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"One Bit of Scripture…"

04/03/2013 Comments off

As I get older, more and more I am convinced the importance of discipleship evangelism is for our generation and the generations to come.  Part of that has definitely come from dialoguing with them.  It is through these continuing conversations that I have learned that not everyone likes or can learn when drinking from a fire hose.  I came across this quote some time ago and it is part of the ‘derek-ism’ as a friend of mine would say, that permeate throughout these conversations.  I share it now.

A Two-bit Answer to the Million Dollar Question

This article will consider one small part of the answer. It is an important part, however. Learning this has made a huge impact on how I live and counsel. In a nutshell, connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of life. In other words, always ask two questions of yourself and others: What is your current struggle? What about God in Christ connects to this?

What is your struggle? You might be facing sufferings and troubles of various kinds (James 1:2). You might be sinning—doing and thinking various troublesome things (James 3:16). Usually it’s a tangle of both. God talks exactly about these things. How does the one Savior enter these struggles? What does He say? How does He help?

What will He change?
Perhaps you’ve seen the ecology-minded bumper sticker that says, “Think globally. Act locally.” Keep the big picture in view, then do something constructive. The same principle operates in counseling ministry. Keep the big picture in view, then act on some detail. Get the whole Story on God. Get the whole story on this person. Know the themes both in Scripture and in person. Then apply one relevant thing from our Redeemer to one significant scene in this person’s story. Bring one bit of Bible to one bit of life. You can’t say it all at once.

Charles Spurgeon put the principle in his inimitable way,

  One bit of Bible prayed over, and bedewed with the Spirit, and made alive, though it be only a short sentence of six words, will profit you more than a hundred chapters without the Spirit.1

One bit of Bible, bedewed with the Spirit, comes to life in one bit of life! You can’t deal with it all at once. Scripture never does. Ministry, like life, goes one step at a time.
Apply this first and foremost to your own life. The best advice I ever got on preaching was this: “Live your message for a week, a month, a lifetime. Then aim low. You’re sure to hit something.” The same thing applies to would-be counselors. What is your current struggle? How does God in Christ connect to you in this? You can give away what you are being given. What you give from out of your own life will be life-giving to others. When you are learning kindness from your Savior you will be able to teach unkind people. When you are learning to endure suffering well, you will be able to reach sufferers. It is the same with any other radiancy of the Spirit: clarity, courage, humility, patience, joy, wisdom, gratitude, mercy, teachability, generosity, honesty. If you are unhesitatingly honest, you can help dishonest people.

Richard Baxter graphically named the alternative: “I confess I must speak it by lamentable experience, that I publish to my flock the distempers of my own soul. When I let my heart go cold, my preaching is cold; and when it is confused, my preaching is confused.”2 As with preaching, so with counseling. In fact, the impact for good or ill occurs more instantaneously in counseling. People come vulnerable, with current struggles laid openly on the table. You cannot conceal your response. You don’t have the luxury of planning even the next sentence to come out of your mouth. You immediately publish the distempers or radiancies of your soul. You publish by the questions you ask (or don’t ask), by how you listen (or don’t really want to listen), by the interpretations you offer (or don’t even think to offer), by the advice you give (or can’t give), by the attitude you take towards people, towards problems, towards people with problems.

Let me make the case that one timely passage does three essential things. First, it orients this person to the moral landscape within which he lives, moves, and has his being: “The unfolding of Your words gives light” (Ps. 119:132). If someone tends to get lost in dark woods, the right road lost, then a good map and the light of dawn are extremely helpful! They don’t actually get you anywhere, but they orient you. You see where you’ve gotten and where you need to get. It must be simple and concrete—something true, riveted to real life. Theological generalities, abstractions and intricacies don’t do the job. General truths about yourself—your tendencies, typical patterns, themes that replay in your personal history—don’t change you. You must be able to identify where your particular current struggle lies, what it means, what exactly is at stake, where to go. Where is the firefight between good and evil? Today, what is your particular battlefield? You must be able to trace the difference between truth and lies, clarity and confusion, hope and illusion, right and wrongs, insight and self-deception, true need and wild desires, love and self-serving, living faith and functional godlessness. Where do you need God’s redemption and help? When you are disoriented in your current struggle, you don’t even know your choices. You can’t see the choice points. You can’t choose. When your way is deep darkness, you don’t know what makes you stumble. The right bit of Scripture—six words, two verses, one story—reorients you.

Second, a timely passage brings Christ’s grace and truth to this person. Something that God is, says, and does must invade your life struggles, beckon you, teach you, master you. What about God in Christ do you need in your current struggle? The map-giver personally guides through dark woods. You need help, and the LORD is a very present help in trouble. You can’t make it without grace to help in your time of need. The people you counsel can’t make it without help coming from the LORD who made heaven and earth. The first beatitude—essential poverty, need, and weakness—comes first for a reason. We need what God gives. We need our Father to give the Holy Spirit to us, that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, that the love of God is poured out within us exactly when the heat is on. Augustine summarized the immediacy of grace this way: “Give what You command and command what You will.” Some part of the good news of the Lord’s redemptive purpose, will, and promise is absolutely necessary—right now. The Bible models how ministry and life focus on one thing at a time. A good theology book rightly asks, “Who is God?”, and goes on to fill 400 pages with truths. But Psalm 121 cries out, “Where does my help come from?”, and seizes on one necessary thing: “The LORD keeps me.”

Third, a timely passage invites change. In the Bible’s vivid picture, we “turn” to our Father, Savior, and Comforter. Oriented to our current struggle, and embracing what God says, we come to Him. He works in us to one end: change. Faith works through love—here and now. The central dynamic of the Christian life is a FROM … TO … movement. “Repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life; it is the Christian life.”3 Faith does new transactions and conversations with God. Love does new actions and choices on the stage of life. When God calls, you listen. When He promises, you trust and talk back to Him from need. When He loves, you love. When He commands, you obey. You aim your life in a new direction by the power of the Holy Spirit who works with you. In every case, you turn.

These are the purposes of the whole Bible, the whole mission of our Redeemer. But a timely text brings truth down to consumable size. Think of it this way. When you get to know a person well, you come to know both the panorama and the details. But change walks out in the details.

The patterns, themes, and tendencies are like the view from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. From one hundred floors up, everything spreads serenely before you. But the action and noise of life happens at the corner of 5th Avenue & 34th Street and takes the Lincoln Tunnel home to Hoboken. Our lives work as stories, in a running series of scenes. Like a novel or movie, big themes work out in small scenes. This is how God has made it to be. This is how He works. This is something that would-be counselors often don’t get. It is something that preachers who do not counsel—and counsel well—often don’t understand. When you counsel (or preach) in great and good generalities, people will nod, but they rarely change. They rarely really change. Jesus works for a turn-the-world-upside-down reorientation and redirection. Ministry needs to know the big picture, but it always takes the elevator down to “G.” Get involved on the corner. Talk into the traffic noise. Drive over to Hoboken at rush hour. Change actually takes place in the watershed moments, choice points, and decisive incidents of everyday life.

So what does this look like while you’re actually talking with someone? What does it mean for what you give a person to take away into the week ahead?

David A. Powlison, "Think Globally, Act Locally", The Journal of Biblical Counseling: Volume 22, Number 1, Fall 2003 (Glenside, PA: The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, 2003). 3-5.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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The Truth About the Lordship of Christ by John MacArthur

14/06/2012 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for early preview of this work, this opportunity continues to be a blessing to me.

In The Truth About the Lordship of Christ, MacArthur is not dealing with minor problems or disputes peripheral to the faith, but with the crucial issue of all—namely, What does it mean to be a Christian? His answers in this condense work addresses what I consider to be the core issue of present-day Christianity.

Why is today’s church so pathetic? Why are we able to tout many conversions and grow church members but have less and less impact on our culture? How is it that Christians are indistinguishable from the world? Is it because we are calling the unregenerate/lost, Christians? Or is it that many are settling for a “form of godliness but denying its power”

(2 Timothy 3:1-5 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F55003001-55003005(ESV))? This pivotal work in MacArthur’s Truth series is successful in turning true followers/disciples from the feeble gospel and deceitful propaganda of this age to a true gospel-centered focus. This work reveals a man whose conscience is clearly taken captive by the Word of God. It reveals that he knows how to read the Bible for what it actually says, and is fearless in proclaiming that Word to desperate and handicapped generation.

As with all of MacArthur’s works, this book was very interesting, concise, and thorough.  As always, MacArthur also challenges, inspires, and enlightens in a very charitable way.  MacArthur teaches us through scripture to discern and think;

204168: The Truth About the Lordship of Christ The Truth About the Lordship of Christ
By John MacArthur / Thomas Nelson

Toxic Charity Book Review–thank you Metanoia (Bill Stanfield)

05/05/2012 Comments off

This is the a rare review without an assignment from a publisher, this book was referred to me by Bill Stanfield of Metanoia, who is DOING (James 1:22 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F59001022(ESV) what this book talks about, I was referred to him through numerous non-believers in the Charleston area that are struck by what he is accomplishing (1 Timothy 3:7 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F54003007(ESV), and good book referrals are an evidence of God’s grace in a world of 140 characters of less.  Thank you Bill!

I heard someone say, we are so busy with our meetings, service projects, outreaches, and programs that believers cannot ever truly make an impact with their neighbor.  A few years ago I was convicted through reading When Helping Hurts, that there is something wrong with the way ‘ministry’, ‘charity’ or ‘benevolence’ work is done.  What I have realized since then, is that good intentioned believers may read a work like this (Toxic Charity or WHH) and like my years with trying to engage other believers with the presupposition of true biblical counseling, the eyes are opened for a short while, but later with the pressures of ministry, congregations, and depravity, it is back to the way we are used to doing it.  Back to the ‘Christian’ programs, back to the ‘Christian’ food banks, back to the short, quick fix, did-my-good-deed-check-my-box without a commitment.

Although TC is not as saturated with scripture as WHH and tends to be a little more caustic, it is still a new book in my arsenal of removing the haze from their eyes when it comes to rethinking making an impact with others.  This book was interesting to me, it challenged me, and enlightened me, that this topic is not going away.  Other believers are trying to wake up Christians as well, and it appears that maybe a few are listening? I think the thing that strikes me the most about these works is that many of the foundational principles are already in effect because of common grace, but in many instances, non-believers are convicted, apply, and see the implications better than routine believers.

What do I mean?  I think quotes will help with that;

Dependency.  Destroying personal initiative.  When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them. (3)

Our memory is short when recovery is long.  We respond with immediacy to desperate circumstances but often are unable to shift from crisis relief  to the more complex work of long-term development. (6)

Everywhere I looked, I observed the same patterns, from overseas church mission trips to the inner-city service projects of campus organizations.  Wherever there was sustained one-way giving, unwholesome dynamics and pathologies festered under the cover of kindheartedness. (35)

Churches want their members to feel good about serving the poor, but no one really wants to become involved in messy relationships. (57)

Relationships built on need tend to be short-lived. (60)

The local church is an institution with institutional needs.  It is important to understand this.  It begins with an informal group of like-minded people who come together for fellowship and worship, it evolves into structured organization with budgets and staff and buildings, and finally it matures into an enduring institution.  It functions like all other institutions—with stated mission and an intrinsic motivation to preserve and protect its own interests.  The lion’s share of church budgets are spent on meeting the needs of the congregation, not for the needs of the outside communities.  To earmark mission-trip expenditures as primarily for spiritual benefit of members would be in keeping with traditional church budgeting.  It is important to understand this so that we will not be disappointed by unrealistic expectations. (70)

And the number of church members volunteering in outreach programs measures only activity, not outcomes.  (76)

When leadership is committed to outcomes rather than activity, to measureable results rather than budget size or number of engaged members, changes in mission focus can be navigated with an acceptable level of disruption. (78)

For disadvantaged people to flourish into their full, God-give potential, they must leave behind dependencies that impede their growth.  Initiatives that thwart their development, though right motivated, must be restructured to reinforce self-sufficiency if they are to become agents of lasting and positive change. (102)

Experienced microlending organizations have identified three essential elements for successful microloans:  The borrower must have (1) an ingrained work ethic, (2) a demonstrated entrepreneurial instinct, and (3) a stable support system. (120)

Is your church engaged in community development ministry?  All answered in the affirmative.  But when asked to name their target neighborhood and there transformative goals, none was able to give a definitive answer.  All were in engaged in community service of various sorts, but none were focused on transforming a specific community. (133)

What is required to transform a deteriorating neighborhood is a geographically focused vision with measurable goals over extended time. (133)

In short, become an expert in your community.  Immerse yourselves in every aspect of community life.  Volunteer as appropriate, but make no long-term commitments.  Be interested, supportive neighbor for at least six months before attempting to initiate any new activity. (160)

Is there a way we can bring more human dignity to the process of exchange rather than simply using one-way giving?

Can we increase our personal involvement with those in crisis to assist them with housing, day care, or other support while they get back on their feet? (182)

Robert Lupton (author) does make you think about your activities with charity.  The material was well laid out, held my attention (lots of great application stuff in it as well), and the information was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I think more scripture, possibly from a creation, fall, redemption and consummation perspective might bring some more convicting applications, but also driving home implications of what is being suggested.  I would highly recommend this book to ANYONE (believers and non-believers)

076205: Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help
By Robert D. Lupton / Harpercollins Publishing

Public service is a way of life for Americans; giving is a part of our national character. But compassionate instincts and generous spirits aren’t enough, says veteran urban activist Robert D. Lupton. In this groundbreaking guide, he reveals the disturbing truth about charity: all too much of it has become toxic, devastating to the very people it’s meant to help.

In his four decades of urban ministry, Lupton has experienced firsthand how our good intentions can have unintended, dire consequences. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency. We converge on inner-city neighborhoods to plant flowers and pick up trash, battering the pride of residents who have the capacity (and responsibility) to beautify their own environment. We fly off on mission trips to poverty-stricken villages, hearts full of pity and suitcases bulging with giveaways-trips that one Nicaraguan leader describes as effective only in "turning my people into beggars."

In Toxic Charity, Lupton urges individuals, churches, and organizations to step away from these spontaneous, often destructive acts of compassion toward thoughtful paths to community development. He delivers proven strategies for moving from toxic charity to transformative charity.

Proposing a powerful "Oath for Compassionate Service" and spotlighting real-life examples of people serving not just with their hearts but with proven strategies and tested tactics, Lupton offers all the tools and inspiration we need to develop healthy, community-driven programs that produce deep, measurable, and lasting change. Everyone who volunteers or donates to charity needs to wrestle with this book.

The 360° Leader–John Maxwell Book Review

15/11/2011 2 comments

You can lead from right where you are!  In John Maxwell’s new book, he outlines how to lead up, lead to the side and lead down from where you are in ANY organization.  “This fantastic book is based on the knowledge that good leaders are not only capable of leading their followers but are also adept at leading their superiors and their peers. 360° Leaders can lead effectively, regardless of their position in an organization.”

For years I have struggled to lead, always impatient with the dead silences, and for the most part, a reluctant leader tainted by bitterness of the solitary leading I have been a part of and this book gave me hope.  Why?  To me, I was reminded that leadership is influence and influence happens dramatically from the middle.  It is high stress, low recognition, intensive, and not the place many folks want to be in…until now.  I was so struck by this book as God has been working in my life to rescue my ambition for this past year, preparing me to realize that THIS is was what I was called to do.  This also showed me that much discipleship can occur from the middle that dramatically influences everyone in an organization.  This book was so interesting I also purchased the audio version so that I could redeem my commute!  I also took the assessment, which was very helpful to show that I have much to work on in the areas of;

  • Investing in relational chemistry
  • Putting completing fellow leaders ahead of competing with them
  • Giving rewards for results
  • Exhibiting a whatever-it-takes attitude toward helping my team and/or organization
  • Considering how decisions or events will impact people above, beside, and below me
  • Adapting to my leader’s personality while still being my genuine self
  • Being attuned to my leader’s weak areas but focusing on his/her strengths
  • Accurately evaluating opportunities according to my leader’s priorities
  • Praise the strengths and accomplishments of peers
  • Exhibiting a sincere motivation to help my peers succeed
  • Remaining friends with peer competitors
  • Seeking to collaborate with my peers to fill in knowledge and skill gaps
  • Embracing and enjoying acceptable humor with co-workers
  • Seeking to celebrate the differing strengths of my peers and seek to get to know them better
  • Not taking rejection of my ideas personally
  • Actively seeking out a cause for those who have disengaged from a task or a relationship
  • Encouraging followers by catching them doing something right
  • Adapting my leadership style according to what my people need
  • Considering what I have personally modeled before criticizing the behaviors of my followers (or my leaders)
  • Being strategic in rewarding outcomes I want repeated
  • Seeking to align pay with results achieved
  • Praising effort, but rewarding results

Some of these (especially the underlined ones) were areas I have been blind to and I can see looking back (starting businesses, planting churches, leading ministries, etc), if I had thought more about being intentional with them, I might have ‘lead’ better and not hurt as many as I have.  This book was very interesting to me and it challenged, inspired, and enlightened me on how selfish I really am and how patient people have been with me.  John Maxwell made really think about my ambitions and he held my attention well.  As with all of John’s books (and I have read quite a few of them) the information was impeccably presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner which gave me hope that leading from the middle is NOT something to avoid but embrace.  Although I was a little disappointed that there was not a lot of scripture in the book itself, but being acquainted with John’s writings, ministry, and life, it is very evident that much of this book is based upon biblical principles which successfully convey Biblical truth.   I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about serving and investing in others, not just for leaderships sake but to be a better witness for the Gospel.  If there was any scripture I was reminded of reading this book, it was;

Christ’s Example of Humility

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F50002001-50002011(ESV)

Thank you Booksneeze for this investment in me, and by far this is the best book I have reviewed for you so far.  Thank you!

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