JD Greear’s book “Gospel: Recovering The Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary” is a powerful call for Christians to experience the reality of the gospel.
“Being able to articulate the gospel with accuracy is one thing; having its truth captivate your soul is quite another” (9). Greear’s desire is to awaken people to the wonder and freedom of the good news. “The gospel… is not just the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity; it is the pool itself” (21).
If you notice, this why the writers of the New Testament never get tired of reminding their audience of the good news. “Growth in Christ is never going beyond the gospel, but going deeper into the gospel” (21). The majority of the book is organized around what he calls “The Gospel Prayer.”
“In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make you love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.”
Many people replace the centrality of the gospel in their lives with religion. Religion as it is defined here is basically an attempt to earn favor with God based on our own efforts.“What religion is unable to do, God does for us in the gospel (39).”
Satan loves to confuse us by telling us we need to earn our standing with God. “Satan’s primary temptation strategy is to try and make us forget what God has said about us and to evaluate our standing before God by some other criteria” (50). God on the other hand, “motivates us from acceptance, not toward it” (54). In other words, our motivation for obedience is based on already being accepted by God, not because we have to somehow earn it!
“Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.”
Greear gets personal by talking about the temptation we all have to have idols in our lives. “An idol is whatever takes the place of God in our lives” (70). You can tell what you have a tendency to idolize by answering these questions, “What one thing do you most hope is in your future? What is it that without it, life would hardly seem worth living? What is the one thing you most worry about losing?”
Every pursuit that is less than God’s will for us will end up disappointing us. “Astoundingly we often try to make God an accomplice in the pursuit of our idols” (75). Instead of using the things of the world to glorify God, we often use God to get the things of the world. Instead, we should be,“learning to be satisfied in Jesus. [This] will free you to enjoy everything else. Being fulfilled in Christ means that you no longer depend on other things for life and happiness” (84). Ironically, by pursuing things other than God we miss out on the happiness we are seeking.
“When we see the size and beauty of the God who speaks to us, the power of sin and idolatry over our hearts is broken” (97). Developing a realistically huge view of God helps us be satisfied in him. “[God] is so big that you literally cannot exaggerate Him” (92). The reason the temptations of the world are so strong is because our view of God is not compelling enough. “The reason many of us feel like we ‘can’t say no’ to temptations is that God does not have that kind of weight in our hearts” (98). When we see God and the gospel as we should, it“gives us freedom from both sin and religion” (99).
“As You have been to me, so I will be to others.”
The gospel radically affects how you treat others in your life, but first must receive the power of good news yourself. “The gospel not only tells us about the power of God; the message of the gospel is itself the power of God” (103).
Seeing ourselves as sinners in need of grace helps us to be aggressively grace-giving to others. “Ultimately I am responding to Jesus, not the person in front of me. The person wronging me may not deserve a response of grace, but the Jesus who bled and died for me does” (120).
The gospel changes the way we should view money. “Christians who worship God, not money, need much less from the world to be happy and secure. They can… live sufficiently and give extravagantly” (138). JD Greear assures us that it is okay to enjoy and save money, but it must not become point of your life. When we come face to face with the generosity of God, we are compelled to be generous with our resources.
The gospel can only change people’s lives if they hear it. We have a responsibility to be a part of sharing it with the billions who have never heard. “4.5 billion people are, by their own admission, non-Christian and therefore separated from God… at least 2.25 billion have little to no access to the gospel” (146). We all have a role to play. “Our prayer now should be that God guide us to our specific role. Whether we should be involved in the Great Commission is on longer the question” (149). How is God specifically leading you to be a part of this epic task?
“As I pray I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”
Prayer is one of the great ways we experience the grace and power of God. “God’s help flows out reflexively to those who presume upon His grace and power” (166). We must have faith that God wants to unleash his saving grace in people’s lives. “There is no shortage in God’s willingness or ability to save. The shortage is in our unbelief that He is as compassionate and powerful as the gospel says He is” (170).
“The gospel reveals to us how willing God is to save. We should ask accordingly” (174). This does not mean that God will answer exactly how we want him to. Sometimes God doesn’t answer us because he has a better plan. “We don’t measure God’s compassion by whether He answers our request like we think He should. We measure God’s compassion by the gospel” (184). We can trust that God knows best. “God sometimes answers our prayers by giving us what we would have asked for had we known what He knows” (187).
If the gospel is our motivation and focus when why do we have so many commands?
Obeying God’s commands and participating in spiritual disciplines serve as reminders of God’s love. “Jerry Bridges sums it up well, God’s love provides us with the motivation for obedience, while God’s laws provide the direction for the biblical expression of love (193).” Greear says that obedience to the commandments allows us to limit sin’s damage on our lives.. “Spiritual disciples only turn into legalism if you don’t really get the gospel” (201).
What is the gospel-centered approach to needs in the world?
“Gospel-centered people offer themselves to God, joyfully, and then do whatever He directs them to do, knowing that only what He empowers them to do will do any real good” (215). We are not called to save the world by ourselves; Jesus already did that! We are supposed to play our specific role based on where God has placed us, by using the resources, time skills, and church family God has given us.
What does a gospel-centered church look like?
A gospel-centered church makes preaching the good news an absolute priority, even over practical application. “The gospel is not good advice about how to live; it is good news about what God has done” (222).
“Nothing we are to do for God is as important as what He has done for us” (223). There are many of examples of churches that emphasize things other than the gospel and they all end up getting distracted. “Nothing, no matter who good or urgent, can keep us from pursuing our primary objective; preaching the gospel” (236). Greear asks a powerful question that can help a church analyze their impact: “Do you think if our church ‘died’ that our community would weep that we were gone” (237)?
The more we mature as Christians, the more in awe of the gospel we become.“Gospel-centeredness is about saturating your heart in the good news of Jesus – letting it so remake your mind that you see everything about yourself and your life through its lens… Growth in Christ is not going beyond the gospel but deeper into it” (246). I pray that everyone reading this (myself included) would use this book to look long and hard at the revolutionary nature of the gospel and what it demands of us.
The God Ask involves two asks; ask God and ask others.
With Out Vision…
…You won’t raise support. Steve asks, “How deeply do you feel about the ministry the Lord has called you to?… Unless you believe, deep in your soul that your vision is from God and is the most strategic thing you could do with your life, you will not experience much receptiveness from the potential donors you meet with.”
A Biblical Vision Of Support Raising
Support raising is Biblical. Paul did it. Jesus did it. Nehemiah did it. The Apostle Paul said,
“The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” 1 Cor. 9:14
Embrace support raising not as a necessary evil but as a privilege. Those called to raise support are commissioned by God to mobilize people to join what God is doing.
Support raising is a ministry in itself.
We allow others to get “a fraction of the action” and receive eternal rewards. The Apostle Paul said,
“Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” Phil 4:17
When someone gives to our ministry, they are really giving to God. We don’t have to force or manipulate people either; those whom God calls to be on our team should give “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor 9:7
Ultimately, God is the one who provides for his workers. Steve says, “The strength of my public support raising is directly tied to the strength of my private intercession with God.” Pray big prayers and trust God to provide in ways that we couldn’t imagine possible. Steve asks, “Are you going to believe him for big things or not?”
Ask Others Directly…
No other method comes close to the effectiveness of asking people directly face to face. It takes guts, it takes work, it takes preparation, but it produces results.
Any short cut you take so that you don’t “have to” meet with people personally will end up back-firing in the long run. We are raising up people to be on our team, not just raising money.
The more personal the approach the more powerful.
How To Get Meetings
- Make as big of a list as possible of potential supporters.
- Call, email, text, send letters and even Facebook people asking for appointments to share your vision and how they can support you. Wait to actually ask for their support until the face to face meeting.
- Go to them. Drive to them and meet with them face to face.
- Make a simple, engaging presentation of your ministry. (20 mins)
- Ask people to support you $75, 100 or $200 a month. (Wait for their answer.)
- Get their first check then or get them set up to give automatically.
- Thank them!
Invest In And Appreciate Your Supporters
Appreciate and keep up with your supporters. Send newsletters of what God is doing in your ministry at least every other month. Thank them often. Go out of your way to show your appreciation and love.
Thank God for providing for your needs and work hard at the ministry He has called you to!
What are you waiting for? Make THE GOD ASK!
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In 6 Years we started 5 ministries in San Diego.
San Diego State University, three community colleges and one international ministry.
When we started our ministry at San Diego State, we realized that we were in a city with 240,000 college students who need Christ.
The summer before we started our ministry, my brother Andy and I went to a Hillsong “Encounter” Conference. In addition to epic worship music, we got a vision for starting a new ministry every year before we even started the first one! The process of multiplying ministries has not been neat and easy, but we have seen God use it in powerful ways to expand his kingdom. Here is the most important principle:
Fill The Field, Not A Room.
My dad, John Worcester, has taught me this powerful lesson about filling a field instead of a room. Most ministry leaders have a vision for a big crowd of people worshiping Jesus and listening to you brilliantly explain the Word. But my dad has taught me…
A full room is too small of a vision.
Our staff sees the college students within driving distance (20-30mins) in San Diego as our mission field. We were not content to have one really “successful” ministry on one campus when there are 10 other campuses within our reach.
Multiplying ministries allows us to do what marketing people call “skimming.” There are a certain number of people that you will naturally attract given the style and leadership of your ministry. Once you have effectively “skimmed” one campus, you are ready to go to a new campus and skim.
One thing that we found was that it is a lot easier to get 15-20 to people come to a new ministry than it is to add 15-20 to our existing ministry.
Here is an illustration: There were two apple farmers. One farmer was very proud of one of his apple trees. It that was so fruitful that it produced an astounding 300 apples! The second farmer was impressed saying, “Wow, I’ve never had a tree produce over 60 apples! But I have 100 trees, so even if I lose one of my trees, I still have plenty!”
Some people are working so hard at growing their one tree that the neglect the important work of multiplying ministries.
In your ministry are you seeking to plant one big tree or an orchard?
Starting new ministries is hard, but it is worth it. Imagine your city or your campus with a vibrant ministry for every campus and every pocket of people!
“The Maze Runner” is the boy version of hunger games.
It is about teens being mistreated and forced to survive under unfair odds in a dystopian future. That being said, it is an entertaining movie. It has the classic “paradise lost” type of society without too much weirdness. Also, the monsters were cool and reminded me of the spiders from Lord of the Rings.
The message of the movie is that fear paralyzes us but courage sets us free.
Many of the boys were content with the status quo and afraid of change. Here’s how I interpret the movie….
The maze can be seen as society in general. Most people are content just live with what they know and don’t ask questions. But there are a few explorers and innovators who boldly pursue change. These are the people who change the world.
Thomas, the hero of the story was willing to risk his life in order to escape. Here’s the principle,
Nothing great in life is accomplished without risk.
The right kind of risk is a requirement for progress. Thomas showed the ability to lead and inspire the other boys to follow him to freedom. Out of five starts I would give it a three and a half because it was entertaining, but did not have the depth of some other stories in the same genre. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Are you content with the status quo or are you someone who is unafraid to try new things?
This new year, don’t just set goals, set SMART goals!
The acrostic SMART is a tool that many have used to help them reach their goals.
“I want to eat healthier.” “I want to exercise more.” These are not specific goals! Vagueness is the enemy of progress. It has been said…
“If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.”
Having a measure will let you know if you actually achieved your goal. A measurable goal for eating would be to not eat dessert. A measurable goal for exercise would be 20 minutes twice a week. You know if you did it or not.
A goal without a way of measuring it will not produce the results you want.
If you make your goals too big you will ultimately fail and get discouraged. Nothing stops positive momentum more than unattainable and unrealistic goals.
Set a goal that stretches you but also is something you can actually picture doing. This is why many diets don’t work. People don’t build goals with the fact that life is unpredictable into their system. The result is they fall of the wagon and they fall hard!
An attainable goal is a goal that can fit into your life now with out totally rearranging your schedual!
Don’t set goals about things that don’t fit with your primary mission. What we say no to impacts us just as much as what we say yes to. Part of keeping the goals that are important to us is learning to say no to good things so that we can say yes to the best things.
Time is your best friend in goal setting. If you set a goal for a limited time you will be able to look back and see your progress. For example, last year I set a goal of blogging everyday through the New Testament. When I was finished with the year I knew I was finished with my goal!
What are some of your goals for 2015?
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At the end of the Revelation there is a strong warning not to add or subtract from it.
“And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” Rev 22:18-19
Even though this warning is specifically for the book of Revelation I believe the principle of not adding to or taking away from the Bible stands for all 66 books.
When we add extra rules to the Bible we become legalistic.
Paul warned the Corthians not to go beyond what is written because this leads to pride.
“That you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. I Cor. 4:6b.
Make sure you do not make helpful tools for you into rules that everyone should do.
When we take the parts of the Bible away that make us uncomfortable, we miss vital truth and water down the gospel.
Our culture would like Christians to adapt our message, but we must not. The power of our message only holds strong when we stick to the truth.
In an attempt to win them over we confuse true seekers if we don’t address the hard parts of the Bible. When they do eventually hear the truth they will wonder why we were not more straight forward.
The great thing about God’s Word is that it tells us everything we need to know to follow him and live productive lives.
What are some other reasons that it is important not to add or subtract from the Bible?
Share on Facebook or Twitter or post a comment. Get daily updates by subscribing by email. From my reading in Revelation 22 in the One Year Bible New Testament.
“Unbroken” is not for the faint of heart.
It captured a painfully realistic look at the amazing story of Louis Zamperini. Though there are some lighthearted moments, director Angelina Jolie took pains to show the anguish of what Zamperini endured. Personally, the highlight was seeing how he survived 45 days on a life raft by eating fish, a shark, and even an albatross! It is pretty amazing that men could survive for that long on the open ocean.
The rest of the movie shows in gripping detail the torture he and the other prisoners of war endured under the Japanese.
Zamperini showed strength in the face of many beatings, crazy work conditions, and pschological torture. In all of these situations he never backed down. I believe were three things the kept Zamperini alive during these horrible tragedies and can help us endure sufferings we face.
1. Listen to friends who encourage and believe in you.
Zamperini’s brother believed in him, before he believed in himself.
His older brother was the one who encouraged him to start running track instead of running from the cops. Zamperini’s learned endurance through running, and that preserverance served him well later. In training, his older brothers told him,
“If you can take it, you can make it.”
Believing in a person can totally transform someone’s life. As a minister, part of my job is to believe in people even when they don’t believe in themselves.
2. Realize the pain is temporary.
Eventually, Zamperini became a great distance runner and made the Olympics in Germany. As he was leaving on the train his brother shouted…
“One moment of pain is nothing compared to a lifetime of glory.”
I believe it was this statement that got Zamperini through many of his trials. His brother probably meant it in a physical sense, but the statement also has deep meaning for Christians. The Apostle Paul faced even worse trails than Zamperini and wrote this,
“And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble.” 2 Cor 4:17 GNT
For the Christian, trouble is temporary.
We can look forward to the day when we will experience no more crying or pain in Heaven. I believe that it was hope it wasn’t going to last forever that got Zamperini through even the darkest days.
3. Trust in God to get you through.
In the middle of a violent storm Zamperini prayed a desperate prayer,
“God if you get me through this, I will serve you for my whole life, I will do whatever you want.”
Somehow God got him through, because God had a plan for Zamperini. God saved Zamperini and he kept his promise to God by serving him for the rest of his life. His story has been used to inspired many to keep on running the race God has for them.
Once rescued, he returned home and ended up getting saved at a Billy Graham crusade in LA. After being forgiven by Jesus he forgave his oppressors in Japan. He even got to fulfill his dreaming running in the Olympics by carrying torch at the Japan Olympics when he was 80 years old. No matter what you are facing this movie can encourages you to endure, if you can endure the movie!
How does this story inspire you to endure through suffering?
Heaven is another term for the New Earth. This is the permanent home for everyone who decides to follow Jesus. In Revelation 21, John describes his vision of Heaven.
1. In Heaven we will experience beauty beyond description.
And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Revelation 21:2
The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones… Revelation 21:19
The happiest moment of my life was when I saw my beautiful wife walk down the aisle in her white dress. She was dazzling and radiant. John felt the way I felt when he first saw heaven. That’s why he equated it with a bride dressed up for her husband. He was blown away with the beauty of heaven.
Then when he described it he used precious stones which were the most beautiful things he could imagine. Heaven will be beautiful beyond our wildest imaginations.
2. In Heaven we will experience God face to face.
Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. Revelation 21:3
I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. Revelation 21:22
The best part of heaven is that we will experience God face to face! He is the main attraction. We will not need a temple because God’s presence will be with us. What an amazing experience it will be to constantly be in the unhindered presence of God!
3. In Heaven we won’t experience any sorrow, death or pain.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4
All the horrible losses that we experience on earth will be gone. There will be no more depression or heart ache. There will be no more grief. There will be no more murder or war. There will be no more pain of any kind. No more disease. No more injury. No more suffering!
4. In Heaven everything we experience will be new.
Look, I am making everything new! Revelation 21:5
Yes Aladdin, it really will be “a whole new world.” The new earth will be similar to the earth we experience, but everything will be renewed and unhindered by sin.
5. In Heaven we will experience God’s glory unhindered.
And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. Revelation 21:23
God’s glory will give us light! Can you imagine what it will be like to constantly be living in God’s glory for all of eternity?
6. In Heaven we will experience ultimate safety.
Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. Revelation 21:25
Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Revelation 21:27
There will be no need to lock the gate because we will be completely safe. There will be no trace of evil in heaven. In the Garden of Eden, Satan was allowed to enter and tempt Adam and Even; in heaven, nothing will be allowed to enter and mess up the perfect balance of heaven.
Which of these experiences in heaven are you most looking forward to?
Share on Facebook or Twitter or post a comment. Get daily updates by subscribing by email. From my reading in Revelation 21 in the One Year Bible New Testament.
God wins in the end!
There is a final battle if that is what you want to call it. Satan will try and muster a force to fight God, but they are not even a match for his power.
“He [Satan] will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle—a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them.” Rev 20:8-9
No matter how big the army against God, He will always win.
It is comforting to know that the final battle will be very lopsided. Satan’s army was consumed with fire and then sent to the lake of fire.
“Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Rev 20:10
In the end God will judge every person on earth.
“And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Rev 20:15
People will be judged by God at the end. If your name is in the Book of Life you will go to Heaven. If you have not received Jesus and your name is not in the Book of Life you will go to Hell.
Are you sure that your name is in the Book of Life?
Share on Facebook or Twitter or post a comment. Get daily updates by subscribing by email. From my reading in Revelation 20 in the One Year Bible New Testament.
The third installment of “The Hobbit” was a fun movie.
It was the best of the three “Hobbit” films. How can you not enjoy Legolas riding a bat, a troll, and magically “Mario-ing” falling stones (if you saw the movie you would understand).
The primary plot was centered around Thorin the king of the dwarves and his battle against greed.
Once Thorin got the treasure, it changed him. He stopped caring about anyone but himself. He became mad with power, broke his promises and was even willing to start an unnecessary war to save his “precious” treasure.
Greed is a very real problem in all facets of our world.
- Because of greed, corporations are willing to treat employees unfairly.
- Because of greed, drug trade and sex trafficking exists.
- Because of greed, counties go to war over natural resources.
- Because of greed, families are torn apart fighting over money issues.
Jesus wisely warned us to guard against greed of all types.
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15
The best things in life really are free!
Money can’t buy you love, friendship, family, or faith. You can’t measure the quality of your life by the quantity of your money. Many rich people are depressed and many people with modest means are happy. One of the quickest ways to shipwreck your faith is when “the desire to acquire goes haywire.”(Ed Young Jr).
Bilbo Baggins was the one to remind Thorin what really matters in life.
Bilbo Baggins chose peace over profit and honor over hoarding. We should do the same. Contentment is a key attitude in the Bible as well. Paul instructs us.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Tim 6:6-8
Contentment is the key to true riches.
If we have food, clothing and a warm bed we should be content. We should focus on loving others and using things and not loving things and using people.
Thorin on the other hand was caught in the treasure trap Paul warns us about.
“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of moneyis a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faithand pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Tim 6:9-10
Greed leads only to grief.
Loving money more than you love God and others will end up ruining your life. It will ruin your relationships and cause you to do many evil things.
Fortunately Thorin realizes the folly of his ways and ends his life honorably. Instead of trusting his treasure he fought for what is right. Paul tells us,
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds,and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Tim 6:17-19
True life comes when you give it away.
It is easy for the rich to become arrogant but we must not hope in our money. God is the one we must trust with our lives, not our money. The best way to break the back of greed in our lives is to give generously. Thorin found true life only when he was wiling to give it away.
As he was dying, Thorin told Biblo, “the world would be a better place if there were more people you, who long for home more than they long for treasure.”