Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Platt is always thoughtful and always inspiring.  There are lots of conversations going around about being radical and the normal Christian life.  Here David clarifies the term Radical. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

5 Critical Lessons in Multiplying Leaders or Churches

This post from Exponential
is on multiplying leaders but is great advice on developing and working with leaders . . .
Over the last 18 years, Jeff Leake has led Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on a journey of church multiplication. Leake founded and is president of Reach Northeast, a church planting network designed to facilitate new churches throughout the northeast United States. Below, he shares some of the lessons he and the church have learned through both mistakes and watching others succeed.
Lesson #1 – When sending a staff member to plant a new church, hire their replacement before sending them out.
I learned this lesson the hard way. With the first church we planted, I sent one of our pastoral staff members to be the planter. What I didn’t account for was just how much this would impact my life. What I ended up with was three extra jobs.
After doing this several times, I realized my error and more importantly how to correct it. If you know you’re sending a staff member out to plant a new church, you can delay the plant for a few months while you seek to find someone to take his or her place on your team. You also gain valuable time that can be spent having planters train their replacement.
Lesson #2 – It’s always best to define expectations upfront. You avoid so much pain later.
Relationships are hard work. Even in the best situations, misunderstandings can arise, feelings can be hurt, and partnerships damaged. Parent churches often feel they have been more than generous with the churches they’re planting. Church plants often feel that the parent church could have done more.
To avoid all these hard feelings, we now start the journey by putting together a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that communicates expectations and outlines exactly what the church planter and parent church are expected to do. Both parties sign this document at the beginning of the partnership, which helps to avoid future misunderstandings.
Realize, however, that an MOU does not replace the need for other types of relational effort. Both parent church and the plant needs to extend prayer, encouragement, friendship, and grace to the other. But putting your expectations in writing does help eliminate unnecessary grief.
Lesson #3 – Everyone needs a dad (spiritual father).
I guess this is what I enjoy most about being a parent church pastor. I get an opportunity to form a very unique and powerful relationship with the church-planting pastor. My goal is to be more than a coach and a donor. I want to provide a spiritual covering for planters and their families. I see this as so much more than just investing in a new church; I see this as investing in the life of a spiritual son.
Approaching the relationship this way sets the tone for every conversation. The planter is not just an employee or a missionary that we’re supporting. I’m choosing to encourage, develop, and shape them. When we talk, we discuss strategy. But just as often, I’m trying to speak life into their soul.
I want them to feel my prayers and know that in every way I have their back.
This relationship tone also allows for the network to develop organically. Because there is a relational investment, I’m able to provide a natural covering for the church planter even after the church has been planted. We also seek to extend that relational covering not just to the church planter and their family, but also to the new church. I want the pastoral staff and leadership team of the new church to know they have a pastor who is supporting them and is there for them if crisis occurs.
Lesson #4 –Reproducing leaders don’t show up ready-made. They must be developed.
I absolutely love Bill Hybels’ teaching on the 5 C’s that Willow Creek Community Church uses when hiring new staff:

  1. Character: They must have integrity and be trustworthy;
  2. Chemistry: They need to fit with the rest of the team;
  3. Competency: They need to be capable in their area of assignment;
  4. Calling: They need a sense that God has assigned them to us;
  5. Culture: They need to carry the same DNA as the rest of the organization.

When I read this list, I completely agree that this is the criteria for a long-term and effectively functioning leader on any team. The problem comes when we search for a person who meets all five C’s, and we come up empty. What do you do when you can’t find a 5-C leader to hire or plant a new church?
You have to build 5-C leaders from scratch! In fact, the church at large needs an entire approach to leadership development that focuses on building future leaders from the ground up. Over the last few years, I have watched one of my spiritual sons build what is much like a leadership “farm system” to borrow a term from Major League Baseball.
Brian Bolt, one of the planters in our network, leads the CityReach Network and is planting churches faster than any human I have ever seen plant. Just this past September, CityReach Network planted 13 new churches on one weekend. Many of these church planters, who are planting in inner-city areas, were addicted to drugs five or six years ago. Now they’re planting churches!
Brian takes former drug addicts and turns them into church planters. How? First, he believes in them. From the moment they enter a CityReach Church, these leaders are speaking life and faith over people. They preach that God not only saves and sets free, but also that He gives us purpose and that no matter where we’ve been in life, God can use us for His purposes. Then through a system of opportunities (leading worship, preaching and testing out their skills), they provide development and a chance to get some honest and direct feedback. Brian describes these tiered opportunities much like the farm leagues in baseball (A, AA, AAA, and the Majors):

  • A – Small group devotionals or worship times
  • AA – Friday night outreach services
  • AAA – Being on the platform to pray or lead a part of a church service
  • Majors – Preaching or leading worship during a weekend service

Everytime someone steps out to lead, he or she gets a dose of “grace and truth.” Their supervisor will affirm them like crazy. Then they will identify one area where the planter needs to improve and they’ll provide honest and direct feedback to help planters grow in their skills.
Learning #5 – If we love “the one,” God will trust us with more.
One of the trends in today’s church planting world is to identify a target audience that feels cool and culturally connected. So many church planters are targeting the young adult, artistic, trend-setting, highly educated, progressive individual. And there is a huge and obvious need among that demographic because so many who fit that description are unchurched or de-churched.
But sometimes I feel that we may be overlooking some other very needed people groups. In our context, we use the term “the one” to describe someone who is hurting, forgotten, overlooked and disconnected from God. We draw this concept from Luke 14:
While Jesus was attending a banquet hosted by a wealthy friend, He said to His host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:13).
I think we could take Jesus’ words here and apply them to church planting: “When you plant a church, don’t just invite the trendy, appealing, qualified, educated, artistic, or good looking. Invite the poor, the addict, the sick, the immigrant, the old, and the mentally challenged. If you do this, you’ll be blessed.”
My experience has been that when we spend our energies going after ‘the one,” no one else is searching for—but that Jesus deeply loves—God will give us more people than we know what to do with. In fact, if you lack traction and can’t seem to get people to join your church or connect with your launch team, expand your vision and commit to going after the one.
To read all 10 of Jeff Leake’s multiplication learnings, download his new FREE eBook, The Question That Changed My Life: How Planting Life-Giving Churches Became Our Direction.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Eat The Law and Live

In keeping with our theme this year, "The Word
is your Life" we have a reflection on Psalm 19 from DesiringGod . . . .
Psalm 19 has been on the Top 40 charts for a couple thousand years. Understandably. It’s a classic. It’s short, but loaded with theological goodies (vv. 1-2, 13), great imagery (vv. 4-6), and zippy one-liners (vv. 9b-10, 14). But if you’re like me, you breeze past these rich passages in a bleary morning state during devotionals. So we often need an exercise in sitting with the depth of a passage to be nourished, instead of rushing along. Psalm 19 is the perfect place to start.

Psalm 19 has three sections.

Psalm 19:1-6: The psalmist lyricizes creation with fabulous imagery, depicting the cycle of each day as a “strong man” running his course (v. 5).
Psalm 19:7-10: The topic switches to God’s law (tôrāh), which along with God’s judicial features is perfect, sure, right, pure, and so on.
Psalm 19:11-14: The psalmist moves toward application, exhorting the reader to keep the law, asking that God remove temptation, and praying for mercy.
Biblical themes are strewn through it all. Which almost makes it easy to totally miss the most surprising and important message of Psalm 19: the law gives life.

Timeout: What?

Okay, it’s only a small part of the psalm, but that is what I am going to zoom in on. The kicker comes in verse 7, all too easy to overlook in our familiarity. It says: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul" (ESV).

Hang on. Paul says the law that was intended to bring life actually brings death (Rom. 7:10). And we know, as card-carrying Protestants, that Paul is usually right (and the Old Testament is usually confusing). Right? Even more jarring to theologically Reformed ears, the King James Version says that the law “converts” the soul. What’s going on here? The law most certainly does not revive—give life to—the soul. Only the gospel does that. Right?

Don’t throw out your copy of Calvin’s Institutes just yet (or ever, for that matter). The phrase can be translated in other ways. The word translated as "reviving" (měšîbat) basically means “to cause to return.” So the NASB says that the law “restores” the soul, and the NIV says it “refreshes” the soul. Obviously we’re dealing with something that doesn’t neatly fit into a single English word.

The question, then, is: cause to return to where, and from where? From spiritual death to life? From disobedience to obedience? Or something else? The Hebrew word for soul here (nepeš) can also mean different things, depending on context: life, person, soul, inner being. But in terse poetry, context is just what we lack.

Gaining Our (Hebrew) Bearings

Thankfully, God has given his Word profound unity that always qualifies its diversity. So we ought to let clear Scripture explain less clear Scripture. Where else do we find these two words, “to cause to return” and “soul/life/person” together? That will help.

The particular phrase only occurs in about a dozen places by my count. “Cause the soul/life to return” is what Naomi says Ruth’s son will do now that she has “life” through offspring (Ruth 4:13). It is what Elijah prays that God would do for a dead child (1 Kg. 17:21, 22). It is what Elihu tells Job that God does for men to spare them from the pit (Job 33:30), and what David says his divine Shepherd does for him beside still waters (Ps. 23:3). So both spiritual and physical life is often in mind, whether metaphorically or not. In Psalm 23, David is of course speaking of his spiritual well-being, although he does so using the image of himself as a weary sheep in need of life-restoring drink.

But the phrase occurs most frequently in Lamentations 1, where the deserted city of Jerusalem figuratively reflects on the Babylonian siege. It was horrifying. In a siege, the food slowly depletes and the people starve until they die or surrender (1:11; 4:4; 5:6, 9). In verses 11 and 19, the inhabitants groan from hunger, asking God for food to restore their lives (lěhāšîb nāpeš) and revive their strength, using the same wording as Ps. 19:7. The narrator also asks God for mercy to restore his soul (v. 16, mašîb napšî). Lamentations makes it clear that these dire circumstances are a consequence of the people’s sin (cf. 1:8, 14, 18, 22, etc.). The pending physical death of God’s people is a result of their spiritual death, a condition accented by expulsion from the promised land.

Eat Torah or Starve

Bringing this back around to Psalm 19:7, it seems that the NIV may do well with “refresh” here. Many commentators agree that the sense is one of enlivening a nearly dead person. But I want to go a bit further to suggest that the phrase is metaphorical, and is evoking food imagery. In other words, the law (tôrāh) is something to eat. Perhaps: “the law of the LORD is perfect, reinvigorating the famished.” Certainly to a physically starving Israelite facing the spiritual starvation of exile from God’s covenant blessings in the land, the law is the precise “food” needed to rejuvenate and survive. Of course, if the law is food, then the reverse implication of the food imagery in verse 7 is that disobedience leads to starvation.

That kind of image is not unprecedented. After all, God’s words had been long considered spiritual food for Israel, especially in times of suffering. As the nation wanders in the wilderness, they are called to remember that “man does not live by bread alone,” but by “everything that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3, NASB). God’s Word, his law, gives nourishment to the spiritually starved after disobedience and amid suffering. It revives the spiritually anemic (cf. Jer. 15:16; Ps. 119:103; Ezek. 3:1-3). Eat the law, Psalm 19 says. Consume the words of God, and live.

True Torah Gives Renewing Life to the Hungry

Someone else knew that man does not live by bread alone, even in his worst suffering and weakest physical moments (Mt. 4:4; Lk. 4:4). Indeed, he himself is the true Word of God (John 1:1). Jesus Christ does not abolish the law, but he fulfills it (Mt. 5:17). In doing so he is the perfect law of God incarnate. And he is the one whose perfect sacrifice and obedience has given spiritual life to God’s people in every age.

Only Jesus Christ can truly revive the inner man. “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn. 6:53-54). Are you spiritually malnourished? Is your soul fatigued by wilderness? Or perhaps you have been eating the food of death—anger, pornography, sin. Consume him, and be rejuvenated. Feed on him by faith, be truly satisfied, and live.

William Ross is a doctoral candidate in Old Testament at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on Greek lexicography in the Septuagint of Judges, but his primary interests are the Hebrew Old Testament and biblical theology. He recently co-authored the Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek (Zondervan, 2014), and also blogs regularly at

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Be Ready to Suffer

No only does Matt Chandler have biblical perspective on suffering he has lived it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thomas Watson on Hell

“Thus it is in Hell; they would die, but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead; the smoke of the furnace ascends for ever and ever. Oh, who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? This word ‘ever’ breaks the heart.” Thomas Watson

Friday, December 19, 2014

How People Read the Bible

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Found this when looking for a quote.  Great picture! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Seven Ways to Approach the Bible

If you’re a Christian, you believe reading the Bible is important. But how should you approach it in the first place? What kind of “heart posture” is necessary?
God cares deeply about these questions. Here are seven ways we ought to approach his Word.
1. Approach It Humbly
The Bible is empirical evidence that the Maker of the universe is a God who initiates, who reveals, who talks. There are, after all, only two options when it comes to knowledge of one’s Creator: revelation or speculation.
Either he speaks, or we guess.
And he has spoken. The God of heaven and earth has “forfeited his personal privacy” to befriend us through a book. The Bible is like an all-access pass into the revealed mind and will of God.
Now, given that we’re not only creatures of the dust but rebels against heaven’s throne, this is astounding. The King would’ve been entirely right to leave us to ourselves, sunk in an ocean of ignorance and guilt.
But he didn’t. He peeled back the curtain. And then opened his holy mouth.
Any authentic knowledge of God hinges on his generous self-disclosure to us. Only through his Word can we know who he is, what he’s like, what he demands, and how we may know him. This ought to humble us deeply.
2. Approach It Desperately
Having rehearsed God’s law one final time before his death, Moses looks at the people of Israel and says, “These are not just idle words for you—they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). The stakes could not be higher. Not only are our spiritual lives launched by God’s Word (James 1:181 Peter 1:23), they are sustained by it too. As Jesus declared, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
The psalmist, too, ached to hear the words of God: “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times,” he exclaimed. “I cling to your testimonies. . . . I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments” (Psalm 119:2031131).
Your soul will wither and die without the Bible. Approach it desperately.
3. Approach It Studiously
Imagine if you asked me about my wife and I responded, “Oh, she’s incredible—the most amazing girl I’ve ever known! She’s from Oregon, has gorgeous red hair, and hates chocolate.” Now, would my chocolate-loving brunette who hails from Virginia feel honored by this description? Of course not. I can gush about her all day, but unless my words reflect who she really is, she’ll be insulted.
Why, then, are we so careless when thinking and speaking of our Creator?
“Great are the works of the LORD,” the psalmist exclaims, “studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2). The New Testament, too, commends engaging Scripture with care: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
Come to the Bible with a learner’s posture, asking the Author to teach you wonderful things.
4. Approach It Obediently
The psalmist didn’t just long to understand God’s commands; he wanted to obey them, too.
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! . . . Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
 and obey it with all my heart. . . . I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. (Psalm 119:4–534,60)
The New Testament reinforces this urgency of submitting to Scripture: “Whoever says, ‘I know [God],’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person” (1 John 2:4–5). Or, as James simply urges, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).
5. Approach It Joyfully
As a dad, I’m not always pleased when my kids obey me. They need to do so with a happy heart, too. Anyone can muster grudging compliance, after all, but real obedience flows from love and joy (John 14:15).
The Book of Psalms opens with a man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” (Psalm 1:2). He can’t get enough of it. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah confesses, “When [God’s] words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16). Even Jesus said the purpose of his words is to induce joy: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
Cracking open my Bible feels like a duty at times. It will for you, too. We’re fallen humans in a fallen world. When that moment arrives, though, press on. Press through. Ask for help. Plead for joy. It’s a prayer the Father loves to answer.
6. Approach It Expectantly
Since the Bible’s ultimate author is God, it is a book of unparalleled power. Its words can melt hearts (Jeremiah 23:29) and change lives (John 17:17).
Did you know even obscure books like Leviticus and Obadiah were written to encourage you? “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).Everything. Paul is saying that the entirety of the Old Testament is for you—to instruct you, to encourage you, to help you endure, and to flood your heart with hope.
When you open your Bible, do so expectantly. Comfort (Psalm 119:50), strength (Psalm 119:28), guidance (Psalm 119:105), hope (Romans 15:4), assurance (1 John 5:13), and transformation (John 17:17) everywhere await.
7. Approach It Frequently
It should be obvious, given everything we’ve considered, that we ought to approach God’s Word frequently.
“I rise before dawn and cry for help,” the psalmist proclaims. “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. . . . Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:147–4897). In order for “the word of Christ [to] dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16), you must soak yourself in it like a teabag in water.
Friends, there is nothing like God’s Word. Approach it humbly, desperately, studiously, obediently, joyfully, expectantly, and frequently.
You’ll be so glad you did.
Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife Maghan have two children and live in Louisville, Kentucky, where they belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jesus, the True and Better Abraham

Jesus, the True and Better Abraham

Across the field and through the trees
of Ephron, slumped upon his knees
Beside the cave of Machpelah,
The old man scorned anathema
For love and kissed the ivory lips
Of his dead wife; then laid the strips
Of silk and linen on her face,
As beautiful today with grace,
He thought, as when Abimelech
Desired her once, without a speck
Or blemish to this day, but now
As cold as snow upon the brow
Of Mount Moriah. Abraham
Thought to himself, "This time no ram
Caught in the thicket for her life,
You spare my son but not my wife."

He rose with Sarah in his arms
And laid ten thousand days and charms
To rest within a Hittite cave,
And in the dark paused once to save
The union for a moment more.
But in the dripping dark before
His mind the awful scene arose
Again: first one, then two plateaus
The boy and he, alone he thought,
Had climbed Moriah while he fought
The tears and coughed away the sobs.
He felt again the way it throbs
Behind the eyes when there's no vent
To grief. The wild bewilderment
On Isaac's face when he perceived.
And then the fear, deep unrelieved,
That his own son might curse the Lord
And tear his flesh against the cord
To save his life; and kick and bite
And scream and writhe with all his might
Like any ordinary boy.
But Isaac knew he was the joy
Of this old man. By wonder born,
By wonder he would die, and scorn
The pain and look into his eye
With childlike trust and say goodbye.

"The greatest moment of my life,"
Thought Abraham. "O precious wife,
The darkness of this cave is brief,
And we've been trained in strong belief:
‘Is anything too hard for God?'
And should we not now kiss the rod
And wait until the angel voice
Express the everlasting choice
Of our appointed substitute?
This time, my love, it did not suit
The sovereign will to interpose
A ram for you—or me—He chose
Instead to test me once again
If I will trust him now as then?"

Then father Abraham walked out
And spoke these words without a doubt,
"As sure as I stand in the light
The Judge of all the earth does right.
The Lord is not God of the dead
But of the living, as he said."

Almighty God, all praise to you
As we light advent candle two.

"Abraham," by John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Performed by Nijalon Dunn.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jesus, the True and Better Adam

On his back, beneath a tree,

Branches dancing in the wind,

This man—the first man,

Knew his life was soon to end.

Thousands of leaves reminded him,

Of his children… and theirs… and theirs.

And as they expanded and struggled and spread,

So did the man’s sorrows, and so did his cares.

For he was the only man ever created,

Who knew a time that was perfect and good,

And the memories of that far, distant past,

Gripped his heart as nothing else could.

He recalled the initial flash of life,

Breathed into his body-from-dust,

Eyes opened to the very face of God,

Arms stretched in awe and childlike trust.

Lush green was the land that they walked,

Hand in hand in the cool of the day,

God taught the man all about himself,

He was enraptured by all God would say.

God placed the man over all the animals that roamed,

And fashioned a wife to whom he did cleave,

On earth there was never a more perfect joy,

Than the Eden of the man, God, and Eve.

He blinked the fiery tears away,

Eyelids closed as scenes abhorred,

Pulsed forth from chambers of deepest regret,

His exile from the Garden of the Lord.

The tree above reminded the man,

Of the one God pointed out long ago.

“Don’t eat from that tree, or you’ll surely die.”

To this one act did God say “no.”

But then one day the man and Eve,

Encountered a cunning snake,

And directly to Eve it addressed its deceit,

And encouraged that she partake.

Should I stop this interaction twixt

This serpent and my wife?

Could he be right that the eating of this

Fruit won’t end my life?

Pondered on these thoughts did he,

But not a word from him was spoken,

And passively he, too, bit in,

And innocence was broken.

It will be good to finally be

like God, the man supposed,

But his eyes were opened as he chewed,

His sin and body suddenly exposed.

Fear and guilt overtook them both,

Man and woman realized they were nude,

And when God came to speak to his kids,

They hid—too much shame to be viewed.

It was not the eating of the fruit itself,

But the disobedience in one simple act,

He rebelled against God and everything changed,

From perfection to paradise wracked.

The man sat up with a start, and cried

“Oh, my God! How could I ever doubt?!

I broke your trust! I disobeyed!”

Toward the heavens did the man shout.

Sobbing now, what he longed for most—

The voice of God, which he could once hear,

But his talks were traded for prayers from afar,

Separation from what once near.

Then the man’s thoughts fell upon

The human race of which he was first,

And how by his trespass against his God

All humanity was now cursed.

Not all sins were the same,

As the one from which they stemmed.

And yet death reigned,

And every man stood condemned.

The man grieved the legacy

He would leave upon his kin.

He grieved the exit from the garden.

He grieved the original sin.

How could he get back to,

The Garden where they once walked?

How could he get back the closeness,

Of when they laughed and talked?

“I want to come back!

Oh, God, please make a way!”

If only there was one

Who could listen and obey

"Adam" - written and performed by Lindsey Lundin.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nine Facts You Should Know About Christmas

Not sure where I got this as I found it when looking for an old Christmas letter I had written.

Christmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world. Here are nine things you should know about the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus:

1. No one knows what day or month Jesus was born (though some scholars speculate that it was in September). The earliest evidence for the observance of December 25 as the birthday of Christ appears in the Philocalian Calendar, composed at Rome in 336.

2. Despite the impression giving by many nativity plays and Christmas carols, the Bible doesn't specify the following: that Mary rode a donkey; that an innkeeper turned away Mary and Joseph (only that there was no room at the inn); that Mary gave birth to Jesus the day she arrived in Bethlehem (only that it happened "while they were there"); that angels sang (only that the "heavenly host" spoke and praised God); that there were three wise men (no number is specified) or that the Magi arrived the day/night of Jesus' birth.

3. Rather than being born in a stable, Jesus was likely born in a cave or a shelter built into a hillside. The hills around Bethlehem were dotted with small caves for feeding and boarding livestock. The exact site of Jesus' birth is unknown, but by the third century, tradition had established a probable cavern. Constantine's mother, Helena, erected the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem over the small space.

4. During the Middle Ages, children were bestowed gifts in honor of Saint Nicholas (the namesake for Santa Claus). In an attempt to turn away from the Catholic veneration of saints and saint's days, Martin Luther laid gift-giving in his household on Christmas Eve. He told his children that "Holy Christ" (Christkind) had brought their presents. The tradition caught on with many Lutherans, though later St. Nick would get the credit as often as Christkind.

5. Martin Luther is widely credited as the first person to decorate Christmas trees with lights. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

6. The X in Xmas was not originally intended, as some people believe, to "take Christ out of Christmas." The written symbol X was frequently used to represent the letter in the Greek alphabet called Chi (the first letter in the Greek word Christos). In many Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, X abbreviates Christos (Xristos). This practice entered the Old English language as early as AD 1000 and by the 15th century, "Xmas" was widely a used symbol for Christmas.

7. The Puritans objected to the celebration of Christmas. In 1647, the Puritan government canceled Christmas, forbidding traditional expressions of merriment, ordering shops to stay open, churches to stay closed, and ministers arrested for preaching on Christmas Day.

8. Alabama was the first state to officially recognize Christmas in 1836 and Oklahoma the last in 1907, even though it was declared an official holiday on June 26, 1870.

9. Origin of Christmas terms: "Christmas" is a compound word originating in the term "Christ's Mass," derived from the Middle English Cristemasse; "Nativity", meaning "birth", is from Latin nātīvitās; in Old English, Gēola ("Yule") referred to the period corresponding to January and December, which was eventually equated with Christian Christmas; "Noel" (or "Nowell") entered English in the late 14th century and is from the Old French noël or naël, itself ultimately from the Latin nātālis (diēs), "(day) of birth".

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Embracing Mission

When individuals really embrace mission they may use their gifts anyplace in the world!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Do we Contribute to Our Salvation

"You contribute nothing to your salvation but the sin that made it necessary."  Jonathan Edwards.

Monday, December 8, 2014

7 Words of Encouragement in Church Revitalization

Sage words from Ron Edmondson on revitalizing a church.
White country church
I’m a church planter. Having planted two successful churches, my heart is to see more church plants launch and do well. I think once church planting gets “in your blood”, it’s always there.
A couple years ago, however, God called me into an established church in need of some revitalization. (Actually my first church was a revitalization church.) It’s been an incredible couple of years. God has blessed us in so many ways. It’s harder than church planting — just being honest — but its very rewarding in so many ways.
I’ve encouraged numerous young leaders to not ignore the opportunities in church revitalization. As much as we need new plants — we need to revive some existing church — a lot of existing churches.
The work of revitalization is similar to church planting. We are starting some things new. We are building momentum around a vision. We are constantly looking for new leaders. But, its also incredibly different. There are unique challenges in church revitalization. As I’m learning things, I’m trying to pass them along.

Here are 7 words of encouragement in church revitalization:

Don’t high-jack the church – You can change a church where it can experience growth again without taking away the DNA of the church. That means you may not be able to make every change you want to make. It may mean you move slower than you want to at times. But, the general culture of the church — at least the one that has lasted for generations — should not be on the table. Now here’s the if — and this is the big if — if the culture or DNA — or part of that culture — is one that is destructive to the future vitality of the church then it needs to be changed. If the church is opposed to any change, it chews up and spits out pastors, it’s structure is so archaic that it just doesn’t work anymore — change it. But, if it’s just a flavor of who the people are — it is probably best to leave it alone. For example, if it’s a church that has a history of loving big events, don’t kill all of them — find a way to make them work for Kingdom growth.
It will take longer than you think it does. To them it’s likes rocket pace and to you it feels like snail pace. In church planting, you can change in a week. That’s usually not the case in revitalization. Take time to bring people along that have invested years in building the church. Over time, when trust is developed, it will get easier, and you’ll be able to move quicker.
Celebrate the history while shaping the future. Don’t pretend that everything old is bad. It’s not. It’s what has helped the church survive as long as it has. It may not be working as well right now, and there will likely need to be changes, but some of the old things were and are good things in principle. Recognize that, acknowledge it, and people will be more likely to at least appease good changes.
Recognize the sense of loss in change. It’s the number one reason change is resisted. (I wrote a whole post on this subject.) Don’t ignore or underestimate how big of a deal change is to some people. Be humble. Considerate. Compassionate. That doesn’t mean don’t change. It does mean don’t change assuming it’s “no big deal”. It is.
Love the people even when you don’t love everything about the church. You may not like some of the structure of the church or the process you have to go through to make change. But you must love the people. And, loving the people will help you lead the transitions you need to make. Years ago, God convicted me that if I focus most on loving Him that loving people in any church, any city, or any setting will be easy for me.
Don’t let a few critics determine your self worth. You’ll have critics. Make no mistake about it. And, some aren’t very nice in how they offer it. You will have to make hard decisions. Very hard decisions. (Don’t make them without input, but make them.) But, you will be making changes that impact people  (as all changes do) — people who have been at the church for years. You may know the changes are needed. They even me know the changes are needed. But there will be resistance. And there will be angry people. And when people are angry they say and do things they may not do otherwise. But, here’s what you need to know. If God called you to it you can be assured there are usually more supporters than detractors. The detractors just often have stronger vocal chords.
Rediscover more than you reinvent. You may need a lot of changes to be vibrant again. Most likely, however, in spite of where they are today, the church has some positive moments in their history. If not, maybe it’s time to close some doors and redistribute the Kingdom dollars elsewhere. (How’s that for honesty?) But, I’ve found most churches have had better days. Help the church rediscover the heartbeat of the times people loved — when things were healthy, lives were changing and Kingdom growth was occurring. Build momentum as you celebrate the emotions and the passions from the good days of their heritage. Lead people to rediscover that joy they once had for the mission.

Those are just a few things for now. I’ll share more as I learn more.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Santa Question

By John Murchison from the Verge blog.
Every year, I hear from parents who are struggling with “The Santa Question.” As parents who want our kids to worship Jesus and have fun at Christmas, it can be hard to know if Santa should be included in our traditions, and if so, to what degree. Every family is created different, and what is right for my family may not be right for others. As long as you’re praying, reading Scripture, and searching out wise counsel, then I believe that you should follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the convictions that He places on your hearts.

I know of four different types of families when it comes to Santa:

Families who do not to include Santa in any of their Christmas celebrations
Families who tell their kids up front that Santa is “a fun game that we all play at Christmas”
Families who focus on the “historical” Santa, St. Nick
Families who go all-in on Santa
I believe that any of these options can be valid options for a family, as long as two guidelines are followed:

1. Jesus must be more prominent in your home than Santa at Christmas.

The whole point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This needs to be the prominent theme in your home. I don’t mean that for every picture of Santa, you must have at least one picture of Jesus. What I mean is that you, as parents, must do your best to show your kids how amazing the incarnation is, and pray that they would be more thankful for the gift of Jesus than any gift under the tree.

Click to tweet: Pray that your kids would be more thankful for Jesus than for any gift under the tree. @johnmurk

If you’re looking for a tool to help your family treasure Christ above all this Christmas, check out this Advent Devotional from The Austin Stone Community Church. Even though we’re a few days into this 25-day guide, it’s never too late to jump in.

2. When “the Santa question” comes, don’t lie to your kids.

No matter how your family chooses to celebrate Christmas, you will have to face “the Santa question” at some point. Even if you choose not to include Santa at all in your home, Santa is everywhere – at the mall, at the grocery store, in your neighbors’ yards, on TV commercials. Every child eventually asks their parents this question:

“Is Santa real?”

I think there is a difference between playing games with your kids and telling your kids lies. There’s nothing inherently sinful about “stealing” your child’s nose with your thumb, playing dress-up, or pretending that you’re superheroes. These are not lies to your kids – they’re playful interactions.

Click to tweet: No matter how your family celebrates Christmas, you will have to face “the Santa question” at some point. @johnmurk

I think going “all in” Santa can be ok, as long as it stays in the realm of a “playful interaction.” But eventually, your child will get old enough to start understanding that Santa isn’t real… that it’s just a pretend game that we do for fun. And hopefully, he or she will come to you and ask you if it’s true.

When that day comes, it can be tempting to try to keep the “magic” alive, or to get one more year of Santa in. But that extra year of Christmas magic is not worth the potential loss of trust from your kids to you. When your child looks you in the eye and says, “Mom, Dad, is Santa real?”, I believe you need to tell the truth. Because one day, our children may start to wonder if Jesus is real. And on that day, we’re going to want every ounce of trust from our kids that we can get.

I pray that our homes will be filled with talk of Jesus and His birth this season, whatever you decide about Santa.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Why Study of Scriptures is Important

Why is the serious and careful study of Scripture important? Why ought we to expound so much effort instead of simply reading? And if we do the serious and careful study, why isn’t that enough? Consider the following life-shaping quotes from John Piper.

An evangelical believes that God humbled himself not only in the incarnation of the Son, but also in the inspiration of the Scriptures. The manger and the cross were not sensational. Neither are grammar and syntax. But that is how God chose to reveal himself. A poor Jewish peasant and a prepositional phrase have this in common, they are both human and both ordinary. That the poor peasant was God and the prepositional phrase is the Word of God does not change this fact. Therefore, if God humbled JohnPiperfilephotohimself to take on human flesh and to speak human language, woe to us if we arrogantly presume to ignore the humanity of Christ and the grammar of Scripture.

The Scriptures aim to affect our hearts and change the way we feel about God and his will. The exegete, who believes that this aim is the aim of the living God for our day, cannot be content with merely uncovering what the Scriptures originally meant… It is the will of God that his Word crush feelings of arrogance and self-reliance and that it give hope to the poor in spirit.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Doubly Offensive Jesus

By Trevin Wax from the Gospel Coalition site.  The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how inclusive He is.
The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how exclusive He is.
The church is offended by His inclusivity, and the world is offended by His exclusivity.
Thus we are inclined to weaken the offense, either by minimizing His inclusive call or by downplaying His exclusive claims. Unfortunately, whenever we lop off one side or the other, we wind up with a Jesus in our own image.
Instead, we should celebrate both Jesus’ inclusiveness and His exclusivity, for this is the polarity that makes Jesus so irresistibly compelling.

The Offensive Inclusivity of Jesus

The Gospels portray Jesus as a Messiah who consistently and willfully angered many of the most religious in His day. His message presents hope; His miracles proclaim the kingdom.
But He celebrates with all the wrong people.
Jesus doesn’t kowtow to the religious elite. He won’t abide by their categories of who’s in and who’s out. He won’t join them in “writing off” the common sinners. He eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. He’s not afraid of their houses. He’s not disgusted by their impurity.
Jesus’ inclusivity shocks the religious leaders. He throws open the doors of the kingdom to sinners of all stripes, and He rails against the religious for their self-righteous piety of exclusivity.
Evangelicals often talk about how the exclusive claims of Christ are offensive in our culture today, but we sometimes miss how the inclusivity of Christ was so offensive in his first-century context. And in missing that truth, we are unlikely to spot the ways we have thrown up barriers and erected walls around the gospel.
We say we are like Jesus in calling everyone to repentance, but often, we’re really saying, “Be like us.”
The inclusive posture of Jesus toward women, toward the sick, toward the outcast, toward the worst of sinners poses a challenge to the church today, just as it did for the Pharisees two thousand years ago.
The prostitute in church may be closer to God than the self-righteous prig, C. S. Lewis wrote, echoing Jesus’ words that the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom before the Pharisees. Until the radically offensive inclusiveness of God’s grace seeps into your bones, you will never join Jesus at the margins of society, welcoming and blessing repentant sinners of all kinds.

The Offensive Exclusivity of Jesus

The same Jesus who calls the weary to come to Him for rest is the One who demands we deny ourselves and follow Him to our deaths.
This Jesus says He is the one way to God, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to God except through Him. Got that? His way is narrow. The gate is small. He is the Bread of Heaven, and unless you consume Him, you will perish. If you’re offended by the shocking nature of these exclusive claims, then you can walk away, just like the crowds did in John 6.
So, with one hand, Jesus is beckoning everyone everywhere to come to Him. With the other hand, He is pushing people away. Have you counted the cost? Unless you repent, you will perish! Are you willing to give up your rights and bow the knee?
Let’s be frank. Exclusivity is offensive when we are used to having choices, when we think tolerance must mean variety. Jesus seems to think He’s special, that God’s grace comes throughHim alone.
The only heart that can receive such grace is the repentant heart. Repentance is the trading of your personal kingdom agenda for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ, and that’s an agenda that includes all the spheres of your life – how you live, how you love, how you give, how you worship, how you behave sexually, how you speak, how you follow Him as Lord.

The Doubly Offensive Jesus

Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance. The church is offended that Jesus’ call is for sinners. The world is offended that He calls for repentance.
That’s why the world minimizes His exclusive claims until Jesus is reduced to a social justice warrior who affirms people as they are. And that’s why the church minimizes His inclusive call until Jesus is reduced to a badge of honor for church folks who think their obedience makes them right with God.
The good news is that Jesus wants to change all of us, and change us all. In grace, He opens the clinched fist of the religious hypocrite, and He narrows the vision of the “open-minded” sinner until He is the only One in view. How? By destroying self-righteousness through His death and resurrection.
You see, the church is self-righteous when it condemns the inclusive call to sinners. And the world is self-righteous when it condemns the exclusive call to repentance. But the Gospels give us a Jesus who explodes self-righteousness in all its forms when He gives His body to be battered and bruised and hung on a tree.
So don’t give up the inclusive or exclusive challenge of Jesus. It’s what makes Him different from everyone else. It’s what is so attractive about Him. It’s the sign that He truly is God, that He loves us enough to not leave us alone.
In a day when the church is likely to offer an exclusive Jesus without His inclusivity and the world is likely to offer an inclusive Jesus without His exclusivity, I say, “Give me the doubly offensive Jesus, please. I want all of Him.”

Friday, November 28, 2014

How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent

From Ligonier Ministries by Sinclair Ferguson.

How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.
John Owen suggests four ways in which the Spirit and the serpent are to be distinguished:
  1. The leading of the Spirit, he says, is regular, that is, according to theregulum: the rule of Scripture. The Spirit does not work in us to give us a new rule of life, but to help us understand and apply the rule contained in Scripture. Thus, the fundamental question to ask about any guidance will be: Is this course of action consistent with the Word of God? 
  2. The commands of the Spirit are not grievous. They are in harmony with the Word, and the Word is in harmony with the believer as new creation. The Christian believer consciously submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked by struggle, pain, and sorrow. Christ’s yoke fits well; His burden never crushes the spirit. (Matthew 11:28-30)
  3. The “motions” of the Spirit are orderly. Just as God’s covenant is ordered in all things and secure, (2 Samuel 23:5) so the promised gift of that covenant, the indwelling Spirit, is orderly in the way in which He deals with us. Restlessness is not a mark of communion with the Spirit but of the activity of the evil one. Perhaps Owen had particular members of his congregations in mind when he wrote: 
We see some poor souls to be in such bondage as to be hurried up and down, in the matter of duties at the pleasure of Satan. They must run from one to another, and commonly neglect that which they should do. When they are at prayer, then they should be at the work of their calling; and when they are at their calling, they are tempted for not laying all aside and running to prayer. Believers know that this is not from the Spirit of God, which makes “every thing beautiful in its season.” 
  1. The “motions,” or promptings of the Spirit, Owen says, always tend to glorify God according to His Word. He brings Jesus’ teaching into our memories; He glorifies the Savior; He pours into our hearts a profound sense of the love of God for us.
How, then, does the Spirit act on the believer? The Spirit comes to us as an earnest, a pledge, a down payment on final redemption. He is here and now the foretaste of future glory. But His presence is also an indication of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience.
Owen here writes in sharp contrast to those who spoke of release from the influence of indwelling sin and struggle through the liberty of the Spirit. Precisely because He is the firstfruits and not yet the final harvest, there is a sense in which the indwelling of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s groaning: “We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) The presence of the Spirit brings us already a foretaste of future glory, but also, simultaneously, creates within us a sense of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience. This, for Owen, is how communion with the Spirit—understood biblically—brings joy into the life of the believer and yet a deep sense that the fullness of joy is not yet.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Necessity of Making the Bible Central to Your Life

For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." (1 Cor 3:19-20 ESV)

Here is what John Calvin says about this verse, " This is an excellent passage for bringing down the confidence of the flesh for here God declares from above that whatever the mind of man conceives in purpose is simply nothingness when it is compared to the word of God."  That tells me that we should value the word above all others words we put our minds to on a daily basis - radio, TV, newspaper, FB, tweets, instagram, etc.  We should read it, put our minds to it, meditate on it, and study it.    Are you valuing the word of God above all others words that daily vie for your attention?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


From the Gospel Coalition website.
Small groups increasingly play a significant part in the body life of many congregations. No matter why your church has small groups, it’s clear that not everyone in your church will enter into these groups with the same expectations. In fact, it’s more likely that everyone will join a small group with wildly different expectations. Some join a small group to connect at the church. They’re new to town and know relatively few people, so they join a small group. Or perhaps your church intentionally funnels people into small groups so that they can better be cared for. Your pastors and elders use the small group infrastructure to shepherd the flock. Or perhaps your church has small groups to train your people to grow in godliness and to reach their lost neighbors and friends. Those are all legitimate reasons to have small groups. Yet the church must be clear about the vision, mission, and main purpose of their small groups.
What you believe about why you are in a small group will dictate how you behave in that group. It’s important for a church to be clear why small groups exist. Do they exist to connect, shepherd, and reach unbelievers or to support one another? Are they some combination of those different things? What you believe about your small group will dictate how you approach potential problems when they arise. For example, if you buy a house knowing it will be a fixer-upper, then you approach that faux wood paneling in the family room as an opportunity to upgrade and improve. Whereas if you buy your dream house and find out the basement floods, you’re pretty disappointed and discouraged. Similarly, be clear from the beginning about the vision and values of your church small groups.
I would suggest that a healthy small group is committed to studying and applying God’s Word within the context of Christian community in order to grow as witnesses of Jesus in our respective spheres of influence. At our church, we summarize this goal as “transformation in community for witness.” But whether your small groups are mainly to help believers grow or mainly missional, here are five small group myths that I’ve encountered over the years that need correcting.
Myth 1. A successful small group will not be relationally messy.
While most people wouldn’t explicitly say so, they expect their small group be without relational messiness. They go in thinking that these people will be their best friends (more on that later), and when they find out they’re nothing alike they wonder if they’re in the right group. When someone in the group is passive aggressive or talks way too much about politics, you’re looking for the closest exit. Yet the reality is that small groups are composed of sinners all along the same journey of faith. They're going to get messy relationally, which is precisely why we have the gospel of grace that shows us how we ought to be long suffering and humble toward one another (Phil. 2:1-11).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together: 
The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.
Truth: Small groups are where the grace of God overcomes all types of relational messiness through the blood of Jesus.
​Myth 2: Small groups exist for others to meet my needs.
Don’t misunderstand. It is a wonderful blessing that our relational needs can be met by one another in small groups. It’s a good thing that if you don’t feel connected, or know anyone, you can join a small group and meet others at the church. But the overarching reality is that small groups exist for you to love God by loving his body, the church. Small groups exist for you to love others with the love of Christ. This is a radically different orientation than expecting others to meet your needs. And when we all have this aim—to love each other with the love of Christ—then we do meet each other’s needs.
Truth: Small groups exist for you to love and serve others with the love of Christ.
Myth ​​3. Trust and transparency take many years to cultivate in a small group.
Consider Acts 2 and how the believers had all things in common, making sure none was in need, breaking bread together, praising God together. How long had they known each other? They probably had been in community for a couple of weeks or maybe months, but not much longer. The reality is that more time together doesn’t always mean more trust and transparency. That just tends to be an excuse. Stepping into a small group, where the expectations are properly set, significant trust can be cultivated from day one.
What prevents you from opening up? Perhaps it’s shame over your sin, embarrassment that your marriage is struggling, or heartbreak over your wayward children. This is precisely what the gospel addresses. Christ took the wrath of God at Calvary and with it took our shame, condemnation, and fear of man. We can in fact be open and honest about where we are with God, because God is actively at work in us to conform us to his image.
Truth: Trust and transparency are fruits of recognizing we are all recipients of God’s abundant grace for the forgiveness of sins.
Myth 4. Small group members should become best friends.
Certain expectations are embedded into this myth—idealistic visions of taking vacations together, our kids growing up and marrying each other, attending each other’s birthday parties. While it would be a wonderful blessing if members of the same small group did become lifelong friends, the New Testament is nearly silent on the importance of friendship as a basis for love. Rather, our unity in Christ is the foundation and basis for our sacrificial love for one another. Ephesians 2:11-22is about how Christ demolishes the hostility between Jew and Gentile. Jews and Gentiles may not have been “BFFs” in the first century, but by the unifying work of Jesus on the cross they could be members of the same body. Is this not amazing? Similarly, the blood of Christ unifies us to be members of Christ’s body, committed to encourage, build up, and love one another.
Truth: Small groups are united by the blood of Christ and members of one body.
Myth 5. Small groups should focus only on Bible study, not sharing sins or engaging in outreach.
Small groups that truly focus on Christ and his Word will inevitably get to how the gospel changes our life in all ways (sin, parenting, marriage, singleness, work, and so on) and to how we can share our faith. If your Bible study isn’t helping you to change into Jesus’s likeness you’re doing it wrong. If your study of the Bible doesn’t make you hate your sin more, ask for help in conquering it, and make you want to share your faith, you’re doing it wrong. Unfortunately, some small groups hide behind Bible study in order to avoid talking about the deeper heart issues that the gospel aims to address. If we truly allow God’s Word to speak, it must speak into our lives so that we confront our sin, strive to serve one another, and make intentional efforts to share this good news with the lost in our spheres of influence.
Truth: Small groups focus on how the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms us as his disciples who grow in holiness and as witnesses of his truth.
These five common myths underline a greater goal: the gospel must be central in the vision and mission of your group. If your group exists to meet your personal needs, then when it begins to fall short you go looking for the next group. But if the group exists as a microcosm of the church, where people of all types gather at the foot of the cross, then challenges, sin, and brokenness are an opportunity to apply the gospel of Christ.

Keep the Gospel Central in Small Groups

Here are a few suggestions to get your small group on the right track.
1. Regularly reorient your small group to see that they are members of Christ—rather than members of a particular church, denomination, theological tribe, Sunday school class, demographic (singles, married, people who adopt) or ethnic or racial background. Put Galatians 2:20 at the forefront of your group—we have been crucified with Christ and now Christ lives in us.
2. Help your group set biblical expectations for fellowship/community. We may not all hang out all the time, and we may not become best of friends, but we encourage each other in our faith as we meet regularly to open his Word together and to help each other testify to Jesus in our spheres of influence. We can humbly and sacrificially serve one another because Christ has sacrificed in order that we might be brothers and sisters in Christ.
3. Help your group see the glorious privilege to love one another and how it witnesses to unbelievers around us. Our love for each other confirms and validates the power of the gospel (John 13:35). The gospel takes wildly different people from every walk of life and transforms them to care deeply for each other. When your small group goes out of its way to love and pray for one another, you reveal the transforming grace of Christ and draw in unbelievers to witness this miracle.
Steven Lee serves as the pastor of small groups and community outreach at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter.