personal

Spirituality and the Value and Danger of Electricity

Photo by  Jeremy Thomas  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Electricity is very useful. It can also be dangerous.

Our present lifestyle requires electricity. We need it for lights and appliances, including our computers, tablets, smartphones, and wi-fi. If there's a problem with your car, technicians hook it up to a diagnostic computer.

Electricity, not just its discovery, but how to harness it has revolutionized the way we live. A bit of an understatement, huh? Though valuable and useful, it can be dangerous unless it is properly grounded.

Spirituality is similar to electricity when it's not grounded—dangerous.

Grounded

Electricity needs to be grounded to stabilize it. This makes it both safe and useful. Likewise, spirituality, that is, spiritual truth, needs to be grounded in a proper way.

Spirituality, that is, spiritual truth, needs to be grounded in a proper way

What is the grounding for spiritual truth? God's Word—the written Word of God, the Bible—stabilizes spiritual truth. It grounds spirituality.

Just as electricity needs to be grounded to be safe and useful, so also spiritual truth needs to be grounded in God's written Word, the Bible.

Spiritual truth needs to be grounded in God's written Word, the Bible

Ungrounded

Ungrounded electricity is dangerous. A good natural example is lightning.

Why does lightning strike the ground from the clouds? It's attracted by the positive charges (electrons) in the earth (the ground).

The atmosphere, filled with storm clouds, contains an immense amount of scattered negative electric charges. When they gather together, these negative charges seek the positive charged ground.

This is why it's not good to be exposed out in the open in an electrical storm. You become what the grounding that the lightning seeks.

The need for understanding

The natural world is God's illustration book for understanding spiritual truth (Psalm 19:1-4; Rom. 1:20). So, the need for electricity to be grounded can help us understand the need for spiritual truth to be grounded.

Have you ever flown on a plane in an electrical storm? It's exciting, to say the least, as you're bounced around in those clouds full of electrical power. It may be less exciting on the ground but it's a lot safer!

The natural world is God's illustration book for understanding spiritual truth

When I was seeking the truth, I wandered through a maze of philosophies and religions. It was confusing because I had no real grounding in my life.

I also found all these philosophies and religions to be impersonal.

One constant

One constant in my search for the truth was reading the Bible each day. I did so for a couple of years while I searched. I didn't understand much of what I read, but it stabilized me.

As I bounced around from one possibility to another, I saw consistency and stability in the Bible. It kept pointing me to a person and that person was Jesus.

The Bible kept pointing me to a person and that person was Jesus

Here are a couple of things I discovered in my Bible reading—

  • Jesus Christ—the Messiah—is known as the Word (John 1:1, 14)
    • This lines up with the account of creation in Genesis 1:3—"...and God said...."
  • At the end of the Bible—in Rev 19:11-16—Jesus is known as, "The Word of God."

The personal nature the Bible

God's truth—recorded in the Bible—is personal. Unlike the ungrounded, impersonal philosophies and religions of the world, it is grounded in the person of Jesus. 

As He told the expert teachers of the Law (the Pharisees)—

You study the Scriptures in detail because you think you have the source of eternal life in them. These Scriptures testify on my behalf. Yet, you don’t want to come to me to get ⌊eternal⌋ life. (John 5:39-40 GW)

God's truth—recorded in the Bible—is personal and grounded in the person of Jesus

The Bible and you

What's your experience with reading the Bible? Do you understand it or find it difficult?

If you'd like to know God or understand Him better, start reading or listening to God's Word—the Bible.

The Bible is not just a collection of spiritual truths, it's God's Story. His story of redemption for all people. It is a written revelation of truth so we may know God in a personal way.

Are you searching for answers? Are you uncertain about what is true? Are you confused by man's opinions and ideas about truth?

Each week I post an article like this one, a devotional on Wednesdays, and a simple Bible study on Fridays. The goal of all of these is to help seekers and believers get grounded in their understanding of the truth and in relationship with the Lord.

Getting grounded

Here are some ways to get grounded—

  • Read or listen to the Bible each day—even if it's only a few verses a day
  • Think about what you are reading or listening to throughout the day
  • Read and study through the simple Bible studies posted each week on Applied Truth

Here are some resources to get you started—

Many biblical resources are available online. If you're reading this, you probably have access to most of them.

Various Bible versions can be found to read or listen to, there are many Bible reading plans to follow, and several devotional readings.

Your Version Bible

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

International Bible Society

Daily Light Devotional

Need Help on How to Share Your Faith?

Evangelism. What does this word bring to mind? Typically, most people think of street preachers, revival tents or mass crusades, and handing out gospel tracts.

But the most effective means of evangelism, since the time of Jesus till now, is personal evangelism. Person to person, relational, intentional sharing of God’s Story—the gospel—in a personal way.

Some people are called to be preachers, whether on a street corner or in an auditorium. Others are quite bold and confident in approaching people in any circumstance for the sole purpose of sharing their faith.

But not everyone is like this. I’m not.

My personal experience

Even though I’ve preached in church pulpits, public outreaches, on the radio, and handed out tracts on the street, evangelism is not what I'm inclined to do. I'm not an evangelist.

Many people are not equipped, nor called to traditional public evangelism, but we are all called to be ready to share the hope we have within us—Jesus—and our relationship with Him (1 Peter 3:15).

The hindrance for many of us sharing our faith is timidity and lack of confidence, but the key is focusing on building a relationship.

A more typical focus is on the mechanics of how it should be done or the content of what needs to be said. But when we look at the example of Jesus in the Gospels, we see a very tailored, personal approach. 

Jesus showed more interest in the person than a methodology in reaching people with the gospel

When I share on evangelism, I encourage people to consider how each of their life stories connects with God's Story. I also encourage people to use biblical storying to share their faith with others.

Our prime example—Jesus

Compare Jesus' example to the more common approach of monopolizing a conversation with a prepared spiel, in an attempt to convince people they are sinners.

We see Jesus' example early on when He was in the temple among the Jewish leaders and rabbis (Luke 2:41-50). Jesus is found “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” He isn’t preaching to them, but listening and asking questions.

Further along in the gospel narrative, we find Jesus engaging people with stories and wise sayings called parables.

Jesus engaged people with stories and wise sayings called parables

He often used questions when challenged by the Jewish leaders, asked questions of the crowds of people when He taught them and used questions when He explained things and to exhort His disciples in private.

The Jesus-way of evangelism

Jesus engaged people from all backgrounds and stations of life. He seemed to tailor His interaction with people to their level and state in life.

He treated those with questionable backgrounds and character with unexpected dignity. He rubbed shoulders and ate with prostitutes, drunks, unethical business people, political agitators, and the like.

And His band of followers included uneducated fisherman and tax collectors (renegade IRS-agent types) to mention a few.

His tactics were different than anyone expected, which included His followers and the Jewish spiritual leaders.

Jesus' tactics were different than anyone expected

His tactics were different from what is customarily seen today. Jesus' way is different than what is found in most evangelism training programs and books on evangelism, let alone stereotypical evangelists, whether well-known or not.

Learning from Jesus' example

How can we learn from Jesus' example? It just might make sharing our faith with others easier, and more fruitful.

People, worldwide, know they are sinners in some way or another, or at least that they are less than perfect. Most people, throughout the world, are lonely and often feel less than important.

When someone shows interest in them and is willing to listen to their story, they take notice. I have found this true traveling nationally and internationally on planes, and in airports, and other situations.

People want to tell their story to someone

One reason people seek out a counselor or therapist, even in social networking, is to find someone who will listen to their story.

A simple starting point

Here's a simple starting point for personal evangelism. Simply ask a person about himself or herself. Who are they? What do they do in life? Just show interest in them. Genuine interest.

This builds rapport, the beginning of a relationship. It establishes interest and even a sense of trust. It builds a bridge that makes it possible to share your own story and the greatest story—God’s story.

This requires genuineness above all. Most people are perceptive enough to know when you are listening to them, or just listening for an opportunity to break in and say something.

Once you hear a person’s story, you've built a bridge of respect and trust. This will often give you an opportunity to share your own story, your life story of faith.

Once you hear a person’s story, you've built a bridge of respect and trust

This isn’t a complicated or new approach. In fact, it takes place many times a day, often without any intention. It just happens.

Wouldn't it be nice if sharing your faith just happened in a natural way?

It can. I'll post a follow-up to this next week... so stay tuned!

Think about what I've shared so far.

Take some time to look at how Jesus engaged people with the truth of His story—God's story.

A Results-Based Dilemma

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Let's face it. America is locked into results. We measure and quantify everything, even our leisure time. Think not? We post life events or moments on social media, then check to see how many "likes" we've received. It's an epidemic and it's not healthy.

Christian believers are not immune to this epidemic. It infects churches and other ministries. We measure the sizes of congregations and buildings and responses to various types of ministry efforts.

Jesus wasn't results oriented in the way we are. He did expect results but not the kind we do.

One of the Lord's closest followers betrayed Him, the others abandoned Him at a critical point, and then He died. From a human point of view, that would seem like a failure. But of course, there's far more to the story than that! And far more to Christianity than measuring results.

Dwindling results

Much has been written about the dilemma American churches face today. In general, Millennials are not too interested or engaged with church, many in older generations have given up on church and become part of the Dones, and the majority of America's pastors are getting grayer.

Personally, I see this stemming from a lack of personal, intentional discipleship, which requires long-term investment in people and commitment. This is what we see the Lord Jesus model in His ministry on earth, but it's not easy to measure in terms of progress.

Perhaps this stems from the approach the church takes with evangelism—presenting the gospel, God's redemptive message.

American-style evangelism

Evangelism in America reflects our national cultural roots. We tend to be confrontational and analytical, so we present the gospel as if it was a legal argument in court or a debate that requires a yes-or-no answer.

Decisions can be measured, like the responses to a large-scale crusade or an altar call invitation at the end of a church service or evangelistic outreach.

I'm not saying these approaches are wrong. They reflect our historical and cultural identity and they appeal to our inclination to measure results.

How can we quantify God's Kingdom?

But is the Kingdom of God quantifiable? Was Jesus concerned that His followers—His church—be able to measure the results of their efforts at fulfilling the Great Commission?

Instead of counting decisions as a measurement, we need to make disciples who will also make disciples. There is no measurement that brings a point of completion for this, it will continue till we see Jesus face-to-face.

Another approach of presenting the gospel or sharing one's faith falls into the category of friendship evangelism. A current trend of personal evangelism is summed up with the unverified quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."

Life example is vital for being a living witness of Jesus Christ to others (Acts 1:8), but words are essential for communicating the truth of the gospel.

A better way, or another way?

I love preaching and teaching and know they are still viable and valuable to present the gospel to others. Most people who respond to an invitation at a crusade or evangelistic rally, or in a church setting were brought by a friend or a family member.

But the evangelical church as a whole is not reaching the present generations as well as we could.

Is there another, better way? How about asking—Is there another approach to presenting the gospel to a postmodern, nearly post-Christian generation?

There is and I'll look at one such approach next week. But let me be clear. This is not the next best thing, it's just one more approach to presenting the gospel, and it has a biblical foundation.

Are you curious? Check back next week!


3 Basic Elements of a Relationship with God

I've heard people share their life stories about coming to know God many times. They usually make the distinction between knowing about God and personally knowing Him.

I recently heard a young woman from Switzerland share this during a class I taught in a DTS course with YWAM-Jax. I was so encouraged as she told her story with such freshness and sincerity.

So, what is the difference between knowing about God and knowing Him in a personal way?

3 Observations and Truths About Discipleship

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When I returned to my home culture after fifteen years overseas, I knew something was missing. At first, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew a significant shift took place.

It wasn't one specific thing, but an accumulative process that brought this shift. "What happened," I wondered?

It wasn't so much what happened as what didn't happen—personal, intentional discipleship within the church.

Something missing

My first indicator was a general biblical ignorance. This was puzzling. More biblical teaching was available, in more ways than when I moved overseas (1990).

Resources for biblical studies had multiplied, through books, audio, video, and online products. There was plenty to choose from and yet, the consumer-oriented American Christian wanted more of it.

But with all that was available, something was missing.

Was it a lack of community? Leadership? Commitment? Yes to all the above and more. But why?

A pattern

It finally dawned on me that what was common in the '70's and 80's was lacking in the new millennium.

Intentional, relational discipleship was a primary element of the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's into the '70's. It was a natural, organic element embedded into the movement by God.

It didn't just happen by itself, but it wasn't a well-outlined curriculum or program. That came later.

This seems to be a pattern with us humans.

The wrong thing was replicated

God does something sovereign and dynamic, then we try to systematize it. We try to codify and quantify it—axioms, rules, and numbers—in order to replicate it. In doing this, we end up stifling whatever God did or is doing.

Discipleship, as Jesus modeled, is a process of replication that reproduces disciple-makers. It should never be reduced to a program.

The human effect turns a movement of God into an institution.

We try to organize the spiritual dynamic or life of the movement, which quenches the river of life God sets in motion, by attempting to channel or contain it.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)

Not a spiritual growth program

Discipleship is not a spiritual growth program. 

It's not a follow-up or aftercare program for those who've said the sinner's prayer.

Discipleship is the natural progression of evangelism. They aren't synonymous, but they aren't separate either. Robert Coleman's classic book, Master Plan of Evangelism, makes this clear.

This isn't rocket science, as they say. A person doesn't need a degree nor professional training to be a disciple-maker. Nor does a disciple-maker need a title or official role.

Yes, a disciple-maker needs to be grounded in the truth of God's Word and led by God's Spirit, but they don't need a certificate to make them an authorized disciple-maker.

3 simple observations

  1. Discipleship is not a cognitive skill to be learned or taught—it's a way of life.
  2. Discipleship is a life with purpose—that purpose is revealed in the process of discipleship.
  3. Discipleship requires some type of challenge to pursue the goal—the goal is following Jesus and being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

3 simple truths

  1. The Lord Jesus saw discipleship as an intentional, relational process. It's not a phase, but an integrated whole. Discipleship involves following Jesus with a community of believers—Matt 16:24; John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42-47.
  2. Discipleship is the pastoral responsibility of the church. Not the institution or corporation, but the community of believers under the Lordship of Jesus, as led by the Holy Spirit. This is made clear in Ezekiel 34:1-24, and by Jesus in John 10:7-16.
  3. Discipleship is a community-based process of sanctification. This is shared pastoral care among a community of believers. It's not relegated to one leader or a select group of leaders, although leadership is important. It is a shared commitment of each believer to one another—John 8:34-36; Acts 4:32-35; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.

This is not all that can be said about the subject, far from it!

Do you need more insight on any of the 3 observations or truth above? Let me know!

But, it's my hope these simple, brief observations and truths help confirm whatever God may be stirring in your own heart.

So... What is God stirring in your heart about discipleship and following Jesus?

Let me know, and thanks for reading and sharing this post!

This is an edited & updated version of an earlier post— 3 Simple Observations and Truths