Monthly Archives: May 2014

5 Summer Reading Recommendations

Today’s “Five @ Free Flow Friday” is going to be different.

Last week was differentimages-3

And this week shall be as well (that’s the King James Version).

Though “officially” summer does not begin until June 21st, in my part of the world, it’s here.

School’s out. Baseball games are in full swing (pun intended). Swim camp and Kidz Kamp are going on as I type. The temperature is rising. The box fans are out of the attic and on my back porch. The mosquitos are despised and rejected by Matt. And the “2 a day showers” are, well, happening.

Summer is here whether the calendar says so or not.

This means that, perhaps, though life may not slow down – it might mean that you will have some time by the pool or the ocean or the lake that you don’t normally have (or take). Or, it may mean you might have some time to enjoy a few solitary moments by yourself in the AC, while everyone else is outside.

Either way – perhaps you are looking for some book recommendations to read over the summer.

Let me suggest these 5 books (in keeping with the Five @ Free Flow Friday theme):

#1. The Insanity of God: The True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken

UnknownThe Insanity of God is the personal and lifelong journey of an ordinary couple from rural Kentucky who thought they were going on just your ordinary missionary pilgrimage, but discovered it would be anything but. After spending over six hard years doing relief work in Somalia, and experiencing life where it looked like God had turned away completely and He was clueless about the tragedies of life, the couple had a crisis of faith and left Africa asking God, “Does the gospel work anywhere when it is really a hard place? It sure didn’t work in Somalia. 

Nik recalls that, ‘God had always been so real to me, to Ruth, and to our boys. But was He enough, for the utter weariness of soul I experienced at that time, in that place, under those circumstances?’ It is a question that many have asked and one that, if answered, can lead us to a whole new world of faith. 

How does faith survive, let alone flourish in a place like the Middle East? How can Good truly overcome such evil? How do you maintain hope when all is darkness around you? How can we say “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world” when it may not be visibly true in that place at that time? How does anyone live an abundant, victorious Christian life in our world’s toughest places? Can Christianity even work outside of Western, dressed-up, ordered nations? If so, how? 

The Insanity of God tells a story—a remarkable and unique story to be sure, yet at heart a very human story—of the Ripkens’ own spiritual and emotional odyssey. The gripping, narrative account of a personal pilgrimage into some of the toughest places on earth, combined with sobering and insightful stories of the remarkable people of faith Nik and Ruth encountered on their journeys, will serve as a powerful course of revelation, growth, and challenge for anyone who wants to know whether God truly is enough.”

#2. The Insanity of Obedience: Walking With Jesus in Tough Places by Nik Ripken

Wise Sheep Among the Wolves 

All Christian disciples have one thing in common: as they carry the gospel across the ocean and across the street, Unknown-1persecution will become the norm for those who choose to follow Jesus. How believers respond in the face of persecution reveals everything about their level of faith and obedience. 

The Insanity of Obedience is a bold challenge to global discipleship. Nik Ripken exposes the danger of safe Christianity and calls readers to something greater. The Insanity of Obedience challenges Christians in the same, provocative way that Jesus did. This book dares you—and prepares you—to cross the street and the oceans with the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Some of Jesus’ instructions sound uncomfortable and are potentially dangerous. We may be initially encouraged by His declaration, ‘I am sending you out.’ But how are we to respond when He then tells us that He is sending us out ‘like sheep among wolves’? 

In light of the words of Jesus, how can modern day believers rest comfortably in the status quo? How can we embrace casual faith in light of the radical commands of Jesus which are anything but casual? Ripken brings decades of ministry experience in some of the most persecuted areas of the world to bear on our understanding of faith in Jesus. The Insanity of Obedience is a call to roll up your sleeves . . . and to follow and partner with Jesus in the toughest places on this planet. 

‘We have the high privilege of answering Jesus’ call to go,’ Ripken says. ‘But let us be clear about this: we go on His terms, not ours. If we go at all, we go as sheep among wolves.’ 

Jesus gives us Himself. And He gives us the tools necessary for those who dare to journey with Him.”

#3. Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places by Tim Keesee

images-1In this captivating travelogue, a veteran missions mobilizer leads readers to experience global Christianity, exploring the faith and lives of Christians living in some of the world’s most perilous countries.

The incredible accounts recorded here—stories that span the globe from the Balkans to Afghanistan—highlight the bold faith and sacrificial bravery of God’s people. Ultimately, this book magnifies Christ’s saving work in all the earth and encourages Christians to joyfully embrace their role in the gospel’s unstoppable advance!

Watch a video of the book’s Introduction here

 

 

#4. Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom Rainer

No one wants to see a church die. And yet, far too many churches are dying. For more than twenty-five years, Dr. Thom Unknown-2Rainer has helped churches grow, reverse the trends of decline, and has autopsied those that have died. From this experience, he has discovered twelve consistent themes among those churches that have died. Yet, it’s not gloom and doom because from those twelve themes, lessons on how to keep your church alive have emerged. 

Whether your church is vibrant or dying, whether you are a pastor or a church member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church will walk you through the radical paths necessary to keep your church alive to the glory of God and advancement of Christ’s Kingdom!

 

 

#5. Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze

Unknown-3In Smart Money Smart Kids, financial expert and best-selling author Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze equip parents to teach their children how to win with money. Starting with the basics like working, spending, saving, and giving, and moving into more challenging issues like avoiding debt for life, paying cash for college, and battling discontentment, Dave and Rachel present a no-nonsense, common-sense approach for changing your family tree. 

The first book by Dave and his daughter Rachel 
For parents looking for advice on raising money-smart kids 
Filled with actionable tips from both Dave and Rachel

**I have not read this book yet. I heard both Dave and Rachel give a talk on it, however, and was very intrigued. I plan to read it myself this summer!

 

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Low Hanging Fruit

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This picture is a snapshot of a group of 1st and 2nd graders who are currently at Beech Springs camp.

Only a fraction of them have trusted Jesus for their salvation.

Here’s what I want to “Throw Out There” today . . .

I want to “Throw Out There” the reality that there are at least a dozen children who are being confronted with the miraculous and beautiful and powerful truths of the Gospel as you read these words.

Children – what I like to call “Low Hanging Fruit” – are at a prime place and time and opportunity to be harvested for the kingdom of Christ. images-1

Would you pray for the Spirit of God to move in their hearts?

Would you pray for the Spirit to anoint the mouths of those who teach and explain the Bible and Gospel?

Would you pray that there be no “decisions” that fade, but decisions from faith because God met with them?

Likewise, would you pray for their parents?

Pray for God to give their parents wisdom on how to talk with their children about what they learned at camp.

Pray for God to give their parents wisdom on how to disciple their children as new believers.

Right NOW there are children you know who are away from TV, media, noise, and normalcy – being lovingly confronted with the Gospel.

So I’m just gonna “Throw It Out There” – would you stop what you are doing right NOW and pray for God to work in their little hearts and minds? So often, we do not have because we do not ask. Please. . . ask.

I believe – right now – the pickins’ good.

Did Jesus Ever Flatter Anyone?

“Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”

Proverbs 28:23

Think about it: why do we flatter people?

Because we want their favor. images

Instead of telling them the truth, we lie about what we really think.

Why do we lie?

Because we want their favor.

If we didn’t care about gaining their favor, we wouldn’t lie (flatter). We would just say it like it is (with love, of course).

Wisdom, however, tells us that it is actually the opposite that is true.

Rebuking someone (confronting someone with the truth) will gain you more favor than flattery.

True love isn’t flattery. True love is truth-telling. Flattery gets you through the moment in peace. Flattery gets you favor for another minute or two. But flattery isn’t love. If you think about it, it is hatred for them and love for yourself disguised as love for them. Often we confuse flattery with love for the sake of “respecting everybody.”

Lovingly confronting someone with the truth (rebuke) is genuine love.

It’s hard.

It may cause you to lose favor for the moment.

But the Proverb says it will “afterward” bring you favor.

It will do us (or them!) no good at all to flatter someone. It will not bring long term favor and will only delay the inevitable. You will only continue flattering (lying) and they will continue to be blind to the truth.

Can you find one place in the Gospels where Jesus flattered? Nope.

Why? Because He genuinely loves.

And talk about favor? One day, every knee will bow.

STOP: Who in your life needs to be loved with the truth today?

Timothy Tuesday!

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

1 Timothy 3:2-7

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These verses outline for the church (for our consideration the “multi-generational” church) four traits to observe in their pastor:

Character – Family – Competence – Reputation

Character: above reproach, not a womanizer, calm and cool, respectable, hospitable, sober, gentle, kind, not a money hungry fool, and not a brand new believer.

Family: devoted solely to his wife in all areas and in control of his kids.

Competence: able to teach and solid manager of people.

Reputation: has a good relationship with “outsiders.” Unchurched people know him and like him.

There is MUCH here we could dissect and discuss. But think about this last trait for a second and what Paul says about it in verse 7. Paul says pastors must be well thought of by those on the outside. Why? So he won’t fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

This is huge. . . So important. Critical.

What does Satan want? Lost people (“outsiders”) to stay lost. If pastors are well thought of by lost people, what does that say about his ministry? His preaching? His spirit around those who don’t go to church? I find it very interesting that Paul doesn’t say the pastor has to remain well thought of by all in the church, but by those outside the church. One doesn’t have to look very far into the life of Jesus to see why this is the case. Who did Jesus get the most angry with? Church people. And who seemed to love Him the most? Lost people. Why? It seems that many of the churched people forgot what it was all about. And it seems that Jesus had a spirit (“the” Spirit!) about Him that helped lost people know that sin was killing them. He loved them too much to let them continue in sin without lovingly be confronted with truth – to set them free.

Think about it: if a pastor is NOT thought well of by outsiders, then more than likely his ministry is marked more by legalism and arrogance than by love, truth, and grace. It doesn’t mean the pastor is to compromise and welcome everybody as church members. There is a reason Paul still calls them “outsiders.” But it does mean that the man leading the church should do so with both grace and truth. With love and holiness. With right doctrine and right devotion.

Satan would LOVE it if the outside world hated the pastor and the church. But he would HATE it if the truth of the Gospel was proclaimed with zeal and love and fervor and grace and urgency. “Outsiders” may not yet see why we believe what we believe, but they sure do know love when they see it.

Remember, being well thought of by outsiders is a GOOD thing and a mark that his ministry is despised by the evil one.

Please, please, please – pray for your pastor.

Now THAT’s a Good Question!

What does it mean to be LOST?

Part 2images

Last Monday we began to answer this all important question by taking a look the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel.

Today, I want to briefly look at how Paul describes a lost person in 2 Corinthians 4:4.

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 

I mentioned last time why I want to explore what it means – biblically – to be lost: “First, I want it to compel me to more aggressively and intentionally evangelize. Second, I want it to be a means by which I pray fervently for God to open their eyes.”

The verse in 2 Corinthians 4 does this.

Consider what it means to be lost based on this one verse:

– A lost person is controlled by Satan (“the god of this world”).

– A lost person is mentally blind to reality (“blinded the minds of the unbelievers”).

– A lost person is spiritually blind to true glory (“to keep them from seeing the . . . glory of Christ”).

– A lost person does not know/cannot see who God truly is (“Christ, the image of God”).

– A lost person does not grasp that the Gospel is what will make them see (“light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”).

In essence, lostness according to Paul, is seeing and hearing about God and Jesus and the Gospel with dull, bored, and lifeless hearts and affections. A lost person thinks of Jesus and is not stirred. A lost person hears the Gospel with his/her ears and yawns. Satan has blinded them to keep their hearts from “seeing.”

Two Action Points:

1. Ask yourself if you “see” glory and beauty and majesty and deity and love and mercy and grace and holiness when you think of Jesus and the Gospel. If not, beg God overpower Satan and open your blind “eyes.”

2. Pray and Share. Pray and Share. Pray and Share. Pray and Share.

Watch how Paul deals with this in the next 2 verses (2 Corinthians 4:5-6):

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Paul proclaimed Jesus and trusted that the God of creation – the One who spoke light into darkness – would also speak light into blind hearts. What light? “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Pray for God to work. Then share the glorious good news of the Gospel.

Five @ Free Flow Friday!

This Friday is different.

For those of us living in the El Dorado School District – SCHOOL IS OUT!!!!! Today is the last day until Fall (pray for my wife).

My oldest son (Luke) turned 9 this week and is having a sleepover tonight (pray for my wife).

Not to mention it is Memorial Day weekend – so my family gets me ALL DAY on MONDAY (pray for my wife).

This Friday is wonderfully different. images-1

I always love Fridays – but this Friday is AWESOME.

And different.

Being that this is a different kind of Friday, I thought I would do things, well, different here today.

I want to quote to you from a book I am reading by Tim Keller. Following the quote I want to pose 5 questions for your consideration. Get the “Five” on “Friday” them? Instead of 5 articles to read – I am giving you 5 questions to “chew on.”

UnknownThe quote is from chapter 11 of Keller’s fascinating book entitled King’s Cross (this is my 3rd time through it). At the beginning of the chapter, Keller mentions that all the great world religions are still centered where they began . . . except Christianity. Reflecting on an interview with historian Andrew Walls, Keller writes:

“Islam started in Arabia, at Mecca, and the Middle East is still the center of Islam today. Buddhism started in the Far East, and that’s still the center of Buddhism. So too with Hinduism – it began in India and us still predominantly an Indian religion. Christianity is the exception; Christianity’s center is always moving, always on a pilgrimage. . . In the next fifty to seventy years, the center of Christianity is predicted to complete this shift away from European countries and from the United States. It will migrate, as it always migrates.”

That’s amazing in and of itself. But consider this very, very, very powerful paragraph:

“In the interview with Andrew Walls, he was asked ‘Why does this happen? If the centers of other religions remain constant, why does the center of Christianity constantly change?’ Walls replied, ‘One must conclude, I think, that there is a certain vulnerability, a fragility, at the heart of Christianity. You might say that this is the vulnerability of the cross.’ The heart of the Gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power, pouring out resources, and serving. Walls hinted that when Christianity is in a place of power and wealth for a long period, the radical message of sin and grace and the cross can become muted or even lost. Then Christianity starts to transmute into a nice, safe religion, one that’s for respectable people who try to be good. And eventually it becomes virtually dormant in those places and the center moves somewhere else.”

Oh my.

Read that again. Keller asserts (based on what Andrew Walls has observed from history and the Bible) that when Christianity is in a place of power and wealth for a long period, the radical message of sin and grace and the cross . . . becomes dormant. . . and the center (of Christianity) moves somewhere else.

Wow. I have been wrestling with this paragraph all day today.

5 Questions for you to “chew on” this Memorial Day weekend:

1. Is it just me, or is this a frightening description of Christianity in North America? Why do you think?

2. Is this why we are seeing the Gospel explode in places like China and India? Why do you think?

3. If there’s still hope for biblical Christianity (the “vulnerability of the cross”) to be in the DNA of North America, what will it take?

4. If the center does continue to move away from North America, what does that mean for us who stay here?

5. If God is moving mightily in foreign countries – in the midst of poverty and persecution – what am I doing here? If that’s where God is, then should we not want to join Him? 

 

I would love to read your thoughts. Consider the implications of this, please. And, if you choose, comment below. Or, as always, you can send me an email: matt.pearson@fbceldorado.org.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Throw It Out There Thursday!

“FBC exists to dare nobly, in the Spirit’s power, to make known Christ’s commanding claims here and everywhere.”

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This purpose statement for FBC is a direct gift from the Lord via a prayer someone prayed for our church nearly 70 years ago. On our 100th birthday, someone prayed the following: “Bring to us a revived nobility of daring that shall see us making known the commanding claims of Christ here and everywhere.” When I read that several months ago now, my heart jumped. I knew the Lord was saying to my spirit – “That’s IT! Get FBC on THAT agenda! It’s MY will for that great church that I love so much.”

So, I’ve tried to “Throw it Out There.”

In fact, the first 3 months of 2014 was spent “Throwing it Out There.” Go here to listen to or watch the messages.

I believe God wants FBC to give itself totally and completely to dare nobly, in the Spirit’s power, to make known Christ’s commanding claims here and everywhere.

WHY?

Simply because knowing (or not knowing) what Christ claims and commands directly affects every human being’s life and joy now and forever. You, me, and everyone on the face of the planet are affected – deeply – by what we are doing (or not doing) with Christ’s commanding claims. Those who believe and follow – everlasting joy. Those who don’t believe or don’t know – everlasting pain.

Something else I have “Thrown Out There” are the 5 words that describe a person who lives out this vision.

SPIRITUAL = “in the Spirit’s power” – “bring to us a ‘revived‘ nobility of daring” –> grow in the Word and in Prayer.

DISTINGUISHABLE = “dare nobly” – “bring to us a revived ‘nobility of daring'” –> spiritual gift; specific ministry area/calling.

VULNERABLE = “us” – “bring to ‘us‘ . . . see ‘us‘ making known” –> for US to do this, we are going to have to be authentic.

INTENTIONAL = “here” –> personal evangelism.

SACRIFICIAL = “everywhere” –> national and international missions.

Now. . . let me “Throw This Out There” . . .

Consider the 5 words. Think on them for a few seconds. What if every member of FBC were growing in each of these areas? What if every one was growing in the Word and in Prayer? What if everyone knew what their gift was and they dared to minister in specific ways/areas in our city? What if each of us has a group of other believers we could be “real” and “authentic” with? What if every FBC member were being trained, training, and/or doing personal evangelism where they lived and worked? What if every one of us were giving, supporting, and/or going overseas to get the Gospel to the ends of the earth?

Can you imagine?

I told you – that prayer someone prayed 70 years ago for FBC is a GIFT STRAIGHT FROM HEAVEN FOR US!!!

I believe God has clearly given us a vision to pursue and a simple – yet potent – process of discipleship that we should strive for.

Let me “Throw This Out There” –

Would you be willing to pray for me, your pastors, yourself, our church, etc. for clear direction and zeal to move toward this direction? I long for us to have a “process” (for lack of better words) in place where all of us are moving and growing and developing in these areas. I long for new members to know that THIS will be expected of them when they join. I long for our city and the nations to be reached because our members are doing what they are called by Christ to do.

If each of us are growing to be more SPIRITUAL and DISTINGUISHABLE and VULNERABLE and INTENTIONAL and SACRIFICIAL, and everyone understood this . . .

You know what would happen?

FBC would constantly be daring nobly, in the Spirit’s power, to make known the commanding claims of Christ here and everywhere. 

Let me “Throw This Out There” now: Who’s in?