Passing the Torch: Four Ways to Prepare the Next Generation to Lead Well

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This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry + College/Career Ministry Kindle Retreat on Saturday, January 23, 2015.

Key Text: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

INTRODUCTION
The call to leadership is a call to discipleship. Christian leaders are given the responsibility to not only lead well, but to invest in the next generation so that they can carry on the gospel task. John Maxwell sums it up well: “The best leaders lead today with tomorrow in mind by making sure they invest in leaders who will carry their legacy forward.” In fact, one of the goals of leadership is to make yourself replaceable. Ideally, a leader should put people and systems in place so that if they have to leave their leadership role for some reason, things will keep running smoothly. As we will see in 2 Timothy, Christian leaders are commanded to “guard the good deposit” of the gospel in themselves and in those who they will pass the torch to.

EXAMPLES IN SCRIPTURE
It is interesting that none of the leaders in the Bible were seeking a leadership position. They were all underdogs and ordinary men and women who God chose and empowered to lead well. There are several positive and negative examples in Scripture of leaders passing the torch to the next generation. In the Old Testament, there are two different “succession plans” that start out well, but end in disaster. The first one begins with Moses. God appoints Moses as the leader of His people, who will lead them out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. Along the way, Moses selected a young man named Joshua to be his special assistant and began to invest in him. Joshua was chosen to be one of the twelve spies to go scout out the Promised Land and he and Caleb were the only two that trusted that God would fulfill His promise to give them victory (Numbers 13). As Moses neared the end of his life, he asked God to appoint a leader to take his place and Joshua was chosen (Numbers 27).

Joshua then led the nation of Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land. In addition to his military prowess, he also kept the people on track spiritually by constantly reminding them of God’s law, covenants, and promises.  Joshua 24:31 tells us that “Israel served the Lord in all the days of Joshua.” However, Joshua didn’t appoint a leader behind him, which leads to the downward spiral of Israel in the book of JudgesRead more of this post

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Why Do You Worship?

Worship BG - Not To Us

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Key Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

WHAT IS WORSHIP?

You and I are worshiping every second of every day. We are continually pouring ourselves out for people, causes, things, or experiences. Worship never stops.

So what is worship? It is much more than just singing songs or playing an instrument (though that is certainly part of it). Christian worship is a biblically faithful response to a biblically faithful understanding of God. It is both internal and external. The internal spirit of worship comes from experiencing and treasuring the beauty and worth of God as presented in the Bible. This results in an external response that shows what we have experienced and treasure. Worship begins in the heart as a matter of spirit and truth, and then flows out of the heart to impact every part of our daily life.

The opposite of selfless Christian worship is selfish worship, or idolatry. Idolatry is an unbiblical, unfaithful understanding of God and/or an unbiblical, unfaithful response to Him. Just like true worship, idolatry begins internally long before it manifests itself externally. And like true worship, it eventually flows from our heart to impact every area of our life.

John Calvin famously said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” Because of the sinful tendencies of our heart, we can twist things that are meant to bring glory to God and make them into idols. In other words, sin is not just doing bad things, but also making good things into ultimate things. This turns selfless worship into selfish worship. This is the very issue that Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34Read more of this post

Know Your Enemy: The Danger of Underestimating and Accommodating Sin

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry‘s Winter War Games event on Saturday, February 1, 2014.

Key Texts: Judges 2:11-17; Romans 8:5-13

What is the greatest enemy of the Christian? No doubt there are many enemies we face as believers: Satan, demonic powers, the temptations of the world, and sin just to name a few. Each of these is dangerous and something we should be on guard against.

However, Scripture tells us consistently that our greatest enemy isn’t Satan. It isn’t the demons. The greatest, most dangerous enemy for any Christian is his or her flesh. J.C. Ryle realized this: “Sin and the devil will always find helpers in our hearts.” My greatest enemy is myself. Your greatest enemy is yourself. From the day we are saved until the day we die, our new spiritual nature will be at odds against our old sinful flesh nature. Our hearts are idol factories! (Martin Luther) We must recognize this enemy that lives within us and take it seriously or it will overcome us.

In 1886, Robert Lewis Stevenson published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the book, the respected Dr. Jekyll has an evil living within him that manifests itself periodically in the form of Mr. Hyde who goes on violent, lustful rampages. At first, Dr. Jekyll is appalled by the actions of Mr. Hyde, but as time goes on, he comes to enjoy the release from morality that his evil side offers.

At one point Dr. Jekyll says, “I had learned to dwell with pleasure as a beloved daydream on the thought of the separation of these elements. If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities then life would be relieved of all that was unbearable: the unjust might go his way delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin, and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path doing the good things in which he found his pleasure and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.” Thinking he could control the two, he develops a potion that allows him to switch between the good Dr. Jekyll and the evil Mr. Hyde whenever he takes it. However, the more he feeds and enjoys his evil nature, the more it controls him. Eventually, Dr. Jekyll gets to the point where Mr. Hyde takes over at random times and can’t be subdued by the potion. Recognizing that eventually Mr. Hyde will completely consume the once honorable Dr. Jekyll, Jekyll pens a note that ends with “I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end” and commits suicide.

See how deadly our indwelling sin is? It wars against us in our pursuit of holiness. It tries to take us captive, lull us to sleep, and lead us away from the God who redeemed us from the curse. It promises temporary relief and pleasure, and the more we accommodate it like Dr. Jekyll did, the stronger it grows until it eventually kills us.

Let’s look at how this played out in the nation of Israel.  Read more of this post

Motivations for Discipleship

White Arrow On Blue Ground

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry‘s Disciple Now event on Friday, October 25, 2013.

Key Text: Colossians 3:1-13

Each follower of Christ, no matter how young or old, needs to take up his cross daily and pursue Jesus. Most Christians know that they need discipleship, but how do we get motivated to be and make disciples?

Apathy is a growing problem in America. The combination of economic and societal changes with an increased “busyness” has left many without the drive necessary to pursue bigger and better things. In 2011, the motivational market hit $11 billion in revenue. The average motivational speaker gets paid $4000-5000 per speaking event, with some commanding fees in excess of $100,000 per engagement.

Christians aren’t immune to apathy. In fact, one of the largest problems in the church today is biblical illiteracy stemming from believers not reading Scripture for themselves. Even fewer share the gospel or form discipleship relationships with other believers.

Motivations for Discipleship

To overcome this tendency towards apathy, here are 6 motivations for discipleship from Colossians 3:1-13:  Read more of this post

Movement Requires Action

The Movement.

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry on Wednesday, September 26, 2013

Key Text: Matthew 11:25-30

Any movement requires some sort of catalyst. As Sir Isaac Newton put it, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If I want a frisbee to move, I can’t just look at it and hope it moves. I have to pick it up, grip it, and throw it. It requires me to act. Movement is the mission; throwing is the catalyst.

The same is true of the Great Commission Movement (Matthew 28:18-20). We, as believers, must take action to keep it moving forward. Disciples make disciples who make disciples. This is the movement! To be a part of the Great Commission, you must be willing to do some work. You can talk about the Great Commission all you want, but until you strap on the yoke of Christ, you aren’t a part of it.

In Matthew 11:25-30, we see two actions that the Great Commission Movement requires. Being a part of Christ’s mission for believers requires the we practice active dependence and active discipline. Let’s look at each in-depth.  Read more of this post

5 Reasons to Study Scripture

This blog post was adapted from a Sunday School lesson that I prepared for the Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry on Sunday, August 25, 2013 to begin a semester-long study entitled “Scripture: Unchanging Truth in a Changing World.” If you’re a young adult in the Siloam Springs area, join us Sunday mornings at 9:15a as we continue this study.

Key Text: 2 Timothy 3:12-17

Paul knew the persecutions that would be faced by those who lived a godly life in a godless culture. By the time he is writing to Timothy, he has been stoned, shipwrecked, snakebitten, jailed, beaten, left for dead, spat upon, cursed, jailed again, and condemned to die. Though our society isn’t as hostile to Christianity as Paul’s was, we will still face degrees of persecution as believers. Paul recognized that there was one thing that had helped him face his persecutions and would help Timothy face his: Scripture: the only unchanging truth in a changing world.  Read more of this post

Hope for the Homosexual

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Key Text: Romans 1:16-32, 12:1-2

Homosexuality and same-sex unions are a hot-button topic in America today. Many in the church have had a hard time responding to these issues in a biblical way that balances compassion with truth. Unfortunately, some Christians have approached the LGBT community with hate that turns people away from the gospel while others have compromised the biblical truth in regards to homosexuality in the name of tolerance. Neither of these represents Christ well or offers help for those who struggle with same-sex attraction. The goal of this post is to summarize the biblical view of homosexuality and outline the only hope for those in the LGBT community: the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Read more of this post

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