Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why & How to S.O.A.P. (Slideshow)

How to S.O.A.P. slideshow will answer the question, "What is 'SOAPing' and why do you do it."

**Slideshow no longer available**


How to S.O.A.P. Slideshow

Note: Right arrow key advances slides

If you want a little more history on this, here are 3 previous posts on this subject all on one page.

Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 Spring Counseling & Discipleship Training

'via Blog this' Whether you are in need of biblical counseling for these issues or seeking to learn to counsel others biblically, this conference is for you. You can register for just one weekend, or just a few sessions, or for the entire conference. You can take all the sessions live (strongly recommended), or through distance learning. This 2012 spring conference on marriage & family issues contains the following 23 sessions, taught with the Bible open. If you have any questions please click here and let us know.

Don't Silence The Voice

Our church began reading through the entire Bible as part of the Radical Experiment this year. It has been amazing to me how many are still reading.

In addition, we wanted to do a better job of making disciple-makers. This has become our #1 priority as seen on our '6 Initiatives' we rolled out last year. So we introduced S.O.A.P.

Actually, I was teaching people how to 'soap' all last year. It's a terrific way to read through the Bible in a year and still study deeply without it taking hours a day. Thanks to Wayne Cordeiro for sharing how to 'soap' in his book Divine Mentor.

So I'm responding to those who may be trying to 'soap' but are a little frustrated.

First, 'soap' is just one way to interact with the Bible. There are lots of other ways. So remember it's a tool. Let it serve you--not you it.

Second, the point isn't to read the entire Bible in a year. That's a great goal, but the point is to read God's word so that you hear His 'voice'. God is 'The Voice' of voices.

It's hard to follow God's lead, if you aren't even listening to what He's saying to you. 

Third, it's a marathon-not a sprint. We're trying to develop a great, healthy habit here. So when you miss a day (or a week) you get back up and make another run. When we give up, we greatly reduce one of God's favorite ways to speak to us. Don't silence God's voice in your lifetye !

PS If you're struggling with this, here's a tip. I think the best way to assure success here is to meet with someone else (at least 1 other person) weekly to discuss what you're hearing (or not) from God. There's no substitute for this.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Christian Slaveowner?

Sunday is Freedom Sunday and so I want to talk about slavery and freedom. We have also been reading through the Bible this year as a church and have recently read through a lot of the Old Testament law that deals with slave regulation. This has provoked a lot of questions that are worth spending some time thinking about. Below are some of my thoughts on this in preparation for Sunday.

I moved from my studies about slavery in general to the letter (postcard?) from Paul to Philemon in the New Testament. 

In this letter, Paul basically makes a persuasive case for Philemon (a Christian slave-owner) to free his runaway slave who has recently surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact that slavery was a deeply rooted structure in the Greco-Roman and ancient Near Eastern cultures, Paul presses Philemon on the basis of the Good News to free his slave and then send him back to Paul to work with him in the mission field of Rome. It appears from other writings that Philemon did just that.

This is the crux of what we should get from this short letter. Martin Luther writes,

Even as Christ did for us with God the Father, thus Paul also does for Onesimus with Philemon. (NIVSB note for vvs. 17-19)

What did Paul do for Onesimus practially and spiritually? 

Paul witnessed and led Onesimus to Christ who delivered him from sin and death (principle of witnessing in the harvest)

Paul intercedes for Onesimus (principle of the priest: going to God on man's behalf)

Paul is willing to pay the debt Onesimus owes Philemon but persuades Philemon to forgive the debt (principle of forgiveness)

Paul wants Onesimus to join him in making disciples who make disciples (Principle of making disciples who make disciples - multiplication)

Paul had already done all of this for Philemon (2:2:2 or Paul-Tim-Elders-Others)

Applications for all Christ-followers to consider

1. We must open our mouths about slavery and freedom in Christ. 1) Free physical slaves (Strategy: Pray. Give. Inform. Go. Send.), and 2) Free spiritual slaves through the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to pay our ransom and set us free from the sin and death we deserve. (Strategy: Prayer-Care-Share)

2. We must intercede for the captives. Jesus said this is why he came in Luke 4:18-19

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (year of Jubilee) -Jesus NIV

Strategy: Fight poverty. Slavery exists because of sin and poverty. 

3. We must forgive. We start at home and work out from there. We lead by example. We must love our enemies, pray for them, and then lead others to do the same.

4. Make disciple-makers daily

5. Pass it on. Multiplication is a theological principle--not just a mathematical principle.

At the end of the day, you can see that Christian slaveowner is an oxymoron. If you're walking with the Holy Spirit, you won't consider other people as potential property. You'll see them for who they are: People created in God's image, damaged by sin but redeemable by Christ.

What am I missing? What questions are still out there? How would you respond to this?

Monday, February 13, 2012

No Cross is Convenient

"But Paul said, 'Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem bu teven to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.'" - The Apostle Paul, Acts 21:13 NLT

Paul is journeying to Jerusalem. He's on a disciple-making mission of missions convinced it is where the Lord wants him to go. 

So it's interesting to me that God would allow a prophet--the apparently reliable Agabus--to prophecy in front of Paul and others in dramatic fashion that he would be bound in Jerusalem and turned over to the Romans. Acts 21:10-11

Naturally, Paul's friends and followers discouraged him from continuing his journey. After all, this was the same Agabus who correctly prophesied about the great famine in the Roman Empire. Acts 11:28 It's not hard to see why Paul's friends might interpret this to mean that he shouldn't go. Was it a test for Paul? Was God trying to change Paul's direction? Did Paul not hear God correctly earlier?

Paul sees it as a test, I think. Because he doesn't question the accuracy of the prophecy. Neither does he seriously consider it either, it appears. He knows what he must do and is willing to take on all the associated risks: suffering, imprisonment and even death.

Paul can do this because he has already, in a sense, died. He's certainly lived through a number of situations where he should have died...and didn't. 

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. - Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 NLT

Paul understands the stakes of going to Jerusalem. He is just convinced that there is no better place to be than in the center of God's will. He knows the "worst" that can happen is he can suffer and die and then find himself in the presence of God himself. He's ready to go there! 

As a result, he's ready and willing to live for Jesus-no matter what that may mean. You live differently when you are a dead man walking. When you've already died to yourself and this world, it makes facing danger much easier (not necessarily easy). Paul died daily to his flesh so that he was prepared to live and, if necessary, die for Christ. He was truly committed to make as many disciples for Jesus as he could in his lifetime. Wow.

And then there are we so-called Christ-followers today. So worried about pain and suffering. Afraid and timid at every turn, it seems. Or maybe it's just me. No, I'm looking around and find few true courageous men and women of faith. I know they exist. I know a few. But they are rare. Perhaps it was rare in Paul's day too. 

So what do we do about this?

1. We adopt an attitude of death. We personally die daily to ourselves. Jesus said it this way, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23 NIV84) It starts with a decision, a prayer and an attitude to live differently. 

2. We practice this life daily. If I can't die to, say, food (substitute something unimportant you really enjoy here) for a day, then I'm not dying to Jesus. We must be willing to practice self-denial in smaller things to get us to move towards the really difficult things. Paul was prepared to face Jerusalem through his earlier near-death encounters that he wasn't warned about. As Mark Dever tweeted, "No cross is convenient."

3. We make disciples boldly. This is what all the ruckus was really about. Paul was faithfully making disciples of all nations. He was bold and focused. He put everything he had on the line each day. He preached, taught and lived the Gospel 24/7. You might not agree with him but you couldn't legitimately question his convictions. 

Let me encourage you to make disciples daily. Start with this simple acrostic LOL:

L -Listen to God's words (Bible)

O -Obey whatever God says to you

L -Lead others to do the same

No cross is convenient. Will we bow to the idol of comfort forever?