Did You Know You Were Made For This Time and Place?

Did You Know You Were Made For This Time and Place?

The Gospel isn’t a formula you apply to your life; it’s the Story you’re meant to inhabit.

Do you know your role in the story of which you inhabit?

We live in an extraordinary moment in history.

Do you know your role in this world?

What are your responsibilities and opportunities in this cultural moment?

Where do I start in the square inch God has placed me?

If you are redeemed in Christ, then you inhabit the greatest story ever told. The Gospel is not limited to the way of salvation. It is bigger than that. Yes, your faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life is important. But, the Gospel I believe is not the Gospel of Lance. It’s not about me. Neither is the Gospel about you. Our salvation is not the end game nor is it the over-arching theme of the Bible. Jesus Christ proclaimed the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom.’

Michael Craven said, “The Gospel is so much larger than the personal plan for salvation. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the in-breaking rule and reign of Jesus Christ as King over all creation – redeeming and restoring all things. Through Him, the Kingdom of God has come into this world. Jesus has completed the atonement (payment) for our sin on the cross. By his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father, He is presently ruling and reigning over creation. Christ is reinstating his righteousness on the earth.”

J.I. Packer said, “The Gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God, and that he, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us… Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is and understand the salvation from sin.”

The bad news is that our modern American gospel is man-centered not a God-centered Gospel. A God-centered Gospel is indeed Good News. There are two competing gospels, the gospel of the world vs the Gospel of the Kingdom. The former leads to death and destruction the latter leads to eternal life and human flourishing.

“Calling is at the heart of scripture.” – Os Guiness

God calls us, moreover, God invites us to inhabit His story. “When Christians see everything as calling from the Lord, we realize the dynamism of our faith” (Os Guiness). As we respond and enter into the overarching story of all of history, we go about setting things right in the world. In other words, we bring order to the disorder we find in our time and place.

“The Gospel isn’t a formula you apply to your life; it’s the Story you’re meant to inhabit.” – The Colson Center

A Unifying Vision:
As Christians, we must cultivate a unifying vision of the Lordship of Christ over the domain of our individual and collective lives as the local church. We shall live lives that are holy and pleasing to the Lord as we exercise dominion over that which God has placed in our care. The hallmarks of Christian maturity are; holy living, the ability to articulate a Christian vision of total reality, and a zeal to bring ALL things under the Lordship of Christ as co-reagents of His Kingdom – redeeming and restoring that which is lost and dying in the place and time in which we live.

We are witnesses to the ‘in-breaking’ rule and reign of Jesus Christ into history as we redeem and restore that which God has placed in our care. We beseech the lost world to be “reconciled to God” in Christ Jesus as we take our place in His great story.

As Christians, we are transformed through Christ. We are commanded to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with a lost world. We are also given another command called the Cultural Mandate or Dominion Mandate. “The cultural mandate is the command to exercise dominion over the earth, subdue it, and develop its latent potential (Gen. 1:26-28; cf. Gen. 2:15).” (9Marks) We create good, true and beautiful culture that transforms the world and the story we inhabit.

The late Chuck Colson said,Transformed lives transform lives – transformed lives transform culture.

We live in an extraordinary moment in history. We have an extraordinary God. We inhabit an extraordinary story. You Were Made For This Time and Place.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Author’s note: The piece I’ve written above are deeper reflections of my experience and what I’ve learned through the Colson Fellows program over the last two years. “Gain wisdom, live faithfully and act courageously.”

 

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

What is the First Responsibility of a Leader?

What is the First Responsibility of a Leader?

The number one thing missing in our culture is LEADERSHIP. What should a leader do first?

In a cultural moment where leadership is lacking, good leaders must do this one thing first.

When we discuss great leaders who did great things, we tend to focus on the character qualities and accomplishments of great leaders without noticing the first duty of a leader.

While it is good to cultivate good character qualities of great leaders, I think we must focus on first principles.

Take a moment to answer this question, “What is the first duty of a leader?

Vision-casting and accomplishments along with humility, courage, creativity, integrity, wisdom, and intelligence are good things but they are NOT the first duty of a leader.

Max Dupree stated, “The first responsibility (duty) of a leader is to define reality.”

This simple statement is true.

What does it mean for a leader ‘to define reality?’

First, a leader must ground themselves in reality by seeing the world as it is in its current state. This is what Francis Schaefer would call “real reality.” If a leader does not see things as they really are, that leader’s vision for what can be will be distorted. Second, a leader must define reality for those he leads. Only then can the leader cast a vision for the future.

When God created the world and everything in it, He defined reality. When man fell into sin, that reality was distorted. The redemption we have in Christ grounds us in reality anew and orients us toward God. One day, He will restore all things – including a restored final reality.

Your first duty is a leader – your first responsibility is to see things as they truly are. That includes the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. You must accept present reality as it is. Then, you must define reality for your people. After grounding yourself and your people in reality, you can cast a vision and develop a mission for the future.

Defining reality is a discipline and skill that must be learned and actuated by every leader who desires to lead well.

Dupree states, “We must teach ourselves to see things the way they ARE.”
Only then can we “cast a vision for what CAN BE” Dupree concludes.

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Five Enemies of Unity

Five Enemies of Unity - What are you doing to protect unity?

In 2009, Kathryn and I had the privilege to spend a week with Dave Ramsey and his team in Cancun Mexico.

We joined about a couple dozen business leaders and their spouses. All of us were striving to grow and/or improve our organizations by developing our personal leadership. Today this program is called “EntreLeadership” (Master Series) and thousands attend every year. Dave’s book by the same name has sold millions of copies and the podcast has gained a massive following (shout out to my pal Dan Tardy).

It is cool to look back and see that we got to participate in a small but powerful begining. Today EntreLeadership has grown as a brand in its own right and continues to have an impact on businesses, nonprofits and churches.

It’s been over 10 years since we were in Cancun with Dave and team. I think it’s time to revisit lessons learned, how I applied them and test their relevance today.

Unity is always on the forefront of good leadership.

Let’s talk about what Dave Ramsey refers to as the “Five Enemies of Unity”. Every organization has a culture. The culture can be healthy and life-giving or toxic and deadly. A good leader will strive to create and cultivate the former and defend against the latter.

Anyone who has a lawn or a garden knows that it requires watering, weeding and maintenance. Left unattended, a beautiful lawn or garden will become overgrown with weeds and overrun with pests in no time.  The same goes for the culture in an organization; be it a company, church, nonprofit or your family. A leader must be vigilant in building and maintaining unity.  A leader must wake up and fight the enemies of unity like a gardener fights weeds and pests – all the while cultivating unity.  It’s a big job!  I’d argue that its the most important job of the leader.

Unity is powerful. Unity is biblical.

Christian unity is good, beautiful and true as it demonstrates the fullness of the body working together.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” – Ephesians 4:1-6

A football team does not win the Super Bowl by accident. Individuals may stand out, but ultimately unity is behind the victory.

You may know there are some things you can do to create unity. There are thousands of ‘team building’ programs that can help establish unity. But, what are you doing to protect your organization’s unity?

What about unity in the church?

What about unity in your family?

Below are the Five Enemies of Unity.

1. Gossip
2. Poor communications
3. Unresolved conflict (disagreements)
4. Lack of shared purpose
5. Sanctioned incompetence

Read Dave Ramsey’s quick explanations for each of the 5 Enemies of Unity

Below Dave talks bluntly about gossip… Enjoy!

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Are you ready for the next six weeks?

Are you ready for the next six weeks?

For all my readers and subscribers.

Ready to take the next step in our journey?

Over the next 6 weeks, I’ll be sharing a series of posts, book reviews & other resources to help you develop a distinctly Christian vision for life, culture, relationships and service. If you are interested in a deeper understanding of the Christian worldview without being overly academic, I promise you will enjoy growing with me and others on this journey.

I will also be tackling some of the biggest issues in this cultural moment. We will help each other become men and women who understand the times and respond from the a biblical foundation.  Ready?  Let’s go!

1. Read my recently completed Critical Response and Worldview Analysis of the book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.

This is a sneak peek of the two part series that will be published next week.

Part 1: A Critical Response – White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo)

Part 2: A World View Analysis – White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo)

2. Recommended Resources to get us rolling:

Book: A Christian Manifesto by is A. Schaeffer
If you have not read this book yet or its been a few years, its time! Written in 1981, this volume was prophetic in that we’re seeing what Schaeffer was describing 40 years ago.

Podcast: Theology Pugcast – A Tale of Two Revolutions (July 27, 2020)
In this episode, Glenn contrasts the secular, Enlightenment-inspired French Revolution with the spiritual revolution that transformed England at roughly the same time. The French Enlightenment was an anti-Christian project that provided a radical critique of society and theorized about how to fix it. Once the French internalized Enlightenment ideas, the Revolution became inevitable, though it took a government debt crisis to trigger it. The elite’s theories didn’t solve the problem, resulting in chaos and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of French citizens. In contrast, the spiritual revolution in England from the Evangelical Revivals reached deep into the lower classes and prevented England from degenerating into the violence of the French Revolution. It also led to Wilberforce and the Clapham sect and the spiritual and moral transformation of English society. Chris and Tom chime in about the philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment and the parallels with America today.
Link:  Theology Pugcast – A Tale of Two Revolutions

Feel free to share and invite others to join by subscribing to the blog.

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Restorative Justice – Justice That Restores

Restorative Justice – Justice That Restores

Charles ‘Chuck’ Colson, served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1970.

Once known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man”, Colson gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate scandal.”(1) He was known for being ruthless.

On March 1, 1974, Charles Colson was indicted for his role in a massive White House cover-up. After initially pleading the Fifth Amendment in order to avoid conviction, his conscience would not let him rest. Colson changed his plea to guilty. On June 21, 1974, Chuck Colson was sentenced to prison for obstruction of justice.

Why would the ruthless ‘hatchet man’ who could have walked away a free man decide to go to prison?

You see, Colson became a Christian in 1973 and his life changed. For his part in the Watergate Scandal, he willingly went to prison. Little did Colson know that God would use prison to give him a vision. That vision would reshape the justice system and transform lives of hundreds of thousands of prisoners and their families worldwide.

No one has done more to reform the prison systems and justice systems in the US and around the world than the late Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship.

“But all at once I realized that it was not my success God had used to enable me to help those in this prison, or in hundreds of others just like it. My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious — all my achievements meant nothing in God’s economy. “No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure — that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation — being sent to prison — was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life; He chose the one thing in which I could not glory for His glory.” (Chuck Colson)

Today, everywhere we turn people are crying out for justice. As I pointed out a few weeks ago in my post about our justice impulse, we all have an innate sense of justice. When we see injustice, we have a deep desire to see things made right.

As Christians, we must think deeply about justice and how to best understand it from a biblical foundation. Being emotional creatures, we must not let emotions or feelings cloud our understanding of justice. When we encounter injustice, how then should we respond as Christians?

Restorative Justice – Justice that Restores

While there are secular and pagan definitions, I believe that the Bible offers a better vision of Restorative Justice. Typically, I refrain from placing adjectives before biblical terms. For the sake of not being overly discursive, I’ll use ‘Restorative Justice’.

First, God’s justice is impartial. We are called to be impartial. To the extent that we are partial, we are distorting justice.
The Bible says, “For God shows no partiality.” [Romans 2:11] and “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” [Lev. 19:15]

Second, drawing on a biblical worldview, I put forth my working definition of ‘Restorative Justice’:

Restorative Justice is a distinctly biblical vision of (impartial) justice that seeks to uphold what is righteous and good, contribute what is missing, stop what is sinful and restore what is broken. It reflects the Christian belief in the God-given dignity, value, and potential of every human being (2). Restorative Justice offers a better vision (of justice) – bringing Biblical truth to bear in the larger society (3).

Colson Fellow and Vice President of Church Mobilization for Prison Fellowship Heather Rice-Minus says, “Restorative Justice recognizes that crime is not just an offense against a government. Crime damages the security and well-being of the victim and the entire community.”

Isaiah 32:16-18: “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”

Rice-Minus says, “This passage gives us glimpse of the ancient (Jewish) concept of Shalom – peace that encompasses tranquility, wholeness, safety, prosperity, and relational harmony. Crime impairs our ability to experience shalom.”

In the book, ‘Restoring All Things’, authors Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet develop the concept further;

“Restorative Justice prioritizes participation of those who are harmed by crime, promotes accountability of those who are responsible, and cultivates community engagement.

The government becomes a facilitator of justice where the person harmed and the person responsible for the harm become the direct parties involved in the justice process… This allows for individualized restitution that personalizes the harm and illuminates human dignity and value.

Restorative justice repairs the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.” (4)

Restorative Justice – The Church That Restores

The quiet work of the church raises awareness, influences local and state laws, brings criminals to justice, restores victims’ lives and works to bring justice and peace (shalom) into our community.

Jim Liske (former President of Prison Fellowship) said, “Why should justice be restorative? At its heart, crime isn’t about law-breaking; it’s about violating the peace and wholeness of the entire community.”

As Christians, we know that our sin is a crime against a good, loving and just God. Our crimes against God violate peace and wholeness in our families and communities as well. But, Jesus died on the cross on our behalf so we can be restored to Him. God’s justice is restorative in Christ Jesus. Don’t you think we should base our concepts of justice on that?

As God is redeeming and restoring brokenness in our community, we join Him in his work as a Church that Restores.

Resources:

Notations:
1. Wikipedia – Charles Colson
2. Jim Liske – Fox News article 2015
3. Ibid.
4. Restoring All Things (Smith/Stonestreet) – Heather Rice-Minus interview


Read previous post: “Developing a Distinct Christian Vision for Service
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Developing a Distinct Christian Vision for Service

Developing a Distinct Christian Vision for Service

Over the last twelve months, I have undergone the rigors of the Colson Fellows Program Residency. The mission of this master’s level course equips Christians with a robust Christian worldview so they can thoughtfully engage with post-Christian culture, inspire reflection in others, and work effectively toward re-shaping the world in the light of God’s kingdom.

I have been developing a bigger vision for my life’s work and calling.

I’m bringing this vision to bear in my role as a Local Missions pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church. My role is to help our church engage in service in our communities.  My broader mission is to help my brothers and sisters develop a “distinctly Christian vision for life, culture, relationships and service.” In today’s post, I’m going to focus on service and what that means.

As I have reimagined and prayed about a ‘bigger vision’, I have realized my goal is not just to get people to serve but to understand the “Gospel of the Kingdom” – a truly Kingdom vision.  Serving is just one expression of this comprehensive view of reality. Jesus spoke of the “Gospel of the Kingdom.” We need to ask, ‘What does He mean by ‘Kingdom?’ (Luke 4:43, Luke 8:1, Luke 10:9, John 18:36).  I’ve found that the Kingdom sometimes gets lost in the noise of everyday life and even ministry.

When Jesus redeems and saves, He invites us to join him in Kingdom work of redeeming and restoring the world and culture (all things). My good friend and pastor Dr. Doug Cecil likes to say, “The Gospel is enshrined in our hearts and proclaimed with our lips.” I would also add that “the Gospel is also seen in our lives and felt through our hands and feet.”

Our witness is often seen before our words are heard. The Christian witness is often the window through which the unbelieving world sees the light of Christ. As Pastor Alistair Begg likes to say, “People often learn the melody of the Gospel before they learn the words.”

The church evangelizes the lost and calls redeemed people to play their role on the grand stage of God’s redemptive story (Acts 17:26, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 4:12). In doing so, we demonstrate that the Gospel not only saves but infuses and empowers every aspect of the follower’s life. Through the power of the Holy Spirt, we bring forth  elements of Christ’s Kingdom into this broken world. Therefore, we should call our brothers and sisters from their inner-self focus to live the same way they were saved – by grace through faith. In reality, we are calling to that which God has already placed in the heart of the Christ-follower.

We have a purpose in this life.

We are saved “for” something.
We must answer the question, “How then shall we live?”

We’re not calling our people to “do” something, we are calling them to “be” something. Their “doing” (actions) will flow from a distinct vision of who they are and their identity in Christ.

Are you a ‘Check the box’ Christian?

In other words, do you fall into the habit of ‘checking boxes’ for going to church, attending a bible study and serving occasionally?  Would you say your Christian life is vibrant and joy-filled?  If not, why?

This call to develop a distinct Christian vision for service completely removes “check box” from the available options. It challenges the believer to step through the beautiful threshold of Salvation into the Kingdom – where Jesus beckons, “follow me.” In following, we are abiding. And in abiding, we are bearing much fruit – proving that we are His disciples. In this, there is fulness of joy.

The life of the follower of Christ teaches and sanctifies the world around them by how they reflect the One whom they follow (Matthew 5:16). Developing a distinct Christian vision for service enables the us to use our gifts, talents, passions and abilities to bring God’s redemptive and restorative power into a dark and broken world.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16)

How then shall we serve?

 


Devotional Resource: From Ken Boa’s “Handbook of Wisdom” 

Whatever I do, I should do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Whatever I do, whether in word or in deed,
I will do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17)

Prayer:
Father, I want to dedicate all that I do this very day to Your glory and honor. There is no component of life that cannot be lived for You, no task so small and mundane that it is unworthy of being offered to Your service. Whether in my speech or in my actions, I will do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to You. Amen.


Read previous post: “The Hand that Holds the Rod – God’s Discipline
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