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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Discipleship Before Church Growth




Imagine all the time, money and resources that have gone into church growth in the last generation.

Is it naïve to wonder what the world and the church would look like today if all that effort had been invested exclusively in church health instead?

Is it possible that if the church had prioritized health, not as a means to growth, but as an end in itself, we would be in a greater position to represent Jesus to the world?

We’re often told that one of the reasons so many churches remain small is lack of faith. But I wonder… Could it be that the reverse is true? Might our obsession with bigger and bigger churches be rooted in a lack of faith?

Read it all here.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Two Powerful Words: "I Believe"



Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10 NASU

When Satan tempted Eve, she said: “I believe” to his deceit and “I disbelieve” to God's warning. Her attitude of belief towards God gave her paradise with her husband. When by her actions she said: “I believe” to Satan her home was the desert and her husband became a disinherited, worn-out farmer.

When Adam and Eve said to God: “We’re naked!” God responded by giving them the skins of an animal for clothing. The animal’s life was taken thereby, and became a prototype animals being used as a means of reconciling man to God for the forgiveness of sins and worshiping God. Therefor, the reason Abel’s animal sacrifice was accepted by God, and Cain’s was not. For “. . without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb 9:22), because the result of sin is death. Abel learned from their parents, but Cain was self centered and so substituted his works, i.e., fruit of the ground.

In prophetic type, the sacrifice animal was in principal a type of Christ as the Lamb of God. So as a God given type Able was demonstrating faith in Christ and His sacrificial payment for his sins and sin nature. Even the mentioning of the offering of the fat portions was speaking of reliance on the reserve energy of Christ to carry through what was begun in His death to finish the reconciliation started in the sacrificial death.

“I believe!” is the key to receiving God’s mercy to us, and the key to His work being done in us, so that we become “His workmanship.” This faith is not an arbitrary gift of God that appears without our choice. Faith is a God-given gift through the means He makes available to us in Jesus Christ.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith,. .” (Eph 2:8 NKJV). The vehicle of grace, God’s mercy, is personal faith. It is to say to God: “I believe!”

This is revealed as the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5; 2 Peter 1:4). For as we respond to the stimulus through both the blessings and trials we mature and are transformed (James 1:2-4).

Salvation and transformation by faith comes as we keep our focus on Him by the Holy Spirit’s work: “. . we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)

As Hebrews 12:2 describes this responsive sanctifying walk of faith: “. . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,” This is the consistent result of saying to God and His promises: “I believe!”

In this way of obedience of faith God’s promises and purposes to and in us will our experience like Paul’s will be:
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12-15).

In John 20, we read the account of Doubting Thomas. When Thomas was told that the Lord was alive, he did not believe. Then Jesus appeared to the disciples again and Thomas was there. Jesus told Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We must apply two powerful words that change everything: “I believe!”

Monday, May 8, 2017

Melchizedek a Type of Christ (Hebrews 7)

Artist rendering of Melchizedek
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” (Hebrews 7:1, 2)

I offer praise and thanksgiving for the type of Christ revealed in the person and ministry of Melchizedek. The story reminds me that Jesus is my King of righteousness. I am reminded that in Him I am made righteous, cleansed from my sins. For He took the guilt of our sins and put to death our sinful nature (Rom. 7:23-8:1-9).

Therefore, Jesus is the King of peace as I invite Him live in me (Gal. 2:20). As a believer I am made free from the domination of sin by faith persuasion (John 8:31-35) to walk with Him in the light of His Word (Ps. 119:9-11). Thereby, my character is changed.

Melchizedek’s bringing of bread and wine reminds me of the communion I enjoy with Jesus, our bread of life. His blood brings refreshment and forgiveness.

As Melchizedek came to Abraham after the defeat of his enemies, I am reminded that after the believer’s battle of life is over, Jesus takes us to the glorious place He went to prepare for us, that we might joyfully dwell in God’s eternal presence.

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Ps. 16:11

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Related reading: Who Was Melchizedek?Praying Hebrews 6; Praying Hebrews 5: The Disciple's Constant Companion; Praying Hebrews 3: Jesus Our Great High Priest; Praying Hebrews 3:6-19; Praying Hebrews 4:1-3; Praying Hebrews 4:5-8; Praying Hebrews 4:4-16; Praying Hebrews 5:1-4; Praying Hebrews 5:5,6: The Disciples' Pattern

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Incarnation of the Son of God




At the heart of the Christian Faith is the reality of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We may not understand this great mystery, but we may give thanks for it. The conception and birth of the Lord Jesus through the Virgin Mary is according to earlier promises made by God. One of the earliest is found in Genesis 3:15, the Protevangelion. Here we are told that the Seed born of the Woman would crush the serpent's head. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham's ancestors in Eden.

The Incarnation of Jesus Messiah also fulfills a prophetic witness concerning the believer’s High Priest and His eternal priesthood. This is expressed in Hebrews 5:

“So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,

"YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU";

just as He says also in another passage,
"YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER
ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK."

Thanks be to God for the prophetic witness that He is our eternal High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Oh, the blessing to all who are persuaded of the adequacy of the salvation we receive through Him!

The balance of the Epistle to the Hebrews details our High Priest's ministry of intercession for us who trust Him to bring us redeemed to the eternal home He has prepared for us.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Jesus Christ is risen!



Jesus is our God risen from the dead as was foretold concerning the Righteous Ruler, the Messiah. He is risen! Hallelujah!

The New Testament speaks about Jesus as the ruler-priest. He is the firstborn from the grave and by his resurrection He delivers to the Father a "peculiar people." He leads us in the ascent to the Father where we receive heavenly recognition because we belong to Him.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Good Friday




Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
      
A preacher introduced his sermon by crying out: “Fish for sale!”

He did so to get the attention of his listeners. He went on to explain how words can convey meanings that seem contrary to their usual meaning. When thinking of the terrible death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross most of us do not associate the event the word good. In fact, we think just the opposite.

“Good" Friday is exactly that because of the forgiveness His death accomplished for sinners.

The day is called good for other reasons also. To God the Father it is "good” because the Son fulfilled the Father's will. It is "good” because Jesus showed His infinite love for the Father and for the world.

Christ’s death was infinitely “good” because it made eternal life a reality for all who put their trust in Him. It makes us heirs as God’s redeemed children.

“Good Friday” was good because redemption’s price was “finished.” God’s solution that was proposed in the past eternity was now accomplished! There was no more that needed to provide for the propitiation for the sins of all mankind even though relatively few would appropriate it (1 John 2:2).

Even the Jewish leaders who demanded Jesus' death considered the day "good" because they thought that they has gotten rid of Him. What a surprise when Christ rose from the dead!

The Devil thought of Jesus death as a good thing. But the gratification was short lived as Satan got a splitting head ache (Gen. 3:15) when he bruised Jesus' heel (Gen 3:15).

Therefore, let all true believers rejoice!  “Good" Friday is the turning point in God’s redemptive plan. Jesus said, "It is finished" and that marked the beginning of eternal blessedness to be accomplished in our lives and in the world to come. Rejoice and give Jesus the honor and praise He deserves because of that first “Good" Friday.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Approaching Easter

Peter and John at the tomb, Henry Ossawa Tanner 

Dear Readers,
With the celebration of Resurrection Day approaching, I recommend that you read the following articles on the triumphs of Christ's resurrection. 

The first triumph: He lives again! 
The second triumph: Believers are alive in Him!
A third triumph: A new people are created!
A fourth triumphAn entirely new, self concept!
A fifth triumph: God-given power for living!
A sixth triumph: Assurance of a new glorified body!
A seventh triumph: Equipping the Church to be self edifying!
The eighth triumph: God can give rewards of eternal value!

It is my prayer that you might know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible you may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).

Sincerely,

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Establishment of a Religion


The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.



Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The First Amendment to our Constitution forbids Congress to establish a religion. The meaning of this needs clarification to safeguard the other provision in the First Amendment that guarantees the free exercise of faith. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have used the courts to limit this freedom to exercise one's faith by citing the First Amendment.

The First Amendment prohibits Congress to establish a national religion. Our founding fathers knew that the establishment of a religion meant the adoption of a specific Church as the required religious affiliation for their citizens. This was what they hoped to avoid, given the numerous conflicts that arose from this arrangement. In an established religion tensions arise because of these conditions:

  • The State or Crown appoints officials in a hierarchical church structure. Only those who hold to the doctrine and liturgical tradition of the State religion are granted offices in the church.
  • The State or Crown specifies doctrines that define church orthodoxy. Many people were put to death when they challenged these doctrines.
  • Ecclesiastical courts enforce religious regulations and orthodoxy.
  • The State or Crown levies taxes on the churches.
  • The State or Crown dictates the religious instruction in schools. 

When I served in the Army at our barracks at the old Dachau prison camp in West Germany, a notable warning was emblazoned in the camp. It said: “If we forget history, we are bound to repeat it!” Early in our history some colonies attempted to establish a religious: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland and Pennsylvania are examples.

The basic premise of the Declaration of Independence from England acknowledges the Creator as the Giver of “inalienable rights” which no State can rightfully take from its citizens. In the Constitutional Congress, the delegates were at an impasse and near giving up when Benjamin Franklin exhorted them to pray. Then, differences were overcome and the writing of Constitution was finished. To this day, congressional sessions begin with prayer. Even the Supreme Court begins its sessions with an invocation to God.

In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the right upheld the tradition of offering prayers to open government meetings. In a case involving the town of Greece, New York, the justices ruled by a narrow margin that opening local government meetings with sectarian prayers doesn't violate the Establishment Clause. The Court decided the town was using prayer for "permissible ceremonial purposes" and not as an "unconstitutional establishment of religion."

Thomas Jefferson required the teaching of the Bible in the DC schools even though he authored the worn out phrase “a wall of separation between Church and State!” Though Jefferson's "Bible" has no miracles, it is clear that he recognized the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.

George Washington read the Scriptures and prayed the daily office of the Book of Common Prayer. While at Valley Forge, on 3 August 1776, General Washington issued this warning against taking God's name in vain.

The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice hitherto little known in our American Army is growing into fashion. He hopes that the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it and that both they and the men will reflect that we can little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our army if we insult it by our impiety and folly. Added to this it is a vice so mean and low without any temptation that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.

In contemporary American society there are numerous organizations that hope to remove such expressions of faith from the national memory. The Humanist Manifesto seeks to remove God from public conversation. This infringes on the Constitutional rights of "theists" and proposes a view of humanity quite foreign to that of our Founding Fathers; namely that "Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change." If that is true, it is futile to speak of "inalienable rights."

Related reading: Six Supreme Court Decisions that Would Have Been Different Without Justice Scalia

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The World and the Christian Life


"In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Image result for lemmings going off the cliff

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."


1 John 4:9-16


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Some Episcopal churches have decided not to offer prayer for President Trump by name. Yet Scripture is clear that Christ's followers are to pray for all in authority. In His conversation with Pilate, Jesus made it clear that all earthly authority is derived from the Father who appoints men to ruler. These rulers are responsible for governance that is moral, ethical, just, and compassionate.

When a nation's leaders turn away from divine law, the people are easily seduced by Satan and the world. In the Biblical sense, the "world" is the culture in which we conduct our daily lives. Apart from Satan, the culture is our chief enemy. Like the promiscuous woman who appeals to the naive young man, hoping to seduce, so these entice us to irresponsible "pleasures" that corrupt the mind, body and soul and bring death.

The power of the world is to stimulate desire beyond control: “. . the corruption . . by lust.” (2 Peter 1:4). “. . all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16). The world entices us with calls to conformity, to political correctness, to do it because everyone's doing it! We are tempted to follow the fashion, to pattern our lives according to the latest thing. But there is no joy in that way of living.

When a nation's social and spiritual life is seduced by these appeals, corruption and decline reign! History illustrates this: When Israelis did not separate themselves from the idolatrous heathen, their corruption brought judgement after judgement. When the Church allowed the Roman empire to adopted Christianity, it declined into the Dark Ages and the Inquisition. When the US culture declined in the '20s in America, and to the present time where: “If it feels good, do it!” and personal desires are personal rights. Are not the results grievous?

In the present time, the politically correct cultures are: “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Phil 3:18, 19).

Faith is the key for spiritual victory over the worldly sin barrier that separates human beings from God. The Apostle John says we are able to overcome the world by believing that Jesus is the Son of God, by discerning the spirits, and through obedient faith. Faith can overcome the world's influences. Faith finds affirmation in God's revelations through the natural revelation (Ps 19:1-6), the Bible, and God's testimony within us of His reality.

"In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

". . this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” 1 John 5:4b


Related reading: A Word to Ministers of the Gospel


Monday, February 6, 2017

A Word to Ministers of the Gospel




Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

For ministers of the Gospel, teaching others continues until maturity is reached and maturity is required to make new converts. This is not about feelings or emotions. Teaching and discipleship appeal to the mind and to the will.

Karl Hinrich Rengetorf wrote:
“The whole teaching of Jesus is with the view to the ordering of life with reference to God and one’s neighbor (Mt 22:37ff and par 1 of 19:16ff). Thus his teaching constantly appeals to the will, calling for the practical decision either for the will of God or against it.”
While the teaching or instructing appeals to the will and is to lead to understanding, the  understanding is not as a prerequisite to faith. We are to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:4, 5).

This is not blind obedience. Once the will has yielded to the Gospel, attention is given to a growing understanding of the principles of Gospel living (John 15:8, 14, 15; Matt 13: 16–18 ff; Eph 1: 15–23; 4:11–18).

I think that there is a good application here. The Greek teachers gained their status and authority through superior logic and rhetoric. This is how they built up a following of students (disciples). They appealed to the mind.

In proclaiming the Gospel, the first step is to bring the human will into wholehearted submission to the authority of God. Then comes understanding of what our Lord has revealed in the Scriptures. Then follows obedience.

How can we say that we are being fully obedient, if we do not evangelize, baptize and teach? How can we say we are obedient if we fail to make disciples who also make disciples?

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?" (Romans 10:14)


Related reading: Teaching: An Instrument of DisciplingThe Central Command and Christ's Authority


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Contradictions of the Cross


Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.


Everything Satan does is designed to deceive and to bring about some kind of death. This understanding of Satan finds expression in Genesis 3. As a poisonous snake, Satan is going to bite Jesus' heel, but Christ crushes Satan’s head. Satan’s efforts are contradicted and Christ the Lord offers life and freedom for all who will identify with Him.

In the Cross of Jesus Christ God contradicts Satan's efforts so as to effect His divine purposes. In this aspect, God shows Himself to be the Almighty Warrior.

We are inclined to wonder how God is still in control when we consider the murder of six million Jews, the abortion of millions of babies, etc. people. Yet, God is a mighty warrior against the forces of evil. He wages war on our behalf.

To be victorious and exhibit God’s wisdom, we must clothe ourselves in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Putting on the full armor of God means applying Christ to every area of our lives. This pleases God and pushes back against evil.

In the Cross Christ destroys death's hold for all humanity, but this is effective only for those who trust in Him and do His Gospel work (1 Cor 15:1-4). In this, God contradicts Satan’s seeming victory and sets forth His plan of redemption.

In the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a great contradiction is seen. Satan’s work involved getting God’s "chosen" people to reject and crucify Christ. God contradicts this by those Jews and followed Him then and those who believe and follow Him now.

We imagine that Satan gloated as Christ was laid dead in His tomb. God contradicts this by making the empty tomb a sign of hope that our grief, pain, sin, and mortality will be canceled. So we rejoice in the wonder of God’s forgetfulness and might!


Friday, January 6, 2017

Divine Opportunities in the New Year



Doors

In varied shapes, sizes, and hues
A myriad from which to choose
Some stay closed; others open wide.
We all approach and decide
Which ones on which to knock,
But carry no key for any lock
That bars opportunities
Or presents impossibilities.

This New Year, is a door that’s opening,
Filling hearts and minds with hoping…
Oh, Creator God of Mysteries,
Only You hold all those keys.
We, mortals trapped in time,
Struggle your loving ways to mime;
Open doors that reveal your Face,
Fill this year with your Mercy and Grace!


Hope Ellen Rapson - January 2017


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Teaching: An Instrument of Discipling




Teaching is the primary means of making disciples and developing them into being reproducing disciplers (2 Tim 2:2). Teaching influences their decisions to become permanent followers of Jesus Christ (John 8:30–36; Acts 14:22; 15:41). Whatever is done in Church life should have the effect of teaching for the edification of the members (1 Cor 14:26).

Karl Hinrich Rengetorf writes:
“The whole teaching of Jesus is with the view to the ordering of life with reference to God and one’s neighbor (Mt 22:37ff and par 1 of 19:16ff and par). Thus his teaching constantly appeals to the will, calling for the practical decision either for the will of God or against it.”
Further, the word "disciple" literally refers to one who learns at the feet of a teacher. It implies the recognition of authority. This authority rests in understanding God’s authoritative revelation. In the New Testament, group learning is centered in the teacher as one who knows and embodies the authoritative revelation. The qualified teacher knows the message well enough to pass it on to his students (Eph 4:11, 12; 2 Tim 2:2). Thinking based on group consensus does not reflect divine authority, but instead is humanistic (2 Tim 4:3, 4; Eph 4:14).

Throughout the ages, the divine revelation is tied to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is foreshadowed in the Old Testament from Genesis to the Prophets. His full humanity-full divinity is described in the New Testament. He used parables to teach about the Kingdom of God and to provide insight into the mind of God. Each parable and encounter with Jesus reveals more about the heart of God. A true disciple seeks to understand God’s priorities in order to align our own priorities with God's. This expresses the reality of newness of life.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him, but trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”― Mere Christianity

Related reading: Discipling With Authority; C.S. Lewis on Discipleship