

How do we get in on that rest?

Though we do not see the full victory over our enemies and chaos presently, we live in faith that God will do what He has promised (Revelation 20:10, 14 & Revelation 21:4). Satan, sin, death, mourning, and sorrow will be ultimately overcome. The chaos that appears to run rampant on earth will be put away and God’s order will be established as peace rules the earth.

We gain rest for our souls as we access these biblical promises in our daily lives. Paul instructs us how to live by faith in this way. This is what we are to do when the swirling waters of chaos overtake us and our natural response is to panic and have rest absent from our souls.

Philippians 4:5b The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

1. Declare the nearness of God. “The Lord is at hand.” He is in you and you are in Him. He calls you a son and daughter. He has not abandoned you to the chaos or lost you to your enemies, but has placed them under His feet (Luke 10:18-19; Acts 2:34-36) . You might even have to say this aloud to yourself and to others to walk in this truth.

2. Declare that He is coming soon to put all the enemies and chaos that trouble your soul under His feet. The Lord’s Day is at hand. In that moment, all our present sufferings will be placed in perspective (Romans 8:18) and we will be given our ultimate rest. This is promised to you and will be given to you no matter how much chaotic unrest you feel now. Live in the promise and let it anchor you in the present.

3. Pray. Prayer is faith in action. Prayer says, “I believe God has a vested interest in me and in preserving His glory.” Thus, He will act in a way that supports both of these, even if I do not see its actualization in my earthly lifetime. He cares for my concerns and even if my circumstances don’t immediately change, I am capable of having a peace-filled, restful soul as I focus on Him. God can center me in what appears to be a storm.

4. Practice. Even if you are not feeling rested, practice the spiritual disciplines. Practice setting your mind on Jesus and the things above by setting apart intentional times of Biblical meditation. Then seek to bring that centering on Christ found in those set apart times into your daily living as you drive, work, run errands, etc.  Pray by talking internally to God and listening to Him in the daily ebb and flow of life.