Towards the Image of God

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Abstract

It is reported that churches are in rapid decline and in poor health. In addition, there is high pastor turnover. Many see a lack of leadership as a major contributing factor. This paper argues that an intentional refocusing of discipleship, grounded on the doctrine of the imago Dei can lead a church to recover the mission Christ gave his church. To that end, this paper argues that a five-fold process is needed in leading the church to recover its mission of making disciples. Leaders must help believers be intentional about spiritual growth, lead them to commit to the vision Christ gave his church, surrender to God’s will, be an active part of the mission, and in turn invest in others and help them grow as disciples.

The Problem

Today many churches are struggling to grow. According to Rainer (2019) 70% of churches are declining or plateauing, while only 30% are growing by reaching new people. The same study found that only 7% of churches are reproducing via church plants. Elsewhere Rainer (2014) states plainly that, “many of our congregations, plain and simple, are not in good health.” In addition to experiencing decline, many are experiencing Continue reading

Relational Foundations

songThe greatest force that exists in the universe is not the strong nuclear force (the force that holds atoms together), but the love that binds two hearts together. The term “lovesick” has been used to describe people desperately in love but who are prevented from being together. It is well expressed by Juliet longing for her lover Romeo, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? By any other word would smell as sweet. Parting is such Continue reading

The Choice

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Parenting can be a challenging occupation. Not the least of which is because children are curious. However, their curiosity can get them into trouble. They want to explore and can find themselves engaged in foolish activity that can bring harm to themselves. As Solomon addresses his children, and by extension, as God addresses His children, he wants them to understand that the Continue reading

The Works of Faith

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I was reading the news this morning and saw where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian came to faith in Christ. Praise the Lord! It was not too long ago where their names were synonymous with all that is fake and superficial in the world. Now, they are children of the King and members of His kingdom. Besides their conversion, something that stood out in the article is that Kanye West is turning from his rap music to gospel music. He has not been saved a year and he has already produced an album praising Jesus. The title of the album is “Jesus is King.” When he announced the record he said, Continue reading

Educating Children God’s Way

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Introduction

What is education and what is its end goal? Throughout the centuries different cultures gave different answers. However, there is one culture that has been the repository of divine revelation. The Hebrew people were chosen by God and given the oracles of God that were meant to be a light to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3; Isa. 49:6). Unfortunately, the light God gave through his Word has not been embraced as God intended – even to this day God’s people struggle to teach their children in a way that results in a life-long commitment to God. The result is that people sit in darkness (Isa. 9:2). For that darkness to be dispelled a people must come to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Ultimately, the light of God came to full expression in Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ – the promised Messiah. However, early in their history God revealed how a people (and individuals) come to know him. God gave a command, known as the Shema, that became central to the Hebrew identity. This paper will argue that Continue reading

A Very Real Power

I was thinking lately about the power of language. As I thought about how God used the spoken word to create the universe I was struck by the reality that there is great power in our use of language. It is something we often take for granted. God said, “Let there be….” and the world and all that is in it came bursting forth into existence.

We cannot create a universe, but we can create divergent realities with our language. Think about the power words have over children when they are still learning. What is said to that child can determine the course of his or her entire life. Think about how criticism can break a person emotionally and psychologically. Conversely, think of how a word timely spoken can redirect the course of a person’s entire life in positive ways. Words are more than just ideas verbalized. They are a form of power that we wield every time we open our mouth. As such we are to use our speech in ways that honor God and direct people to the path of life.

The Bible has much to teach us about Continue reading

Freedom

This is chapter 9 of my book, Man of the World.

 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

I remember watching Mel Gibson’s movie Brave Heart years ago. No one who watched that movie can forget the dramatic ending where, during intense torture, the main character cries out, “Freedom!” Freedom is a yearning within all people. Unfortunately, outside of Christ there is no freedom. Only He can bring the freedom our soul longs for. Sin enslaves all people. And religion without Christ cannot set a single person free. For those who strive to be free in the flesh, seeking freedom through religion, they will receive only weariness, toil, and disappointment. But, for those who come to Christ, a glorious freedom awaits them.

The true Man of the World comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan seeks to lead us into the land of religion and ritual that is devoid of life. He creates rules and generates anxiety. He wants people to think of God as a heavenly IRS agent desperately seeking to find something wrong with you so He can smite you. He wants to create division amongst people by getting them to become suspicious of each other. He wants people to distrust each other, hate each other, judge one another, and hurt one another. He has done a good job. Lifeless religion has been the source of contention and strife for as long as history has been written. The reason there are so many different denominations is because there are no shortage of people hurling contempt upon others in the name of God. Fallen people are always looking for reasons to divide. It takes a spirit filled person to see imperfect people and, knowing they too are sinners in need of a savior, love them as Christ did.

Thankfully, Jesus came to give us the Spirit. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly.[1] He did not come to give us rituals, or generate anxiety by telling how we might fail. He didn’t come to tell us how some are better than others. He isn’t watching over us with a clipboard and Continue reading

Speak Life

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Thought of the Day: Criticism is the easiest form of analysis

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

The other day I was watching the trailer for a movie. I think it was about King Arthur and Merlin. One scene depicted a young Merlin waving his hand over a dead flower and bringing it back to life. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of power! The reality is that in a certain sense we do. And it’s a power we often overlook. While waving my hand over something broken will not fix it, or bring it back to life, we all have the ability to speak life into the life of a broken person or a broken situation.

We live in a world with many broken things.  There are broken relationships, marriages and homes. There are broken nations and communities. And all around us there are broken people. And while we cannot fix all the problems people face, we can do two things:

  1. We can make sure we do not contribute to their brokenness by being critical faultfinders who are looking for ways to show others what they are doing wrong.
  1. And we can use our words in a way that builds others up. With our words we have the power to heal and fix things that are truly broken.

I am reminded that when God created this amazing world and universe we live in He did so by speaking it into existence. When God speaks life is created and life blossoms.

Picking apart and finding fault in others is not an admirable attribute. There are times when we all need correction. But the people we admire are those who correct in a way that improves who we are as people. The word encourage literally means, “To cause another to be confident”

The prefix “en” means “to cause”

The word “courage” means “confidence”

When we encourage someone we cause them to be confident. A Leader (to be distinguished from one who is simply in charge) has the unique ability to make people confident in such way that it causes them to improve, to do what they need to do to change, or to just be a better person.

The Great Deceiver, Chapter 4: The Battle for Significance

“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice”     John 18:37

No one likes to be disciplined. I remember getting in trouble when I was in third grade. I don’t recall what I did at school, but I have a vivid memory of my dad’s response. He sat me down and asked me what I did. While I don’t recall what that was, I do remember that I lied to my dad about it. That was the only time my father laid a hand on me. It hurt. I did not like being corrected. But it had a very positive effect. I don’t lie. I learned that lesson at a young age. And I learned that lesson because I had a father who loved me enough not to let me get away with lying. His love cured me of that sin.

Today, many people are looking for love. But, as the song goes, they are looking for love in all the wrong places. Over the course of the last few years I have developed a bit of a twitch whenever someone has the radio turned to a contemporary Christian radio station. I actually love much of the contemporary music, but I can’t say the same for the announcers and commentary between the songs. I have come to affectionately refer to these stations as the Cult of Encouragement. These radio stations ooze encouragement all over your car, out of the window, and down the street. As the ooze slithers down the road, in my review mirror, I think I even once saw it rise up, raise something like a hand in the air and a voice said, “You are loved! Yeah!!”

Now, before you accuse me of begin an Ebenezer Scrooge, hear me out. I am all for encouragement – when it is appropriate to give it. And, I am all for people hearing that God loves them. But, Continue reading

Time to Choose!

There are a lot of competing voices in our culture concerning the gay marriage issue. Who you listen to will make all the difference on how you decide where you stand.

People in positions of influence will make statements like, “My moral code is a matter of faith,” or “I don’t have the right to impose my moral code on you,” or “You can’t legislate morality,” or “I am not always right, and neither are you.” Comments such as these appear to have a form of wisdom.

Let’s briefly consider the above ideas. First, morality is not a matter of personal preference. The source of all morality is God. True morality, the type that leads away from sin, is a reflection of God’s holy character. He, in fact, demands that we obey his moral code as revealed in His law. God’s law is not something that is given to us as a suggestion. It’s not a preference. He revealed it to the world and commands that all must obey it; and He reveals that it is this law under which all will be judged.

Second, when understood correctly, law is morality legislated. That’s the whole point. If you support something legally, Continue reading