5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow – Give Away

Last month I wrote a brief book  review of 5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow, a book written by R.C. Sproul.  This month I have decided to give away a copy on the blog.  To enter for a chance to win all you need to do is read my Review and then come back here to briefly share about why you want the book (even if you want to give to someone else).  Then on  Monday (March 1st, 2010) I’ll draw a name by random and announce the winner in the comments section on this post.

If you win I will also contact you via e-mail so I can make arrangements to get you the book (so make sure you fill that part out when leaving a comment).

I have answered some frequently asked questions about the Wednesday book give away in earlier post and you can find it here.

Top 5 Disciple Now Themes of All Time

In the last decade I have been involved in well over 20 Disciple Now weekends as either the host, guest leader, or guest speaker.  Many of the Disciple Now’s we hosted in conjunction with other student ministries.  Here is a list of my favorites and a few ideas I have for the future.

Top 5 Disciple Now Themes of All time

1. Different by Design – Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

2. Pilgrim’s Progress – Introduction to the Journey

3. Authentic Faith – Show me your fruit

4. Back to the Basics – Spiritual Disciplines

5. The Body of Christ – Unity

Five Disciple Now Themes for the Future

1. Hunger for the Harvest – Longing for the World to Know

2. Resident Aliens – Following Jesus in a world that Doesn’t Follow Him

3. Kingdom Come – Until all have heard

4. Dangerous Discipleship – What following Jesus Might Cost You

5. Never Eat Undercooked Meat – How church works

4 Basic Guidelines for Facebook Etiquette

I am a follower of Jesus Christ (some people call us Christians) and I also like to use the internet to chat with friends, find cool things, and write out my thoughts.  So to a lot of people I am a representation of what it looks like to follow Jesus.  However, I have several friends and acquaintances that also say they rep. Jesus, but they do some crazy things with their facebook profiles that make us wonder whats really going on.

To be fair, none of us are perfect.  Following Jesus isn’t about being perfect, its about following, and sometimes we all can get a little “off track.”  Thankfully God has provided the way for us to be forgiven and come back into a right relationship with Him.  Still we should guard our online presence in the same way we are to guard our actually words.  It amazes me that sometimes we post things on facebook that we wouldn’t say to people face to face.  So here are 4 basic guidelines for facebook etiquette.

1. Don’t rat someone out of your facebook status

So you have a disagreement with someone about something.  Don’t post, “Some people make me really angry!”  You may feel that since you didn’t mention their name that it isn’t gossip or slander.  Inevitably someone comments, “what happened?” and you are either inclined to say what happened or ignore them making the interest pique all the more.  Better to not post than to drag a disagreement in the public forum or worse cause all your friends to guess at who you could possibly make you so mad.

2. Comment on other people’s profiles like you would want other people to comment on yours

If you disagree with something I post, that is okay.  If you are really offended, tell me in private and we can seek reconciliation. Don’t comment on my post that I am a jerk, idiot, or whatever.  See Guidelines #3 and #4 for more details.  If you have a comment, but wouldn’t want someone posting the same comment on your profile, then don’t post it.  If the post can not go unanswered send a message.  It is much more private and will give you the opportunity to work things out.

3. Remember facebook is very public, not private

Ok so I post, “I like spaghetti” on my profile.  Then you remember a funny (yet embarrassing) story about me and spaghetti.  You think it will be funny to comment on my “I like spaghetti” status because we have 3 friends in common who will think of the incident and laugh.  What you failed to take into account was the fact that I have 758 other friends who have no clue who you are or know the full story behind the “spaghetti incident.” What you posted as an “inside joke” and was funny to a few people can makes you look like a jerk and damages your reputation with my other friends.

4. Befriend and de-friend for the right reasons

Don’t de-friend someone just because they made you mad.  You might eventually get over it.  Resist the urge for a few days and see if things workout.

However, sometimes people have facebook profiles and they don’t need to be your friend.  They may think they are entitled, but the are not.  You choose who your facebook friends are and are not.  A few basic guidelines that I like to follow are listed below…

  • Ex-girlfriends or boyfriends probably don’t need to be your friend on FaceBook (unless it was in the distant past).  If you just came off a bad break up, you are still going to be tempted to send harassing messages back and forth.  Cut the excess drama out of your life and cut the FB friendship.
  • People who are prone to excessive gossip and slander.  You may have been hurt by past rumors and accusations and even come to a place of forgiveness.  But just because they are forgiven doesn’t mean they deserve a spot among your facebook friends.  Why would you give them open ground and opportunity to hurt you further?
  • Toxic people.  While the two mentioned above could be considered toxic people, this guideline covers the rest.  These are the people who are out to cut you down.  We all have friends who have bad days and maybe there is a disagreement from time to time, but you do not have to invite people into your facebook world who go off on you every time they get upset.

Are you a Forward or Backward Thinker?

Have you ever stopped and wondered why you think the way you do on a particular issue?

In my line of work I come across lots of people who have strong opinions.  Many of them are passionate about their opinions.  Sometimes the opinions people are most passionate about are the one’s they have changed their mind on. For instance if you grew up in a republican or democrat household and change sides as an adult.  Maybe you went to church and learned about God, but when you were introduced to a college science class things changed.  Beliefs were challenged and you didn’t have a good answer to whoever was challenging your beliefs so slowly (or suddenly) you changed your opinion and grew passionate about proving people who held your former position as wrong.

Sometimes we are backed into believing something simply because we are confronted with an ideal that conflicts what we were taught growing up.  We don’t know how to answer the conflicting ideal and end up embracing it.  We didn’t search for a solution, we just embraced a competing truth claim that stood in opposition to ours because we could not defend our inherited claim.

Sometimes we move forward into a new position.  This takes place when we evaluate competing truth claims and examine the arguments that someone brings against our ideals and we scrutinize their competing claims with the same scrutiny they have shown ours.

For instance: Imagine growing up hearing and believing that all smurfs are blue.  You have never seen a smurf, but you know that they are blue.  Then someone shows you a purple smurf.  Your view of smurfs is forever changed.  However, you don’t examine the purple smurf (or asking questions like, How did the smurf become purple or are there smurfs of other colors as well?).  Instead, you reject the assumption that “all smurfs are blue” as a complete lie, you demonize the people who told you smurfs were blue, and you join a group that promotes the awareness of the purple smurf.  You have reacted to the assumed falsehood of “all smurfs are blue” and embraced a competing claim “all smurfs are purple.”  You have in effect backed into your position.  You didn’t go looking to see why you would have been told about blue smurfs, how this smurf became purple, or seek to know if there was a broader category.

Moving forward into your thinking requires examining competing truth claims and evaluating the validity of both claims. You may be actually viewing a blue smurf through rose-colored glasses. (The smurf is blue, but the red tint of your glasses causes the smurf to appear purple.)  Maybe when smurfs are sick they turn purple.  Maybe there are purple smurfs, but there are also blue smurfs.  This is searching for the truth.  This is moving forward into a position.

Now what about your thoughts on God?  Are you reacting to competing claims or are you intentionally looking for truth?

Review:”5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow”

5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul is a great book.  Sproul does a great job of introducing 5 comon “means of grace” or tools that God uses to help us grow.  Each chapter is written in an engaging style.  Sproul uses an insightful story to draw the reader in, puts forth a solid case based on Scriputre, while pointedly drawing out application for Western believers.

The book is quite brief at 135 pages, but the content serves as a great introduction for new believers and a compassionate reminder for those of us who may have lost track.  This book seems like a great discipleship tool and aid to those who are longing to grow deeper.  The Sproul’s writing style is simple yet engaging.  This is a great book to give someone who wants to grow in their faith.  The books brevity and engaging style ensure that you don’t have to be an accomplished reader to get through it in a timely manner.

I suggest using this book as a discipleship tool. Maybe reading it for yourself and then passing it on to someone else.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in growing deeper in their faith.  5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow is an excellent resource. The retail price is $15.00 (Hardcover), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $11.70. I gave it four stars.

Disclaimer: A PDF of this book was provided for review by Reformation Trust Publishing. They will send me a complimentary copy after they see my revies.  There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for me to call it like I see it.

5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow – Book Give Away

Review: “Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching”

Ok to be perfectly clear on this and up front.  I do not enjoy Hebrew, but I enjoyed reading this book.  Using Old Tesament Hebrew in Preaching did challenge me to be dilligent in continuing my Hebrew studies as well as give me hope that I might use my Hebrew skills for years to come.  It is a very down to earth, practical and motivating book.  I applaud author Paul D. Wegner for bringing  such a relavent and timely book to my aid when I was doubting the relavance of Hebrew in my future ministry.

The book is made up of five brief chapters that are full of encouragement and motivation for Hebrew students to press on in learning the language.  All along the way Wegner is sure to provide tools, references, and recomendations to support and encourage the student in his or her pursuits.  Above all else, he challenges the reader to press forward in studying and using a language that can be very confusing and tricky (at least to this student).  He does a great job of taking a very large challenge and stripping it to bite sized chunks.

The retail price is $17.99 (Paperback). It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $7.70 (Which is a great deal). I give it 4 stars.

Avatar: 3 Things I’d Tell My Teenage Son After Watching Avatar

Ok before I start its only fair to say that my son isn’t a teenager (he’s almost 2 months old) and I’m really not a fan of Avatar.  But because I had the opportunity to see the movie and I work with teenagers (and I can imagine my son being a teenager one day), I went to the movies with the eyes of a father.  I posted something similar earlier in a post entitled, 3 things I’d tell my Teenage Daughter After Watching New Moon.

Here are three things I’d tell my son after we watched Avatar together…

1. Amazing Story (telling)  Does Not Equal Truth

The movie Avatar was one of the most amazing special effects movies I have ever seen (Especially seeing it in 3D).  Not only was the cinematography convincing, but the story line drew the viewer into the movie.  There were actually people clapping and cheering around us at different parts.  It was amazing, but it wasn’t true.

I know, I know your saying, “Duh! Dad, That’s the point.” But I want you to hear me out on this one.  We can see things projected on a screen that amaze us.  We can allow our imaginations to be invited along on a journey such as this, but we have to understand that this is fantasy.   Fantasy can’t inform our logic.  Remember, I told you a story about a kid who said he believed that all the miracles of the Bible could be explained by aliens.  His interest in science fiction had lead him so far as to believe it more rational for aliens to manipulate us than to believe that God could work in His own creation.

You are an intelligent young man.  I am proud of your ability to reason.  As I have told you countless times before the faith I hold is my own.  I have taught you truth about God, but you must use your own mind to engage the truth about God and come to your own place of faith in Him.  It is not enough to blindly follow me on the path I tread.  You must seek wisdom for yourself.  Your eyes must be open.

2. We Don’t Have to Look to the Movies to See Injustice

You have grown so much from the little infant that once peed on me.  I can see you becoming a man more and more each day.  You are taking on responsability and helping others.

Do you remember how people were cheering in the movie during the battles scenes?  The director did a great job of creating a sense of injustice.  Did you see the look on the alien faces when their home was being destroyed?  There was so much sorrow and so much anguish.  But that was just a movie.  In parts of our world today, even in our city, there is injustice.  People are being taken advantage of and hurt many times just because of their ethnicity or their beliefs.

It is our responsibility to challenge injustice when we see it.  Ultimately all injustice will find its day in the court of our high King who will call for a reckoning of the living and the dead.  Every evil dead or act of wickedness will be exposed and called into account.  Hell is not a doctrine contrived so that people would conform to faith.  Hell is the reality and logical end God’s justice.  It is also what makes his love and mercy poured out in Christ so amazing.

That is why we seek to go out of our way to tell others about God.  Not only because He is just, but because He is loving.  All of us have sinned against others and been sinned against.  We all need justice and forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus.

3. Living Vicariously Doesn’t Equal Real Living

I am proud of you for the work ethic that you have developed.  I know at times that it was difficult when your mother and I limited the screen time that you absorbed.  The truth is that football games, movies (like avatar) and video games are all entertaining, but there is so much more to life than entertainment.

There is a whole sense in this movie where Jake becomes the Avatar.  At first its like a video game, but then the lines between his world and the rest of Pandora blend.  This may fit well for a movie plot, but it does not bode well for real life.  As you grow older and take on the responsabilities of being a man you will have to choose for yourself how you spend your time.  My desire is that you would choose to engage in this life fully.

I knew guys who flunked out of college because they stayed up late playing video games.  In the end the video games and TV won’t last.  The exercise we get from watching SEC football games doesn’t count for us like it does for they guys who are in the game.  My prayer for you is that when it comes to how you will live your life and the decisions you make, that you are fully engaged.

While there is more that could be said and discussed about the movie.  I thought these three points were worth talking about briefly.

  • 3 Things I Learned From My Mentor

    Early on in my ministry I had the privilege of being mentored.  It all started when I told my old youth pastor that I was going to college to become a student pastor.  He told me to find someone doing student ministry that I could sit in with and learn the ropes.  I quickly found an old friend who had been a counselor at camp and started helping him do student ministry.  At the time I didn’t realize that I was being mentored.  I would stop in his office for about 4 hours each Monday afternoon and talk to him (like he didn’t have anything better to do).  He graciously poured into me and helped me grow in my walk with God and as a pastor.  Here are 3 things I learned from having a mentor and I hope to pass on to those I mentor…

    1. The Importance of Shepherding and Not Just Planning Events.

    Lots of times young student pastors will fall in the rut of planning events with no real end game in sight.  It’s easy to plan what is cool or what will get kids motivated, but difficult to sit through strategy and scrap cool ideas for ones that will help you bring kids closer to God.  I was given pretty free rein, but the questions that came out of those mentoring sessions really helped me gain a shepherding perspective early.

    2. To Remember that  Parents are Still the Number One Influence in a Students Life

    I had several great ideas that would have made most parents sweat.  Lots of young student pastors make mistakes with parents early on.  They either take the kids off and forget to tell parents, talk bad about parents, or simply forget to include parents in the information process.  Parents are a vital part of genuine students ministry.  At the end of the day the students in my ministry aren’t coming home to my house for a Thanksgiving feast, they are coming their home.  Parents for good or for bad are primary disciplers in a students life.

    3. Doctrine is Important

    I was 18 when I started as a student pastor and while my doctrine was sounder than most 18 year-olds I knew, it wasn’t always completely sound.  It was important to have a mentor who could easily spot holes in my teaching method or in my thoughts about God.  I was often confronted gently with scripture and reminded that true thoughts about God have their origin in the Scriptures.

    5 Tips for Becoming a More Disciplined Reader

    So you haven’t done so well at finishing a book once you start.  Or you are a little sporadic in your reading.  Here are a few tips to help you become a more disciplined regular reader.  Whether you are reading a book a day or a book a year, hopefully these tips will help drive you further along in the process.

    1. Set a realistic deadline.

    I found the syllabus in college very helpful in providing a daily or weekly schedule of reading.  If you have trouble starting and finishing a book, why not take a few minutes, flip through the book you want to read and set out a realistic reading schedule.  Maybe a chapter a day or a chapter a week.  Figure out a deadline and work your way back from there.  When you find yourself getting behind, double up until you have caught up.

    2. Read at a set time.

    Maybe you have time in the morning before work or Tuesdays at Lunch or for an hour on the treadmill in the gym.  Find a time and place that work best for you and fit into your regular schedule and start reading.  Incorporate reading into your daily routine

    3. Read good books.

    Check out a few book reviews before you read a book.  See what other readers thought after reading the book.  Try and find both favorable and unfavorable  reviews to read.  Once you have found a good book that still piques your interest after reading the reviews… read it.

    4. Don’t move on until you have finished.

    If you are an undisciplined reader, don’t start a new book until you have finished the last book you were reading.  This will help you press on through the later chapters of the book once you have already been well introduced to the topic.  Otherwise you will end up with several half-read books.

    5. Have a reading list at least 2 or 3 books deep.

    This will motivate you to finish the book in front of you.   Go ahead and plan the next book or two out.  That way when things begin to lag, you will have an incentive to finish the book you are reading to get to the next book that you are highly interested in.

    MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tangle Christian?

    The video above is from a friend of mine.  He has a different version out now.  Its a great call for followers of Jesus to wake up and realize some of the contradictions in their lives.  We claim to know Jesus and want to demonstrate love toward others, but how often does that  stop at the window of Social Media (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?

    I am constantly disappointed by people who claim to follow Jesus but consistently live like they do not know him in how they interact on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  For example… I consistently see a “Christian” teenager type up a rant about someone else or even a “Christian” adult make an ambiguous jab at someone in their status update only to have a nosy friend ask, “what happened?” and they spill the beans about how selfish they really are and how wronged they feel about something or someone.  This is the kind of thing that should be done in private (Matthew 18) between the offended and the offender… not all over Facebook.

    What are some ways that you have seen Social Media (facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.) be used to proclaim the message of Jesus?

    What are some ways that you have seen “Christians” act in unappealing ways on Social Media?

    What are some basic guidelines you would recommend for living your faith out on the internet as well as in person?

    Don’t forget to view the video above and listen to the song.