Archive for: April, 2013

A Paradigm for Leadership Responsibility: Articulating the Knowledge of Christ

Apr 29 2013 Published by under Leadership, Ministry

By Dr. Randy Hedlun

Randy_HedlunPaul had never visited the church at Colosse, having only heard about the believers there from the founding evangelist, Epaphras. Epaphras was probably converted through Paul’s preaching in Ephesus during his third missionary campaign. Being full of the gospel’s power and zeal, he returned to his home region and planted a church. The cultural region around Colosse was characterized by the variety of religious and philosophical ideas and belief systems that competed for attention and allegiance. Located on the main trade route that connected the Euphrates with Rome, Colosse enjoyed an unending stream of the world’s ideas, values, and behaviors.

Within a few years, perhaps 3-5 years, the church was in trouble. The ideas and religious beliefs prevalent in the area were confusing and misleading the people. The Good News about Jesus that had powerfully changed believers’ lives was being inundated with corrupting and competing notions, superstitions, and lifestyles. The church was in trouble with the truth about Jesus being diluted and distorted by human systems of thought, cultural values and traditions, and alternative priorities.

The zeal of evangelism is not always equal to the responsibility of spiritual leadership. Epaphras’ zealous and effective role in declaring the gospel was not sufficient to shepherd the church through dangerous territory. It is believed that Epaphras went to find Paul to seek his assistance to bring correction, leadership, and instruction to the Colossian believers. In response to hearing of the Colossian believers’ plight, Paul wrote the letter we know as Colossians to bring correction, encouragement, and direction to this struggling body of Jesus followers.

It is important to note how Paul responds to the need for pastoral care and authoritative instruction. There seem to be two ways in which Paul responds to the problems in the Colossian church:

1.     Paul prays that the believers would know God’s will (spiritual wisdom and understanding) and have power for endurance to live a godly life.

There is no substitute for prayer! Spiritual leaders must know when to pray and must accept the responsibility to intercede for the people for those things that are granted supernaturally by God himself. Christians who have a praying leader will experience a greater knowledge of God’s will and have more power to endure than those without such a leader!

2.     Paul instructs them according to his own knowledge, wisdom, and skill. The church also has needs that can only be met by leaders who have developed the knowledge and skills to instruct, correct, and encourage in Truth.

Paul begins his pastoral correction of the errors and confusion in Colossians 1:15 by laying the foundation of who Christ is, what His role in creation is, and what He has to offer His followers.

Paul is presenting his superior understanding about Christ in clear, authoritative language. The truth about Christ must be the foundation of all teaching. The truth about Christ is the most sure vaccination against error and confusion in the church. The ability to explain Christ accurately and skillfully undergirds the authority of all spiritual leaders.

Paul would go on to address specific issues about the problems in Colosse, about Christian living, relationships, and holiness. But first he reestablished the foundation of truth about Christ upon which all other teaching must be based.

In our own experiences living in a confusing world with so many religious and philosophical voices competing for our attention, it is only the well-developed and well-articulated knowledge of Christ that will protect and guide us into Truth. And in our diverse opportunities to influence others, it must be prayer and the well-articulated truth about Jesus that dominates these relationships!

 

Dr. Randy Hedlun serves as Global University’s Vice Provost and as Dean of Global’s Berean School of the Bible. To learn more about Global University, please visit www.globaluniversity.edu.

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Aunt Flora’s Parlor

Apr 24 2013 Published by under Life

By Carolyn Hittenberger

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Hebrews 12:1-2 …since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.                        

Who are the witnesses of Hebrews 12:1?   How are they witnesses?  Where are they?

In some profoundly mysterious way this passage indicates that the witness of those who have gone before us in the faith, surrounds us.  The issue is not whether or not they are peering at us over a celestial balcony.  The influence of their lives and in some cases their deaths, impacts our lives.

On many holidays of my childhood, Dad’s beat up panel truck carried us the 18 miles to Aunt Flora’s sprawling white farmhouse. Its wrap-around porch invited the adults to relax in over-sized wooden rockers. For us children, it was a fort or a ship or whatever we imagined it to be.  At dinner time the mahogany dining table groaned with home made everything.  My mouth still tingles at the memory of Aunt Flora’s apple pie accompanied by chunks of cheese.Following dinner everyone gathered to sing.  Mom’s petite hands caressed the yellowed keys and her small feet pumped air into the dusty reeds of the aged parlor organ.  Sitting beside the velvet-curtained sound box, my heartbeat became one with the rhythm of those hymns.

The scent of things past pricked my nose on those special occasions when Aunt Flora slid back the heavy wooden doors of her parlor.  Ornate gold frames hanging on faded wallpaper, embraced the “portrait people”: my grandmother as a bride, who died when my father was born; Aunt Flora, a beauty at 18 who was left responsible for the care of her baby brother; my father as a curly haired toddler standing beside a three-cornered chair; my grandfather who when 12 lied his age to join the army; and a dozen or so others.  Family history and my childish understanding of it exchanged glances.

Dad‘s gifted storytelling inscribed on my young mind the joys and pain of the portrait people.  I felt a bond with those who’d gone before me. A glimpse of those whose past formed the foundation for my life warmed me with a sense of belonging.  Aunt Flora’s braided rug left its imprint on my legs as I sat on the floor, listening, and the stories of those I had never known stamped my spirit with the security of family.

We do not walk this Christian life alone.  The witness of those who’ve preceded us proclaims God’s faithfulness.  They started the path, escaped the snares, and endured the race, looking to Jesus.  Through the golden frame of Biblical accounts and historical portraits we taste the sweetness and security of belonging.  Hymns and testimonies bind our hearts to those who persevered and laid for us a foundation of faith.  Though sometimes the rough places of this world would leave their mark on us, deeper, sweeter, and more lasting is the stamp of influence left by testimonies of His Life in others.  Exchange glances with those who surround us as witnesses.  Ours is a heritage of victory.  Rejoice!  We are surrounded by family!

Father, I thank You for providing me with witnesses whose lives encourage me to walk the path You have laid out for me.  Grant me the same power to, like them, persevere with joy.  Thank you that I do not walk alone.

Carolyn Hittenberger is Assistant for the Caribbean Regional Office at Global University and also works with University Communications. For more information about Global University, visit http://think.globaluniversity.edu.

 

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Stay off the treadmill!

Apr 15 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

by Ron BontragerRonandDorene2012CROP

As a runner I have learned to stay off the treadmill. I love to run outdoors, especially on those cold, crisp mornings of winter. It’s so invigorating! Maybe it’s because I’m actually running for my life just to stay warm, but I think mostly it’s because of the beautiful outdoors. You never know what beauty you’re going to see. Yet for me the treadmill is totally the opposite. It is so monotonous. It feels like I’m not making any progress even though I actually am. It can actually make me want to quit running altogether.

 It occurred to me that’s exactly how it is with other areas of my life. I can easily get on the treadmill of ministry, family, pastoring, or whatever and lose my focus in the process. When that happens, I forget why I’m doing what I’m doing and I no longer see my progress.

 As we begin another year, I have a piece of advice: Stay off the treadmill!

 How can we make sure of this? First, we have to reassess. To reassess means to measure the value of something, to try and determine its actual worth. When I’m on the treadmill, I forget how important the people whom God has put into my life are. The treadmill causes me to underestimate how valuable my ministry is and, most importantly, how important my relationship with God is. The holidays are a gift, given so we can step back from the treadmill of life and reassess our relationships, our gifts and calling, and, most of all, our walk with God. The New Year’s song “Auld Lang Syne” comes from a Scottish poem and means “old times fondly remembered; old friendships tenderly rekindled.” When we reassess, we begin to rekindle the value of the life God has so generously given us.

 Second, we have to repent. The most important part of the reassessing process is telling ourselves the truth about the condition of our lives. If we have fallen into a mindset of drudgery, if we’re on the treadmill and have devalued some of what God has entrusted to us, it’s time to repent. We may need to repent to our family for robbing them of our best effort. We may need to repent to God for treating His gifts casually. The church of Ephesus was on the ministry treadmill. They were still doing all the right things; they were working hard; but they had lost something very precious. They no longer valued God or people the way they once had. Jesus said to them,

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works. (Revelation 2:2–5 NKJV)

Finally, we have to rest. There is a rest that transcends physical sleep. There is a rest we enter into by faith. This is a deep rest that strengthens the soul for the long journey. Jesus invited people to come unto Him and find rest for their souls. He said His yoke is easy and His burdens are light (Matthew 11:28–30). If life for you has become difficult and heavy, you may be on the treadmill. God promises a heaven-sent rest for your soul. I pray you find it!

 Ron Bontrager is Lead Pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information about Lakeview, please visit www.lakeviewchurch.org

 

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What The Resurrection of Jesus Can Mean For You.

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Evangelism

by Michael Goldsmith

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 We’ve recently celebrated Easter weekend.  For millions of people it was about family gatherings.  It was loading up the car, traveling to mom’s house, spending the weekend with family and hiding brightly colored eggs for the children to hunt.  For others, it was a reminder that winter is over, spring has come, summer is not far away.  Their weekend may have been spent cleaning out the garage or airing out the house and catching up on a long list of “spring cleaning” chores.  For others it was a good excuse for new clothes and the annual pilgrimage to church.  But for millions and millions it was the day to be reminded of how incredible God’s love is for us (by coming to this world to die for us); and how mysterious God really is (His life began with a virgin birth and ended with being raised from the dead); and how much God wants to be involved in our lives.

Something about Easter and Spring just go together.  Both of them symbolize new life.  Both symbolize the passing of death and the entrance of life.  Occasionally, I ponder what my life would have been like had I never allowed Christ to become my Savior.  I’m very certain that I’ll never know what it would have turned into without Him.  I’m simply, and overwhelmingly, awed that I am what I am today because of the grace of God within me.

1 Corinthians 15:20 says, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead…”  After expounding on what life would mean without the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians, tells us about the benefits of His resurrection.  In keeping with Easter, the Resurrection, and new life, I’d like to list four benefits of Jesus’ Resurrection.

1. Sin is forgivable.  Because Jesus is alive and was raised miraculously from death, we can be forgiven.  The stable is important because Jesus was born.  The cross is important because He died.  And the empty tomb is important because He is alive.  1 Cor. 15:17 tells us,

“if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”  We’d have no forgiveness had He not come out of that grave.  But HE did!  His forgiveness is comprehensive and expansive.  It has the capacity to forgive anything and everything.

 2. Grace is available.  1 Cor. 15:10 reads, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain (or empty); but I labored even more than all of the them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  Grace is a mystery.  It’s a power more wonderful than you can imagine.  It’s by grace that we are saved, given gifts and talents, given our place in the body of Christ, and made to know His will.  It’s by grace that we endure difficulty and challenges, stand up when we fall, overcome discouragement and defeat, and are made more than conquerors.  It’s by grace that we live, move and have our existence.  Grace is available in unmeasured quantities because of Jesus’ Resurrection.

3. Life is meaningful.  The power of the resurrection can not only take the worst of sinners and change him into sainthood; but it can also take the most miserable of lives and transform it into robust joy, purpose, significance and peace.  Bookstores are packed with buyers looking to find meaning in life, marriage, career, parenting, and the future.  Jesus offers all of that to each of us.  It is by His promise that we receive life to the full (John 10:10). 

 The Resurrection makes the future hopeful.  James 1:12 records, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  The emptiness of a Middle Eastern tomb makes life bright not because it’s empty but because of who left it empty.

 Just as surely as Spring is bringing new life, Jesus can bring new life to you.  If you would simply acknowledge your sins and failures; ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart; believe in your heart that He is Lord and Savior; and confess that with your mouth you can be saved.  Why don’t you give Him your life?  Why don’t you rededicate your life to Him?  Why don’t you take a moment and let His love pour over you? 

Michael Goldsmith has pastored congregations in North Little Rock, Conway, Pine Bluff and Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.   He now serves with Global University as Director of Advancement for a project in a sensitive country.  You can reach him at mgoldsmith@globaluniversity.edu 

 

 

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