Daniel 1 (Part 2) Life In Exile

On January 24th I started preaching through the book of Daniel. HERE is the link to my outline and thoughts regarding the first sermon. Then yesterday I took some time to preach from Jeremiah 29. The reason I preached from Jeremiah 29 was because it contains clear instructions to the Jewish people who were living in Babylonian captivity.

Introduction

How do we live in a post-Christian culture? When the political world seems to be spinning out of control. When values we have always believed in are no longer respected. In the book of Daniel we find many answers to this question about how we live today in a Babylonian culture.

Retell the story in Daniel 1

Judah, the Southern Kingdom has been invaded by the violent, wicked, Babylonian Empire. This has happened because God’s people are not seeking God with all of their heart.

Daniel and his friends taken into Babylonian captivity. Daniel came to Babylon as a teenager and stayed there into his late 80s. King Nebuchadnezzar attempted to change Daniel and his friends through the power of their culture (name change, language, food, education). Daniel is one of the few characters in Scripture that we don’t learn about him sinning or wrongdoing.

Read passage: Jeremiah 29:4-14

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,1 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.

10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare2 and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, band I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

IMPORTANT: This passage must have been shocking to the Jewish people.

In Psalm 137:8-9 we learn that the Babylonians had dashed the Jewish babies upon rocks and raped the women. And yet God, through Jeremiah, is telling them to seek the welfare of Babylon. It’s hard to imagine a more shocking letter than they one the Jews received in Jeremiah 29.

How do the people of God live while they are in exile?

Define Babylonian culture: James Davison Hunter literally wrote the book regarding culture wars in 1991. Here is my personal take on what a culture war is all about. It is the spirit of the age, working against God and his purposes in the world. It is characterized by idolatry; man, not God, is at the center of the universe, sexual immorality is pervasive, the pursuit of pleasure, and attempting to remove God from our world. There seems to be a strong demonic force at work in the Babylonian culture. In Revelation 18:1-2 we read this:

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons…”

There are three bad ways we can respond to our culture and one good way that is modeled to us by Jesus Christ

(ONE) Fight: We fight culture wars

In Jeremiah 29 God does not tell his people to fight against the Babylonians. We are not the moral majority but we keep acting like it. We keep acting like we are the ones with the power and on top of that we have grown accustomed to using the world’s tools to fight a spiritual battle. All of the problems we see in culture come from the wickedness of the human heart. Only the gospel has the power to change the heart.

There was a culture war going on in Jesus’ day. Zealots were fighting against Roman Empire. Did Jesus tap into the rage? No. Jesus pointed his disciples in a different direction.

The result of fighting a culture war is that the world misunderstands what the church and Jesus is all about. The world will think that Christians are angry, outraged people on the conservative side of the aisle. Instead, we should be known because of our love.

People have shrugged and seemed to say in a whisper, maybe politics will fix our problems. That is easier than getting involved and actually living like salt and light.


“A final irony has to do with the idea of political responsibility. Christians are urged to vote and become involved in politics as an expression of their civic duty and public responsibility. This is a credible argument and good advice up to a point. Yet in our day, given the size of the state and the expectations that people place on it to solve so many problems, politics can also be a way of saying, in effect, that the problems should be solved by others besides myself and by institutions other than the church. It is, after all, much easier to vote for a politician who champions child welfare than to adopt a baby born in poverty, to vote for a referendum that would expand health care benefits for seniors than to care for an elderly and infirmed parent, and to rally for racial harmony than to get to know someone of a different race than yours. True responsibility invariably costs. Political participation, then, can and often does amount to an avoidance of responsibility.” -James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

Picture taken from Cruxnowdotcom

(TWO) Escape: We hide in our houses (and churches) and wait for the Second coming

Jeremiah 29 makes it clear that we are not to hide from our culture. We are to be a part of the culture, yet live such holy lives that others take note. If we choose to escape then we will have zero influence on the Babylonian culture around us.

Jesus is the better Daniel. Jesus left his safe neighborhood (heaven) and moved to a dangerous neighborhood all because he was on a rescue mission.

(THREE) Compromise: We end up looking more like the world than Jesus

Daniel could have very easily chosen this option. He was given the best food, the best wine, living in the royal court. He could have simply said that he was going to enjoy the good life all around him. Daniel, a teenager, resisted the temptations all around him and instead was used in a powerful way for God.

What are the ways in our life that we have begun to compromise our Christian values?

(FOUR) Engage: Live in culture as salt and light, love people, make disciples

In Jeremiah 29: 7 we learn that Christians are to love for the welfare for the people and the city around them. The Hebrew word for welfare is ‘shalom.’ Christians are to be looking to bring peace into their everyday life. What does that look like?

ONE: Don’t be afraid of putting down roots where you live. I am hearing from people all around me that fear is taking deep roots in our lives. Fear is 100% not the way of a follower of Jesus Christ. In the middle of being taken into captivity, the world seemed like it was ending, Jeremiah does not tell the children of God to stop living. He does not tell them that fear is ever justified. We simply do not know when the Second Coming of Jesus will be so we live life with purpose and meaning every single day.

TWO: Focus on prayer. Jeremiah 29:12 we are told that the proper response, one way of seeking the welfare/shalom of the city, is to pray. My strong conviction is that as a church we must be pursuing corporate prayer on a more frequent basis. Corporately and personally. Are we seeking God in prayer? Are we getting on our knees and praying for the good of our city?

THREE: Repent of sin. Tim Keller writes this, “We must be far harder on ourselves in gracious, humble repentance, than we are on the unbelieving culture around us. This was a major lesson for the exiles and for us. Our first response should be repentance. We should be very understanding toward people who have failed to believe in Christ because the weakness of the church’s testimony. A lot of what is happening in our culture today may be more our fault than we are willing to admit.”

“The church is waiting for the world to become regenerate, while the world is waiting for the church to become repentant.” –Leonard Ravenhill

FOUR: Seek spiritual renewal. Do we desire spiritual renewal in our lives? Our church? Our city? Again, are we praying for it? This is one of my constant prayers these days. Lord, save the lost sons and daughters all around us. Wake up those who are spiritually asleep in the church.

FIVE: Make disciples. Imagine if Christians spent less time watching the news and talking about conspiracy theories and instead started building relationships and making disciples! What a powerful transformation this would have in our churches and in our culture.

SIX: Be people of hope! Stop giving into despair! The people all around us need to see that we trust that God is sovereign and that we are not ruled by fear.

Vision of our church: Our vision is to be “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties” all around us. We are to live for the welfare/shalom of the area in which God has strategically placed us.

We have to stop seeing the world as the enemy and instead see them as our mission field. We pursue people in our Babylonian culture with the same love that Jesus Christ has showered upon us.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12

Are you changing the world?

My study in the book of Daniel has led me to think deeply about how we live in the middle of a post-Christian, Babylonian culture. Some of our methods are good, some of them not so much.

About 15 years ago the missional conversation hit the church like a run-away train. I read everything I could get my hands on and it had a strong impact on me and the way that I think about the church. One of the passages in Scripture that was frequently mentioned was Jeremiah 29. Now that I am digging into Daniel I have an even greater appreciation for the message that Jeremiah was communicating to the Jewish exiles who were living in Babylon.

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The Jews were living in captivity to a empire that was 100% at odds with their Jewish faith and way of life. Yet, God was telling them that they are to embrace everyday life, put down deep roots, pray for the people and the culture all around them. Daniel was not asked to fight a culture war. To use a phrase from the New Testament, Daniel was called to live as salt and light. As American Christians we don’t always choose the path that Daniel took. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t always seek to walk in the ways of Christ. Here is what I mean…

Changing The World Through A Culture War

  1. You watch the news too much
  2. You feel anxious, worried, and angry
  3. You are trying to treat the symptoms of the world’s problems
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle don’t sense that you care about them
  5. Your social media comes across as harsh
  6. You are focused on winning arguments
  7. You talk about politics more than Jesus
  8. You see the people in this world as your enemies
  9. You are not involved in the life of the church and you don’t think it is important when it comes to changing the world
  10. You don’t pray very much
  11. You are not discipling anyone

Changing The World By Following Jesus

  1. You immerse your heart and mind in the Word of God
  2. You feel hopeful because God is in control
  3. You know the key to change is the gospel impacting the human heart
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle sense that you love them
  5. Your social media comes across as kind and gracious
  6. You are more concerned about winning people than arguments
  7. You talk about Jesus more than politics
  8. You see the people in this world as your mission field
  9. You are actively involved in the life of the church for the good of the world
  10. Your life is filled with prayer and especially for the lost and hurting world
  11. You are discipling others

11 Beloved, I urge you has sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. -1 Peter 2:11-12

What if I told you we were doing it all wrong?

We see changes in our culture and it is freaking us out

It has been written and said that we are living in a post-Christian culture. A post-Christian culture can be defined as “a culture where the Christian faith and worldview no longer has a dominant influence in society.” Many of us were brought up in a world where there was common ground when it comes to absolute truth and morality. That is definitely not the case any more. The problem is the way in which Christians are responding to the changing culture. Out of fear and insecurity about the loss we are experiencing we have become angry and have begun to fight a culture war.

We need to understand what is going on beneath the surface in the hearts and minds of the people all around us

What we need to do is stop and realize that the arguments we are having are, for the most part, symptoms of something much deeper. Let’s take sexuality for example. Many Christians are shocked regarding how our culture’s view of sexuality has changed. So, what do we do? We will argue with people (very rarely in person) about the issue of sexuality. What we normally find is that our arguments have very little power to change anyone’s mind. Why do you think that is true?

The reason that it is true is due to the fact that their world views have completely changed. Our culture’s view of truth, gender, and morality have changed massively over the years. Think of it this way, we are arguing with people about the software when the real problem is the hardware. It might just be possible that our “conversations” are having little impact because they are not going deep enough.

We need to go beyond throwing truth grenades and look to build relationships

So what do we do? One main idea that I keep expressing time and time again is that we need to build actual relationships. We have to give up the idea that the hard hitting meme we post or the political rant is going to make any difference. All that it is going to do is push people away and make it less likely that they will ever come to know the Truth personally.

Imagine this for a moment. Christians, working hard to build old-fashioned relationships with people who are very different from them. Listening. Showing genuine empathy. Asking lots of questions. Being open to the idea that we can learn from others who come from very different backgrounds. It is in the context of a relationship that we can go beyond the surface and talk about the basis, or the foundation, for what we say we believe. The online post or rant is easy, and if we are honest, it feels good to throw out an occasional truth grenade and pretend that we actually accomplished something positive. To go deeper in relationship will come about only when we love people more than we love winning an argument. But the question we are faced with is this, will we take the time, get out of our comfort zone, and actually build relationships with people very different from us?

5 Ways A Disciple-Making Attitude Changes Everyday Life

At New Life Church we highlight the fact that our main mission as followers of Jesus Christ is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Our mission is to make disciples who make disciples. What would it look like in everyday life if we were seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ? How would it impact the way we live if we took the Great Commission seriously? Here are 5 ways a disciple making attitude changes everyday life. 

  1. When you attend Sunday morning worship (or other church events) you have your spiritual eyes open for how you can connect with other people relationally and help them grow in their faith. For example, as you gather with your church to worship you are not there just for your own spiritual good. You make it a habit to reach out to others and show them the love that Jesus Christ has shown to you. You begin going to retreats, socials, events so that you can be a blessing to others. It is more about others than it is about you. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3
  2. You no longer see the workplace as a secular environment, or something that is outside of your Christian calling. Jesus is Lord over everything and that includes where you work and go to school. It does not mean that you are walking around thumping people on the head with your Bible. Instead it means you are open to the idea that God wants to bring people into your life at work so that you can build a relationship with them and point them to Christ.
  3. You understand that God has called you to your neighborhood to be a disciple maker. The one thing your neighbor needs more than anything else is to know the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Do we think it is a mere coincidence that we live where we live? We are there (our home address) first and foremost as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
  4. You are less bored with everyday life in general because you realize that God is calling you to follow him in the middle of it. When everyday life becomes your mission field you realize that God is always at work and he is calling you to join him in the work that he is doing.
  5. You will have an friends who are not Christians. On another blog post I wrote this line, “I think the greatest weakness in the American church today is that we are not good at being a friend to sinners.” You can find that post HERE. It is so easy for us (I am including myself in this) to become isolated from those who are lost and need to know Christ. One way to measure how much we are motivated by the Great Commission is to think about how many friendships we have we people who do not yet know Christ.

If we took the Great Commission seriously it would have a powerful impact on the way we live everyday life. If you can think of other ways a disciple-making attitude would change a person’s life I would love to hear from you.

Reclaiming America For Christ

One of the primary arguments that I want to make in this brief article is that Christians in America have relied too much on politics to change the world when in fact our focus should be on the good news of Jesus Christ. How did we get to this point?

Brief history of the Moral Majority

falwell and ronald reaganThe Moral Majority was started in 1979 by Jerry Falwell, a Southern Baptist pastor, who worked to unite other conservative evangelicals to address what they saw as the problems in American society.

There were lots of things going on in American culture in the 70s and 80s that led to the formation of the Moral Majority. Abortion, gay rights, sexual immorality, humanism in the public schools, liberal Supreme Court rulings, etc.

But could there be more behind what really got the Moral Majority started in the first place?  You can go HERE to read some other theories as to what inspired the Moral Majority to move into action in the first place.

Getting involved in politics is a good thing

On a personal note, I want to say that I strongly believe that it is good for Christians to be very involved in the political world. One of my heroes is William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician who worked zealously to end the slave trade that was prominent in his day. In order for Christians to live as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) they must engage the world they live in rather than retreat or withdraw.

So what was the problem with the Moral Majority?

Paul Michael Weyrich, co-founder of the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, wrote these words, “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Re-create the nation? Really? Does anyone today really think that our nation has been “re-created”? Ed Dobson who co-authored the book, “Blinded By Might: Can The Religious Right Save America?” wrote these words as he pondered the impact his time working for the Moral Majority had in American culture:

Did the Moral Majority really make a difference? During the height of the Moral Majority, we were taking in millions of dollars a year. We published a magazine, organized state chapters, lobbied Congress, aired a radio program, and more. Did it work? Is the moral condition of America better because of our efforts? Even a casual observation of the current moral climate suggests that despite all the time, money and energy-despite the political power-we failed. Things have not gotten better; they have gotten worse.

What are the unintended consequences of making an idol of politics?

One of the unintended consequences for being so involved in the world of politics, and losing sight of the power of the gospel, is that Christians have become known more for their political ideology than they are for mercy, compassion and love. Thomas Kidd puts it like this, “In short, evangelicals have gone from being known as born again Christians, to being known as religious Republicans.”

But there are other consequences as well. By engaging in a culture war we have alienated the very people that need to hear the gospel story. Our angry rhetoric pushes people away from us because we have been treating them like our enemy and not the lost sheep that Jesus came to die for (Luke 15:1-7).

Is there a better way?

As Christians we should long to see the world changed and actively work towards that end. Of course what we should strive to do is evaluate the way we are living and contrast it with what we read in Scripture. What do we learn from observing the life of Jesus and the apostle Paul?

Jesus emphasized serving

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus’ disciples completely misunderstood that it meant to be a part of the kingdom of God. In Matthew 20 we see James and John come to Jesus seeking power and glory and Jesus has to redirect them and tell them that they way that the kingdom of God flourishes is when Christians seek to put others first and serve them.

Question: How are you, and your church, serving others in your neighborhood and city?

Jesus emphasized making disciples

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus spent the bulk of his ministry years making disciples who would go on and make disciples. This was Jesus’ plan for changing the world, spending time with people, helping them to become more like him, and then releasing them so that they could go and do likewise. What is our plan for changing the world? Does it look like the method that Jesus employed?

Question: Who are you discipling?

Jesus and Paul emphasized love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that if there is anything that Christians should be known for it is love.

What does this love look like? Love is not winning an argument. Love is not an insulting meme that belittles our political rivals. Love has a heart filled with compassion that longs to see the lost sons and daughters of God come to know the grace of Jesus Christ.

Question: Are you known on social media, and in everyday life, for being a person of compassion and love?

The spirit of the moral majority lives on today

There is no doubt that some of the negative aspects of the Moral Majority, and the Religious Right, are alive and well today. The problem is that it is such a part of the air that we breath that we have a hard time seeing the error of our ways. The key will be for Christians today to refocus on the words, and the life, of Jesus Christ and how he worked to transform this fallen world.

Are you changing the world or fanning the flames?

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you have a desire to make a difference in this world. The thing that is causing me great concern lately is that it would seem that far too many Christians are actually doing more harm than good when it comes to making the world a better place.

The best place to look when it comes to an example to follow is, of course, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth out of a desire to bring abundant life to a world that desperately needed it (John 10:10). So what we need to do is examine the way that Jesus spent his time. We need to carefully contemplate his methods for ushering in his kingdom and bringing lasting change.

So, how did Jesus do it? Yes, of course he lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and three days later he rose from the grave victoriously. Praise God, this is the heart of the gospel story! But Jesus has given you and I a specific mission, something that he personally modeled during his three years with his disciples.

Here it is, Jesus discipled 12 men. Yep, that was his grand plan. Jesus was super relational. He got to know people who were far from the Father and built deep, meaningful relationships with them. He prayed with them. He ate with them. He taught them the Scriptures. He loved them. He partnered with them in ministry. He taught them to go and do likewise.

Some where along the way the Great Commission has been hijacked by a culture war. Dictionary.com defines a culture war like this, “a conflict between groups with different ideals, beliefs, philosophies, etc.” Issues that we Americans are willing to fight about include abortion, climate change, claims about absolute truth, conservative vs. progressive,  LGBT rights, immigration, racism, global warming, standing or kneeling, the right to die, etc. Wikipedia points out that the phrase “culture wars” became a part of our everyday vocabulary when James Davison Hunter wrote his book in 1991 called, “Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America.”

Is it possible that you are caught up in the culture war and are not even aware of it? Maybe you are not sure. What does it look like to be fighting a culture war?

  • You focus too much on winning arguments.
  • You have an unhealthy anger towards people on the other side of the political aisle and it is eating you alive.
  • You are known more for what you are against than what you are for.
  • You emphasize the passing of laws over the need for salvation.
  • You believe a post on social media is more effective than having a neighbor over for a meal.
  • You don’t pray as much as you use to.
  • You are anxious and worried instead of hopeful and optimistic.
  • You have never discipled anyone and have no plans to do so.
  • You have forgotten Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

So this begs a question. How in the world have we taken the command to make disciples and twisted it into fighting an angry culture war? I believe there are three primary reasons why so many Christians have gotten involved in a culture war.

First of all, let me say that I do not believe Christians have consciously decided that they want to minimize the Great Commission and engage in a culture war. I think it happens because it is the air that we breathe. The culture war is raging all the time on social media and in the news. Before we know it, we Christians are fighting the same way that the world fights. We are using their weapons and we are only fanning the flames of anger and outrage all around us. Tragically, we are making things worse, not better.

Second, we have lost sight of what the true solution is to our cultural problem(s). Jesus said “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (John 15:19) All of the bad behavior that we see in society today comes from the sin nature that is a part of each and everyone of us. The only thing powerful enough to change the human heart is the good news of Jesus Christ. So, when we are consumed with the culture war we are often times failing to address the main problem, the sinful heart of men and women.

Third, fighting a culture war is easy and our sin nature loves it. It is much easier to fire off an angry post on Facebook or Twitter than it is to get involved in a meaningful, personal relationship. Let’s be honest, you simply can’t follow Jesus and refuse to invest in the lives of other people. Jesus told us many times that to follow him would be costly and, quite honestly, many of us don’t want to pay the price (Luke 14:25-34).

I am not advocating for the unbiblical idea that Christians should retreat from the world and live in a holy huddle. It’s great for Christians to be involved in politics and to speak up about the issues of our day and time. Personally, I would love to see Roe v. Wade overturned. But we need to always remember that our hope is in God alone, not in the POTUS or the Supreme Court. 

Let me wrap this up by asking you what are some practical steps you can begin taking to build relationships with people in your neighborhood, workplace, school and city? It is in the context of relationships that the gospel is able to work it’s way into the deepest parts of our lives. Jesus’ plan for changing the world has not changed, disciples making disciples.

Let’s recommit to actually living the way that Jesus lived so that we can make this world a better place (instead of fanning the flames). Let’s be known for being the most relational, loving people in the world.

Main Takeaways From EFCA One 2019

  • We voted as a denomination to amend article 9 of our Statement of Faith. You can see below that we removed the word ‘premillennial’ from our Statement of faith and replaced it with the word ‘glorious’. The primary reason for removing the word is so that we, as a denomination, stay focused on the essentials of our Christian faith. We don’t want to exclude people from our denomination, and our churches, because they do not hold to a premillennial perspective regarding the end times.

We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial glorious return of our Lord
Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant
expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living,
sacrificial service and energetic mission.

  • I am excited about the future of the EFCA because there is a laser focus on the gospel, community and making disciples.
  • Paul’s relationship with Timothy is a powerful example of how important it is that every Christian is making disciples (1 Timothy 2:1-12).
  • Being a preacher is not enough. We must be making disciples who make disciples.
  • “Death? That’s so B.C.” Quote from Pastor Eric Rivera
  • “If the disciples we are making aren’t making disciples are we making disciples of Jesus?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
  • “People can be sitting in our churches for 10 years and still not be making disciples. Why?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
  • “If our programs are creating consumers and not disciple-makers, what do we do?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
  • “When it comes to discipleship there will come a time for our people where they will have to decide if they really want to embrace the ways of Jesus or go back to attending church, listening to sermons and enjoying worship music.” Quote from Discipleship Lab
    • This made me think of the Matrix when Morpheus asked Neo if he really wanted to see reality or just go back to living in a false reality. As Christians we are faced with a red pill, blue pill choice. What will we choose? Consumerism or discipleship?
  • “79% of people in our culture want to talk about spiritual things. Only 35% of the people in our churches are engaging in these kinds of conversations.” Quote from Lab on Missional Impact.
  • Do the people on the other side of the political side know that you love them and care about them? Or is your angry rhetoric causing a barrier to the gospel? This was a thought I took from the Lab on Missional Impact.
  • Ed Stetzer shared the inspirational story of Jane the Uber Driver. It shows how we can make disciples in everyday life! It is not as complicated as we make it out to be!
  • Also made a good connection with an EFCA pastor in Salem, ND that I believe will lead to us doing a better job of developing leaders in our church here in Watertown, SD.

What Christians Need To Know

One of the most destructive things to both Christians, and to churches, is the belief that the church exists to help Christians grow spiritually. I imagine that you are going to want to go back and read that first sentence a couple more times to make sure you got it right. Then, you are going to want to respond with a strong rebuttal to what seems like really poor logic. Or maybe you simply respond with a question like, “Isn’t it obviously a good thing to expect a church to help us grow in our faith?”

Let me explain. Yes, it is good for Christians to come to church and hope that their church helps them grow spiritually. Here is the problem. Far too often that is where things stop for many people. Too many Christians fail to understand that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we are actively helping others to grow in their faith too.

DISCIPLES OF JESUS MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS

Jesus said this in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus, in very plain language, is telling his disciples (which includes you and me) that it has always been his design that his disciples are not only thinking about their own spiritual growth. Jesus was helping his disciples to grow spiritually with THE EXPRESS PURPOSE that they would help others to grow spiritually. One of the primary objectives of a disciple of Jesus Christ is to make other disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).

So here is a really critical question that we all need to ask and answer, “What are some ways that we can actively work to help others inside the church, and outside the church, grow in their faith?” HERE is a link that does a great job helping us answer that question. I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and questions!

Your Understanding Of God’s Goodness Is Making You Miserable

We have this tendency to evaluate God’s goodness based on the circumstances of life. If life is going fairly well then we conclude that God is good. If we are going through a difficult time then we might begin doubting the goodness of God. I want to strongly encourage you to watch this 5 minute video clip from Sam Allberry as he preaches from Romans 5:8, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

In this sermon, Sam is telling us an incredibly important truth. The very best thing that God can do for us is to help us become more like his Son Jesus Christ. God’s goodness is not demonstrated primarily through success, health, happiness, etc. God’s goodness is revealed by the fact that he is using the good and bad stuff of life to transform us into the image of Christ.

  • Do you believe that God is being good to you during the difficult times of life? If not, you need to know that it will be nearly impossible for you to experience joy and contentment. And if you have a hard time seeing God in the hard times you might be believing in a soft version of the prosperity gospel and are not even aware of it.
  • What do you desire most in life? Is it for your circumstances to get better or is it for God to transform you into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ? We know the right answer. But what does your heart want the most?

Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Feel free to leave a comment.