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August 01, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by SmallGroup.com who invites you to sign up for a free trial.

Every time Jesus makes someone more like Himself, it is a miracle. If we are honest about our own hearts we will admit that discipleship is truly miraculous. If your church has decided that discipleship occurs best within a small community of believers, then your goal should be to develop leaders to lead those communities toward the miracle of looking like Christ. Finding already miraculous leaders is almost impossible, which is why they have to be developed.  Jesus  changed the world with twelve very ordinary men. It was only through intentional time and development were they capable of doing extraordinary things. Even the best leaders in history were not always amazing. If you study their lives, each one had someone that took the time to mentor them to greatness.

If you expect your small group leaders to do the amazing and be miraculous, here are three things that they will need from the leadership of the church:

Soul Support

Discipling a group of people is not a trivial assignment. When we ask people in our church to take on the leadership of a biblical small group, we are asking them to shepherd a segment of our congregation. These newly minted leaders need to know that the church leadership will walk alongside them as they take this significant spiritual step. We too often focus on launching small groups, but leave them to fend for themselves after the launch.  A soul-care system of coaches is mandatory for the future health of your small group leaders. A coach is simply a seasoned leader who is available for new leaders to lean on.

Ongoing Training

Just like we expect the staff of a church to be well-trained for their jobs, our small group leaders  need to be equipped for their role. There are basic leadership skills  they  need to understand from the beginning, but most of their knowledge will be needed as they begin to face issues within the group. This is where as-needed, ongoing training from your experienced coaches is so valuable. Your new leaders will have someone to turn to when the inevitable questions start coming up during the small groups semester.

Biblical Content

Curriculum in and of itself does not lead to discipleship, but it does help set the stage for the needed discipleship conversations to take place. We cannot assume that our group leaders will automatically know what their group should be studying next, so that’s why it’s critical that they have a curriculum map to follow. That is one of the reasons we created smallgroup.com. Smallgroup.com is an online library of discussion-driven and video-enhanced studies that you can customize for any small group to have a consistent and transformational discipleship experience. You can quickly build series of studies for your sermon-based groups, or you can allow group leaders to pick from over 400 video-enhanced studies from teachers like Beth Moore, Matt Chandler and Tony Evans. You can try it free for two weeks by going to smallgroup.com and signing up.

If we provide our group leaders with adequate support, ongoing training, and biblical content, there is a good chance they will have the opportunity to do miraculous ministry in our churches.

July 25, 2016

This sponsored post was provided by Jonathan Morrow, impact360.org ||

Is it OK to disagree with other peoples’ deeply held beliefs anymore? You’ve heard the buzzwords: Coexist. Hate speech. Discrimination. Micro-aggressions. Trigger warnings. Speech codes. It’s becoming obvious to anyone paying attention to the media these days that certain moral and religious viewpoints are simply no longer allowed in our classrooms or broader culture. They are either dismissed without argument as “irrational” or the people who hold these views are publically shamed or even shouted down. I call this new cultural reality the Tyranny of Tolerance.

As Christians who care about truth and want to love our neighbors well as people made in the image of God, what are we to do? Here are three practical steps you can take to resist the Tyranny of Tolerance.

1. Recognize the new moral code being imposed in our culture today. Denial is not a strategy; we must live in reality. According to a recent Barna study, 91% of Americans agreed with the statement “To find yourself you must look within yourself.” What this shows is that selective relativism is alive and well and has become the dominant view in our culture. In other words, truth depends on what the individual comes to believe. But our radically individualistic culture has also agreed upon some new moral absolutes—namely “People should not criticize someone else’s life’s choices” (89% of Americans affirm this). These two beliefs are obviously in competition with each other and form the basis of the Tyranny of Tolerance we are experiencing today. The rules of the game have changed and if we fail to recognize this fact then we will not engage well.

2. Prepare today for the conversations that are coming tomorrow. It’s not a matter of if, but when the challenges will come. As Christians we are committed to certain truths that flow from our worldview grounded in the Bible. Here are just a few of the culturally controversial beliefs we hold:

  • that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and is the only way to God,
  • that objective right and wrong exist,
  • that unborn human beings are worthy of life and protection,
  • that all people regardless of their ethnicity should be treated with dignity, respect, and justice,
  • and that God, as the personal creator of the universe, has designed sex to be experienced only within the context of one man and one woman in marriage.

Peter reminds us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope within us and to do so with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Are you ready? The questions are coming: How can Jesus be the only way to God when so many sincere people disagree? Are you saying that what I feel in my heart is right is actually wrong in God’s eyes? Who are you to say that someone can’t marry the person they love regardless of their gender? What will you say when you experience the Tyranny of Tolerance? There are reasonable answers to these questions. As an easy first step, I encourage you to watch this free video I made to help you begin preparing for the challenges coming your way.

3. Stand up when you have the opportunity to graciously push back when your Christian convictions are challenged. First, when what you believe is challenged, don’t get defensive. Stay calm and ask questions to clarify where the disagreement really is. Next, resist being dismissed by slogans and be careful to define your terms (by the way, this is a lot easier to do if you have already spent time thinking about and preparing what you might say when challenged). Be encouraged, the truth is on our side and we can trust that God is at work in our conversations. But make no mistake, other people are looking to you to see if you will stand or crumble. Will you show conviction and compassion? Or will you cave and accommodate? Have the courage to as Chuck Colson used to say Break the Spiral of Silence. When I see you standing for the truth I will be encouraged to do the same.

Our culture desperately needs to hit the reset button when it comes to larger conversation about truth and tolerance. If we will recognize our new cultural reality, prepare ourselves for the conversations that are certainly coming, and stand up when we have the opportunity to graciously push back when our Christian convictions are challenged, then we will be well on our way to resisting the tyranny of tolerance.

***

Jonathan Morrow (D.Min, M.Div., M.A.) is a popular speaker and author of several books including Questioning the Bible and the new online study Explore Truth. He is currently the Director of Cultural Engagement and Immersion at Impact 360 Institute where he trains high school and college students in Christian worldview, apologetics and leadership, and serves as an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University. Jonathan is passionate about seeing a new generation of Christ-followers understand why they believe, what they believe. Follow him on twitter .

July 11, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. Joel Beeke of Reformation Heritage Books.

Pulpit AflameI have been an avid reader since childhood, and I invest many hours in the writing, editing, and publication of books—both print and electronic. God Himself has chosen to give us His heavenly communication as a Book. However, in that holy Book, the Lord revealed that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Really? Shouldn’t that say “by reading”? No, it’s hearing, hearing the word preached. If there were any doubt, we find just a bit earlier, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). Preaching the word is the primary means by which God creates and nurtures saving faith.

Some people would say that preaching is obsolete in our dynamic age. They tell us that preaching’s emphasis on words has been put out of business by a culture of visual images. Its authoritative proclamation grates on the ears of free-thinking post-moderns. Its one-directional verbal communication fails to address our learning styles or allow for peer dialogue. Its mentally demanding expositions of the sentences and doctrines of the Bible go way over the character limit of the Twitter generation. And so it goes.

Such objections fail to recognize the spiritual dynamic of God’s preached word. Preachers follow Christ, who said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18; cf. Isa. 61:1). In God’s purposes, there is simply no substitute for a Spirit-filled man speaking the word of Christ.

You might say, “That was then, and this is now.” However, Christ continues to speak through His anointed servants. Consider Steven Lawson (you can listen to his sermons here). Dr. Lawson has given his life to preaching and training preachers. It was my pleasure at the Ligonier conference to present to Dr. Lawson a book in his honor: Pulpit Aflame

The book was a collaborative project by some of Dr. Lawson’s dearest friends: Dustin Benge, Iain Campbell, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Michael Haykin, John MacArthur, Conrad Mbewe, Al Mohler, John J. Murray, R. C. Sproul, Derek Thomas, Geoff Thomas, and myself. Here is a sampling of chapter titles:

  • A Biblical Priority: Preach the Word
  • A Historical Pedigree: Sixteenth-Century Reformed Preaching
  • Preaching as Transformation
  • Preaching as Worship
  • The Foundation of Preaching: The Cross of Christ
  • The Power of Preaching: The Presence of the Holy Spirit

Whether you are a Christian who would like to renew your appreciation for preaching, a pastor in need of encouragement and fresh pointers to sharpen your preaching, or a theological student preparing for ministry, this book reminds us that “God works through the faithful preaching of His Word, no less in the twenty-first century than in the first.”

—Joel Beeke

July 04, 2016

Christian History

This sponsored post was prepared by Christian History Magazine who invites you to try a free subscription.

All I wanted to do was share stories about my experiences as a kid with my four children while we drove home from church. Maybe, I thought, they would identify with my struggles and glean some wisdom from my childish, foolish mistakes—and in turn not repeat them.  After several weeks of story telling, I began to dread story time as my children clamored for another “Daddy was sooo stupid story” (title credit go to my son, Dylan).  

The more I told my stories the more embarrassed I became. It was time to re-evaluate my story-telling model. After all, isn’t it better for kids to have a view of their father as Captain America and not some overweight guy falling through the barn floor? To my chagrin, the tales where daddy was the hero were also (apparently) the most boring, and my children quickly lost interest in story time.  

It seems there is something inherent in the human condition that we learn much better from failures than we do from victories.  Even so, we all desire to isolate ourselves from those painful stories of our own defeats—seriously, who wants to relive the pain, humiliation, and embarrassment of our worst moments? Instead, we curate our images, prune and pick our best snapshots, and incessantly manage how others view us. It’s no surprise we tend to do the same with our heroes.  

I remember as a child hearing stories of William Carey in VBS, Sunday School and various Children’s Church settings and being challenged to “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God”.  I remember thoughts of parachuting into the 10/40 window with nothing but my Bible, a Strong’s concordance, and the clothes on my back. The story had immediately stirred a response in me but when the emotion of the moment passed, so did my missionary zeal.

Years later, I learned about William Carey’s familial struggles - his wife’s mental breakdown on the mission field and allegations of Carey’s overlooking of his familial responsibilities while attempting great things for God.   I remember thinking, “If William Carey could put the needs of the ministry before his family, what makes me think that I am immune to such decisions?”  I decided that day to take constant inventory of my priorities in order to not follow in Carey’s negative familial shadow. 

You see, if I only knew of William Carey’s victories, I would just have learned an important but fleeting lesson. Yet in learning of his failures, God used William Carey’s story to influence my family and my ministry on a virtually daily basis.  The truth is we must learn from the entirety of the story. Only then can we embrace the whole of their journey, viewing and admiring our heroes as imitable men and not demi-gods.  

We at Christian History magazine know that fidelity to history and our heroes often does not curate a pretty picture, but it does display the whole of the person, movement, or issue. And through it, we learn from all of our vulnerabilities that not only is no person, institution, or idea perfect, but also that God uses our entire story to teach the lessons He has for us along our journey from faith to sight.

Matthew Oser
Christian History Magazine

Christian History Magazine is a donor-supported quarterly print publication. Subscriptions to the magazine are available for free at ChristianHistoryMagazine.org.

June 27, 2016


This sponsored post was prepared by Daniel Henderson, author of Old Paths, New Power.

For every Gospel action, there is an opposite and devious demonic reaction. In Acts 6:7 we see one of the great moments of spiritual resurgence in the early church. The apostles refused to be distracted from their salient priorities of “prayer and the Ministry of the word” (v. 4). Instead, they appointed seven others to handle the widow-feeding crisis. The result of this resolve was that “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” By any estimate, this is a New Testament instance of revival.  

The advancement of Acts 6 was the impetus to the increased persecution. Antagonism by the Jewish authorities had already been dogging the apostles at every turn. Prohibitions against preaching the Gospel were enforced. The Jewish leaders had jailed the apostles and would soon launch a movement of martyrdom, starting in chapter seven with Stephen’s death by stoning.

The incredible power of the Gospel in Acts 6 became a threat to the Judaism of the day and to the ultra-pagan Roman society. At the same time, this revival served as preparation for the coming oppression, providing supernatural grace, transcendent resolve, and staunch boldness that would turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

A Preparatory Revival? 

Without question we, too, are in need of a momentous Acts 6 movement of revival and evangelism. I also cannot help but wonder if this will be the ultimate preparation for a coming sifting of the church. In all likelihood, a revival will advance the supernatural spread of the Gospel but will also fast-track the inevitable showdown between an intolerant culture and the truth of Jesus Christ.

To think that America is immune is naïve. As John MacArthur has noted, “Religious liberty isn’t promised to Christians… Persecution is.”* My friend Brett O’Donnell, who works for a variety of national and state political candidates, has his finger on the pulse of the culture as well as anyone I know. As we shared a recent dinner, he stated, “Daniel, your grandchildren will be the first generation to grow up in a society where being a Christian and being an American citizen is no longer compatible.”

A Hopeful Preparation

The best preparation for the future sifting is a return to the realities of resolute commitment to “prayer and the ministry of the word” that gave early church leaders a transcendent faith and extraordinary impact. I have personally witnessed this kind of devotion on multiple occasions within the house churches of China, where the greatest current-day revival and advancement of Christianity has occurred under the oppression of a Communist government. With no facilities, no social media, no large programs, Christianity has flourished. 

Back here at home, with all the training, technology, wealth, talent, and unprecedented opportunities we now have at our disposal, we are losing ground. So the sifting has begun. In all likelihood, it will become more focused and intense. Fortunately, the old paths of biblical ministry seen in the book of Acts are still able to result in new power to face the challenges of ministry in a post-Christian culture. It is time to experience a truly transforming approach as we make the next new thing the first old thing.

Old Paths New PowerThis devotion is adapted from the new book, Old Paths, New Power – Awakening Your Church through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word by Moody Publishers. DOWNLOAD A FREE EXCERPT at www.strategicrenewal.com.

John F. MacArthur, We Will Not Bow, A sermon preached at Grace Community Church

June 20, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by The Word One to One.

The Bible You Have in Your Hand is Probably Useless. While this title may shock you, the shocking reality is that it’s probably true. All too often the Bible is left shut when we talk to non-Christian friends about our faith. This is what makes our Bible useless. Instead we might say we’ve been to church, or that we are a Christian. In doing so, we congratulate ourselves that we’ve mentioned Christian things, but actually we’ve been of no spiritual benefit to our friends and neighbours.

Can you imagine instead opening your Bible and sharing the good news of the gospel from the Gospels? That would transform your useless, closed Bible into being the open Word of God. We are convinced, as we’re sure you are, that when God’s Word is read, He brings life by His Spirit. 

There’s a resource that’s been developed over the last 10 years called The Word One to One. It was developed at St Helen’s Bishopsgate in London where Dick Lucas was Rector for many years. They found that they were in a similar position: People were having conversations about Christianity, but weren’t using the most powerful tool at their disposal – God’s Word. 

The Word One on One

Rico Tice, author of Christianity Explored says: “It’s genius. A wonderful resource. Why? Because as you meet with your friend one to one… it presents the God’s Word to them.

The Word One to One walks you and your non-Christian friend through John’s gospel, verse by verse. It breaks it down into manageable chunks of three or four verses at a time and then asks a question about it. Uniquely, it then gives all the answers. In our Adult Bible Classes, we’re used to trying to work out the answer. But our non-Christian friends haven’t got a clue what the Bible says so we want to provide the answers instead of embarrassing them. This also allows us (and our whole church family) to have great confidence – because we can’t get it wrong! Our friends can sit back, relax, download the information and then discuss what they’ve read from God’s Word.

So why not ask your non-Christians friend or neighbour two questions: 1) Have you ever looked at the Bible for yourself? 2) Would you like to? 

You’d be amazed at how many people have thought about reading the Bible but have never had the chance or the support to do so. We want to invite them to read it together – like a guided read through – saying “I could show you, shall we meet for a coffee and we’ll begin to look at it for ourselves?” 

When was the last ‘gospel’ conversation you had? When was the last time you opened up the Bible to explain the good news of the gospel with your friends? 

Val, grandmother of five, has been meeting a friend of hers for nearly a year now. “It has taken rather longer than most to complete the studies – well over a year. But that didn’t matter. What did matter was seeing God at work helping my new friend to a point when she would turn to me with a huge smile one afternoon and say: “Now I understand what it’s all about.” 

Thousands others have been using this resource and we’re delighted that people are seeing friends come to Christ as the Spirit of God takes hold of the Word of God and brings life. Who could you invite to look at the Bible one to one? As you sit down with your friend and read together, let the work of God be in action through the Word of God. 

To find out more visit www.theword121.com or www.10ofthose.com.

Making the most of The Word One to One from 10ofthose.com on Vimeo.

June 13, 2016

“My son, give me your heart” (Proverbs 23:26)

Masculine Mandate

If I had to pick just one verse on parenting from the book of Proverbs— the main source of our biblical wisdom on this subject— it would be Proverbs 23:26. Here we have the very pulse of the Bible’s teaching on a father’s relationship with his children, including God the Father’s relationship with us, His sons in Christ.

This verse provides the perspective behind all the wisdom passed from father to son in the Proverbs. In it, the father simply pleads, “My son, give me your heart.” This is the prime aspiration of a true father toward his children. All the advice and commands found in Proverbs flow from this great passion: the desire of a loving father for the heart of his child, and for that child’s heart to be given to the Lord.

The heart, of course, is the key to everything. “Keep your heart with all vigilance,” we read, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4: 23). Biblically, the heart is the entire inner person, including the thoughts, desires, affections, and will. The heart is who we are inside— the real, essential person; the person God wants to own completely. A wise father wants to reach his child’s heart, aiming for the willing offering of that heart both to himself as earthly father and to God as heavenly Father.

Note carefully that the proverb does not say, “My son, give me your behavior.” It is not difficult for us to use our authority so that our children obey us outwardly without giving us their hearts. In fact, this lowest-common-denominator form of fatherly leadership is exactly what we will fall into if we don’t actively seek a different and better result.

Neither does the proverb say, “My son, give me your physical presence,” as if all that matters is placing a child in the right places at the right times. Worship, for instance, is far more than being physically present at church on Sunday morning, although many parents content themselves with little more from their children.

This, then, is the purpose of parental discipling: ministering to our children’s hearts so as to gain a relationship of love with them and a shared heart-bond of faith in Jesus Christ. A father can spend years giving his child a Christian structure of church, Sunday school, Christian schooling, etc. If he then finds himself helpless as his young-adult child embraces rebellion, what has gone wrong? Too often the answer is that he never aimed for the child’s heart and, not aiming for it, never gained it.

So the great issue of parental discipleship is directing the hearts of our children to the Lord. Instead of a mere focus on behavior or bodily presence, wise and loving parents seek to touch and win the hearts of their boys and girls.

The question is, how? First, understand that the heart—even the heart of a child—can only be given freely; it can never really be taken. In part, therefore, this is a matter of a father leading by example. We must begin by giving to our children what we seek to receive from them. Before we can convincingly plead, “My child, give me your heart,” it must be evident to the child we have sincerely given our own.

Masculine MandateHow does a father do this? Richard Phillips answers in his book The Masculine Mandate as he seeks to help Christian men examine their hearts, embrace their God-given mandate, and by God’s grace, serve faithfully in whatever context God has placed them. Buy this best-selling book today and save 50%. Offer ends Father’s Day.

June 06, 2016

Summer is just around the corner—the perfect time to relax and feed your soul with a good book.

But what type of vacation reader are you? From the 1000 words-per-minute reader to those who start but never quite finish… take this quiz to discover your reading style, as well as the perfect books to pack in your bag this summer.  

At The Good Book Company we’re passionate about God’s word, God’s church and God’s wonderful gospel of grace. We want to help you and your family find true rest and refreshment by feeding on the Bible this summer. See our whole range of summer reading at www.thegoodbook.com

Whatever your reading style, don’t waste your summer—get stuck into a good book!

Don't see the quiz? Click here!