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Draw a Little Circle August 19, 2016

Posted by stevekerp in Christian living, Discipleship, spiritual wealth, Uncategorized.
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One of the wiles I believe the devil and his buddies in the religion business have used very effectively is to induce Christians to get so focused on the “big picture” and the huge and desperate needs of the world that they miss the small needs that may be right in front of them. “I can’t help you now; I’m on a mission to save the world.” “I’d really like to help you pay your electric bill, but I gave all my money to the foreign missions ministry at church.”

Stuff like that.

We see, sometimes in retrospect, the silliness of, “if I’d stayed to help my neighbor, I would have been late for the prayer meeting.” “And what was the prayer meeting about?” “Oh, we’re praying for boldness in reaching our neighborhoods for Christ.”

There’s a simple solution, but it requires a little discipline. Are you really a “disciple” of Christ? If so, read on.

Jesus has placed us where we are for a reason. His command to go into “all the world” is not a missionary call, or a command to get a passport, pack a suitcase, and travel to a foreign country. You are obviously “in the world” when you are at home, in your neighborhood, at your job, or on your campus. You have been SENT as an ambassador of Christ to where-ever you are.

This is liberating. You are not required to reach people with whom you have no contact. Rather, you are commanded and empowered to represent Christ to people with whom you DO have contact. How neat is that??

But that’s still a pretty big playing field, and unmanageable unless all your relationships are extremely superficial. How do you clearly delineate YOUR assignment?

First, you should bear in mind that the population you are part of is probably about 3% Christian. Were I to come to your little corner of the world and round up 100 people at random – with you among them – there would probably be two other Christians in the posse. That means 32 unbelievers for each Christian. Viewed this way, you see that Jesus has not given us a huge or overwhelming task at all. In fact, in order to meet the objective, we need only be faithful on a daily basis for about a month. ANYBODY could share the gospel with one person a day for a month. It’s not an 8-hour a day deal, either. No expenses, no extra equipment, no special training, no passport.

Of course, true ministry is larger than that. Some folks really need more exposure, more encouragement … and maybe a LOT more prayer. So I’m not going to suggest that you do this “witnessing thing” for a few weeks and then retire. What I am suggesting, rather, is that you map out your ministry so you can be focused and effective in the part of the global village where you have been sent. Your part is your “circle.”

Anyone can draw one. It need not be large, and it need not be all that round. Within it go the names of 30 people who are close to you, most of whom are probably not saved. They may be geographically close, such as your next-door neighbor or friends at work, or they can be close in the sense of family or friends. But it should be real people who you really know. “Facebook friends” don’t count.

These are people that you vow to God you will be “there” for. These are people you will “pastor” to the extent they desire it. You will pray specifically for these folks regularly. You will contact them, love them, serve them, be available for them. You will be open to them. These specific people are your ministry. This is your circle – a little “spiritual garden.” For everyone else, you should be “open for business.” If anyone in the neighborhood, in the family or on the job comes to you, you should serve if possible, just because that’s what Christians do. But for others you can be more reactive. For those in the circle, you must be pro-active. You reach out to them; don’t wait for them to call you. You ask them how they are doing; don’t wait for them to volunteer their problems. And you pray for them aggressively.

Now, suddenly, your ministry is right-sized, right-side-up, and SPECIFIC. The nameless, faceless, lost masses in some country you might not even be able to find on a map – and emotional appeals to support a missionary who can “reach them for Christ” and “obey the Great Commission” – can be seen in a more realistic context. At least, you understand that helping someone else obey Christ is not an acceptable substitute for YOU obeying Him, in the location where He has placed you.

This does NOT mean you project some “spiritual aura” or assume some “pastoral mantle” or anything like that. Nor does it mean you should invite these 30 people over to your house, set up a pulpit, and start preaching. All this means is targeted, pro-active and authentic Christianity. You should be ready with an answer if anyone asks you the reason for the hope that is in you. But they have to ask. For many, “going spiritual” is a greased slide to the exit.

HOMEWORK:

1. Start a list of your 30 (or so) people. You really should not have a problem listing people who are close to you, either consanguinally or geographically.

2. Write down the specific ways that you will serve these people, as appropriate and when possible. For instance, if you have someone who needs money, that does not necessarily mean you pony up. It may mean he/she needs budget guidance, spending control, or help with a yard sale. Being a servant does not mean being stupid, being a doormat, or being an always-on-call problem solver. You serve in wisdom and on your terms. Expect to be led by the Holy Spirit.

3. Write down some specific, pro-active ways that you can cultivate and deepen your relationships with these people. Invite to dinner, get birthdays and anniversary dates and send cards, help in a job hunt, etc.

4. Don’t meddle. Your commitment is to God. You will be available, prayerful, and proactive. If you become intrusive, they will probably resent it, and you will hopefully sense it. Tell them “I’m available but I won’t meddle.” Respect their boundaries and continue to pray.

5. Remember: No one can come to the Son unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). No doubt, lots of folks who consider themselves Christians spend time in prayer, but their prayers go nowhere because they are not in Christ. As a Christian, you have a rare opportunity to speak to God, knowing that He actually hears you! Re-read that last sentence: this is huge. You can actually go before the Creator of the Universe, the Father of Jesus Christ, and pray that He will draw your lost family, friends and neighbors to Christ. And you can bet that when He does – when He gives your circle-members faith to believe – that YOUR phone will ring and you will have the opportunity to provide content for their gift of faith.

ALTERNATIVE:

1. Having read the above, you are thinking, “that sounds manageable, and it certainly appears to be Biblical. I’ll think about it.” Or maybe, “I’ll ask my pastor about it.”

2. Then, having felt really good about what you just read, fully intending to take this for action when you get around to it, close your browser and do nothing.

I guess it’s a Luke 6:46 moment. Or maybe you have a BETTER plan (and you may) which you are already implementing. If so, good for you. Send me the details; I’m interested.

In the meantime, hope to see you “on the mezzanine.”

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Decision? … or Commitment?? November 2, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Discipleship, spiritual wealth.
1 comment so far

Kyle Idleman is an author and also the teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  In Not A Fan, he asks the question:  “Have you ‘made a decision’ for Jesus?  or have you committed  to Jesus?”

There is a difference.  There shouldn’t be.  But there is a difference.  Many have made a decision to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Jesus.  The gospel allows for no such distinction.  Biblical belief is more than mental assent or verbal acknowledgment.  Many fans have repeated a prayer or raised their hand or walked forward at the end of a sermon and made a decision to believe, but there was never a commitment to follow.  Jesus never offered such an option.  He is looking for more than words of belief; he’s looking to see how those words are lived out in your life.  When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we become nothing more than fans.

Biblical belief is more than just an intellectual acceptance or a heartfelt acknowledgment; it is a commitment to follow.  Following by definition requires more than mental assent, it calls for movement.  One of the reasons our churches can become fan factories is that we have separated the message of “believe” from the message “follow.”  After separating the two messages, they get out of balance.

I’m not saying that following is more important than believing.  What I am saying is that the two are firmly connected.  They are the heart and lungs of faith.  One can’t live without the other.  Following is part of believing.  To truly believe is to follow.”

Not surprisingly, Kyle has come under fire for teaching the “heretical doctrine of Lordship salvation.”  I did not come away from his book with the idea that he believes we earn our salvation by doing works or any other such thing.  I don’t believe, and I don’t read that Kyle believes, that we are saved because we decide to be saved, or that we either get saved or stay saved by our own efforts or merits. 

Jesus asks the question in Luke 6:46 –

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

How does one answer that question? “Well, I didn’t really want to obey you.  I just didn’t want to go to hell.”  I suppose the real question is, “Do you love Jesus enough to obey Him?”  Because, if one does not love Jesus Christ, nothing else really matters (see 1 Corinthians 16:22).

Kyle did not have to make the case for obedience.  In fact, he’s not coming up with anything new; he’s just reminding us of what James says about the uselessness of a purported “faith” that produces no works (See James 2:17-22).

But a passage sometimes overlooked in the discussion is in Hebrews 11:6 –

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

The word translated “rewarder” (μισθαποδότης – misthapodotēs) only appears here in the New Testament.  It isn’t in the context of getting saved or “staying saved” (a problematic concept, to be sure).  Let’s face it, no matter how tepid one’s faith, there is no doubt some work that has proceeded from it.  So if one argues that saving faith always produces a change in one’s life, it’s really hard to find disagreement.  I argue (and I believe Kyle is arguing) that to live a life that pleases God, one must live a life of obedient pursuit of Christ; vigorous, consistent and joyful submission to His discipline.  I would add that Jesus DESERVES to be loved, and DESERVES to be obeyed.

That’s where the joy is, and THAT’S WHERE THE REWARDS ARE!  I suspect that many of us are given a taste of earthly poverty so we will know what it feels like, and we will be motivated to lay up treasure in heaven.  If you don’t like being poor here, you sure won’t enjoy it for eternity.

This is not a salvation issue.  If anything, it’s a maturity issue.  The lie (remember: these are the days of deception) is that Jesus did it ALL – that all He expects of us is to crank back in our Lay-Z-Boy recliners, trust Him to take care of us, and wait for the rapture – and that perhaps doing good works is legalism against which Paul preached, and which is at its core an affront to the grace of God.  The truth is that Jesus did for us only those things that we could not and cannot do for ourselves … and He will even help us with the rest.

“Obedience” is not a spiritual gift, my dear friends.  Satan’s effort is to give Jesus an eternal daycare center full of immature, bottle-sucking Christianettes.  Jesus calls us to maturity: to GROW UP in all things in Christ (Ephesians 4:13-15).  THAT, I believe, is the core of Not A Fan and that is the core of the podcast going forward.  I want to be outrageously wealthy when I get to Heaven, and I want you to join me.

The Anakypto Forum.

‘Burma Shave’ Evangelism October 30, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Discipleship, End Times, Uncategorized.
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Some of you may recall the old ‘Burma Shave’ highway signs. For the rest, the basic idea was a series of five or more signs spaced evenly along a highway, each but the last with a line from a bit of verse, and the final sign saying ‘Burma Shave’.

Here’s one example, from memory:

If daisies
are your
favorite flower
keep pushing up those
miles-per-hour.”

Cute, obviously memorable, and distinctive.

In a recent discussion with a friend, we considered the idea of composing similar verse along evangelical lines, making up similar signs, and then standing with friends along the side of the road with the signs. If you have any ideas on possible sign composition, I’d love to hear from you. If you don’t quite “get it” just do a google search on “Burma Shave Signs” and it should become clear.

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been doing some reading in Genesis. While there may be some relevant prophetic patterns in the life of Joseph, I was looking more at the human-interest side. Many Christians I know feel oppressed. Life is generally difficult, with illnesses, economic hardship at various levels, key personal relationships that are not good, and a daily fresh load of reasons why the downward spiral can be expected to continue.

Jacob and his family had similar issues from the time Joseph went to Egypt until the time his family joined him there about 23 years later. One of the interesting take-aways from my study was in Genesis 42:36 when Jacob, bemoaning his perceived hardships, said, “…all these things are against me.” Of course, quite the opposite was true. Things were not as they appeared, and all the things he thought were against him were, in fact, weighing very much in his favor.

Might that also apply to us? Could God have placed “treasure in our sacks” and we are complaining about the weight instead of rejoicing in the value?

I will most probably unpack this a bit in the next program.

Administrivia: I asked for “votes” through Paypal and, admittedly, there probably weren’t too many folks who heard the appeal. One couple did and sent a significant gift which I used to set up an account with SoundCloud. This will make the program available through iTunes (and maybe other distribution points as well), and that means access on smartphones, etc. At this point, I’m inclined to keep using the “Anakypto” label since it’s distinctive and sort-of established. I’ve pencilled in next Monday for “going live” but no promises. In the meantime, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you, even if you cannot or do not wish to participate financially.

link: http://www.soundcloud.com/anakypto (and that’s not a picture of me)

email: stevekerp@att.net

Any Time Now …. October 28, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Discipleship.
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I’m not going back to BlogTalkRadio quite yet, but will put audio files here for the short term.

Maybe tomorrow … no promises.

There’s a lot going on in the world and the pace of mischief seems to be accelerating. How soon we “hit the wall” (or “go over the edge”) is, of course, anybody’s guess. But the Shmittah Time-clock strongly suggests (and I am NOT setting a date, Rexella!) that this may be our last lap. I’m just sayin’ ….

I don’t want the audio programs in the future to be as eschatological as in the past, for a few reasons. But I still have an “inner eschatologist” and, let’s face it: if there is anyone out there who claims to be a Christian and claims to have a Biblical world view and is NOT excited about the very real possibility that these are the “last days” that Jesus and the prophets told us about, then I would strongly suggest those “claims” are not grounded in reality.

My hope, and I’ve said this many times (“Amen” from the long-time listeners) is that I don’t want to be just another contributor to the over-informationizing of the American Christian subculture. Folks, we KNOW this stuff. We know what a disciple is and how a disciple is supposed to live. We know our God is awesome! He’s not some dinky little deity wannabe who needs to be placated by King James-style prayers and weekly liturgical ceremonies. He is WORTHY (not yelling, just passionate!) and He deserves our praise and our worship. In fact, He deserves a level of praise and worship that we are unable to provide. I don’t want my efforts to simply be another flavor of Christian entertainment or background noise.

What I DO want is to help any who need encouragement to keep their joy and their perspective. It could get a little bumpy for the next few months, and we need to remind each other that this is temporary, and that we can lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, as Jesus directed us to do. I believe one source of His joy will be to lavishly — lavishly — reward those who are taking discipleship seriously. By “discipleship” I mean simply living under the discipline of Christ in order to be conformed to Him (for clarity, review Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 4:15). Again, nothing new here; we all KNOW this stuff.

America is post-Christian. The moral consensus of the culture is no longer Biblical. Voting won’t make a difference. But Jesus Christ, the ONLY One ever found worthy, can be glorified in YOU.

I’m rambling so I will stop for now. Suffice to say, God is not bemoaning the collapse of America; rather, He is rejoicing that He is bringing sons and daughters to maturity. Jesus will have the bride He deserves. His bride will be beautiful, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, and I believe He’s more excited about that than we are.

Let’s help each other get ready!

“Yea, hath God said …?” October 20, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Discipleship, doctrine of distribution, Non-accumulation.
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Before Jesus departed, He gave His disciples some specific instructions.  One is recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 where He said that, based on the fact that all authority in Heaven and on earth had been given to Him, we are to:

… make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”

This two-step procedure is well-known among disciples, though the average church-goer tends to defer both tasks to the clerical “experts” in the church.  (By the way, if you are a disciple and you have not been baptized, what are you waiting for?)

Clearly, if Jesus has ALL authority in Heaven and on earth, then He can command anyone, anywhere to do anything and they can properly be held accountable if they do not obey.  For our purposes, if He is LORD and we are His disciples, then He can command us and we will be held accountable for our performance.

We need to always bear in mind, however, that Jesus does not exercise His authority because He wants to “throw His weight around” or make our lives difficult.  On the contrary, His intent is to shepherd us in the way of blessing, to make our lives joyful (even in persecution or difficult circumstances), and to be glorified in our lives by displaying His character through us.

We are to observe (this means OBEY, not “memorize” or “watch others when they obey”) all things that Christ commanded, AND we are to teach others to do likewise.  How can we know what Christ has commanded?

The commands of Christ can be divided into three categories.  First are commands that He gave to specific people in specific circumstances.  For instance, when He raised the 12-year-old girl in Luke chapter 8, He then commanded that she be given something to eat (verse 55).  No one seriously construes this as a general command to feed 12-year-old girls, and accordingly, commands in this category are not binding on us.

The second category consists of those commands given by Christ to His disciples, usually in a teaching context.  An example of this is in John 13:34 where Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another.  No one seriously argues that this command was just for those disciples who were present when the command was given.  Without question, this command and other commands in this category are binding on us today.

The last category might be called “indirect commands” where we get an authoritative command from the scriptures that was not a direct utterance of Christ, but can nonetheless be received as a command from God to Christian disciples.  One example of this is in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 –

…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Paul wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and, while the letter was addressed to the Christians in Thessalonica who lived about 2,000 years ago, we understand that this is a command for all Christians in all places at all times.

At this point, I would like to re-state the doctrine of distribution (“nonaccumulation”):

Jesus forbids His people to accumulate wealth on this earth, but rather commands them to distribute those possessions they do not currently need for the needs of others and for spreading the gospel.”

IF this is a true, Biblical doctrine, then 1) it must be explicitly supported and commanded by either category 2 or category 3 commands of Christ, AND 2) it must not be refuted or contradicted by any commands or scriptures.  THOSE ARE THE CRITERIA! How it makes you feel, what your church or pastor always taught, what your friends or financial counselors assert, what “common sense” may dictate … all irrelevant.  The only important thing is what Christ has said about it. 

And what has He said?  What scriptures support the doctrine of distribution?  Are there scriptures that refute the doctrine? 

Stay tuned.

Today’s Action Step:  Read the story of the “Rich Young Ruler” in Luke 18:18-23.  (This is an example of a category 1 command so no one need feel defensive.)  Imagine you are standing beside the Rich Young Ruler when Jesus spoke to him, and that the young man turned to you for counsel. 

What do you think he might have asked you?
How do you think you would have responded?
Send an email to yourself with your answers.

“Follow” this blog and you’ll get an email notification when the next posting is available.  Comments (below) always appreciated.

What Is A Doctrine? October 18, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Discipleship, Non-accumulation.
1 comment so far

Before we can intelligently discuss whether or any doctrine is true, we need to agree on the definition of “doctrine.” We’ll go from there to a clear statement of the doctrine of nonaccumulation, and then we will be in a position to compare the doctrine with the scriptures to determine whether it is true or false.

NOTE:  I’ve been using the term “doctrine of nonaccumulation” because I’m relying heavily on Roger Hertzler’s work and that is the term he uses.  I don’t like it.  I prefer “doctrine of distribution” because the Biblical injunction is to distribute to those who have need.  In other words, if one Christian “accumulates” two coats and his brother has none, a “non-accumulation” requirement could be met if he simply burned one coat.  The purpose of the commandment is not to deprive, but to supply (Luke 3:11).  Also, while the word “nonaccumulation” does not appear in the scriptures, “distribute” does, in a passage we will consider as we proceed.

Some dictionary definitions of “doctrine” include:

1. a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group.

2. a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government

3. something that is taught; teachings collectively: religious doctrine

4. a body or system of teachings relating to a particular subject

You get the idea. My working definition is that, for our purposes anyway, a doctrine is a statement that is presented as a Biblical truth, and that has moral implications. For example, the Bible says “thou shalt not steal.” The Bible also says that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand (see Isaiah 37:36). Both are Biblical truths, but the first has a moral imperative and the second does not. That a Christian should not steal is a doctrinal position. There are consequences involved for those who believe this is true, AND for those who don’t.

If a doctrine has been defined well, the decision to accept or reject it becomes a simple”yes or no” question. The answer should be either yes, we accept it as a true doctrine, or no, we reject it as a false doctrine. There shouldn’t be much room for saying, “Well, I accept part of it,” or “Well, there’s some truth to it, but there needs to be some balance.” These statements may be appropriate when it comes to the practical applications of the doctrine. But they are not valid responses to the question of whether we accept the doctrine itself as a true doctrine.

The preceding statement by Roger Hertzler speaks for itself. In subsequent posts, we will look at the doctrine of distribution as stated in my last post. We will see exactly what it is, what it demands and what it forbids, and then we will compare this doctrine with the scriptures and come to a settled conclusion on the question, “is this doctrine true or false?”

One final thought before today’s action step:

Whatever it is that Jesus means by His command in Luke 12:33, He does not intend for it to bring us into bondage, but rather to set us free. If we will but submit ourselves to this command, it becomes a doorway into some of the most wonderful opportunities we could possibly imagine.

Today’s Action Step: Go through your home and take an eyeball inventory of all your things. (Don’t do this in your imagination – you need to actually do this.) Next, imagine that your home burned to the ground and all your things were destroyed.

Answer this question: If the insurance settlement would cover 100% of the loss, how much of the stuff you lost would you actually want to replace? See if you can come up with a percentage (if you’re married, both of you can do this and then see if your numbers agree).

Post comments below. We’ll continue this discussion on Monday.

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