One Hundred Dollars a Month

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“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:17-18 (ESV)

I am haunted by a recent conversation I had with a missionary. He was describing a national church planter who is laboring to sow the gospel among an unreached people group in a majority Muslim country. We’ll call him “Roger”.

Roger could have been the pastor of a Baptist church in a different province. He was offered the job, but he chose to turn it down because he felt a burden for this particular unreached people group. Roger wanted to preach the gospel where Christ has not yet been named, in obedience to the Great Commission. This meant he was trading a comfortable salary for financial hardship, respect for suspicion and mistrust, and a network of local support for a lonely existence on the mission frontier. Despite all this, Roger went, and he has remained faithful.

But it is becoming difficult for him to provide for his family. Roger is married with a 1-year-old, and his wife is pregnant with their second child. Another church planter who has been his teammate is moving away, leaving him alone in his city. The missionary I talked with has a plan to help Roger by setting him up with a new ministry platform, but it will require some money.

This missionary said to me, “if I could just find $100 a month, we could make this work.”

That’s the sentence I can’t get out of my head. One hundred dollars a month. This will support a national church planter who has given up a comfortable life to serve the Lord sacrificially. He is working among an unreached people group, who have no access to the gospel apart from people like Roger crossing cultural barriers to bring it to them.

Now I have to be honest with you, I have a pretty tight budget. My health insurance premiums nearly doubled this year. In order to make ends meet, we have cut a lot of what I consider “fat” out of our budget. We don’t have cable TV and we have very modest cell phone plans. So, the thought of finding $100/month in my current budget is a little intimidating.

But I know I could, and that’s what gets me. If one of my children had a health condition that required a $100/month prescription medication, I would find a way to pay for it. So, why would I refuse to cut the same amount of money for this? So I can go out the movies and buy a couple extra shirts for my already overstuffed closet? So I can sip on a fancy espresso drink at the coffee shop or cool my house to a chilly 71 degrees in the summer? Could I live without those things? Absolutely. But, am I willing? That is an uncomfortable question because it reveals that my priority is so often on my comforts instead of God’s kingdom. I would rather invest in me.

Just to take this one step further, if I can cut $100 a month, how much could I really cut? $200/month? $500? More?

I am not trying to create a new legalism here, but I am challenging all of us to look at our resources. What could we give to God’s work around the world if we simplified our lives and reduced our comforts for a higher purpose? We aren’t earning favor with God–that is done only by Jesus’ finished work on the cross. But, we are being obedient to our Lord Jesus, who laid down his life for us. There is greater treasure and greater comfort in that than anything $100/month can buy.

The Big Picture

Pastor Jonathan shares a message called “The Big Picture” from Revelation 5:9-10.

Revelation 5:9-10 (ESV)

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

We should understand how our salvation fits into God’s big picture.

  • We are ransomed for God.
  • We are the nations.
  • We are a kingdom and priests.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • If God is our king, then who is in really charge of our lives?
  • What is one way we can be more involved in missions?
  • Who are some people that our family can share God’s love with this week?

Of Brothers and Leaders

Pastor Jay continues his sermon series, Be Encouraged, Brothers with “Of Brothers and Leaders” from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (ESV)

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Respect your church leaders.

  • Recognize the leaders.
    • They are those who labor among you.
    • They are over you.
    • They admonish you.
  • Esteem them.
    • Esteem them highly.
    • Esteem them in love.
    • Esteem them because of their work.
  • Be at peace among yourselves.
    • Peace is a worthy goal in the body.
    • Peace is a bottom line commitment to church health.
    • Peace is the best practice of esteeming your leaders.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Think of a person you’d love to meet someday (movie star, Bible character). What would you want to talk to them about?
  • How would you treat that person?
  • While they are not celebrities, God says we should treat church leaders with respect like those people we admire.
  • What is one way you could honor a church leader this week? Be creative and maybe ask for a parent’s help.

Encouraging Discipleship –DIGS

The biblical word “disciple” means a “learner” or “student”. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ means to become a leaner/follower of Christ.

Every church has the assignment from Christ to go and make disciples (leading people to Christ) and to teach them to obey His commandments. The Bible is very clear that we are to do this. The Bible is less specific about the extent or manner we should use to measure our progress.

Some churches follow what writer, Matt Chandler labels, an “organic” approach to disciple making. Organic means natural. We put people together; we offer biblical opportunities to learn; we trust God to work by His Spirit and we let things go. The only downside of the organic method is that we may not know if or to what extent we’re succeeding.  (See Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, Ch. 7.)

Other churches go with what Chandler calls the “mechanical” approach.  With that model, we set a very specific curriculum and try to run everyone through it. We then call the people at the end of the process “a disciple”. The downside is that this can become a wooden, legalistic, cookie-cutter, approach to disciple making. You get a one-size-fits-all that really doesn’t.

At Grace, our method is very organic. We believe that if we lead people into an abiding relationship with Christ, they will grow. However, we are asking ourselves the question, can we be more intentional as to the tools we provide? Can we target key areas of growth and help our people “measure” their own progress?

In the coming months we are going to rollout a new way of tracking, measuring and encouraging discipleship. To keep with our metaphor of the tree, we are using the acronym DIGS, (cf., Luke 13:8). The letters stand for Doctrine, Inductive Bible Study, Gifts, and Spiritual Growth.  These four categories help define the broad areas of discipleship tools at our disposal.

D—doctrine and basic theology. What does the Bible teach about God?

I—inductive Bible study. How do I study the Bible effectively?

G—gifts and service. How can identify and develop my gifts to serve?

S—spiritual growth. How can I learn to grow? This is a big category that can span the gamut from spiritual disciplines to evangelism.

Note, that this does not necessarily mean that we have to offer vastly different material than we have in the past. DIGS provides a way to categorize, plan and balance our efforts.

From a leadership perspective, this will help us keep an eye on the kinds of learning opportunities we are providing and allow us a way of tracking our progress. As disciples, it allows you a way of making sure that you are growing in a well-rounded manner.  We’re not saying that if you go through four steps you are a fully mature disciple. It isn’t that mechanical, but we are suggesting that we all should seek progress in these key areas and not just assume that it is happening.

Look for these designations in the future to help guide and encourage you toward well-rounded progress in your pursuit of Christ.

A Good Destiny

Pastor Jay resumes his sermon series, Be Encouraged, Brothers with “A Good Destiny” from 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (ESV)

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

We have a good destiny.

  • God has not destined us for wrath.
  • God has destined us to obtain salvation.
  • God has destined us to live with Christ whether we are asleep or awake.
  • This is another one another.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Have you ever had to work hard to get something you wanted? What did you do, and what was it for?
  • When you were doing that task, was anyone giving you encouragement to finish? Who was it, and what did they say?
  • Paul talks about how difficult living for Jesus can be, but he wants us to encourage each other to keep working at it.
  • What is one way you could encourage someone to keep living for Christ this week?

Amazing Savior, Part 2

Pastor Jay concludes a special 2-week series, Amazing Savior, with Part 2 this Easter Sunday.

Matthew 28:1-6 (ESV)

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Acts 1:6-12 (ESV)

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

 

  • He is alive and triumphant.
  • He is alive and able.
  • He is alive, able and coming.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • When you think of Easter, what is the most incredible part of Jesus’ resurrection (besides his resurrection)?
  • What did Jesus show His power over by rising from the dead?
  • Why was it so important for Christ to rise from the grave?
  • What is one creative way to thank God for His plan for us through Christ?