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All Church Development Prayer Spiritual Development Studying the Bible Uncategorized

Love One Another

 

Author: Charles Hegwood

 

As we enter the season of Lent, we reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Today we look into Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in the upper room. The upper room teachings were some of the most highly concentrated teachings of Jesus. Since this was the last night he would spend with his disciples before the cross, Jesus focused on the most important things. In John 13: 31-35 that thing was loving each other.

 

So what does it mean to love one another? I know the word ‘love’ gets thrown around a lot these days. Even in Jesus’ day, he was concerned about the way his disciples would and did love each other. Love would be the foundation of the relationship they shared. So as we ask the question of what it means to love one another, we have to look at what Jesus has to say about the matter. We will see that our love is a command from God and it is an identifier of our belonging to God. So as we go through Lent, let us focus on these words of Jesus by looking into John 13:31-35.

 

The Set up

 

Jesus had just said that one of his disciples in the room they were in would betray Him. This was upsetting. Judas then leaves the room to betray Jesus. Upon Judas’ exit, Jesus switches to a teaching moment about how he is about to be glorified by the Father, but where he is going, they will not be able to come with him. Again, this is upsetting to the disciples. He is talking about his death, resurrection, and ascension. They do not yet understand. There is now fear of betrayal from one of their ranks and Jesus’ troubling words that he is going away to a place they cannot be with him. This is the setup for teaching about love. It is born out of the context of betrayal, the cross looming like a storm cloud on the horizon, and the context of the Son being glorified with the Father.

 

A New Commandment

 

Jesus then gives them a ‘new’ commandment to highlight the importance of this love. Not that the command to love was new in itself, but that the application is now in the context of Jesus’ followers. This application would extend far beyond the nation of Israel to the whole world.

 

Jesus used commandment language because it was familiar to the disciples and to highlight the importance of loving one another. The disciples knew that when Jesus gave a command it was to be followed. This is how the Father in the Old Testament spoke to the people. He gave them commandments. Jesus also did not give them a helpful suggestion. We are commanded to do so. Understand, it is not an, “I have to love that person even though I don’t want to,” kind of thing. It is to be a characteristic of a follower of Jesus to love their brothers and sisters authentically. Just as Israel embraced with love the 10 commandments, so Jesus’ disciples were to embrace this new commandment with love as well. It should be with us, too. We should view the command to love one another as a wonderful way to love each other and God.

 

So what will this commanded love look like? It will look like the love Jesus had for his disciples. We need the Holy Spirit for that. Jesus loved his disciples through their ignorance, misunderstandings, and constant wandering away. He loved them with a shepherd’s love. He laid down his life for them. We are to love one another like that.

 

Love is an Identifier

 

So why was Jesus so keyed in on this idea of brothers and sisters in Christ loving each other? The reason is that loving one another as Christ loved us is an identifier to whom we belong. This means that how you love the people of God identifies you with God and his family. This is a love the world does not understand. Therefore, when they see it, it points to the glory and power of God. Such love shows that we are indeed a new creation and born again. Love like this is not a trait of a sinful, selfish nature.

 

This is wonderful and frightening all at once. It is wonderful because the love the church has for each other is to be a glimpse at heaven and a taste of the love of God. We get to be identified by those wonderful realities. It is also frightening, because when we fail it says the opposite to the people around us. We all know churches or people in churches who are not loving people. These kinds of people can sour the gospel of a church. The world will know we are the disciples of Jesus, by how we love and treat our spiritual brothers and sisters. This is a global, group identity in God’s family.

 

Conclusion

 

We know that John was heavily impacted by Jesus’ teaching captured in these verses. Read 1 John and you will see how John taught this exact type of love. So as we go into the Lent season, let us love our brothers and sisters as Jesus loved us. Let us build church communities that identify us as disciples of Jesus by the way we interact with each other, so that we can point people to Him. The way we love should be an attraction to those outside the church. Let your love for your brothers and sisters this Lent, and beyond, point all the people you run into every day to Jesus. Let them see Christ in you.

 

Categories
Christian History Church Development

Fulfillment of Jesus’ manifesto

Author: Rachel Kidd

Just like Matthew tells us, Luke emphasizes that Jesus was a man on a mission. Jesus came to bring a message of good news to spiritually poor people, the blind, bound, broken-hearted and bruised people. He says that His message will make the blind see, set the bound free, and heal the broken.

Luke is purposeful in the way in which he presents the message of Christ, making a clear argument for the gospel. Jesus proclaims this message in Luke chapter 4, proves it in chapter 5, and practices it throughout the rest of the book of Luke.

Jesus continually extends an invitation to us to become a part of His manifesto, a participant in His mission. In a broken world, we are always interacting with the spiritually blind and bound.

Today, the same Christ that walked the earth is within us. As the body of Christ, the church has the responsibility to fulfill Jesus’ mission on earth.

We are called to walk with the broken and sick, to share with them the Good News of the Gospel, or to fulfill Jesus’ manifesto.

Building Bonds

Throughout Luke, we see Jesus reaching out to the spiritually broken over and over again. We witness the bonds He builds with fishermen, sinners, and tax collectors.

Simon Peter was an ordinary fisherman from Nazareth, a working class man a bit rough around the edges. But Jesus called him. He gave him a nick-name Petra or Rocky, meaning stability. Peter was nothing but stable, but Jesus called out this quality in him.

Jesus developed His relationship with Peter, calling him the ‘rock’ and encouraging him for three years. By the book of Acts, Peter became the rock, a cornerstone of the early church.

Jesus exemplified what it means to encourage our friends, calling out good qualities in them and helping them become the best versions of themselves.

When I feel encouraged, I am motivated to improve. Words of affirmation from friends, family, or especially from a person of authority, make me feel valued.

Whatever you call people, they have a tendency of living up to it. It’s what it means to be a good friend, a good leader, and the living embodiment of the body of Christ.

The Miracle of Fish

Early one morning, Jesus is preaching to a crowd of people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Despite the crowds, Jesus’ attention is on a fisherman.

This man is discouraged, he spent all night fishing and didn’t catch a single fish. Jesus knows that one day, this man will be a great church leader and preach to thousands, inciting revival on the day of Pentecost.

But on this day, this man can’t even catch fish. How can someone who can’t catch fish become a fisher of men? Jesus saw Peter and who he could become.

With the crowds growing around Him, Jesus has been pushed to the water’s edge and running out of room on dry land. He asks Peter to borrow his boat to use as a pulpit, giving Him more space to preach to the crowds from the water.

Peter, probably reluctantly, agrees to share his boat. Peter continues to wash his fishing nets while Jesus finishes teaching from the boat. Afterwards, Jesus asks Peter to go out fishing with Him once more.

Now Peter had been fishing all night and was already discouraged, having caught nothing. But, he goes with Jesus anyway. Reluctantly casting his nets once again, he says “Teacher, we’ve fished all night and caught nothing.”

Jesus tells Peter to pull the nets in and check again. This time, the nets were overflowing with fish, requiring all hands on deck to pull them in. Both Peter’s and his brother’s boat were full of freshly caught fish, nearly sinking them both.

Peter falls to Jesus’ feet and says “depart from me oh Lord, I’m a sinful man.” Why would Peter respond this way to the miracle Jesus just performed?

Jesus is trying to recruit Peter to join Him on his mission, His manifesto. He is calling Peter to be a partner as they give sight to the blind, healing to the broken, and freedom to the spiritually bound.

He is asking Peter to leave behind his simple fisherman’s life and pursue instead a life dedicated to fishing for men. Peter seems to feel unqualified for this role by Jesus’ side, an uneducated, impulsive sinner with a temper and a foul mouth.

But, Jesus sees something more in Peter. He knows that this man who can’t even catch fish today, can become a great partner in the mission of the Gospel. He also knows that to get there, He must teach Peter a few things.

Fishing Lessons

Jesus teaches Peter and future readers of scripture, a few things about fishing for men as partners in His manifesto.

1. You are not the fisherman, Jesus is. You are not the deliverer, Jesus is.

Without Him in the boat with us, we will return with empty nets.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” –Matthew 19:26

When you try to go fishing for men, or lead someone to Christ, it is an impossible task without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the evangelist and Jesus is the fisherman.

You cannot catch men alone, but with Jesus, anything is possible.

2. Jesus has control over the boat.

When Jesus gets on Peter’s fishing boat, Peter is no longer in charge. Jesus tells Peter when to cast the nets, when to pull them up, and when to return to shore.

When we accept the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are surrendering control to Jesus. We are giving Him authority over our lives, trusting in His wisdom.

3. Forsake everything to follow Jesus.

Peter was a career fisherman. He had spent his life learning his trade and earning a living. But, when Jesus calls him to leave it to follow Him, he does.

Peter doesn’t bring his hard-earned boat with him, he doesn’t continue to hold on to his former life. He leaves it all behind to become a follower of Jesus, a full-time fisher of men.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”-Matthew 16:24-26

Like Peter, we are called to be partner’s in the fulfillment of Jesus’ manifesto. We are called to follow Him, pursue His word, and lead others to Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Categories
All Church Development Studying the Bible

The Importance of the Bible

Author: Jim Thompson, D.Min., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

A Theological and Biblical Basis for Making Scripture Engagement the Priority for Healthy Global Church Development

In a prior article, I addressed the problem of the Worldwide Bible Gap, with a focus on the Global South. I pointed out that in the Global South (Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East) we have a major distribution problem with getting God’s Word to those who hunger for it. There are at least 500 million Christians who want a personal Bible for their own spiritual growth, who do not have one. The logistic and economic challenges of the distribution of Scripture keep these believers without a Bible or New Testament for their spiritual nourishment.

In addition to these, there are millions of people in the Global South who are not followers of Christ yet but express a desire to read the Bible if they could ever get their hands upon one. These seekers, also cannot obtain a copy of Scripture because they are either not being made available in the villages and towns they live in, or they cannot afford to pay the costs being charged for a Bible. We, the Church of Jesus Christ must step up to meet these needs and disciple people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Why is this important? The answer to this question is what I hope to answer in this article. A 1000-word article is not long enough to give all the reasons. However, I will attempt to at least start a conversation on the subject.

I am beginning this article with two presuppositions. First, that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God. Secondly, the term Scripture which was a word used by both Jesus and the Apostles who wrote the New Testament letters refers to the written Word of God. Specifically, it is used for the Old Testament writings.

The Nature of the Word of God

Why is Scripture, or the Bible, so important to the Church? Why is the Bible so important to disciple-making, and healthy Church development? What was Jesus’ view of Scripture? These questions, and many more need to be answered in order to understand the importance of Scripture engagement. Regular Scripture engagement is the most important tool available for disciple-making and healthy Church development.

God is often referred to in the Bible as “the Living God”. He always has existed, and He always will exist. He has no beginning and no ending. He is also a “speaking God”. He eternally communicates. Thankfully, for human beings, God desires to communicate with us. This is a part of His desire to have a personal relationship with His children. God does not speak, just to speak. God always has a purpose in His communication. It is to always accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:9-11). God rules the universe by the Word of His power. God exercises His authority and power over His creation by His Word.

God not only speaks in the Old Testament; He speaks in the New Testament Scriptures as well (John 1:1-14). The attribute of God speaking is so closely connected to God Himself, that they are one and the same in this passage of Scripture. Jesus is called the Word, and Jesus is called God. There is even an intended connection between Genesis 1:1, and John 1:1. Hebrews 1:1-3 continues this theme, showing it is God’s nature to speak. His nature and desire are to reveal Himself. The chief means He uses is to speak in terms and ways that human beings can understand. He has spoken to us by Words, and He has spoken to us by His Son.

Eternal

God’s Word is eternal (I Peter 1:25). God’s Word stands the test of time. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Since God’s Word is eternally true, it does not change. Men change. Creation changes. Yet, as God is eternally unchanging, so is His Word. This fact should give us great confidence; in God, His Word, in the Scriptures, and in the Bible. Psalm 119:89 affirms this same truth. “Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”

Foundational

God’s Word is also foundational for life. It is a rock-solid foundation upon which to build a disciple’s life. Jesus explains this in Luke 6:46-49. He explains that the person who hears His Word and puts it into practice is like a person who builds a house on a solid foundation. When storms such as doubt, temptation or persecution come against that person, the faith of that person in Jesus will stand. It is inevitable that these trials will come. Healthy discipleship and healthy Church development need the foundation of Scripture engagement and application.

Powerful

A third element of the nature of God’s Word is that it possesses absolute power. We see this as God created the heavens, and all galaxies by speaking them into existence (Psalm 33:6, 9; II Peter 3:5). He not only creates all things by His Word, but He also sustains all things, both visible and invisible by “the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 29:4). Jesus said that His Word is spirit and life. It is important that we understand God’s Word not only as communication of linguistic content but as a great power that makes things happen.1

This is especially important to remember when it comes to discipleship and church health. It is God’s Word that has the power to transform believers into healthy disciples.

Authoritative

A fourth element of the nature of God’s Word is that it is authoritative. It carries the supreme and ultimate authority that is unique only to God. God, as our Creator, Savior, and Lord has every right to tell us how we should live our lives. He does this primarily through His Word. He does nothing or says nothing, except through the prism of His love and wisdom. He expresses His wisdom, knowledge, desires, intentions, love, and grace through His Word.

When God shares His love with us, we have the obligation to treasure it. When He questions us, we should answer. When He expresses His grace, we are obligated to trust it. When He tells us His desires, we should conform our lives to them. When He shares with us His knowledge and intentions, we ought to believe that they are true.2

A final aspect related to the authority of God’s Word is the importance of the disciple embracing God’s Word with faith and obedience. Faith and obedience to God always bring blessing. Disobedience to God and His Word will bring about disappointment, defeat, and discipline from the Lord. This principle is found throughout Scripture (I Corinthians 10:11). Grace does not negate this principle to the disciple. It may blunt its force when forgiveness is sought, but it is a serious matter to neglect God’s commands or intentionally disobey them (Deuteronomy 30:16; Joshua 1:7-8; Psalm 1:1-3; Proverbs 29:18; Luke 11:27-28; James 1:22-25, and Revelation 1:3).

Conclusion

Jesus is Lord of His Church. He is the Master Teacher and Supreme Disciple-Maker. We must put His Word at the center of our evangelistic, disciple-making, and Church Planting efforts. This will help us bring about the healthy global Church development that we all desire.

 

1Frame, Doctrine of the Word, 50.
2Frame, Doctrine of the Word, 56.

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All Church Development

How Closing the Bible Gap Will Impact Healthy Global Church Development

Author: Jim Thompson, D.Min., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

The Church of Jesus Christ faces many challenges today as it seeks to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission. However, there is one problem that I intend to address today in my blog. This problem is known as The Bible Gap or Bible Poverty.

For those in North America, you may be familiar with State of the Bible. This is a collaborative research report done by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society. It provides insight into the health of the Church in America, and the direction we are headed. Every Pastor should read it and take its findings to heart in their ministry.

The purpose of this blog is to address the problem on a broader scale. It is to look at the spread of the Gospel worldwide and its implications for fulfilling Jesus’ last command “to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations…”. Though there are many aspects of this command that need to be addressed, my focus will be on the process of disciple-making and the importance of the Bible in healthy Church Development. I will also focus on this taking place in the Global South (Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East). I believe that Jesus wants us to work towards building a strong, healthy, and victorious Church among every people group on earth.

The Global Church

Research shows us that the Gospel of Jesus is spreading fastest in the above regions of the world. The Center of Christianity has moved from North to South. There is much to be thankful for. We rejoice in these developments of great growth, of faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ taking place throughout the Global South. However, despite the spread of faith in Christ, there is still the problem that often is referred to as the ‘one mile wide and one-inch deep’ phenomenon. There has been much preaching about Jesus, but little disciple-making of the followers of Jesus. The result is many people believe in Jesus, but not near as many transformed disciples of Jesus. The Church is growing larger, but not necessarily healthier. What does the Bible, and both access to Scripture and engagement with Scripture, have to do with solving this problem?

The Worldwide Bible Gap

Some also refer to this problem as “Bible Poverty”. Whatever term you use, it is a problem that we have to face and solve. In simple terms: The Bible Gap is the gap between those who want a Bible and those who do not have access to a Bible.

The Bible Gap is normally viewed in four parts; translation, distribution, engagement, and transformation. Translation of the Bible is the focus of most current writing on this subject. It is true that the whole Bible has yet to be translated into 100 percent of the earth’s languages. In fact, there may be one billion people yet to have the whole Bible translated into their heart language. The major translation ministries are doing a good job of highlighting this need to the Church. Providing all people on earth with a full Bible is a worthy cause.

Closing the Bible Gap: Distribution

Currently, approximately 95 percent of the earth’s population have access to a complete Bible, New Testament, or one of the Four Gospels in a language they can read and understand. This gives most people access to Scripture so that they can meet Jesus as Savior and Lord if they so desire.

However, although there are Bibles, New Testaments, and Gospels translated and available, they are not getting to millions of believers and seekers who want them. A great shortage of Bibles and New Testaments exists in many parts of the world among people who can read and who desire a copy for their spiritual nourishment. This problem seriously inhibits the spiritual growth of Christians and hinders the healthy expansion of the Church. This is especially true in the Global South. 

The Bible Gap describes the gap that exists between those Christians who have a Bible for their personal use and those Christians who want a Bible or New Testament that is available in their language but are prevented from receiving one. This is a distribution problem for the Church to face, and solve. In fact, it is a devastating problem because at least 500 million Christ-followers are without a Bible or New Testament in the Global South. 

There are also many more seekers who, if they had an opportunity to read or listen to God’s Word, would do so but no one is providing them this opportunity. Just as there is a famine and scarcity of physical food in many parts of the Global South there is also a famine of the Word of God in this Region. It is the Church’s responsibility to meet this need. This is a spiritual justice issue of our day. There is great curiosity and hunger among the masses of the Global South to read or listen to the Bible.

Closing the Bible Gap: Engagement

There is a second part of “The Bible Gap” which I want to bring to your attention. It relates to engagement with Scripture. Engagement speaks to the issue of Christians who have access to a Bible, whether in print, on an audio device, or on a digital platform, but who do not regularly engage with God’s Word and allow it to transform their lives. There are also millions of believers in the Global South who fit into this category. Again, this is an engagement problem the Church must face and give priority to. These problems are at the very core of disciple-making. If we are to be faithful to Jesus’ Great Commission, we must address these problems and work at solving them. 

 

1 Matthew 28:19-20
2 https://www.gordonconwell.edu/blog/the-100-year-shift-of-christianity-to-the-south/
3 https://www.asiamissions.net/dealing-with-the-one-mile-wide–but-one-inch-deep-syndrome-an-african-initiative-on-transformational-discipleship/
4 Thompson, James. Closing the Bible Gap In the Global South. Chapter Six, 2018.