July 9, 2014

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Components of Hypocrisy

Screen-shot-2012-10-15-at-10.23.20-AMI was reading through Matthew 23:5-7; 13-32 where Jesus deals with the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. As I was reading the above verses, I wrote down the characteristics of hypocrisy that are mentioned.

  1. Hypocrites do what they do so they will be seen by others.- vs. 5
  2. Hypocrites love the place of prominence.- vs. 6
  3. Hypocrites love titles.- vs. 7
  4. Hypocrites hinder others from truly being saved.- vs. 13
  5. Hypocrites are greedy.- vs. 14
  6. Hypocrites are overly concerned with numbers.- vs. 15
  7. Hypocrites are deceptive and dishonest.- vs. 16-22
  8. Hypocrites major on the minor.- vs. 23-24
  9. Hypocrites are focused on traditional rituals.- vs. 25-26
  10. Hypocrites are focused on appearance.- vs. 27-28
  11. Hypocrites compare themselves to others.- vs. 29-32

Hypocrisy is the result of a focus on religion instead of a focus on a relationship with Christ. It comes from caring more what people think than what God thinks. It is rooted in pride. It hinders our testimony, hurts the reputation of the church, and is self-deceptive (those who are controlled by hypocrisy rarely notice it).

We should do all we can to fight against it, be on guard for it, and be willing to confess it.

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July 8, 2014

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Reflections from a Week in Ecuador

2014-07-04 15.49.10I just returned from a wonderful week in Ecuador visiting Will and Laura Lyon, missionaries to the Kichwa people living in the Andes. Here are a few reflections that help to highlight my time there.

1- Ecuador is a beautiful country. Everywhere we went we were surrounded by picturesque scenery to which the only response was to admire God’s handiwork (and take a picture). More pictures are posted on my Facebook page.

2- More workers are needed. With hundreds of unreached Kichua villages scattered across the country, more workers are needed to reach these people, translate the Bible into the various Kichwa dialects, and train the Kichwa people to reach other villages.

2014-07-06 10.09.003- Traveling with others in the church is invaluable. We had a group of four men from LifeSpring who traveled to Ecuador. We had a wonderful time ministering, working, laughing, and discussing ministry philosophy together.

4- Missions philosophy becomes clearer when on the foreign mission field. It is hard to know what changes need to be made to the missions program of a church in the States when the pastor is never on the foreign mission field. On this trip it was confirmed in my mind that the ideal missions program for LifeSpring is for us to be deeply committed to 4 or 5 missionary families. This will benefit both the ministry of the local church and the missionary.

5- It is easier to be committed to biblical ministry in a Kichwa village than the Bible-belt. While I do not believe God has called me to foreign missions, it is somewhat tempting to go to a place where you can simply do what the Bible says. The plethora of churches, opinions, feuds, and politics (church culture in general) in the Bible-belt has somewhat contaminated ministry to the point where having a truly biblical ministry is difficult.

6- Quality missionaries are special. There are several things I noticed about the Lyons that make them stand out.

-They understand contextualization. They are not trying to start an American church in Ecuador. They are not trying to change the culture. They understand the culture and faithfully communicate the truth of Scripture in a way that can be understood by those in that culture.

-They love the people they are called to reach. In fact, they call them their people. The fact that they love and the Kichwa people is readily apparent.

-They have a plan and they are committed to it. They know exactly what God has called them to do, and while they have had other ministry opportunities in Ecuador, they are willing to say no to the ‘good’ so they can accomplish the ‘great.’

2014-07-05 11.49.28-They are not afraid to get their hands dirty….literally. They work hard alongside the people. Whether it is painting, preparing corn, chopping wood, or preparing a meal using a lava rock pit, they work along side the people.

-They understand discipleship. Building a church without a commitment to discipleship is pointless. They grasp this truth and are committed to building their ministry on discipleship. They are not building the ministry around them (where they do everything). Rather, they are committed to training the Kichwa people to do the work of the ministry.

I loved my time in Ecuador and cannot wait to go back. I have a greater appreciation for the ministry of the Lyons and am excited about our church becoming more committed to and involved in their ministry in Ecuador. 

 

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May 20, 2014

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Why Churches Should Be Committed To Small Groups

606604I did not grow up in a church with a small group ministry, but I have become convinced of their necessity for the church in today’s culture. There is much I do not know and much I am learning about small group ministry. Suffice it to say that I am convinced of the ‘why’ while working out the details of the ‘how.’

Here are 10 reasons why churches should be committed to small groups. Each of these points are things that can and should take place as a result of small groups.

1- They foster relationships, which are crucial to spiritual growth. The church is about relationships–with God and with other believers. It is hard to foster these relationships during the 5 minutes before or after a worship service.

2- They provide avenues of accountability. God designed us to need accountability, however the worship service is not designed to provide it. Small groups do.

3- They are an effective way of reaching a postmodern society. Those who have grown up in a postmodern society are looking for authenticity, they thrive in genuine relationships, they love to ask and discuss hard questions, and they want to do so in a real-life setting. A small group ministry addresses these cultural realities in a biblically consistent way.

4- They foster authenticity. While it is easy to attend a worship service and wear a mask of hypocrisy, it is difficult to do so in a small group setting.

5- They supplement the worship service. The worship service cannot give the Christian everything he or she needs. The small group format provides a beneficial supplement.

6- Genuine fellowship cannot be practiced in a group of 1,000 or even 100. Biblical fellowship is a necessity, but this fellowship cannot be effectively practiced in large groups. Small groups help remedy this problem.

7- They provide opportunities for discipleship as well as outreach. Spiritual growth thrives in the small group environment. But they also provide opportunities for outreach. From members inviting unbelievers to the their small group to entire groups being involved in community projects, outreach can take place through these groups.

8- They promote mutual care, not just pastoral care. Christians are to care for each other. Far too many Christians walk into a service, sit, and then leave, never learning about the needs of others in the church or how to care for them. This is impossible in small groups.

9- Small groups help keep the church small. People generally like the atmosphere of small church. It resembles a family. However, as churches grow, sometimes that atmosphere is lost and people begin to feel disconnected. The small group ministry helps keep that atmosphere alive.

10- They model the early church. The above benefits are all characteristics of the early church. It cannot be ignored that they primarily functioned in smaller gatherings, not large groups.

While the application and implementation of small groups may vary from church to church, their benefits cannot be ignored. In fact, they should be pursued.

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May 19, 2014

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What Evangelism Is Not

EvangelismMany people are confused about evangelism. They want to be committed to evangelism, they see the need for it, and they understand their biblical responsibility, but they are confused. Why? Because there are a lot of things that are called evangelism that are really nothing more than poor substitutes. Here are a few of them.

1- Evangelism is not getting someone to repeat a prayer: If your goal is to talk someone in to repeating a (sinners) prayer, then you are committed to manufactured results, not evangelism.

2- Evangelism is not inviting someone to church: This is important, and it may work in conjunction with evangelism, but it is not evangelism.

3- Evangelism is not social work: Again, this is important. It is a task to which all Christians should be committed, but it is not evangelism.

4- Evengelism is not winning an argument: Apologetics is important, and it is necessary to be able to defend what we believe, but arguing or debating and evangelism is not the same thing.

5- Evangelism is not the same as the results of evangelism: It is easy to get the two confused. Someone accepting Christ as their savior is the result of evangelism. The success of evangelism is found in our faithfulness to the task, not in the perceived results.

6- Evangelism is not a program: It is easy for individuals to rely on a program of the church and, by default, neglect their personal responsibility. Evangelistic programs are great and needed, but they do not replace personal evangelism.

7- Evangelism is not simply supporting overseas missionaries: This is needed, but if this is all we do we are in danger of outsourcing our evangelistic responsibilities.

8- Evangelism is not just a willingness to confront a stranger: If we are willing to knock on the door of a stranger while ignoring our neighbor and the people we see daily, it is not evangelism we are committed to, but a cheap substitute.

What is evangelism? Mark Dever stated it perfectly. “The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

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May 13, 2014

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4th Quarter Living

4thqtr

I enjoy watching football (actually, I enjoy sports in general). I am a big Tennessee fan. I went to my first game in Knoxville when I was 2, and have been to at least one game almost every year since. When any team is losing entering the fourth quarter, there are changes in how they play. They become more focused, more determined, more urgent, more intense, more passionate.

I have recently heard multiple people say that they have determined to make their life count. Their motivation for doing this was the reality that they were entering the 4th quarter of their lives. They implied that they did not do all they could during the first three quarters, and now they wanted to make up for lost time. It is interesting that I have only heard people in the 4th quarter of their lives make this statement. There is something about coming to the end of a ‘game’ that causes people to change how they approach it.

The average life expectancy in the US is 78 years. The 1st quarter ends between ages 19 and 20. The 2nd quarter ends at age 39. The 3rd quarter ends between ages 58 and 59. The 4th quarter goes through age 78. Where are you?

Obviously, none of us are guaranteed another day, but what would happen if all believers lived as though it was the 4th quarter? What would happen if we didn’t wait until the 4th quarter to live as though it was the 4th quarter?

What is 4th Quarter Living?

1- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity care less about what everyone else thinks. Fearing the opinions of others will severely limit your effectiveness.

2- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity are willing to sacrifice to make a difference. When you realize you can’t take your ‘stuff’ to eternity, it makes it more important to use that ‘stuff’ to make an eternal difference while you can.

3- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity remain focused on the task at hand and are less distracted by things that really do not matter. It is so easy to become distracted by things that don’t really matter. This happens in churches all the time. We must keep the main thing in clear view.

4-Those living a 4th quarter Christianity are passionate about Christ and His work. When you realize that  eternity is real and near, those things that will last become the priority.

5- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity want others to live the same way. They are contagious. They have a way of influencing others for Christ and they take advantage of that influence.

6- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity realize that time is short. As a result, they need to do as much as possible in the time they have. They make every moment, activity, relationship, encounter, and circumstance count.

Let’s be committed to 4th quarter living. The reality is that we might be in the 4th quarter and just not know it.

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