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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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This is a powerful video our pastor shared on forgiveness in marriage

11/01/2013 Comments off

When Love Leads

David and Marlena, on the brink of divorce, discover where true Love and satisfaction are found in this story of redemption and forgiveness.

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 Explicit Gospel–by Matt Chandler & Jared Wilson(Audiobook Review)

02/05/2012 Comments off

Thank you christianaudio reviewers program for the opportunity to review this work, a blessing indeed!

In a culture of moral relativism, Christians have been spiraling into another worldview, that of “moral therapeutic deism,” Matt Chandler, new president of Acts29, thoroughly covers the biblical meaning of the explicit gospel confronting this ‘new’ Christianity.

The audiobook is divided into three parts, "The Gospel on the Ground" (which covers God, man, Christ and response or systematic theology topics) which refers to the gospel as it applies to specific individuals. The second part, "The Gospel in the Air," (discussed through the lens of creation, fall, redemption and consummation or biblical theology) which seeks to reveal that these individual salvation stories are part of God’s sovereign plan to bring all things to consummation in Christ. The "explicit gospel" holds these two perspectives together as mutually interwoven and complementary.  Finally, the book continues with applications and implications (what does this look like both bad and good).

I have been listening to Matt Chandler for a few years, so I was very excited with the opportunity to listen to this audio.  The gospel is always interesting to me, and Matt’s illustrations, humor, and contextual couth language brings the explicit to sobering reality.  This book was and will be very challenging to those who who think heaven is like in tom-n-jerry, or even warm-n-fuzzy prosperity.  This book will inspire too, in that, there is more to the gospel than doing stuff (going to church, reading the bible, etc.) it is about a savior who died.  The implications of fully understanding this, is what is explicit compared to the vague gospel so rampant in many churches today.   As I was listening to this, I was thinking about folks who would benefit from this.  Does your theology include loving God with all your mind?  Does God hold your attention?  Then this audio, to include the narrator, presented this work in an cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I also appreciated that Matt and Jared saturated this work successfully to convey deep Biblical truth in easy to understand language.  I would highly recommend this book to all, especially to those who have been ‘Christians’ for a while.  This audio would also be good for a new believer in that it might prevent the performance based routine of faith that many of us get into when we forget the gospel.

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