Characteristics of Genuine Faith

There is a lot of talk about what a disciple of Jesus looks like, you can see that in previous posts:

  1. What does a disciple look like?
  2. How can you spot a disciple of Jesus?

I thought that these passages of Scripture help define genuine faith of a follower of Christ:

Evidence that proves nothing (for or against having faith):

  1. Visible morality (Matthew 19:16-21, 23:27)
  2. Intellectual knowledge (Romans 1:21, 2:17-29)
  3. Religious involvement (Matthew 25:1-10)
  4. Ministry involvement (Matthew 7:21-24)
  5. Conviction of sin (Acts 24:25)
  6. A past decision (Luke 8:13-14)

Evidence (or Fruit) of Authentic Faith:

  1. Love for God (Psalm 42:1, 73:25, Luke 10:27, Romans 8:7)
  2. Repentance from Sin (Psalm 32:5, Proverbs 28:13, Romans 7:14-25)
  3. Genuine Humility (Psalm 51:17, Matthew 5:1-12, James 4:6, 9-10)
  4. Devotion to God’s Glory (Psalm 105:3, 115:1, Isaiah 43:7, 48:10-11, Jeremiah 9:23-24, 1 Corinthians 10:31)
  5. Continual Prayer (Luke 18:1, Ephesians 6:18-19, Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, James 5:16-18)
  6. Selfless Love (1 John 2:9-11, 3:14, 4:7-12)
  7. Separation from the World (1 Corinthians 2:12, James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17, 5:5)
  8. Spiritual Growth (Luke 8:15, John 15:1-6, Ephesians 4:12-16)
  9. Obedient Living (Matthew 7:21, John 15:14, 16, Romans 16:26, 1 Peter 1:2, 22, 1 John 2:3-5)
  10. Hunger for God’s Word (1 Peter 2:1-3)
  11. Transformation of Life (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If the first list is true and the second list is false, there is cause to question one’s profession of faith. However, if list two is true, then the first list will also be true. So, how does the gospel active in one’s life manifest itself?

The Living Out of the Gospel:

  1. Proclaim it (Matthew 4:23)
  2. Defend it (Jude 1:3, 1 Peter 3:15)
  3. Demonstrate it (Philippians 1:27)
  4. Share it (Philippians 1:5)
  5. Suffer for it (2 Timothy 1:8)
  6. Preach it (1 Corinthians 9:16)
  7. Guard it (Galatians 1:6-8)
  8. Don’t Hinder it (1 Corinthians 9:12)
  9. Don’t be Ashamed of it (Romans 1:16)
  10. Be Empowered by it (1 Thessalonians 1:5)

My challenge is for all of us to live what we profess to believe. We cannot play games any longer; it’s time to do business with God. Allow the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out. The credibility of the message will never exceed the credibility of the messenger. The world is watching, and don’t let them turn away from Christ simply because of what they see happening in the lives of Jesus’ followers. People WILL judge a book (Jesus) by its cover (his followers).

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Serve Before You Sit and Soak

I love the catch phrase, “Look for a place to serve before you look for a place to sit.” Once we find a place to sit, we tend to just sit there and soak it in. Since Jesus is our example of service, and he is the greatest example of servant leadership, we should be inspired to get serious about being proactive with our faith; to make an impact for the kingdom of God.

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:3-5)

Think about it: Washing feet was an act of service left to the lowliest hired servant or slave.

  1. How did Jesus’ bond with God affect how He treated others?
  2. Who would you nominate in our church for the “Mother Teresa” award, for selfless acts of service?
  3. What does Jesus know that the others did not (John 13:1, 3, 11)?
  4. How would foreknowledge of events have kept you from serving Judas?
  5. What are you holding on to, that which you don’t want Jesus to cleanse you (John 13:8)?
  6. How does being served help you become a servant?

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Six Aspects of Prayer

Six Aspects of Prayer: a service of prayer at The Well, October 23, 2011, facilitated by Scott Chafee and Rick Heil.

Today is going to be a little different. Our focus is on prayer, and we will look at six aspects of prayer that you may have not considered before today. Oswald Chambers once said that, “prayer does not equip us for greater works, prayer is the greater work.” How often do we rush through prayer because we have more important tasks to get on with? If we are intent on living our lives free from God’s influence and direction, perhaps prayer is not all that important. But if we claim to be one of his children, how can we neglect such a necessary activity?

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

So, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, when you pray…

1. Forgiveness: we must be in touch with God daily because we sin daily. We are a part of a curse that beats us down in bondage to sin and the guilt it brings. God desires to set us free. Just as we need food daily; we pray that God would give us our daily bread. This is not future bread, since tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. So we pray today, daily, for the Lord of the present to give us strength to carry on through this life. We pray for forgiveness and victory so that we may walk in a manner worthy of being one of God’s children.

Personal Reflection: Let us silently reflect upon our own sinfulness; confess that sin and receive the assurance that God’s grace forgives us, cleanses us, and restores us. Jesus, hear our prayers of confession to You. We thank You for forgiveness and do not take it lightly. Help us to be as repulsed by our sin as You are. As we rise to walk in newness of life, we thank you for Your amazing grace.

Sing: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

2. Perspective: it is essential that we see life from God’s perspective, and that only comes through prayer. Prayer is not only talking to God, it is listening to him. As we pray, we go beyond our needs and often selfish prayers and become advocates for the needs of the “least of these” all around us. When our perspective changes, we begin to see the world differently. Sometimes our problems are not as earthshaking as we first believed when we compare our situation with others around us. We will often complain of having no shoes until we meet someone with no feet.

Pray: A guided prayer for God’s perspective on the needs all around us. “Who are the least of these that you see each week? How have you met the needs of lost people in your circle of influence? Ask God for the ability to look out for the interests of others more important than yourself. Put into your mind the face of someone you know is hurting, and ask God to reveal how you might help them.”

3. Guidance: we cannot walk through this life on our own, we will always make a mess of our lives when we try to go through life being in charge of our own spirituality. We need the guidance of God and to allow him to show us the way we should go. We are very poor at making unselfish decisions, so what we need right now is a heart transplant; we need to open our hearts and develop a desire to know God…

Sing: Open the Eyes of My Heart
Sing: A Heart Like Yours

We must pray every day for guidance. How else will we get a heart like his? James tells us that if anyone lacks wisdom, he should “ask God, who give generously to all without finding fault, it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Third Day has a song with a tremendous message on guidance; it’s called “Revelation.” The lyrics go like this:

My life, Has led me down the road that’s so uncertain, And now I am left alone and I am broken, Trying to find my way, Trying to find the faith that’s gone.

This time, I know that you are holding all the answers, I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances, On roads that never seem, To be the ones that bring me home

Give me a revelation, Show me what to do, Cause I’ve been trying to find my way, I haven’t got a clue. Tell me should I stay here, Or do I need to move? Give me a revelation, I’ve got nothing without You, I’ve got nothing without You.

The point is that we all need prayer to orient our lives. Part of that new orientation is allowing God to direct our paths, to show us the way to go, after all, Jeremiah tells us that, “the heart is desperately wicked, who can trust it,” so we desperately need a heart transplant. Then we begin to understand the importance of Christian community.

4. Community: we do not live out the Christian faith in a vacuum, we live in community. In this individualistic and self-centered society, we value privacy more than a sense of community. When we attempt to life a Christian life outside of the community of faith, we slowly begin to burn out, like a log removed from a bonfire.

When it comes to prayer, we may pray individually but we are a part of a larger praying church. When we pray, we build relationships not only with God but with each other. Jesus said, “where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). Just as in the early church, we gather together to pray and to worship; which affects us much more deeply than when we are just by ourselves. The fellowship of prayer helps us to grow, and it helps the church become the community that God intends.

Pray: for God’s guidance (individually and corporately) and for the community of faith.

Offering: this is not a distraction from worship, rather making our offerings to God is a part of worship. We cannot read the Bible and not see how important it was and is to bring an offering to the Lord.

5. Action: we are called to accomplish God’s work in the world. It is not praying first and then getting busy; remember that prayer is the greater work; prayer is the work of the church and therefore the work of the Christian. Prayer is not the last thing we do because we should pray without ceasing. Our minds need to be filled with the mission and purpose of God in our lives and in the world. How can we live in this world, see from God’s perspective, and not be moved toward action?

Prayer makes things happen: as we pray, it does not change God, but it changes us. Oswald Chambers also said that, “prayer does not change things; prayer changes us and we change things.” When it comes to taking action in the church, we must all seek a place to serve before we seek a place to sit.

After we pray for forgiveness, pray that God would help you see ourselves and the world from his perspective, pray about how God is going to guide you, then experience life through the community of faith, and then allow God to move you toward action.

Pray: for God to move us toward action and service.

6. Response: it is one thing to respond to God with or by our actions, but it is another to respond to God for who he is. In prayer, we all need to respond to who God is. We often believe that prayer is for the purpose of meeting our own needs. So when we pray, we worship and we give our adoration to God for who he is, not for what he has done. Our praying is a response to who God is. Listen to the psalmist as he does this (Psalm 96 on CD).

Sing: Our God
Sing: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
Sing: How Great is Our God

Oswald Chambers said of prayer: “Prayer is the evidence that I am spiritually concentrated on God.” When we don’t feel like praying, it will often be evidence that we have slipped away into our own world of selfishness. When we are concentrated on God, the natural flow from our heart is prayer.

Chambers also says: “Prayer does not equip us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a commonsense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God’s work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ prayer is the working of the miracle of Redemption in me which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God. The way fruit remains is by prayer, but remember it is prayer based on the agony of Redemption, not on my agony. Only a child gets prayer answered; a wise man does not.” Remember that prayer changes us, and then we change things.

Prayer is the development of relationship, not a formula for personal requests. We continue to bear fruit by the means of prayer. Let today be the day that we refuse to ignore this vital part of our spiritual lives.

Benediction: as a group we will pray for the experience of today.

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Connectors Live What They Communicate

When someone new steps up into a leadership position, the people have hope. They will listen, believe and follow, but this honeymoon does not last long. Here’s how it works: the first six months, communication overrides credibility; the next six months, credibility overrides communication. Credibility is currency for leaders and communicators. With it they are solvent, without it they are bankrupt. Think of elected officials and you might see this in action.

The Truth Test: Steven Covey said, “Trust earns confidence” because trust erases worry and frees you to get on with other matters. Low trust allows for others to have hidden agendas. Lack of trust inhibits innovation and collaboration. Lack of trust will disconnect you form others quickly.

You Are Your Message: Eventually who you are will shine through. You must become the kind of person you seek to connect with.

Connecting with yourself: If we are uncomfortable with who we are, others will not be comfortable with us. If we don’t know our own strengths and weaknesses, attempts to connect with others will misfire. A spiritual gift inventory is a great tool to know yourself.

Self-talk is a powerful influencer of what we believe about our selves. If we are critical and negative in our self-talk, we cannot be confident with ourselves or with others.

Right your wrongs: How do you maintain credibility when you make a mistake? It depends on how you handle mistakes. Failure to admit mistakes causes the message to be questioned which causes the integrity of the leader to be questioned.

  1. Acknowledge: You own people an explanation when you make a mistake
  2. Apologize: It may be a painful moment but it is the right thing to do. Apologize as wide as the infraction. Get the incident behind you.
  3. Amends: Make it up to the people you have wronged.

Be accountable: Deliver on your promises. When you make a commitment, you create hope. When you keep a commitment, you create trust. We often need accountability in the areas of our weaknesses.

Lead the way you live: You cannot speak about that which you do not know. You cannot share that which you do not feel. You cannot translate that which you do not have and you cannot give that which you do not possess. Where some see a message as a lesson to be given, connector see the message of a life to be lived. For connectors, the message is an extension of who they are. You have to be what you strive others to be.

Tell the truth: Edward R Murrow once said, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must tell the truth.” Credibility is not perfect but a willingness to admit to imperfection.

Be vulnerable: We often think that the teacher is to have all the answers; and we want to believe that and not appear weak. We all know that perfection is a mask, and we don’t trust people hiding behind these masks. They are not being honest with us and therefore are not connecting. Do we really think that people don’t already know our weaknesses? They do, and by admitting them you are letting others know they you know your weaknesses. We only win when we take chances; the hardest risk is being honest with ourselves.

Follow the Golden Rule: Maxwell writes that some organizations are like a tree full of monkeys. If you’re on the top looking down, all you see is smiling face looking up at you. If you’re on the bottom, the view is not so pretty. People can learn a lot by observing what leaders do with their power; when they interact with others who don’t have power, position or strength. The Golden Rule challenges us to treat others as we would want to be treated.

Deliver results: Peter Drucker once wrote, “Communication always makes demands. It always demands that the recipient become somebody, do something, believe something, it always appeals to motivation.” Connectors encourage others to deliver results. To expect results from others, we must deliver results ourselves. This may be the consultant syndrome. Some have never really accomplished in what they profess to be an expert. They sell a promise without a track record.

Summery:
Connecting Practice: Connectors live what they commutate.
Key Concept: The only way to keep connecting with people is to live what you communicate.

Practical Steps:

  1. Does you character emphasize that you have to teach, or does it undermine it?
  2. Do you follow through on your commitments?
  3. Where to you need to improve?
  4. Are you doing what you ask your students to do?
  5. Does your track record support your teaching?
  6. Can your students depend on you to follow through on your promises?

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The New Rebellion

I found a provocative book called The New Rebellion Handbook: A Holy Uprising Making Real the Extraordinary in Everyday Life. Here are but a few thought provoking items from it. I would encourage all who seek to join this army to purchase the book and support the authors.

Rebellion occurs when oppression reaches a level that we can no longer tolerate in good conscience. It occurs when our vision for extraordinary living is more compelling than our urge for comfort. Materialism numbs us while distraction and apathy work on us from the inside.

The new rebellion is calling today’s generation, people who are disillusioned with the MTV culture and half-hearted Christianity. This rebellion equips us with powerful tools for partnering with God to change His world. This rebellion is for those who are intensely passionate about Jesus and are determined to live a purposeful life. We have a nothing-is-impossible mindset. Jesus is not meek and mild, but mighty and wild!

The book has 24 real-world, cutting-edge themes of life. This book is a wealth of resources; fresh ideas, Web sites, book, music, stories from ancient and contemporary figures (rebels themselves) who offer a compelling invitation into kingdom purpose. I’ll share the information here over the next few weeks.

The Top 10 Reasons to Join the New Rebellion:

  1. You are intensely passionate for Jesus and His kingdom.
  2. You really want to live a life of eternal significance.
  3. You resent the apathy that derails many of Jesus’ followers.
  4. You’re willing to swim against today’s social currents.
  5. You know God is already stirring your heart for action.
  6. You’re looking for tools to empower your purpose.
  7. You want to live out God’s ancient wisdom in a relevant way.
  8. You desire to experience God and invite others into that experience.
  9. You’re absolutely dedicated to Christ’s lordship in your life.
  10. You’re ready to move in the power and authority of God.

The information listed in this category is from the book.

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