If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal,persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless……
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus……
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ.
~ The Apostle Paul
The Bible gives us a remarkable example of transformation through the man named Saul as he finds his true identity in Christ and becomes the Apostle Paul. He would become one of the greatest missionaries to the Gentiles and Jews and many of his writings are canonized as part of the New Testament. Saul was a man possessed with defining who he was through a skewed belief system. His life was polarized by who he kept company with and who he disassociated himself from.
Until one day when Christ stepped into the picture and redefined what his Identity was in truth and how that would clarify his mission and community. This would not be an overnight transformation for the man formerly known as Saul. His own words tell us that he had to spend some time in Arabia away from those who he would ultimately serve. I believe he had some soul searching to do in order to work through some pain of what he had been and done. He would need to be prepared to endure some of the hardest tests of his new identity and that took preparedness.
My friend and pastor, Chis McAlister, just released a book on Amazon yesterday which is titled SightShift. Chris details in his book how he had to go through a time of transformation, an Arabia if you will, in order to understand what healthy and true identity looks like. He also provides the reader with actions that can help them through this process and how to understand the triggers that come about which would challenge or skew the identity that we have in Christ. He is so passionate about this teaching that he is providing the book free in Kindle format for a few days. So hurry and get a copy before the time elapses but before you take off from here, I wanted you to read a few words from Chris about his book and teachings. So I asked him provide answers to three questions that I would have liked to ask so many authors that I have read before. Please take a few moments and see the heart of this man through the answers he provided.
Me: How do you respond to the reader who is thinking about reading your book and thinks, ‘Wow, another Christian self-help book’? (Especially non-Christians)
Chris: I tire of the message that says, “Try harder” or “You should live your life like mine”. SightShift isn’t a discovery of new information but a re-discovery of what is true. The truth is that your journey may look very different than mine. And it isn’t about trying harder. Instead it’s learning who you are uniquely in Jesus and how to embrace the uniqueness of your journey.
Me: How does your book help the reader navigate the tensions found in the American Christian Heritage (Fundamentalism vs Christian Liberty)?
Chris: When you learn to experience a secure identity in Jesus you are empowered. One of the implications of that empowerment is you get to think for yourself. Rather than respond to pressure from others you learn to follow where Jesus is leading you. This isn’t hyper-individualism either. It is acknowledging systematic approaches reduce God to what we can figure out. Legalism reduces God to a task master. But learning who God is in truth and who we are liberates us to embrace mystery and relationship. In this framework theological systems aren’t cup-de-sacs but stepping stones in our journey with God.
Me: What is your greatest hope for the message in your book?
Chris: My biggest hope is for the freedom of my brothers and sisters in Jesus. A wave of leadership went through the church and now people for the most part recognize inactive and passive leadership. What if a wave went through the church where we learned to recognize shame and guilt with the same accuracy? What if we made the church about people discovering who they are, the uniqueness of their mission, and how to build healthy community rather than completing a checklist to build a machine disguised a church?
Get over to Amazon and get your free Kindle copy before they are gone at http://www.amazon.com/SightShift-Identity-Chris-McAlister-ebook/dp/B00GIQ7U8A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384645487&sr=8-1&keywords=sightshift
At the beginning of this year, my family found ourselves in a situation where we were looking for a new ‘church home’. I am not sure I even understand what that term means anymore – ‘church home’ – but I digress as that is a blog for another day.
Back when we were checking out several churches I had posted our thoughts on each as we completed a visit. If you are interested in that series feel free to do a Search of ‘Church Hunt’ on my site and the posts will be presented to you. I stopped posting on our hunt back in March as we had settled into a small church to see if it would be our new ‘home’ even though it lacked one of the basic principles of our search. That principle was that the church should be part of our community so that we could have a greater impact on those that we interact with from day-to-day or week-to-week. Eventually there was no hiding from the fact that this church we had been attending was not where we were supposed to be. That is not to say that there was anything wrong with the church – it just wasn’t where God meant for us to be.
So, we have found ourselves still without a local community to belong to when it comes to corporate praise and edification.
A friend sent a text to my wife about a ‘new’ church that was launching near our home this past Sunday and after checking into it via the web, we decided we would visit this church for their launch. I would like to fill you all in about the particulars of the service and the congregation, but I am going to hold off for now.
Let it suffice to say that my wife had this comment, “this is the most comfortable I have felt since we started this process.”
Trust me when I say that is coming a long way from where we were just weeks ago.
I would ask that you pray for us as we seek discernment of God’s will in where we are supposed to build community as this is a decision that will impact our family and, eventually, those whom we will come in contact with regarding our faith.
Talk to you all soon.
This is another installment of my thoughts from World Changers in upstate New York.
On Sunday, the 5th of July, the crews that I would be working with were blessed with visiting the church who would be sponsoring our lunches all week. I really enjoy visiting other churches because it gives me a chance to see how others conduct themselves when gathered together as a body of believers. I was really interested in experiencing the upstate New York Baptist church that we were going to visit.
We arrived at service time for the small church that sat next to a muddy river in the foothills of the Appalachians. I was immediately taken back to the small churches that I had visited down in the south (Kentucky and Tennessee). Our 17 World Changer members did two things to that church that morning: doubled their attendance and lowered the average age drastically. I wasn’t surprised to learn that the pastor was a transplant from Kentucky because the little church and its members could have been picked up from the south and dropped right there in New York such was its make-up and conduct.
I wondered if that was an underlying reason for the small size of the congregation. The church conducted themselves like a southern church while being surrounded by northern people. They had been able to attract congregants that had grown up in the south and now found themselves in the north because that was the demographic to which they had made themselves relevant.
Now the gospel is relevant to all, so don’t get me wrong, but the way that we practice community can be very different from one demographic to the next. Most of us would find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation if we were dropped off in a Christ-believing church in a small African village for no more reason than we may not be able to understand their language – though that is an important reason. The interesting thing about language is that its not limited to just the spoken or written word. We communicate through our actions as well and the church that we visited acted like a southern church though they were surrounded by northern people.
Let me mention one weird thing… we pledged allegiance that morning to the United States flag, the Christian flag, and the bible. I understand that this is common practice in some schools and even in some churches. To me, it was just weird. We followed that up with a bunch of patriotic hymns – most likely because it was Independence weekend. For some reason, that just carried over the weirdness of all the pledging to the music part of the worship.
The pastor got up and preached a message that was fantastic. He geared the message that morning to those of us there from World Changers AND to his congregation. In short, his message to us was ‘make sure you are here for the right reasons’ and to his congregation he challenged them to follow-up on the work that we would start in their neighborhoods. I really appreciated what God had led him to speak that morning.
Following service, they invited us to a meal that they had prepared and, boy, were we blessed. That is where the southern community can speak the universal language – food. There were at least 7 different potato salads on display that day and I had my first home-made whoopee pie. Being an extrovert, I enjoyed getting to know those that sat around me during lunch, and truth be told, some that were not so directly around me. We laughed and cut up like we were old acquaintances. I can’t say how much I enjoyed lunch with that body of believers. Its interesting how eating together can have that type of impact… no wonder the bible records that as one of the many things that the early church did.
As I sit here and reflect on them today, I pray that God blesses them and hope that they accepted the pastor’s challenge to follow up on the work we had started. I met several people in their neighborhoods that were touched by the love on display that week…people who needed the ultimate touch of love that only knowing Christ can bring.
I am involved with the discipleship of our older teens at church and this year I have been focusing on what Missions really is. Its easy to think about the person we send across the ocean to work with natives in a foreign land as a missionary, but in actuality, missions is so much more than that.
As I build my case for for what missions means, I have to start with the involvement of the Holy Spirit in that work. This is my third time teaching the class this year and God has put it on my heart to spend some time digging into the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and how that impacts us in our walks as Christians. I think we ignore, take for granted, or misunderstand that aspect of our faith.
This past Sunday we did a community object lesson. I made some chocolate dipping fondu and brought in various fruits and things to dip into the chocolate. The chocolate that was in the pot was shared by everyone present and we were connected by that breaking of ‘bread’ moment. I expressed to them during the discussion that just as the chocolate that covered their selected treat was the same as the chocolate in the pot, the Holy Spirit that is present in each of our lives is no different than the godhead from which it proceeds. And, just as the food that enters their body impacts their health and energizes them, the Holy Spirit is doing a similar thing in their spiritual lives.
There was a lot of material discussed that evening about the Holy Spirit so I sent an email to them the next day high-lighting some of the information. I am going to capture that data here in my blog so that I have a reference to it in the future. Who knows, maybe it will springboard some discussion here as well.
Hello Missions class!
Last night I left a question kind of hanging out there – which is more real, the physical or spiritual world? Beau had answered the spiritual and Kalya had offered up some insight to the physical. They are both right in that they are both just as real. God gave us a real physical body to respond to this real physical world around us. At the time of our salvation, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a means to deal with and understand the spiritual influences in our lives – namely, Him and His kingdom.
In the light of eternity, we will spend but a brief flash concerned with this physical world. So we could ask the question, “which reality has the most impact?”
I know I threw out a lot of information at you guys last night, so let me step back and give a ‘brief’ overview of where I was trying to take the material.
God/Christ/Holy Spirit = All aspects of the same God. Not different gods, not parts of one god. All are God. They each share the same attributes. God has chosen to reveal Himself in this manner so that we might more fully understand who He is. You might be thinking that it really confuses the matter and you would be right in that we should recognize that God is bigger than what our imaginations can even understand. That is a big statement so let it sink in.
You were created in God’s image. When God formed man, He stopped and had a conversation with ‘Himself’ and said,”Let US make man in our image.” This is a representation that their is a unity of purpose within the Godhead.
That purpose included you before the world was ever created – He has been concerned and working toward your salvation. In His Godhead, He predestined a purpose of His will that you would one day have the ability to have a relationship with Him. In order for that to happen, He knew that He would have to make a way for you to be redeemed from a fallen state and, stepping from Heaven, He became man in the form of Jesus. Christ’s death provided the redemption (the payment needed to set us free) that we could not accomplish on our own, and finally, it was necessary to provide Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit in order to draw, convict, and indwell us so that He could become the guide and power in our lives. I say all of this so that you have some understanding of how Loving God is toward you.
When God created Adam and Eve, He breathed life into them. They were designed for eternity but their sin caused death to enter into creation. God had told them on the day that they ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil that they would die. Their rebellion brought judgment on all of mankind. We are all born under a sentence of death.
Before Adam and Eve rebelled, God had walked with them in the Garden of Eden. He had a close, intimate relationship with them. So their sin not only brought death, but it also broke that intimate relationship that they once had. For them and for their offspring. God desires for us to know Him because of His great love for us, so we see in the old testament how He dwelt among man in the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle. Only the high priest could enter that place and only one time a year. God’s glory was represented inside the Holy of Holies in the form of fire.
Why is this important to know? Remember that the building of the Tower of Babel, a monument to man’s glory, was stopped when God confused their language so that they could not understand each other. They no longer had unity. The day of Pentecost, as recorded in the Acts chapter 2 shows us God at work to repair the relationship and the unity through the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s death had purchased the redemption that was necessary to re-establish that intimate relationship that Adam and Eve had known with God. Before our salvation, we were dead spiritually and just as God had breathed life into Adam and Eve, the Holy Spirit came upon those in Jerusalem in the form of something that sounded like a rushing wind. God breathed life into spiritually dead people through the baptism of His Holy Spirit. The Holy of Holies moved from the tabernacle and into the very lives of those men and women who were present on the day of Pentecost. God displayed His glory through flames of fire above the heads of those present. Just as He had displayed His glory within the tabernacle. And then those people started speaking in the languages of those that were around them, languages that they had not known before, witnessing to them of God’s glory and grace.
- God had reversed the curse of death. While we may die physically, we will know eternal life in His new kingdom.
- He had re-established an intimate relationship with mankind.
- His glory was displayed in power and grace.
- And He provided the means by which we can have unity.
John 15:5 captures these words of Christ, “I am the vine and you are the branches, if a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Christ indwelling you in the form of the Holy Spirit is the only way you can be empowered to do His will. His Spirit brings life, purpose, discipline, unity, and so many more things to the true believer. That’s why it is important to understand the Holy Spirit in order to fully appreciate what Missions is all about.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witness both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
So, what are your perceptions of the Holy Spirit?