Dec 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

May God bless you this Christmas and may we never forget that we have a God who came to be with us.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

Matthew 1:18-23

Dec 21, 2011

Should We Be Leading or Following?

In his new book I Am a FollowerLeonard Sweet poses this question with a fairly obvious answer. Early on Sweet argues that we have bought into the myth that to be effective in ministry we need to be leaders. He believes that we should not be trying to be leaders, instead we need to work on being the best followers that we can. In last few decades, the emphasis in ministry is been on how you can be a better leader and how being a better leader will make your ministry better. Sweet, however, thinks that we need to work on being better followers. The life that Jesus called us to was a life of "followership" not a life of leadership. There is only one leader for Christians, that leader is Jesus. We should not be leaders leading Christians, we are followers following Christ and helping other follow him, too.

Sweet breaks down his book by structuring it around Jesus' statement that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. At first, I thought that Sweet was stretching Jesus' words to make this argument, but the more I read the more it made sense to me. You could break down Sweet's basic argument like this: Jesus' followers are called to be just like Jesus. Jesus says that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Therefore, Jesus' followers should be like Jesus pointing to him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We cannot be those things, but we should be living in such a way that we fully embrace and live out the fact that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The book is divided into 4 parts: Introduction, Way, Truth, and Life. In each portion Sweet explains how a Christians needs to be a follower of Christ and not a Leader of people.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to anyone who holds a role of leadership in the church. My one warning is this: Sweet seems to overstate things in the beginning that make you question where his is going. Then a few paragraphs or pages later he rationalizes what he says. So while he argues against leadership, I don't think that he would say there are no "leaders" in the church. There are people who fill the role of leader in the church, but they need to fill it as a fellow humble follower and not as a extremely well-qualified and potentially prideful leader. Read this book, let it challenge you. There are some places that I disagreed with a little, but overall I found that this  book that challenges me not to try to make myself better, but instead to make myself more like Jesus.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dec 14, 2011

Putting the Spirit Back in Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of year. The countdown to Christmas has begun. It is the season of advent. This means that, other than presents, most people have one singular focus: Jesus. For the most part, that’s not bad. I would never stop someone from focusing on Jesus, especially at Christmas. I do, however, think that one person gets the short end of the stick when it comes to this season: The Holy Spirit. He did so much work at the “first Christmas” and is ignored by many at this time of year.

I just finished reading Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God and was very challenged by what he had to say. Christians are supposed to be living by the Spirit, and yet we ignore him so much. We have let ourselves forget what he has done and is still doing in the world, and yet he is probably the most important part of a believer’s life. Even though Chan doesn’t talk about Christmas, I was struck by the fact that Christmas is yet another one of those times when we have forgotten or at least failed to acknowledge the work of the spirit.

Matthew records twice within a matter just a few sentences that Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit. The very incarnation of Jesus, the event that we celebrate each year at Christmas, was done through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, as we remember the time of waiting for Jesus to come and we wait for Jesus to come again, we can’t forget what the Spirit is still doing. When Jesus was preparing to leave, he promised to send another counselor to be with us, the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, Jesus did not abandon us, but instead the Holy Spirit lives with us and in us as we wait for his return.

It may seem odd that I would write about the Spirit before the celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus, when the spirit has his own Church Holiday, Pentecost. But it is terrible to forget the entire work of God in this time of year. When you thank God the Father for sending his son Jesus, don’t forget to thank the Spirit for doing his work. I pray that we never forget or ignore the work of God any time of the year.