Two Lists Will Revolutionize Your Relationship with God
Praise the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all his benefits– Psalm 103:2
In a busy life it is all too easy to miss God at work. We can become so wrapped up in our daily lives that the sometimes subtle moves of God all around us can fade into our surroundings and we walk right by.Some will not be noticed and missed forever. Others will be sensed at the amygdala level and later, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, will receive the full attention of the brain. We can call these ‘near misses’.
It’s certainly possible to proceed through life unaware of God at work. We can remain faithful and repentant to the best of our ability. We can just exist, naïve to what we are missing but this is a difficult position to maintain. Once the Christian has tasted the briefest experience of knowing the living, active God at this level, he is driven to experience more. This is by design in the relationship between God and human kind and it serves a purpose in the course of discipleship.To become cognizant of God at work begins to form our confidence. He has promised to be at work and we have seen him at work. Confidence builds faith. Our witness to the work of God trains us to place ever greater trust in His promises. Faith builds boldness. If God has been faithful in promise A He will be faithful in promise B despite appearances to the contrary. Greater trust, greater faith and audacious boldness lead to the fullness of life promised to the people of God.
Two sheets of paper can start the trust building exercise. On page one, list the experiences you have had that evidence God at work around you. This is an easy list to start since the first experience you have to record is your own salvation. Build from there recording moments in which you have seen God at work in your life or the lives of others. Make note of the transformation that occurred. Search the scriptures for promises that align with that experience. Write it all down and set it aside.
The second sheet of paper will contain a record of near misses, those times in which you walked past God at work only to realize it later. Perhaps it was an evangelistic opportunity or a moment in which you could have encouraged another person, brought correction for them, comforted them. We call these near misses because the Spirit reminds us after the fact that we passed by the Father without notice. This activates the Reticular nerves and we become more aware of our surroundings, seeing things that had not been noticed before.
When you have completed both lists place them side by side. Ask yourself, if God has been faithful and actively working in those instances on list A, won’t He also be faithful and active when you become more aware of the moments on list B? Of course! The witness of list A builds your confidence and your increasing confidence contributes to a deepening faith. That faith and your heightened spider-sense will transform you from being an observer to one actively seeking to be involved with the Father’s work. Now, you’re living.
image by Ana C.
Insourcing by Randy Pope
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all men.” John 1:4
Discipleship in recent Christian practice has taken an intellectual bent, focused as it is largely on communicating head-knowledge. This is valuable but rarely results in transformation when not paired with an equal measure of heart-knowledge. When the two disciplines are aligned the exercise becomes the pouring of one life into another. In a secular context, the apprenticeship enables an experienced craftsman to share the process and philosophy of one’s craft with another, coaching and guiding the apprentice to attain to the same level of arts. Jesus modeled the same thing throughout His ministry, pouring His life into a group of men who would one day lead His Church.
Pastor Randy Pope has given us a volume of encouragement entitled INsourcing. Less a manual than it is a memoir, INsourcing details the philosophy underlying the practice of Perimeter Church called Life On Life Missional Discipleship. Pope and his leadership team designed and implemented a way of living the Christian life together that engages both the head and heart to produce disciples prepared to engage the Mission of Christ’s Church.
Pastor Pope doesn’t advocate for his program as though it is the only model to be emulated. Rather, he encourages the reader to examine their own context and to develop a methodical process which fits them best. Emphasizing the tortoise-like pace of true discipleship, Pope’s most valuable contribution is the permission it gives the leader reading the book to take the long view in gaining a vision for what could be.
Readers looking for a plan or a new model should look elsewhere. Leaders seeking an apprenticeship will find INsourcing valuable as God places a vision for their particular context before them. While the vignettes of the small groups are a bit idealized, they provide a powerful parallel to the abstract ideas presented through the surrounding chapters. Closing the book you will be convinced that LOLMD will produce something that no program can do, real disciples of Jesus Christ.
I’m grateful to Zondervan who provided this copy for review.
As readers have come to expect from Dr. Sweet, an upending of long-held paradigms is to be found in the pages of I Am a Follower. Less about mimicking the the ego eimi statements of the Savior and more about challenging modern perceptions of the Mission, Sweet’s book orients around the idea that leadership was not in Jesus’ mind when He set about discipling His followers and the generations that follow through the Bible. Sweet may be right, but a mature and finely-honed sense of discernment are needed to apply this notion, something that those new to the author’s works may not be prepared for.
Many Evangelical’s are immediately critical of Leonard Sweet and his body of work labeling it emergent and him as being on the fringes of orthodoxy. This misses his role as a provocateur working to prod the Christian masses to a deeper meditation of what Christ and His Church are to be about. In Follower, Sweet challenges the infatuation we have leadership in all of its permutations. He critiques the corpus of leadership material, training and practice, saying that it has led Christians away from the true command of Jesus to “follow me.” Creating an environment in which leaders are celebrated threatens to diminish Jesus when those leaders are not intentional about pointing others back to Him. The cure, he says, is for leaders to return to the original position as disciples at the feet of the Rabbi. As their wonder and humility are restored, a new attitude will be reflected in their discipleship of others.
I agree with Dr. Sweet in his premise that good leaders must be first and foremost good followers of Christ. I don’t believe that he intends to say that there should be no focus on leadership in the Church though it is difficult to see in his blanket indictment. Clearly, the Spirit calls some to be leaders. The illustrations that Sweet elects to provide of leaders who ‘get it’ show his bias. Standing up Shane Clairborne as a model of humility is difficult to accept as everything about the carefully cultivated image of Clairborne screams ‘look at me.’ Effective leaders such as John Piper, Bill Hybels and Jim Shaddix can both impress us with the leadership gifts and the calloused knees of true disciples.
Reading Sweet is never easy and Follower is no different. He will cause you to stop and think, considering his use of scripture and illustration. Dr. Sweet’s work is not for the casual Christian who lacks the ability to process the often challenging ideas that he types. The reader must be able to not only say that he or she doesn’t believe what is written, they must also be able to state why.
I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this book for review.
Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald
“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
― Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Returning to the fictitious church he first introduced in Who Stole My Church?, Gordon MacDonald unfurls the story of a group of Christians returning to discipleship as a priority in their lives. The discipleship is not solely for their own spiritual edification, as the modern interpretation has formed it, but for the purpose of leading others into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Rather than intelligent people with a faith in the brain, MacDonald emphasizes the growth of leaders who have a depth of heart, a weight that enables them to lead others to an ever deepening faith.
As he did with the previously noted book, MacDonald uses the parable format to teach the importance and process of dreaming, forming and implementing an intentional leadership process. While the topic certainly lends itself to a step-by-step, factual format, the use of story allows for a greater depth of discussion. For example, MacDonald could point out that some of those mentored would fail and then rehearse a process of discipline and restoration. By embedding the failure in hockey devotee Damon Marsh on the other hand, the entire sequence of prayerful selection, invitation, meeting, mentoring and failure enables the reader to see it happening, perhaps even seeing a potential disciple in front of us. The same things that make the narrative of the Bible so effective in teaching us the ways of God make Going Deep especially useful for those leaders who want to take their bodies deeper.
Church leaders and potential leaders will find much to apply in MacDonald’s book. The story carries the principles along without the need for bullet points or a study guide. Coming to the conclusion of the story, the reader who is interested in implementing the idea are left with many questions. I think this is evidence of MacDonald’s wisdom as it requires that the reader ‘go deep’ themselves in order to localize and discern the answers on their own. Even if the book is read simply for your personal application, you will come to end not being satisfied with the shallow waters near the shore any longer.
I’m grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this copy for review.
Our Last Great Hope by Ronnie Floyd
A fair percentage of the people sitting in our pews on Sunday morning would claim at least a passing familiarity with the Great Commission. A smaller percentage would be able to correctly locate it at the end of Matthew’s gospel. Fewer still would understand the far-reaching implications of these verses.
And only a handful would see the words of Jesus as applying to them personally.
This lack of apprehension lies at the core of Ronnie Floyd’s latest book, Our Last Great Hope. Pastor Floyd seeks to spark a renewed fervor for the mission of the Church in its call as the final hope of the world. Moreover, he wants to personalize the mission to individual believers. So many times, the church views this commission as applying only to the pros: the missionaries, pastors and other spiritual mentors. Pastor Floyd dispels this thinking throughout the book, speaking directly to the reader and imploring them to own the commission.
Floyd writes with a pastor’s heart for the lost and in a preacher’s exhortative voice. The pages ring with the active language of a Sunday sermon and the eyes of the pastor pointed directly at you. As the Christian mission is dissected, Pastor Floyd lays it in your lap and challenges you to claim that reaching the lost isn’t your responsibility. Good luck.
Floyd’s approach to awakening the Church contributes to the success of the book. Rather than a step-by-step, theological-practical treatise, the pastor writes about reorganizing our lives in ways that place us in the perfect position to step up and fulfill our calling. Instead of confronting the reader with the bottomless needs of the city, for example, pastor speaks to the transformation of our families that will naturally encourage engagement in the mission.
Ronnie Floyd has given us a fine book for sparking a renewal of the Mission. Irenic in tone, Our Last Great Hope is nonetheless urgent in proclaiming the need. Read this book and then go.
I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this book for review.