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Friday, July 24, 2015

Mission Interact 8: Training for the Fight

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. —1 Timothy 4:12-15  

When the apostle Paul was training up his protégé Timothy in the disciplines of faith, he established a healthy standard. That standard wasn’t perfection; it was perseverance. “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” He wasn’t asking Timothy to try, but rather instructing him to train.

What do you need to train for?

Note in the passage above that Paul included both personal and public practices as part of his training for Timothy. This younger Christian was to make sure his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity were worthy of a follower of Jesus. Timothy was also to be intentional about using his unique gifting as he ministered to others. These would make a long and daunting to-do list if the expectation was perfection.

But… following Christ is not about a to-do list. It isn’t about a checklist.

When Paul told Timothy to “practice” and “immerse” himself in these pursuits, he was calling him to an attitude of perseverance in training. It’s an attitude Paul had stated earlier and was reinforcing for its significance: “ . . . train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Do you sometimes feel like you need to be perfect in order for God to use you, love you, or accept you?

If we aim at perfection, we fall short. But if we persevere at making genuine progress, willing to let God work on us as long as it takes, good things happen. We won’t ever “arrive” at perfection this side of heaven, but we are growing and moving forward. We’re farther along than we were a year ago—and wiser than we were six months ago. God delights in such progress.

Most people already know you aren’t perfect, so don’t waste time trying to prove otherwise. But they will pay attention when they see progress in your life. You will be amazed at the way God makes little adjustments in your character that can have a huge impact on others. In order for these good things to happen, you must persevere with Christ.

The authentic Christian life is often compared to a journey and a long race. Seeing the end of his own life, Paul told Timothy “I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). How you run today reflects how much you have benefited from all the training you've received.
Even failures are part of God’s training plan. Like Timothy, you haven’t finished the race yet, so today is another opportunity to persevere. Following Jesus is the ultimate marathon, and the more you incorporate the reality of spiritual endurance in your life, the more you will find yourself accelerating as you cross the finish line.

Would you honestly say you trend toward perfection or sloppiness?

No matter what your answer above, what would genuine spiritual progress look like in your life? 

How will you make this a year of progress in your walk with Christ?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fight For it! Mission Interact 8!

Today, as you are faced again with your weakness, remember that the Holy Spirit lives within you with powerful, enabling grace.
What does that mean? 
What does that look like?

It means because of what Jesus did, we have power to overcome the things we struggle with.
Before Jesus, fighting wasn’t an option. There was no fight. Sin had us pinned. Sin had us beaten. But now… we are ABLE to fight...
But I'm not just talking about sin.
I'm talking about the things in this life that hold us back from our fullest potential. The things that consume our minds, the things which make us feel inadequate or unworthy of living differently.
What are those things for you? Be honest.
Let's get practical.
(Don't give blanket answers.)
How? and When?
How are you going to begin fighting out of faith?
When will you begin?
The Gospel attacks feelings of inadequacies, hurts, doubts, insecurities... Oh they may still be around, but their power is cut. Their stranglehold on how I live is loosened. The pit they try to force me into has been filled.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20 NLT)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved! (Ephesians 2:4-5 NLT)

Friends, when you go back to life next week with the same feeling of worthlessness, when you feel underappreciated, when you feel too stupid to accomplish the task at school, when you are confused, when you are hurt, when someone violently attacks you… whether physically or verbally... When you think all hope of anything good is all lost...
Remember the Gospel that undercuts everything in this life and reminds us that this is not our home.

I'm with you in this today. I'm living this right here. Right now. I'm attacking my own feelings of inadequacy. I'm wrestling with my own thoughts of, "Now what?!"

I'm attacking by using the message of Jesus. I'm looking forward to that glorious day. I'm looking for extra opportunities to actively love my neighbor.

Because I know how the story ends.

“Brothers and sisters, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do. (Acts 13:38, 39 NLT)


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor at River Run Church in East Orlando, FL. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology.  In 2014 he attended the Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ where he continued his education from other pastors and educators at one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. He loves the outdoors, whether it is camping in the mountains or jumping through the waves at the beach, nothing is better than enjoying God’s creation. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

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Nathan's Website


Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Purpose of Parables

I have been asked from time to time the question as to why Jesus preached in parables. This past
week at our church, River Run, our Lead Pastor preached on the Parable of the Sower, and quiet honestly it took me by surprise when I read it again and realized that the answer as to why Jesus used parables is answered in this famous and very first parabolic story. Let's dive in!

One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
When they hear, they won’t understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
-Luke 8:4-15 NLT

A Survey of Soils

Whether we read through Matthew’s eyes, Mark’s quick reference, or the narrative of Luke, the parable of the “horrible farmer” is one that grips our attention. Many of us grew up hearing about this farmer who scatters seed just about everywhere. As kids we sang songs about him. As adults we read the story and may wonder if the farmer is drunk or just careless. Who throws seed, precious, valuable seed, on a footpath? What hope does he have of anything growing up in the rocks or among thorny weeds?

The Sower here is not the ideal image of a farmer; no matter which century he lives in. Yet this is the image Jesus chose to use in His story. If perplexing it is to us, how much more ridiculous would it have been to imagine in first century Palestine; a culture and a land that hung its very survival on the harvest of its crops?

Essentially though, Jesus is less concerned about the farmer and more focused on the soil in His story. The farmer scatters seed everywhere because the soil is all the same… what matters is what else is in the soil along with the scattered seed.

In Jesus’ parable the soil is the human heart. Some hearts are impenetrable (the hard path); nothing is able to grow there, not with the dryness and hardness. In fact, even if that ground were to be tilled up and softened the farmer would have to guard it to keep the birds from stealing the seed. Other hearts are shallow and rocky. The rocks prevent any real harvest since the plants can’t survive long without moisture, deep nutrition, and deeper roots. Concerning the third soil, Jesus’ audience probably didn’t envision these seeds being thrown into the middle of a living weed and thorn patch; then again this farmer doesn’t seem to care where he throws his seed. By the time the farmer would be scattering seed, the thorns would have had to endure a long, hot, very dry summer which probably left the weeds withered and dead. The farmer is scattering seed among dead weeds. The more accurate depiction here would be that of good seed competing with bad seed. The implications of this picture hit a little closer to home: Our lives may look pure, but there are weedy seeds in our soil. In fact, we may look clean and pure but it won’t take long to realize that weeds are growing up alongside us, choking out our life source.

And then there is the good soil. It is pure…. full of nutrients… nothing hindering the plants to take root and bear fruit.

That leaves us with verse 10:

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
When they hear, they won’t understand.’”

What in all Gehenna does Jesus mean?