Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

How To Make Jesus The Hero of Every Sermon

In my sermon preparation process, I have found several questions to be helpful in discovering the Christ-focus of every text.

5 Questions I Wished My Accountability Partner Would Ask Me

Use these five questions as a launching pad for the kinds of conversations you should be having as you establish lasting and enjoyable accountability in your life.

Gospel Confidence

The confidence to tackle every daunting task I face as a follower of Jesus comes from Jesus himself.

5 Ways Your Church Can Adapt to “Digital Natives”

The question church leaders should be asking concerning Digital Natives is, “Is our church equipped to intentionally engage Digital Natives?”

The Curse of Peripheral Vision

Over time, it’s easy to become discouraged in your own work as you over-compare it to the work of others who are farther down the path.

An Essential Ingredient in Reaching Unreached People

The occasion: a church’s first service in a new building. The mayor and other dignitaries attended. The mood was festive — at least until the pastor showed a picture of men hanging from a crane.

The men, the pastor explained, were martyrs, killed for their faith in Jesus. We do not live with the same danger, he continued. We will probably not face martyrdom. But we can not be any less committed to Jesus than these men were, the pastor said, and we must be equally prepared to die for Christ as they were.

We live in interesting times. We are increasingly out of step with culture, and we are feeling it. We’re not used to being countercultural. We get that it happens elsewhere, but it’s a new experience for us here.

It’s time to get used to it. We out of sync with the popular zeitgeist. We may even, at some point, lose our charitable status or property tax exemptions. So be it. We can’t be any less committed to Christ than those who have suffered more.

David Platt once witnessed a baptism in an underground house church. The pastor asked a young man in his twenties, “Are you willing to be baptized, knowing that it may cost you your life?” With unhesitating resolve, he replied, “I have already sacrificed everything to follow Jesus. Yes, I want to be baptized.” A friend of mine now asks people this same question before he baptizes them.

We may not face the threat of death here, but we must be equally prepared to die for Christ as those who do.

I love what Ajith Fernando writes:

The West is fast becoming an unreached region. The Bible and history show that suffering is an essential ingredient in reaching unreached people. Will the loss of a theology of suffering lead the Western church to become ineffective in evangelism?…[Christians] need to have a firm theology of suffering if they are to be healthy and bear fruit.

This is true everywhere, but we’re just beginning to learn its truth here.

Christians Against Poverty

Many of us know the challenges of managing our money. No matter how great our income, the expenses seem to keep up. We may like the idea of budgeting, but living on a budget is another matter. As a result, we end up falling short and racking up debt.

Christians Against Poverty wants to help. At first glance, it sounds like a protest group or ministry for the poor. It’s actually for anyone who wants to learn how to better manage their money. Although it’s certainly a great fit for low-income areas, it’s also a great fit for middle-income people who want to budget, save, and spend wisely. According to their mission statement, "We are passionate about releasing people in our nation from a life sentence of debt, poverty and their causes. Working with the church we bring good news, hope and freedom.”

CAP works with churches to offer a CAP Money Course, which aims to empower people to give and save more, and to avoid the destructive effects of unmanageable debt. The course is simple. It begins with where you are financially, and helps you set financial goals, design a budget, and implement a system that helps you stick to the budget using a cash system. The course comes with a clear workbook, and is taught by trained volunteers. Participants in the course get access to an online budgeting tool. If you need additional help, you can access Internet and phone-based support directly from CAP.

Why should churches partner with CAP? Many in our congregations and communities are struggling with their finances. Helping them is part of discipleship, and it’s also a means of building relationships.

I heard of CAP through friends who took the course a year ago. They thought they were managing their finances well already. After taking and implementing the course, they were able to save enough money to take their entire family of five to Thailand (where my friend grew up as a missionary kid) using cash.

I recently took the course, and we plan on offering it through our church. If you live in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, then you should consider taking it too, or offering it at your church.

For more information, visit the Christians Against Poverty website.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Worship and Evangelism Are Not That Different

When worship is the outflow of your heart because you really love Jesus, and you want to thank him for all he is and all he’s done for you, then evangelism need not be any more complicated or difficult than letting others overhear something of that passion.

Cautions Against Bi-vocational Ministry

There are serious challenges to bi-vocational ministry that those who advocate for it as a strategy do not consider — or at least do not mention.

Three Marks of a Healthy Culture

Is there a dependence on God displayed in prayer? Is there laughter in your halls? Are new leaders being developed and deployed?

How to Lead a Team of Two to Five

So, you have a team. What do you do now? How do you get started leading your team?

Expositional Imposters

Below are a dozen pitfalls: five that don’t make the message of the passage the message of the sermon and thus abuse the text, five that fail to connect the text the congregation, and two that fail to recognize that preaching is ultimately God’s work.

You Aren’t as Smart as You Think You Are...So Manuscript Your Sermons

Allow me to give you four reasons why you should consider writing manuscripts as a part of your sermon preparation.

Arthur Dash (1950-2015)

I lost my most frequent commenter this week. More than that, I lost my brother — half-brother, to be precise, but really my brother.

Arthur Dash was born in 1950 in South Africa. When he was four years old, his mother died of pneumonia. Shortly after, his father remarried, but the marriage lasted only six months. When Arthur was nine, his father remarried again. When he was 17, his father kicked him out of the house, right around the time I was born to his step-mother.

Arthur had a hard life. For some years, we had no contact with him. He viewed himself as the black sheep of the family. I met him for the first time as a young adult in 1988, and we began to see him more frequently, along with his wife Patti.

Arthur was what you’d call a complicated personality. He had a deadly and shameless sense of humor, often at his own expense. He was kind and generous. He loved the Lord. But he also had his issues with churches, occasionally struggled with depression, and he was honest about his hurts and struggles.

Arthur with his father in 2006

Arthur with his father in 2006

In 2006, a month before our father’s death, he travelled to England to pay his respects. After the trip, he wrote:

All in all, I enjoyed the trip. I am much more at peace with myself and Dad, having had the opportunity to see him and tell him I love him. When we left him on Saturday, and I repeated that last statement, he actually said, "Me too!" 

Arthur was a frequent commenter on this blog. More recently, he would email his comments. When I moved from pastoring to church planting, he expressed surprise that I would “start a church from the ground up” and “be the jack of all trades.” But then he wrote:

It is God who gives us the desires of (in) our hearts, and He who calls us to travel the paths He has chosen for us. It is also God who made the maps and leads and guides us on our journey, and He who has promised to supply us the necessities along the way. All I can do is stand in the gap and support you as you follow the calling on your life.

He gave me this advice: “Just remember that your very survival in your new adventure depends on your dependency upon God, His Son, and The Holy Spirit.”

When we were going through a difficult period, we emailed him, along with other family members. Arthur replied:

I was up most of the night, thinking and praying. Maybe I have found my purpose after all? Even the marines need tactical support, you know! I may not be capable of front-line ministry, but I am capable of prayerful support of those who fight in the trenches!

He would regularly encourage me in our church planting efforts:

Bro., I wish I lived closer to you. This is the kind of church I would love to be a part of, at least judging by your Mission Statement.

I pray that you continue, successfully, to be weak and helpless, and to be the church that God has called you to be. 

His last email to me was characteristic of his humor. He described a recent fall in which he hit his head. When I told him I was sorry to hear this, he told me that he thought it was “hilarious” and that “At my age one no longer has any pride…And, no my head did not hurt. There would need to something in there for it to hurt.”

I was going to see Arthur this coming Saturday, but sadly, I’ll have to wait longer now. Arthur died in his sleep this past Tuesday, June 23.

He wrote this poem eleven days ago. “Not particularly good, but it's the best I could come up with during my personal worship,” he said.

I loved you because You first loved me.
Savior. Redeemer. You are everything to me.
My Fortress, my Banner. My hands towards heaven I raise.
My Healer. Provider. You are worthy of all praise.

I loved you because You first loved me.
You became a Man, and died upon a tree,
And conquered Death, Almighty God, 
Joint Heir, Son of Man, dare I make You Lord?

Yes, we loved You because you first loved us.
Upon a cross You were nailed and trussed.
A crown of thorns upon Your head.
You died that we may live instead.

Oh, What A Wonderful Savior!