Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True Repentance: A 3/3rds Study

I recently went through this short, but powerful study with a group on what Repentance is and how we repent. It uses the 3/3rds process. You may have to snoop around here to learn more. You can also jump over to http://www.jonathanammon.org/movements-training and learn a whole lot more.

The study: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4Gp5HabTdUlbDZmV3c5SFVjOU0/view?usp=sharing

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Lying

I'm doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from sin and turning to God.

You will destroy those who tell lies.
    The Lord detests murderers and deceivers.
Psalm 5:6

Scripture promises the destruction of those who tell lies, which is reinforced by a powerful description in the book of Revelation. God is displeased with those who lie. The tone of much teaching in the body of Christ is that God is universally pleased. He is not pleased by lying or liars.

3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
    who do not worship idols
    and never tell lies.
5 They will receive the Lord’s blessing
    and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Psalm 24:3-5

Psalm 24 describes the qualities of those who are welcomed into God's presence in the Old Covenant. This required purity of heart and life, undivided worship of God alone and complete abstinence from lying. Jesus welcomes all into His presence, transforming us into people whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and who never tell lies.

12 Does anyone want to live a life
    that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
Psalm 34:12-14

Lying cuts off prosperity and success in our earthly life. The truth is always the most effective.

Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
Psalm 119:29

The psalmist asks God to keep him honest with himself. He wants to be free from rationalization and excuses.

What are worthless and wicked people like? They are constant liars,
Proverbs 6:12

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.
Proverbs 12:19

Lies do not last. They are exposed. They are found out.

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.
Proverbs 12:22

The godly hate lies; the wicked cause shame and disgrace.
Proverbs 13:5

The crooked heart will not prosper; the lying tongue tumbles into trouble.
Proverbs 17:20

A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape.
Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished, and a liar will be destroyed.
Proverbs 19:9

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
Matthew 15:19

Lying comes from the heart. It is what we want and choose to do. In order to repent, the heart must be addressed and the heart must turn to the truth.

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44

When we lie, we align ourselves with the devil and his character. We are not children of the devil, but children of God.

 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”

10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.
Acts 5:1-10

Lying, especially in matters regarding the church and the body of believers, can have disastrous results. The death of Ananias and Sapphira produced fear in the church. The story is meant to produce a healthy fear in us. God desires us to be motivated by love for Him and for His glory. But if that will not motivate us, fear of discipline should. God would rather His children obey because they know the consequences of disobedience than disobey and destroy their lives.

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.
Ephesians 4:25

The New Testament forbids lying. This verse specifically targets lying within the Church.

Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
Colossians 3:9

Paul instructs the Colossians to stop lying because they have put off their old lives and old sinful ways. Their sinful nature has been stripped off along with its deeds. We are no longer bound to its behaviors including lies.

But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.
James 3:14

They have told no lies; they are without blame.
Revelation 14:5

The context is a group of believers who have overcome in the last days and receive the reward of the Lord. Regardless of how you interpret the rest of the passage, God honors those who have a record of being totally honest. He considers them blameless.

“But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8

Liars are coupled with unbelievers, murders, those who practice witchcraft, etc. and have their place in hell or everlasting destruction. Those who lie to the point that it identifies them will perish regardless of their confession of faith.

Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
Revelation 22:15

Living a lie, living a hypocritical life, separates you from the Kingdom and City of God. Honesty in our mouths and our lives identifies us as citizens of Heaven.

Father, I have told so many lies in my life. I can remember many of them with shame. I have a reputation as honest and transparent person. Lord, I don't want to be a hypocrite or a faker. I don't want to be a liar or deceiver. There are so many past sins I've hidden and covered up in my life. I don't want to be dishonest. I don't want to be deceptive when it comes to my life. Lord I don't want any lie to stand. I repent, Lord. I never want to lie again. If there are any lies or deceptions in my life identify them, convict me, and help me repent and hold up the truth. I want to be on of the ones who is blameless when it comes to lie. I want to be honest. I want to have a good testimony. I want to live and believe and honor the truth. I know that the truth is always the most effective thing in any situation. Help me to live that out always. Forgive me of past lies. Cleanse me of any lying that has been in my life. I want to be honest with myself and honest with others. Father, if there is sin that I am hiding, help me to confess, and to trust your forgiveness and grace. Help me to not try to keep or preserve my reputation. I would rather be honest than be a hypocrite. Lord, you know that I love You. I turn from the sin of lying today. I commit to walking in the truth. Because I love You and I trust You with my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Lust

I'm doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from sin and turning to God.

I made a covenant with my eyes
    not to look with lust at a young woman.
Job 31:30

Job is often complex to interpret, but a few things are clear from this verse. In a pre-law covenant, Job considered it wrong to lust with his eyes. He made a covenant or commitment or vow not to look with lust. This was a part of his practical holiness.

9 “If my heart has been seduced by a woman,
    or if I have lusted for my neighbor’s wife,
10 then let my wife serve another man;
    let other men sleep with her.
11 For lust is a shameful sin,
    a crime that should be punished.
12 It is a fire that burns all the way to hell.
    It would wipe out everything I own.
Job 31:9-12

Job continues to describe the shame and destructive consequences of lust. He believes that it would indeed be just for him to lose everything if he committed lust in his heart.

24 “I will scatter you like chaff
    that is blown away by the desert winds.
25 This is your allotment,
    the portion I have assigned to you,”
    says the Lord,
“for you have forgotten me,
    putting your trust in false gods.
26 I myself will strip you
    and expose you to shame.
27 I have seen your adultery and lust,
    and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills.
What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem!
    How long before you are pure?”
Jeremiah 13:24-27

God addresses the adultery and lust within Jerusalem's society and promises that it will be exposed and bring shame upon them. God pairs these sexual sins with idol worship. He laments the sorrow that follows these sins and then laments how long He has patently waited for them to repent and live pure lives.

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28

Jesus strikes at the heart of the issue. No longer can sexual immorality be identified only by external behavior, but by the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. God cares about our inward desires. Our hearts are what God desires, not just our behavior.

So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Matthew 5:29

This verse comes with a number of caveats and explanations from various teachers. We must recognize that it is true. It is truly better to lose a body part than to go to hell. Is Jesus commanding us to remove body parts? Do body parts cause us to lust? Jesus teaches us that lust comes from the heart not from our body parts. His teaching in this verse is that we are to do whatever it takes, no matter how drastic it seems, to live holy lives and to extinguish sin from our lives. This may mean throwing away a phone, a computer, or any other number of practical steps. But repenting of lust must be taken seriously. It is better to suffer great loss than to allow lust to lead us away from Christ.

21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Mark 7:21-23

Lust comes from within: from our hearts. Certain thoughts, temptations, sights, and sounds may come from the Tempter, but we are responsible for our willful mental fantasies and lusts. 

21 Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.
2 Corinthians 12:21

Paul writes to a church and he grieves because they have not repented. They continue in impurity (this could range from filthy talk and masturbation to pornography and deviant sexual behavior) sexual immorality and an eagerness for lustful pleasure. They were obsessed, entertained, and eager for sexual stimulation. Paul orders them to repent. They must give up their "old sins," the sins they have grown accustomed to over time.  

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Galatians 5:19-22

Paul clarifies that lust, lustful behavior, and sexual immorality are the desires of the un-redeemed flesh. They are not characteristic of the redeemed. He also warns them, repeating himself, that if they continue they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. They will be found in darkness. They will be cast into the lake of fire with all of those who rebel against Christ as King. They must repent. Their hope is the power of the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in our lives that overcomes these lusts.

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Ephesians 4:17-24

Paul authoritatively commands the Ephesians to stop living like unbelievers. They do not know the truth and so they live as slaves to lust. If we live as slaves to lust, we are living like unbelievers. We are to throw off this behavior, but even more so this identity and this way of life. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and help us live out the new nature we have received in Christ.

5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Colossians 3:5-11

We receive the command to put to death, to kill, the earthly or fleshly desires that "lurk" or hide or live within. We are to combat and root out these desires with the truth, with the light of the Holy Spirit, with confession and repentance.

God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— 5 not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. 6 Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

God's will and desire and plan for us is holiness so we have to not only stop committing sexual sin, but keep our distance from it. We must learn and know how to control our bodies.

9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Those who continue in sexual immorality and refuse to be rescued from their sin, will die in it outside of the Kingdom of God. We have been rescued. We have been cleansed. We have been made holy. We have been made right by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are empowered and rescued and continue to be rescued by the Spirit of God.

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.
1 Corinthians 6:18

We are not commanded to fight sexual sin, but to run from it, to flee from lust.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.
Ephesians 5:3

These sins are not to be winked at or "understood." We are not to empathize in a worldly way: "you lust, I lust, we all lust," but to not allow these sins to exist in our fellowship. We have to fight them in our own lives and in our communities.

Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.
Romans 6:19

We are either slaves to lust or slaves to righteousness. We died to these sins in Christ. We are raised in victory over them with Christ's resurrection. May our repentance not only be a turning from sin and a modification of our behavior or thought lives, but a transformation brought about by faith in the truth.

Father, all that I have written, I have written to my own heart. I confess that I have lusted more times than I can count. I have been involved in impurity more times than I can count, and I have been involved in sexual immorality. I've confessed these things again and again, and I thank You for Your cleansing. I thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. I turn from lust, Lord. I repent. I no longer want to give in to these thoughts and desires and temptations that come. I turn to You and to Your purity, which You have given me on the cross. I want to do whatever it takes to be free from any kind of lust or sexual immorality in my life. I want to receive and live out of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to never give in to lust or fantasy again. I want to live a pure life. I want to be transformed. I want to be free. Like Job, I make a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust. I thank you for the victory you have given. Teach me how to control and possess this body you have given me in holiness and honor. Give me true repentance, Lord. I don't want this prayer to just be words. I don't want it to just last a few weeks or until the next temptation. I want this to be the end. I want this to be true repentance that lasts through eternity. I know this is Your will, and I know that I am Your child, accepted in Jesus. And so I know You will hear me and answer. You have forgiven me so much. You have loved me so much. Thank You. I love You. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Laziness

I'm doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from sin and turning to God.

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Lazy people should be and must be warned about their lives, their lifestyles, and their character. We are commanded to address laziness in the church. We are commanded to address laziness in our lives.

6 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. 7 For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. 8 We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. 10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

11 Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. 12 We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. 13 As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

14 Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. 15 Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.


18 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

Paul commands believers to stay away from, shun, or avoid all believers who live idle or lazy lives. People who do not work should not eat, or should not survive. Paul refers to his own example, which we are to follow. He worked hard day and night with the specific purpose of providing for himself and his team. He refused to live off of donations or handouts. It would not have been sin for him to live off of the other believers. He had the right to live as a fully funded minister of the gospel. He refused that right because the example of hard work was so important to him. Paul repeats himself, stating that this is a regular part of his teaching. We are commanded to work and work hard.

Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Romans 12:11

Another command from the New Testament prohibits laziness and commands us to both work hard and serve the Lord with enthusiasm or joy. Those who do not have work to do, should serve the Lord with the time and energy that they have.

Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. Ezekiel 16:49

Sodom is known for sodomy. The gross immorality of homosexual gang rape present in Sodom made their name famous. God's judgment on their city also makes Sodom stand out. They were destroyed for their sin. Yet Ezekiel does not mention their violent sexual immorality. Instead he emphasizes the attributes present in their hearts and lifestyle: pride, gluttony, and laziness at the expense of the poor. Laziness is one of the qualities and one of the sins that opens the door for even more gross immorality in our lives. Sodom's evil behavior was in part because of their laziness. We must address laziness in our lives or more obvious sins will follow.

The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion on the road!
    Yes, I’m sure there’s a lion out there!”
14 As a door swings back and forth on its hinges,
    so the lazy person turns over in bed.
15 Lazy people take food in their hand
    but don’t even lift it to their mouth.
16 Lazy people consider themselves smarter
    than seven wise counselors.
Proverbs 26:13-16

Proverbs contains a number of passages describing the downfall or destruction of the lazy. In this passage laziness is connected to pride. The lazy are arrogant. They believe that they can live without working as hard as others because they are smarter than others.

I walked by the field of a lazy person,
    the vineyard of one with no common sense.
31 I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
    It was covered with weeds,
    and its walls were broken down.
32 Then, as I looked and thought about it,
    I learned this lesson:
33 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
34 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
    scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.
Proverbs 24:30-34

Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.
Proverbs 21:25

It doesn't matter if you want to work hard, want to prosper, want to succeed, want to be a blessing, want to please God, if you don't work, if you don't DO, you will come to ruin despite your desires.

Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.
Proverbs 20:4

It may not seem like you need to work hard now, but the future will reveal your lack of hard work and lack of faithfulness.

A lazy person is as bad as
    someone who destroys things.
Proverbs 18:8-10

Laziness is destructive to your life, community, and society.

A lazy person’s way is blocked with briers,
    but the path of the upright is an open highway.
Proverbs 15:19

Lazy people want much but get little,
    but those who work hard will prosper.
Proverbs 13:4

Work hard and become a leader;
    be lazy and become a slave.
Proverbs 12:24

Laziness leads to slavery in our lives. Economic slavery, physical slavery (to health issues), and spiritual slavery. Laziness is a sin. Those who work hard will be successful examples. They will be leaders. Those who are lazy will be slaves in this life.

Father, I ask that these warnings against laziness would penetrate my heart. I can think of many times when I have not worked hard. I sleep so much and am distracted by so many things. I confess my laziness to you, Lord. I want to be free. I want to be free from laziness. I want to be a hard worker for you and please you. Father, I turn from laziness. I repent. I leave that lax and idle behavior behind and I turn towards You and towards Your service. I want to be like Paul. I want to be like Jesus. I want to work day and night to serve You and Your body. I want to put others first. I don't want to sleep too much. I don't want to procrastinate. I don't want to waste time with leisure and entertainment. I want to spend my life and energy on things with meaning. Lead me and guide me into right work and hard work for Your glory. I turn from this sin and I turn to you and partake of Your nature. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Complaining

I'm going to be doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from Sin and turning to God.

Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. Then the Lord’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp.
Numbers 11:1

In the Old Testament complaining brought anger and judgment from the Lord. This judgment was severe, resulting in death. In context, the Israelites were indeed going through challenges that were much harder than most of our lives. They struggled to believe God for protection and provision: things we often take for granted. In the end, their circumstances did not harm their lives; their complaining destroyed their lives.

Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
Numbers 14:1-4

There is much more to this story, which continues in the passage below. The Israelites refuse to enter the promised land. Complaining spreads through the whole community with fear and protest against their leaders. Complaining is linked to both unbelief, fear, and ungratefulness. It results in rebellion.

Now tell them this: ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say. 29 You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because you complained against me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older and was included in the registration will die. 30 You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
Numbers 14:28-30

Again, complaining results in God's judgment. An entire generation refuses God's blessing, and is barred from entering the promised land because of their unbelief and complaining.

13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
Philippians 2:13-15

In the New Testament we are commanded to do everything without complaining or arguing. Clearly we will have to do things that we don't want to do. We are to do them without complaining or arguing. Then we will not be able to be criticized or blamed.

15 to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
16 These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.
17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted.
Jude 15-17

Jude brings a scathing rebuke and description of false teachers and false brothers. He says they are characterized by grumbling and complaining. They want to do what they want to do. They want to have their way. They want to satisfy themselves. Jude goes on to warn us of the last days and the final judgment.

The people refused to enter the pleasant land,
    for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.
25 Instead, they grumbled in their tents
    and refused to obey the Lord.
26 Therefore, he solemnly swore
    that he would kill them in the wilderness,
Psalm 106:24-26

The generation who died in the wilderness stands as a testimony and warning of judgment for thousands of years. We are to look at their lives and deaths and determine in our hearts not to be unbelieving or ungrateful.

9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
1 Corinthians 10:9-11

These judements were written down to warn us. We are warned by the deaths of others, not to complain or grumble. That is a serious warning.

8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!
10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
James 5:8-10

James again warns us against grumbling against each other. Complaining not only about circumstances, but about people. This brings judgment on our lives. James's words are meant to bring the fear of the Lord. If we do not repent of complaining and grumbling about others, we will be judged. We must be patient with one another.

Father, your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. You warn me against complaining and grumbling. These things do not please you. You provide for me and protect me in every circumstance. You are trustworthy and faithful. To complain is to claim that you are not. I repent of complaining, Lord. I turn away from this sin. I confess that I have complained about my circumstances in the past. I want to be cleansed from this sin. I don't want it to persist in my life. I confess that I have complained and grumbled about others. Master, I do not want to do that any more. I know that these things must be corrected in my life. Help me, Jesus. I repent of them today. Lord, I believe you, and I do not doubt your love and care for me. I want to please you. I thank you that You love me so much You sent Jesus to die on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins and so that I would be redeemed and rescued from every sin. I thank you for freedom and new birth in Christ, and that now I live accepted in Him. I turn from complaining and grumbling to You Lord. I am grateful and thankful to You. I love you. Thank you for loving me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities by Don Little

Muslims who come to Christ face momentous spiritual, psychological and social obstacles that drive many to abandon their faith. Often conversion and discipleship are framed by individualistic Western models that do not acknowledge the communal cultural forces that constrain and shape new believers. Effective discipleship requires a more relational, holistic process of Christian identity development and spiritual formation in community.
In this comprehensive resource, missiologist Don Little engages the toughest theoretical and practical challenges involved in discipling believers from Muslim backgrounds. He draws on New Testament principles, historical practices and interviews with seasoned disciplers ministering in a dozen countries across the Muslim world. Addressed here are key challenges that believers from Muslim backgrounds face, from suffering and persecution to spiritual warfare and oppression. Also included are implications for the role of disciplers in church planting among Muslims. - Intervarsity Press

Don Little offers a needed examination of discipleship among those from a Muslim background in Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities. The book is divided into two parts "Biblical, Historical, and Missiological Foundations for Discipling Believers from Muslim Backgrounds" and "Seasoned Practices in Discipling Believers from Muslim Backgrounds." The first three chapters address conversion and discipleship as presented in Scripture. Little examines Paul's writings and then Luke and Acts in a fascinating look at biblical doctrine and practice.

The chapter on conversion was a delight as Little challenges common perceptions of "being saved" and decisions with the biblical example of transformation, obedience, and discipleship. The following two chapters are an examination of discipleship in Scripture, but reveal that Little clearly has certain focuses, emphases, and points which he desires to make. A thorough and balanced examination of Scripture requires a different book, but Little's introduction of discipleship through an overview of Scripture provides a needed foundation.

The weight of Little's perspective continues to determine the analysis in his chapters on Contemporary Western Evangelical Approaches and Historical Understandings of Spiritual Formation in the Church. Little addresses popular literature on discipleship in a way similar to his examination of Scripture. He addresses perceived strengths and weaknesses in both approaches before turning to the specific topic of discipleship in Muslim contexts.

I was immensely pleased to see Little devote an entire chapter to "Contextualization and Discipleship Within Muslim Communities," and further that he provides a strong critique of Insider Movements and their methodology. While there isn't space to detail the controversies immersing the evangelism of the Muslim world or Insider Movements, it is an issue that every book on evangelism or discipleship in a Muslim context needs to address. At this time it seems that the overwhelming majority of literature on reaching Muslims for Christ endorses Insider Movement methodology or is silent on the controversy. I was actually surprised that Little not only addresses the issue, but does so clearly, stating, "I believe that unhelpful syncretism is more likely to develop, because it is already there in the theoretical foundations, when one adopts an insider approach" p. 116. He goes on to address specific issues stating, "In my experience it is quite rare to find people who have chosen to believe in and obey Christ who want to continue to call themselves Muslims or continue to attend a mosque" p. 118. These statements are to be applauded; however, Little goes on to quote and endorse several missionaries who are indeed involved in promoting Insider Movement methodologies. One of the difficulties in these controversies is that each individual draws lines at different practices and assigns labels and definitions differently. For some, Little's chapter will be shocking, for those like myself it will be a welcome but somewhat unsatisfying entry in the Insider Movement debate.

Little goes on to propose his own model of discipleship, a somewhat complex scheme he calls the Living Pyramid Model. This model, while not offering a practical program or method presents what Little believes to be a balanced, scriptural approach to discipleship in general.

The majority of the book then begins as Little presents and analyzes content provided by 75 disciple-makers involved in discipling BMB's (believers from a Muslim background). Little interviewed each subject (he presents detailed statistics regarding who was interviewed) with the following questions: 
  1. What would you give as a quick definition of discipling? What is it?
  2. How does a believer grow? What is the process that makes growth happen?
  3. How do you disciple individuals in a collective culture? Explore individual versus community.
  4. What is the BMB's  ideal identity in family and community?
  5. What have you seen to be the biggest obstacles to seeing people grow to maturity?
  6. How do you disciple BMB's through persecution and opposition?
  7. Have you had experience with demonic manifestations? If so, what advice do you have?
  8. What are the challenges and opportunities that come through the nature of BMB families?
  9. Let's explore some of the challenges of handling foreign money and foreign support.
  10. What's your integration goal for BMB's? Forming BMB groups? Having them join churches of believers from Christian backgrounds? Other?
  11. What is the ideal role(s) for an expatriate worker(s)?
  12. How do you deal with oral learners? What is the role of literacy in you discipleship?
  13. Anything else? Is there some key thing I have overlooked? Any other comment you want to make?
These responses were then analysed and cross-referenced in a number of different ways leading to a fascinating series of charts documenting the frequency of certain answers and comparing and contrasting the wisdom and emphases these disciple-makers had to offer. The interviews provide a wealth of information and chapter after chapter of fascinating discussion. The information retrieved from these interviews are invaluable and make the book and the discussion within worth the study of every Christian worker among Muslims.

I will be referencing these sections again and again, and found myself informed and appropriately challenged by the varying perspectives presented within the study. While I often wished that Scripture was a greater part of the discussion and analysis, these studies provide the reader with their own opportunity to apply scriptural authority to the discussion. Little's strong perspective does not persevere here, and he reports and analyzes the findings in a clear and objective way; so much so that it is almost jarring when the conclusion of the book abandons the interviews and the objective tone.

Little's concluding chapter is somewhat puzzling as he moves away from the content of the interviews and provides a chapter extolling the virtues of Eugene Peterson's work and perspective and challenging the principles and practices of Church Planting Movements ( of which a number of those interviewed were involved). As a practitioner of Church Planting Movement methodologies I appreciated the challenge, but felt that Little mis-characterized the emphases of what he was critiquing. Again, the length of this review does not permit me to delve into a critique; suffice to say I appreciate Little's emphasis on faithfulness and perseverance with those God has given us to Shepherd while disagreeing with his perception that many focus on speed.

Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities presents a somewhat uneven study of discipleship in general and discipleship in Muslim contexts. It excels while discussing specific issues present in discipling Muslims, and the material present in the appendices, charts, and interviews is well worth the study and purchase of the book. I would not hesitate to recommend it to all of my brothers and sisters working within Muslim contexts and am immensely grateful for Don Little's research. Little's own views on discipleship may have been better suited for a different book, or may have been more gently integrated into the whole. The book remains a valuable resource and discussion as Christians across the world find themselves discipling their brothers and sisters from a Muslim background.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Small Study on the Conscience

Cross-cultural ministry, circumstances, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit have led me to consider and reconsider what the Bible teaches about the conscience. There is clearly a large study to be done here, but I wanted to post some brief conclusions along with some verses that I will be adding to my daily prayer list.

The Bible says that there are those with strong consciences, who correctly discern right from wrong and are free from guilt and shame. There are also those with weak consciences who feel conviction and guilt over things that are not wrong (such as eating the wrong foods). (1 Cor 8)

The Bible also speaks of those with seared and defiled consciences who can no longer feel conviction (1 Tim 4:2, Titus 1:15).

We must not violate our conscience. Whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

The blood of Christ cleanses us and our conscience (Heb 9:14, 10:22).

We cultivate good, strong consciences by having a strong faith in the sacrifice Christ for a right relationship with God (no guilt, no shame) and by seeking the Word of God and the community of faith to keep us from blind spots and areas where our conscience has been hardened by experience.

Verses for my prayer list:

Acts 23:1
Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”

Father I want to live in a good conscience before you every single day. I never want to violate my conscience. Teach me wisdom and give me strength to live according to every inner conviction. Help me to only make decisions when I know my conscience is clear on the subject.

Acts 24:16
This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

2 Corinthians 1:12
For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

1 Timothy 1:5
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,

Hebrews 9:14
how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Father, I want my conscience to be cleansed. Lord there are many things that I remember that still bother my conscience, and there are many things that I have questions about. I have confessed all known sin to you, and I now I ask that you would cleanse my conscience from every dead work, that all guilt and shame would be gone and that I would walk before you in complete confidence in my service to You, in Jesus name.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Skill-Power, Proverbs, and Freedom

While researching addiction, I came across this excellent Ted Talk. The principles taught in this talk are highly practical and reminded me of numerous Scriptures. As I pursue freedom for others and myself, I continually discover the power of practical obedience. Principles matter. Truth sets us free. Jesus is the answer. But we must respond to that truth. We must obey it. We have a responsibility to apply wisdom and truth to our lives: to access the power of the Holy Spirit, and to do whatever it takes to be free. Below are the results of my Bible Study inspired by this Ted Talk.

#1 Willpower
Repentance, "Do You Want to be Free?"
Matthew 15:1-20, James 4:1-10

#2 Skillpower
What does the Bible say about to deal with your specific struggle?
Hosea 4:6, Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:16, Matthew 22:29

Control the sources that control us:
Mark 3:22-27

#3 Social Pressure
1 Corinthians 15:33, Ecclesiastes 4:12, Proverbs 12:26, Proverbs 13:20

#4 Social Ability
James 5:16, Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 9:9

#5 Rewards
(Lots of Scripture on the rewards of holiness, gotta narrow this one down and choose the most practical)

#6 Space
2 Timothy 2:22, Matthew 6:13, Romans 13:14

Plan to deal with setbacks:
Proverbs 24:16, Micah 7:8-9, 1 John 1:7-9

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Does the Bible Say About Money?

Life has been full of Bible reading projects for the last year or so, but I have been selfishly holding out on my readers. I'm going to try to do better.

About a week ago I was praying in the shower, and I felt the Lord impress me to ask my brother to do a Bible study with me over Google Hangout. He lives in Philadelphia, and I am here in Detroit. I use video conference often to do Bible studies and train believers to make disciples all over the nation. I felt that I should tell him to pick a topic and that I would study whatever he wanted: a book, a book of the Bible, a topic, whatever.

As we talked, he mentioned that he was trying to save money. He is a computer programmer for a hedge fund and is quite adept at both programming and investing. I mentioned that I was trying to save more money and raise more support as I need a significant increase in my income in order to have a family. It occurred to both of us that we should study money.

We both read the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes this week, highlighting all the verses we found that spoke about money. I used a green highlighter and used a cheap edition of the New Living Translation, which I love for the Old Testament and especially Proverbs. I have been reading proverbs every month along with my reading plan, so this study fit right in. You can see the evangelistic DVD Magdalena stuck in the pages. I used it as a straight edge so that my highlighting wasn't wavy. After I was finished I hopped on BibleGateway and copied and pasted all the verses I highlighted into a Google Doc which my brother, and I will discuss on Google Hangout (this post brought to you by Google . . . just kidding).

My goals for this study are to get quality time with my brother, learn about how to make more money, steward what God gives me better, and raise more support. I really want to honor God as He blesses me with enough income to get married and increase ministry. When I first entered full-time ministry I was super-spiritual about money. I don't regret that because I learned to trust the Lord, seek the Kingdom first, and live with absolute integrity when it came to finances. My first year in full-time ministry I made less than $6500. Since then the Lord has greatly blessed me, and I know that He will bless me more and more as I apply His Word, wisdom, and hard work.

You can learn more about my ministry, contact me, and donate at jonathanammon.org (there are also many free sermons and trainings)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My 2015 Bible Reading Plan

Happy New Year!

Last year I went through the most intense Bible reading plan I've ever attempted (short of the 26 day whole Bible rush I did in college). You can check out the plan here. Basically I read through the whole Bible once and the Gospels and Acts 30 times. How did it go? Fairly well. I did read the Gospels and Acts over thirty times with the help of audio Bibles, and I did read the whole Bible with the exception of being fairly spotty in Psalms and Proverbs (odd I know, but I kept bouncing back and forth to those two while reading other books, which meant I didn't keep enough discipline to get all the way through them).

It was a profoundly challenging experience. The Gospels and Acts are demanding, and I honestly miss the encouragement of the epistles, which I usually read more than any other portion of the Bible.

So what's up this year?

I'm going to scale things back a bit, by keeping track of my reading on a simple checklist and doing ten chapters per day. I will read the whole Bible at least once, but other than that broad goal I will be free to read what I want, when I want with one exception. I will be reading the Gospel of John at least once a month. How does that break down?

  • Read ten chapters per day
  • Read the whole Bible at least once
  • Read the Gospel of John at least once per month
  • Keep track here:

Need some encouragement for the new year? Check out this New Year's sermon: