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Put Your Warrior Boots On: An Interview with Lisa Whittle

Lisa WhittleDoes it feel like the world has gone crazy and you’re just along for the ride? Are you afraid for your children? Are you worried of not having enough strength to face the day? What does the Bible mean when we read “fear not”?

Bible Gateway interviewed Lisa Whittle (@LisaRWhittle) about her book, Put Your Warrior Boots On: Walking Jesus Strong, Once and for All (Harvest House Publishers, 2017).

What’s the difference between living human brave and Jesus strong?

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Lisa Whittle: Human brave is done in our capabilities—dependant upon us; therefore, it has an expiration date to it. Jesus strong is an endless supply of inner strength that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit—promised in places like Philippians 4:13: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

I’m grateful life is not about being brave in our humanness, because if it were, I’d be in trouble. One minute I feel brave and the next I feel like I want to curl up in a fetal position in the closet, scared over what’s going on in this crazy world. We use this word, a lot—overuse it, really, but we don’t even know what it means and call so many different things brave. It has to be about something more than that: the powerful strength that comes from our help, Jesus Christ, when we come to him, weak—clearly defined in the Bible. That’s something higher and enduring. That’s Jesus strong.

What role does the Bible play in a person living Jesus strong?

Lisa Whittle: The Bible plays a huge role in the Jesus strong life. I say often that everything we need to know is found in the Word of God, and it’s true. We can’t be truly strong without the Bible guiding our life. It’s everything—our lamp, our map, our calibrator, our comfort, our balancer, our peace. Without the Bible, we don’t know the way to go, can’t know the heart of God and how he wants us to live. The Bible shows us how to treat people, holds us accountable in love, and infuses in us the daily strength we need to live in this tough world. What a gift the Father gives us in his Word—he gives us himself!

What’s the number one way we stop living below our spiritual potential?

Lisa Whittle: The number one way we stop living below our spiritual potential is, we learn to walk in the authority of God. In this, we have to first understand that, according to Ephesians 1, God is the highest authority in this entire world and through our relationship with him, because of his great love for us and his great grace, we walk covered by that authority.

He decided that was the way it would be, and for us to walk through this life scared and unsettled and unsure, wavering in our belief and faith in him, is for us to live below our spiritual potential. Far too many of us have lived this kind of life for far too long. It’s time to rise to our spiritual potential, and that’s what I pray for the reader of this book.

What are the two best ways for defending your beliefs in an aggressive culture?

Lisa Whittle: I discuss these two things in detail in the Boots of Standard section of Put Your Warrior Boots On—such an important truth to cling to right now; especially, as standards are being eroded daily.

We defend our beliefs in an aggressive culture by first, knowing what we believe. It’s the second declaration of the warrior boots believer, and it’s a vital one. It says in John 7:17, “Man must know in order to do God’s will…” We have to know what we believe, truly know, so we can stand in the shifting sands of culture. We have an epidemic of believers who are saavy to our smartphones but illiterate to the Word of God. We’ve got to get real about this and commit to knowing what we believe so we can be settled and grounded in our convictions, instead of insecure and waffling every time a hard conversation comes up.

Second, we have to tell the truth to ourselves and others. This is a part of that getting real I’m talking about. We’ve got to stop deflecting about where our spiritual lives really are, settling for God-ish Christianity (2 Timothy 3:5—“having a form of godliness but denying its power…”). We’ve got to stop worrying about self-preservation and popularity over commitment to the gospel.

The beautiful reality is when we live with standards like these, we do ourselves a huge favor because we don’t have to scramble anymore to know what to say. People know where we stand and we don’t apologize for it but live with Jesus shining through. It just works.

What are the truths a person can cling to when they’re scared?

Lisa Whittle:

  1. God has this. He hasn’t changed. He’s “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and “has overcome the world” (John 16:33). The end.
  2. God loves you. His intention for you is always going to be good (Jeremiah 29:11).
  3. Heaven is the prize. This is not your best life yet, so there’s nothing here to lose (Philippians 3:14).

What are the two keys to living fearlessly?

Lisa Whittle: Preparation and trust.

1) Preparation: We won’t fear the hard times in the same way if we have the knowledge we are as prepared as we can be for them. The reason so many believers spend so much time in fear is because deep down we know we haven’t spiritually fortified our lives. We know we are marginal Christians and in the tough times, that won’t cut it. A prepared life is the life of a warrior. A warrior prepares so that when the time comes the strength they need is already there. The Bible is a book of preparation. Jesus gave us the Word to tell us what to do right now so we wouldn’t scramble, panic and fear.

2) Trust: There’s no way around the trust issue. If we don’t trust God, all our preparation won’t matter. We don’t have to trust ourselves. We just have to trust God. The way to trust is not to go on what we see. It’s to go on what we believe. Belief is the only way.

What is the “ministry of sameness” and why does the world need it?

Lisa Whittle: The ministry of sameness is a powerful illustration God gave me to impress on me the importance of believers living consistent lives. In my own life, he showed me that the steady life that preaches the same, loves the same, stays with Jesus, etc., is the one that shows others the example of the faithful Father they can count on through his follower who seeks to be like him.

People are longing for someone they can count on in this world, and nary a person who is dependable. I’m convicted to be the kind of person who shows up, loves like Jesus, preaches the truth without regard to popularity or concern for me. This is what the world needs from us, now, more than ever, because it’s a commodity so rare. Anyone can say words. But not everyone shows up. Not everyone sticks around. Not everyone is the same person without falling away from the faith. These are the ones we watch and look to for stability when the world is crashing down around us.

The world should say of the Christians—“of course they’re the ones caring for the orphans…of course they’re the ones crying over the poor…feeding the hungry and taking them in…staying faithful to God…I’m not surprised.” That’s the ministry of sameness. We have some work to do in this regard. That’s not our reputation by and large right now.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Lisa Whittle: Oh, I love it. I still use Bible Gateway all the time when I write, to look up different translations, etc. In fact, it was the first site I ever used when I started writing back in 2004, so I’m pretty nostalgic about it. What good work you all do at Bible Gateway. I appreciate you.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Lisa Whittle: I just want to encourage you, my friend, to tell you that despite the crazy of the world, despite your hard place and how weak at the moment you may feel…you can do this. You can put those warrior boots on and walk Jesus strong. As a child of God, it’s your heritage. Don’t settle for a reactionary, fearful, unsettled life. You were made for better than that. One day we’ll start our real best life and all get better. But that day is not yet here, so let’s make the most of this life on earth and finally, for once and for all, rise to our spiritual potential. I’m praying for you, that this will be true.


Bio: Lisa Whittle is a sought out Bible teacher for her wit and bold, bottom line approach, and the author of Put Your Warrior Boots On: Walking Jesus Strong, Once and for All, I Want God: Forever Changed by the Revival of Your Soul, Whole: An Honest Look at the Holes in Your Life and How to Let God Fill Them, The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do, and Behind Those Eyes: What’s Really Going on Inside the Souls of Women.

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3 Tips for Setting Boundaries Around Technology Use

Nicole Johnsonby Nicole Johnson

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)

Our dependence on technology can be crazy-making. Many people have been trying to sound the alarm for years, but it doesn’t appear to be working on a large scale. Our devices are more popular than ever and more ingrained in our lives than we realize.

This was certainly true for me, but seeing this become true in the lives of our kids prompted me to do something about it.

I began to notice them going from one screen to the next. As soon as they laid down one device, they would quickly pick up another. I realized I couldn’t get upset with the kids for their nonstop use of technology unless I was modeling good limits on my own tech use. I know, it pretty much stinks that a double standard doesn’t work.

For years I have allowed computer time to bleed over into other areas, leeching time away from walking or reading or being still and quiet. I’ve actually thought, Why don’t I have as much time as I used to? Guess what? I do. I have always had twenty-four hours in a day. I have as much or as little time as I’ve ever had, but I have lost my sense of time by not setting boundaries with technology.

When I thought about what healthy use of technology might look like for me and what limits I needed to set, these are the ones that came up first. I’m not doing them perfectly, but I am doing them regularly.

Turn Off Email When Engaged in Something Else

When I turn off the email program on my laptop, I can think of it more like my outside mailbox. There may be mail there because I heard the carrier outside, but I’ll go and get it when I’m dressed and ready to do something with it. Since email requires none of that getting dressed stuff or even having to walk outside, I have a tendency to let it spill all over the place and gobble up all my time. I find myself looking at email at times when I can’t do anything with it, which may be the biggest time waster ever, because I will have to look at it again when I am going to deal with it properly. I’m much better at setting boundaries with snail mail, probably because it doesn’t beep and pile up every two minutes!

While I cannot control how often people send me email, I can control how often I look at it and when I respond to it. I do not have to give my attention to email just because it clamors for it or because everyone else seems to devote the day to it. When my children yell for me to come and see the biggest spit bubble ever, but I’m in the middle of something, I do not respond immediately to their request. “I’m cutting up fruit, sweetie. When I finish, I’ll come.” I know the bubble will probably be gone, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take. I want to give my children my attention when I am able to give it as completely and freely as possible. Who wants a frustrated mother who comes and rolls her eyes at the biggest spit bubble ever? No one.

I am not strong enough to be working on my computer and not look at my email as it comes in, but I am strong enough to turn off the email program so I can pay attention to what I’m paying attention to. I cannot live in calm if I’m trying to squeeze living, working, mothering, and connecting with people in between emails that will never stop coming. But when I turn off my email, even for a few hours, I am free from those demands and free to concentrate, to play, to rest, to shop—whatever I am choosing to give my full attention to.

A beautiful byproduct of setting limits on the reach of my email is that I inadvertently created time for myself. I discovered while writing one afternoon when my email was off that not only was my concentration better, but I got work done in much less time. I didn’t fully make the connection that day, but after a few times I knew I’d been more effective, and also more efficient. Whenever a project takes longer than the time allotted, it causes me to scramble, moving things around to give myself more time, creating crazy. But with a secure boundary around this huge time waster, I was finishing within my estimated time and sometimes even early. Who knew I could do more if I wasn’t distracted twenty times after I’d begun?

Mute Alerts, Alarms, and Ringers

Whenever a text alert comes from my phone, it startles me a little, and where is my phone anyway? I find it hard not to stop or interrupt what I’m doing and check my phone. Why is that? It’s because our brains get a little shot of dopamine (its favorite drug) whenever we hear that ding. Something has happened! Someone’s trying to reach me! My lives are refilled for Candy Crush! Come quick! But if I don’t hear those rings and alerts, they don’t distract me. Much like turning off my email, muting all the alerts provides me the freedom to concentrate on whatever I am trying to concentrate on.

This boundary keeps those pesky, nonstop alerts from physically changing my brain. I am more able to embody calm when I am not getting dopamine surges every few minutes. Our brains are dopamine addicts, and my phone had become my dealer. During the first few weeks of putting my phone on silent, I would forget I had done it and my brain would start to wonder, Why isn’t anyone texting me? I’d better go check my phone. I would remember I’d put it on silent and congratulate myself for getting clean. It felt so good that I could call the shots (literally) regarding the dopamine, and not my dealer, um, phone.

You might be saying to yourself, What if a text is critical? It could be something really important. It isn’t. If I’m waiting for a critical text, I do leave my phone on. When I am out for the evening and there is a sitter with my children, I don’t turn my phone to silent. When I am waiting to hear the results of a friend’s MRI, my phone is on. But for the most part, the text messages and calls I receive are not critical, unless you count as critical someone needing the recipe for Picnic Potato Salad.

When I am having family time, or quiet time, or just goof-off time, I want to be fully present. I don’t want to interrupt that time for what might be happening somewhere else. If I don’t set this boundary, my phone brings distraction opportunities twenty-four hours a day. I can’t function like this, and not because I don’t like smartphones or because I resist technological advances. It is because I no longer want to live in crazy, and constant distractions create crazy. An old German proverb applies here: “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair!”

I keep my devices quiet to limit the disruptions they inevitably cause and also to model control for my kids. If I am okay with their being on their phones all the time (when they actually get them—at age thirty!) then I can be on my phone all the time. But if I want my kids to know a different way, a way they might not appreciate for a long time, one that cultivates their creativity and shores up their concentration and allows them to work more efficiently, then I have to stay off my phone. I have to model the kind of control I want my kids to exhibit, and lead the way in setting limits on some things to make space for the things we love most, like each other.

I still forget to do this at times, because with the number of devices I have, it seems like it takes an hour to make sure everything is on silent, but when I mute the bells and whistles, I feel calm coming in like a breeze off the ocean. I feel in control of my technology versus feeling like the technology is controlling me.

Take Sabbaticals from Social Media

Are you familiar with the term FOMO? The letters stand for Fear of Missing Out. Someone coined this phrase to give words to the fear and anxiety that we might be missing out on something. Magazine ads compete to create FOMO so we’ll buy the clothes that show we’re “in the know.” Who doesn’t want to be invited to the party? We don’t want to miss out or be left out of anything, especially something we want to be included in. This desire is so normal and human. I remember feeling FOMO every single day of junior high. As social beings, we want to experience what others are experiencing; we want to belong.

Through the creation of Facebook and the like, FOMO has become an epidemic. Every single hour of every single day it is possible to open your computer and see a hundred or more things you are missing out on! Our friends all over the country are doing amazing things and going fabulous places (yay, them!), but, hmm, without us (ugh). I’ve never seen anyone post a vacation photo looking sad that I’m not there (but a cool idea!). FOMO could also stand for Facebook Only Makes Outsiders! It’s hard on the psyche to see photos of happy, tanned people on vacation if I’m stuck at home with kids and the stomach flu. I am not bashing social media—well, not completely. I’m simply advocating drawing a boundary around it to protect our emotional health. We can do this by giving social media more realistic context in our lives.

Research has revealed a connection between the high usage of social media and depression. The reasons are not surprising. Social media heightens depression because of comparison, which was one of the ingredients that created crazy in my life. We look from the outside at other people’s lives and we rank ourselves in ways that lead to discontent. Remember, comparison never reveals the whole story, only as much of the story as we need to feel inferior. Every comparison we make is like a dry twig, and before long we have a dangerous pile of kindling in the middle of our living room. One spark, which social media is happy to deliver, will start the fire that burns up satisfaction and gratitude faster than we can click “like.”

Facebook cleverly creates the illusion that we are connecting and participating in the lives of others simply by looking at their posts. But that’s not participation. We are not engaged with most of our Facebook “friends” on a relational level unless we spend time with them in person. We are merely spectators who can look at the lives of others and leave comments.

Fortunately, Facebook hasn’t been a habit for me, so consuming less has not been difficult. I’ve never liked the way it tries to connect me to other people. While I’m trying to decipher how Facebook connected me to some guy named Albert across the country who knows three of my sister’s friends in Alabama, an hour has gone by and I have no idea where it went. However, I now know that Charlene’s dog died yesterday, Mary’s daughter went to the prom with a really goofy-looking boy, Sarah got engaged at the Arboretum, and Michael, an old friend from high school, bought a new truck. I feel awful. Not because I feel left out, but because I feel overwhelmed that I can’t keep up with all the relationships I’m not really in. Should I send a card to Charlene? Or just post a couple of sentences? I’ll have to get a gift for Sarah, but she didn’t exactly tell me about her engagement, so should I wait for the announcement or like her pictures? Thank goodness I don’t need to send a gift to Michael for getting a new truck!

Social media is simply that—media. It is not possible to have five hundred friends. It is possible to have five hundred people’s posts to look through, but I can barely keep up with the people that live under my roof! So even trying to stay current on people’s posts creates crazy, never mind trying to post something about yourself! Especially if you feel like I do that stress comes from what you’re not getting done.

If you are trying to create calm in your life, take a sabbatical from social media. Come up with a schedule that lets you detox and get a break, such as, three weeks on and then one week off. Be wise and intentional about the amount of usage and always remind yourself that looking at other people’s lives from the outside is depressing.

Technology brings information, photos, apps, even movies, right to our fingertips. The possibilities are endless and conveniences are practical. But technology asks for a lot in return: our attention, our information, our choices, our focus, and our time. Use technology wisely; make conscious choices about what you’re willing to give away and what you’re not. In doing so you’ll limit the reach of the crazy and take an important step in extending calm to yourself and your family.

________

Adapted from Creating Calm in the Center of Crazy: Making Room for Your Soul in an Overcrowded Life by Nicole Johnson. Click here to learn more about this title.

Author, speaker, and actor Nicole Johnson knows what it’s like to feel as if you’re drowning in crazy. When she couldn’t catch her breath or stay awake long enough to talk with her husband, let alone God, she sought to find new ways of “being” in her life. Creating Calm in the Center of Crazy is a voice of possibility and peace for those seeking to find a calm spiritual center in a crazy, runaway world. As a wife and mom of young children, Nicole recognized that life had become out of control. And, with the help of a crisis, she started her journey to create the very calm she was craving.

Nicole’s personal story grounds the book as she abandons mere tips and tricks (and the empty promises of time saving apps), to explore new practices—like creating a room of her own, setting technology boundaries, rediscovering the spiritual disciplines of quiet and still (they’re not bad words)—and then extending those practices to provide a safer, stronger refuge for calm to dwell.

Nicole’s journey is shared with relatable stories, insightful help, and practical ideas that explore the inner life of a recovering crazy busy woman finding her way to calm and a deeper relationship with God.

Nicole Johnson, author of Fresh Brewed Life, has a uniquely creative voice. As an accomplished writer, speaker, and actor, Nicole has performed in thousands of churches and venues over the last twenty-five years, including more than a decade of touring with the national conference Women of Faith. Nicole lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband and two children.

Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: An Interview with Sam Storms

Sam StormsJune 4 will celebrate the Day of Pentecost. The Bible teaches we’re to be filled with the Holy Spirit and that God’s presence and grace is manifested among his people as they serve, love, and minister to one another. Yet why do gifts of prophecy, healing, tongues, and other supernatural gifts of God seem to be inconsistently demonstrated?

Bible Gateway interviewed Sam Storms (@Samuel_Storms) about his book, Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life (Zondervan, 2017).

[Browse Pentecost/Holy Spirit resources in the Bible Gateway Store]

What is your “pipe dream” you speak of in your book and why do you long for it?

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Sam Storms: The “pipe dream” is a wide array of local churches in the 21st century that are committed to the centrality and functional authority of the Bible and to the effective, Christ-exalting operation of all spiritual gifts. I long for it because that’s the vision for the local church that I see portrayed in the New Testament.

Today we have too many churches that swing to one end of the spectrum to the avoidance of the other. In other words, either they so strongly emphasize biblical authority that the supernatural work of the Spirit through his gifts is marginalized—if not entirely suppressed—or they so focus on spiritual gifts that little attention is paid to the functional authority of Scripture. My reading of the Bible is that God wants the body of Christ to embrace both with equal fervor and never to play off one against the other.

Too many Christians today think that these two areas of emphasis are mutually exclusive; that it simply isn’t possible to pursue life in the local church where both are wholeheartedly embraced. I beg to differ. That’s why I wrote Practicing the Power.

What are spiritual gifts and why does Paul say they should be eagerly desired?

Sam Storms: Spiritual gifts, to put it as simply as I know how, are the more or less concrete and tangible ways in which the Holy Spirit manifests his presence in and through the individual members of the church. Paul describes spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7 as the “manifestation” of the Spirit, which is to say the empowering presence of the Spirit by which he enables and energizes Christians to minister and serve one another for the common good of God’s people. They’re to be eagerly desired because this is the primary way in which we’re edified or strengthened or built up in our faith. Paul explicitly identifies the purpose of all spiritual gifts when he says they’re “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7b).

How do you briefly answer someone who says some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer applicable today?

Sam Storms: My first response comes in the form of a question: “What biblical texts say that these gifts are no longer applicable today?” The answer is: None. There is nothing that I read in the New Testament that suggests Paul or any other author anticipated that spiritual gifts would cease to operate prior to the second coming of Christ and the end of the age. If spiritual gifts were essential in the first century to build up and strengthen the body of Christ, I see no reason why they shouldn’t or couldn’t accomplish that same goal today.

I would also point to such texts as 1 Corinthians 1:7-8; 13:8-12; and Ephesians 4:11ff. which strongly suggest (if not require) that spiritual gifts will operate until the return of our Lord. I include in Practicing the Power as an Appendix the 12 reasons why I don’t think cessation of the gifts is viable and 12 reasons why I think their validity today is the teaching of Scripture.

Does God automatically give spiritual gifts or are they granted by request?

Sam Storms: Both! It would appear from 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 and 1 Peter 4:10-11 that every born-again believer is granted at least one gift at the time of his/her conversion. But since Paul wrote to Christians at Corinth and told them to earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that they might prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1), it seems clear that God can continue to grant spiritual gifts in response to our prayerful pursuit of them any time subsequent to conversion.

I would also point to 1 Corinthians 14:13 where Paul exhorts the person who has the gift of tongues (and is obviously already a believer) to pray that he/she might be granted the gift of interpretation. It would also appear from 1 Timothy 4:14 that Timothy was granted a spiritual gift when the elders laid hands on him and prayed, something that obviously occurred subsequent to his conversion.

Do Christians have more than one spiritual gift and how do they know what gift(s) they have?

Sam Storms: Some do, some don’t. The Apostle Paul had several gifts (apostleship, teaching, healing, prophecy, tongues, etc.).

The second question is more difficult to answer. Some recommend that we take spiritual gifts assessment tests to determine what gifts we have. That’s ok. But my preference is that instead of looking inwardly at ourselves, that we look outwardly to whatever needs there are in the church. Once a need is identified, step into the situation, ask God to empower you appropriately to meet whatever need is in front of you, and serve.

In other words, I like the idea of letting our gifts find us rather than us finding our gifts. So stop the introspection and go find a need and meet it, trusting that the Spirit will enable you to serve others to their benefit.

Why might Christians be afraid of spiritual gifts?

Sam Storms: There are quite a few reasons. One is that they haven’t been taught on the nature and operation of the gifts. The simple lack of familiarity often leads to fear and hesitation.

Second, they’ve often been taught that to seek or pray for gifts is to open up oneself to demonic seduction. But the New Testament never once warns us that humbly seeking and praying for spiritual gifts will bring anything other than a blessing.

Finally, many have been prejudiced against the supernatural and the operation of spiritual gifts by the outlandish and fanatical claims and manipulative practices of people they’ve seen on TV or the internet. The fear of guilt by association with such people is a paralyzing power.

What are the dangers of abusing spiritual gifts?

Sam Storms: The best answer for that is looking at what prompted Paul to write 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Some may think that a certain more miraculous gift must mean they’re more loved and highly favored of God.

Some may think that their gift is of such a superior nature that they should be given more time in a meeting than others to exercise it. There’s always the threat of “spiritual one-up-manship” that we must avoid.

Another abuse is using a spiritual gift to control or manipulate someone’s life, by telling them that “God told me to tell you that this is his will for your life.” Don’t ever do that!

Then there are those occasions when people elevate or prioritize spiritual gifts above spiritual character. The fruit of the Spirit are always more important than his gifts.

Finally, sometimes people base their identity on their gifting. But our identity is in Christ and ultimately has no relation to whatever gift the Spirit may have granted to us.

Why do you say prayer is a non-negotiable necessity?

Sam Storms: I say it because rarely does God grant us anything through any other means. God loves to glorify himself by suspending his gifts and blessings on our asking him for them. We should never presume to receive from God apart from prayer what he’s clearly told us in Scripture will be ours only through prayer. To put it simply, in the words of James, “you have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).

What’s the biblical basis of prophetic words and how is that prophecy expressed today?

Sam Storms: The biblical basis is the numerous biblical texts which describe prophecy as a spiritual gift that should characterize God’s people in the age of the New Covenant. I’m thinking of such texts as Acts 2:17-21; 13:1; 19:1-7; 21:8-9; 21:10-14; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:11ff; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; and 1 Timothy 1:18-19.

A simple definition of prophecy is that it’s when we speak forth in merely human—and thus often fallible—words something that the Holy Spirit spontaneously brings to mind. It might be an inner impression, a vision, an image of some sort, or come to us by means of a dream. All prophecy is based on a revelation from God, but always operates at a lower level of authority than that of inspired Scripture.

What does it mean to quench the Spirit?

Sam Storms: To “quench” the Spirit is to act or speak in any way that prevents or hinders the Spirit from manifesting his presence. If some resist the idea that we actually have the power to quench the Spirit, they must deal with 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 where Paul clearly says we do.

The Spirit has determined that he will operate through certain means and at certain times and if we sinfully put obstacles or warnings or prohibitions in the way, he may well not do for us what he otherwise would have done.

It’s an awesome and frightening responsibility that God has given us that we behave and believe and minister in such a way that the Spirit’s work can be advanced, heightened, intensified, and widely spread rather than quenched or inhibited.


Bio: Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas) is founder of Enjoying God Ministries, which provides biblical and theological resources to the body of Christ. He is also the senior pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City and a former professor. Storms travels both in the United States and abroad, speaking at churches and conferences. He’s the author of over two-dozen books, including The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, and a contributor to the Zondervan Counterpoints volume Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?. He blogs regularly at www.samstorms.com.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of May 28, 2017

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Memorial Day Quiz: How Many of These Bible Memorials Do You Know?

Memorial Day in the United States is a time for Americans remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by members of their armed forces over the years and centuries. Many other countries and cultures also designate holidays, festivals, or monuments to help people remember important events in their shared cultural history.

That’s as true of ancient people as it is of modern cultures! The Bible mentions many memorials designed to remind people of historically or spiritually important truths. Do you know what these Bible memorials were intended to remind people about? Take the quiz below and test your Bible knowledge:

Once you’ve taken the quiz, share it with friends and see how their score compares to yours!

Explore Memory and Culture in the Bible

For further reflection on the role of memory and memorials—in both the modern day and in Bible times—see our post Monuments and Memorial Day: Remembering Who We Are.

If you found the memorials mentioned in our quiz fascinating, sign up for our new one-week devotional that explores Bible history and culture! It’s Living History: Exploring Biblical Cultures, and in the course of a week it will give you fresh context for some of your favorite Bible passages. The Living History devotional draws from the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.

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Getting Out of Your Own Way

by Sanya Richards-Ross

If anyone thinks they are something when
they are not, they deceive themselves. Each
one should test their own actions. Then they
can take pride in themselves alone, without
comparing themselves to someone else.

GALATIANS 6:3–4

I really thought they would cancel the race. I didn’t realize they sold tickets and that there was a strict schedule to maintain. I was young. It was my second world championships—my first as one of the favorites.

This can’t be happening, I thought. Surely the organizers will reschedule. Sheets of rain covered my “oval office” in currents of water. This obsession with the uphill walk and my suddenly soaked socks really just distracted me from my main focus—Tonique Williams-Darling, the powerful runner from the Bahamas who had won Olympic gold in the 400 meters the previous summer in Athens.

In 2004, I turned professional after winning gold on the 4×400 relay at the Olympics. I didn’t medal individually, but if I had run my fastest time from that season, I would have earned bronze. That validated to me that I was ready to move beyond the grinding team schedule of college athletics and pursue my potential to be one of the world’s best.

Tonique was my main competition for the 2005 World Championships title contested on this water-soaked track in Finland. She beat me at a major track meet in the United States in June, but I had come back to beat her a month later during the European racing season. She announced her presence at the track with a regal aura. When she and her entourage arrived that day, the rain, falling harder and heavier by the minute, seemed to slide right around her. Tonique was dry as a bone. At least it seemed that way to me.

The night before the race, I had a conversation with a runner I really admired. “To win against Tonique,” he said, “you have to beat her off the curve.” My youth crippled me once again, because I didn’t have the nerve to say that when I won in Lausanne—the Swiss city that sits beside Lake Geneva and is home to the International Olympic Committee—I had to make up ground coming through the turn into the homestretch, the final 100 meters. But he said it, and I believed his advice. I wanted to know I’d be doing something different—something extra—to guarantee a win. I failed to see that the winning formula was inside me all along.

The rain was torrential, and it remained my tormentor. Coach Hart said it was the first and only time he’d ever seen a track covered in curling waves of water. Still, they lined us up to run. The last thing Coach told me before I walked out to my lane was, “Push, pace”—a reminder of the strategy we’d use to run every race. He always tells me to get out hard and then find my rhythm for the last half of the race. If I pace myself through the final turn, I can kick it down the homestretch, but that wasn’t the advice I was given the night before.

Push, pace, whatever, I said to myself. I’m beating her off the curve, and I’m winning this final.

I drew lane 3, and Tonique had lane 6. Running on the inside of your biggest rival can be, and should be, a big advantage. Pacing, movement, and position all become an auxiliary sense. When it comes time to make the turn and really race, that awareness is your friend. This time, though, Tonique became my target. I fixated on her instead of my lane and my strategy.

Coach Hart’s “push, pace” strategy tells me to power through the first 50 meters with everything I have and then transition after the first turn, throttle back, and preserve my best running for the end of the race. This time, though, I was intent on beating Tonique around the last curve, and I did. But when I got there, in front of the pack, my legs were all out of running. All of my energy had been used up chasing her. I couldn’t hold the lead.

It was all I could do to hang on and finish second in the world championships. For a twenty-year-old, second-year professional, that should feel like an accomplishment, but I was heartbroken. And not because I lost, but because I beat myself running someone else’s race. Before I ever stepped on to the track and squinted through the downpour, eagle-eyeing Tonique, I talked myself out of winning.

It was a lesson learned. “They can’t beat me if I run my best race” became a mantra I’d say before every race throughout my career. The disappointment and devastation that come when you allow the circumstances around you to create a negative mind-set were very real to me. As a young, still-maturing professional athlete, that loss in the 2005 world championships was one of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome. The moment I crossed the finish line, I knew I second-guessed myself to a second-place finish.

I was humbled after losing the world title to Tonique. Mostly, I was angry for not believing what I knew in my heart to be true: I was the fastest 400 runner in the world. A few days after the world championships race, I visited with Coach Hart and vowed to never make the same mistake again.

“Coach, I’m going to win out,” I told him. “I’m going to win the rest of my races, and I’m going to be ranked No. 1 in the world.” Usually the world champion always got the Track & Field News top ranking, but I knew if I won my final races—if I ran to my potential—I could take the top spot.

Not even two weeks later, I ran the fastest race of my life up to that point in Zurich and then closed out the season with another victory in Monaco. I ended the season ranked No. 1, and my 48.9 seconds in Zurich was the fastest time in the world that year. It also made me the youngest woman in history to ever run below 49 seconds.

Yes, Tonique raced against me both times. But it didn’t matter. I ran my race.

________

Taken from Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me about God and Life by Sanya Richards-Ross. Click here to learn more about this title.

In Chasing Grace, Sanya shares triumphant as well as heartbreaking stories as she reveals her journey to becoming a world-class runner. From her childhood in Jamaica to Athens, Beijing and London Olympics, you’ll find yourself inspired by the unique insights she’s gained through her victories and losses, including her devastating injury during the 2016 Olympic Trials forcing career retirement just weeks before Rio. Sanya demonstrates how even this devastating loss brought her closer to the ultimate goal of becoming all God created her to be.

”Sometimes you think you are chasing a gold medal, but that’s not what you are chasing. You’re racing to become the best version of yourself.”

Sanya Richards-Ross is a Jamaican-American track and field athlete who competes internationally for the United States. She is the fastest American woman in history at 400 meters and the winner of multiple Olympic gold medals. Off the track, Sanya is an entrepreneur, TV personality, public speaker, and humanitarian. She designs and executes sports clinics across the United States to educate, empower, and teach youth with tools and strategies to excel both on and off the track. Sanya is married to two-time Super Bowl champion Aaron Ross and they live in Austin, TX.

Ascension Day: Jesus Ascends to Heaven

Ascension Day - Jesus ascends to heavenToday is Ascension Day! Today, on the 40th day of Easter, we commemorate Jesus’ ascent into heaven.

While it’s common to picture Jesus’ resurrection at Easter as the final major event in his earthly ministry, his ascent is important too. Not just because it marks Jesus’ physical departure from Earth, but because during it Jesus issued a famous command that his followers try to pursue even today, thousands of years later: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

The Ascension in the Bible

Christ’s ascension is described—albeit fairly briefly—in a few places in the Bible, and is mentioned or referenced in several of the epistles. The most detailed account is found in Mark 16:14-19:

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.Mark 16:14-19 (NIV)

Other Biblical References to the Ascension

While a multitude of Bible references confirm that this event took place, it’s difficult to piece together the exact details and chronology of Jesus’ ascension. (There is some question about whether the verses above were later additions to the book of Mark, for example—if you’re a Bible Gateway Plus member, see the useful discussion of this question in the NIV Quest Study Bible.) You can also read about Jesus’ ascension in these passages:

In addition to these accounts, you can find references to Christ’s ascension throughout the New Testament. Some of these references occur before the event—for example, Jesus’ mention of his future ascension in John 20:17. Many of the epistles make reference to the ascension after the fact—for example, Ephesians 1:19-20 and 1 Timothy 3:16. You can find a complete list of ascension references in the Dictionary of Bible Themes on Bible Gateway.

What Does Jesus’ Ascension Mean for Us Today?

Is Jesus’ ascension significant for our faith and understanding of God? Or is it just a short epilogue to his earthly ministry? Christians believe that the ascension does hold value and meaning for us today. Here are two articles that unpack the importance of the ascension, and Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry:

What’s Next After Ascension Day?

In less than two weeks, the Christian church will celebrate another huge event in the history of Christianity: Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent to equip and encourage the fledgling Christian church. At Pentecost, God demonstrated that although Jesus had physically left Earth, his followers would never be without a heavenly guide as they faced life’s trials. So today, join with Christians around the world in commemorating Jesus’ ascension—and let’s all look forward with anticipation to the joy of Pentecost!

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Discover Your True Identity: An Interview with Songwriter Matthew West

Matthew WestAre you struggling to find your true identity? Have you been damaged by somebody’s hurtful words? What does the Bible say about your identity not being found within, but through Jesus Christ?

Bible Gateway interviewed Matthew West (@matthew_west) about his book, Hello, My Name Is: Discover Your True Identity (Worthy Publishing, 2017).

In your new book, you discuss the importance of finding personal identity in God, rather than in the things of this world. What have you discovered about your own identity through the writing of Hello, My Name Is?

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Matthew West: From the start, I told myself that if I hoped to write a book that helped people to take a good look at some of the names that have been written on their nametags, I would need to do the same. I had to write this book from a place of authenticity, even vulnerability, being willing to let God show me areas of my life that have been incorrectly shaped by false identities I’ve allowed to hang around for too long. In the book, I talk about some of those names that were revealed to me—names like “Pretender, Control Freak, Insecure,” and the list goes on. I truly felt like, ‘if this book is helping me, then it’s going to help someone else.’

I hope people feel that honesty in these pages and are freed up to take the same honest look at their lives, then ask God to show them how His truth about us differs from those false identities we’ve been handed throughout our journeys.

I love David’s prayer, “Search me, God, and know my heart…” (Psalm 139:23). I prayed that a lot while writing this book. “God, search my heart and my life, reveal to me any areas of my life that you want me to see, any identities you want to show me, and help me dare to believe that your grace has erased them once and for all.”

Hello My Name Is is also the name of a song you wrote and recorded several years ago. Talk about what inspired the song and how the song inspired you to write this book.

Matthew West: I’ve noticed that most authors who are pastors or speakers write books whose message is derived from a sermon series they did at their church. I guess my process is similar except that instead of a sermon, the genesis of the idea is found in the form of a three-minute song. And many of my songs have been inspired by the true stories and testimonies of people who’ve written to me from all over the world. I’ve collected over 40,000 stories and counting.

One of those stories is about Jordan, who wrote to me and shared his powerful story of addiction. The first sentence read, “Hello, my name is Jordan and I’m a drug addict.” He went on to tell me that he grew up a good preacher’s kid. He then went on to college and became an All-American athlete, but after suffering a season-ending injury, he felt lost and found a new, unwanted identity thanks to the prescription pain medication he had been given. After two failed drug tests, Jordan was kicked out of school. As a last resort, he agreed to enter into Teen Challenge, a Christian drug recovery program for an entire year.

He shared with me how difficult that time was but that God radically changed his life by showing him some things about where he’d been finding his identity. He told me that he realized that he’s not defined by his successes OR his failures, but he is who God says he is.

Today, Jordan is a husband, father, high school coach, and an all around awesome guy whom I call a friend. The last sentence of his letter said, “Hello, my name is Jordan and I am a child of the one true king.”

In what ways does the Bible talk about a person’s identity?

Matthew West: I love 1 John 3:1: “See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

To be called a child of God—a child of the “one true king,” as Jordan put it—there is no greater distinction. I love the final sentence of that Scripture with that emphatic exclamation mark. What a powerful assurance. Right here, right now, in this very moment, no matter how good or bad you feel about yourself, you’re a beloved child of God. Throughout Scripture, God is conveying this message. He made you, he loves you, he pursues you, he’s not done with you, and he’s called you his child.

The subtitle of your book is Discover Your True Identity. What are people’s “false identity” and how can they determine their true identity?

Matthew West: A false identity is any lie that contradicts our God-given identities through Scripture. These false identities can be created by ourselves because of sin in our lives, choices made, or wrong turns taken and the regret, guilt, and shame that follows. Other false identities are handed to us by outside sources, maybe a damaging word spoken to us by someone or a childhood of abuse.

However, not all false identities are negative on the surface, such as successful, attractive, wealthy, athletic, or talented. But even those identities can become false when we place too much of our weight on them. Jordan’s identity was “All-American” until he broke his ankle and his season was over. Then, he didn’t know who he was anymore and started spinning out of control.

I’ve started working out with a trainer. He always talks about the importance of developing my “core.” Any fitness expert will tell you that a strong core is the start to a strong and healthy body. The same is true with our identities. It’s about strengthening our core, which requires digging past all of the surface identities that crowd our nametags and remembering that at the deepest level we are God’s masterpiece. The stronger our knowledge of the core of who we are, the better we’ll be able to deflect the old names and false identities that try to own us.

What’s your advice to those people living under the burden of a false identity right now?

Matthew West: Read this book! Ha! Seriously, my advice can only come from a place of what’s helping me. And what helped me is what also guided me in the writing of Hello, My Name Is: Scripture. One of the things I love about the Bible is that it’s page-by-page proof that God is not just a “broad strokes” kind of creator; God is in the details. So much so that we’re told nothing is hidden from him. He sees everything; he’s the beginning and the end. There’s no greater authority on your life than the one who gave you your life.

Much of this book, contrary to what one might think when they see the title, is not a search within but an encouragement to begin the journey of discovering who you really are by first discovering who you belong to and what your creator has to say about you. I truly believe that if someone is believing a lie about who they are right now, that God’s desire for you is to be set free from that once and for all. Ask him to show you where that false identity is coming from. Ask him to show you how differently he sees you than how you view yourself.

Throughout Hello, My Name Is, you weave stories from people you’ve met during your years touring as a musician. What story impacted you the most?

Matthew West: There’s no substitute for the power of a personal story. I love what happens when I get to hand my platform over to a guy like Jordan. The true stories of God redeeming a broken life shoot like arrows straight to our hearts and remind us that God wants to do the same life changing work in our lives.

I love how one story can impact another story, causing a ripple effect of change if we let it. Rob’s story is featured in the book for that very reason. Rob actually got saved at one of my concerts and decided to seek help for his drug addiction as a result of hearing Hello My Name Is and witnessing the story of Jordan. Today Rob has been sober for over two years. And the ripple effect continues.

Why do you believe this message about identity is so important for people to hear today?

Matthew West: When I saw how much the message of the song resonated with people I began to realize we’re all on the same journey of discovering who we are. Why else would the bookstores be filled with self-help books? That’s why I wanted to write this book; as a powerful reminder that when it comes to getting to the core of who we are, we simply can’t help ourselves. Left to our own devices, we’ll wander down a wide road filled with people slapping false identities on us at every turn. I’ve walked that road, and I don’t want to anymore.

We’ve got social media now where we can even create an identity for ourselves and show the world an inauthentic highlight reel version of who we are. But I’m drawn to REAL, not a highlight reel. The world doesn’t need to see another plastic Christian pretending they’ve got it all together. The world needs to see more Jordans; people who are willing to stand up and say, I’m far from perfect, but I’m loved by a perfect God.

What do you hope people walk away with after reading Hello, My Name Is?

Matthew West: I walked away with a renewed passion for Scripture and I was powerfully reminded that God’s Word really is a lamp to guide my feet along this journey of discovering who I am. I hope people will soak in the Scripture that I highlight throughout page after page of this book.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Matthew West: Bible Gateway is an amazing resource at our fingertips meeting us right where we are daily with the life-giving word of God. I use the resources when I’m on the go as well as when I’m doing Scripture study for books like this one. The ability to quickly access so many versions of Scripture is really an awesome tool.


Bio: Matthew West is a multiple-ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the Year winner, a four-time GRAMMY® nominee, and was awarded his first American Music Award (2013) and a Billboard Music Award (2014). Matthew West’s discography includes acclaimed releases: Happy (2003), History (2005), Something to Say (2008), The Story of Your Life (2010) and GRAMMY®- nominated Into the Light (2012). West was nominated for a Primetime Emmy® Award for Original Music & Lyrics for The Heart of Christmas from the film of the same name. His songwriting credits include cuts by Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diamond Rio, and more. He spent much of late 2012 and early 2013 on a pre-headlining stint on WinterJam Tour Spectacular, the number one tour in the world. He’s the author of Hello, My Name Is: Discover Your True Identity and Forgiveness: Overcoming the Impossible, Your Story: Embrace It, Tell It, Live It.

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How the Book of Psalms Is Like No Other Biblical Book

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Read the book of Psalms (ESV) on Bible Gateway

The Psalms are the only extended portion of Scripture written directly to God as a collection of heartfelt prayers. As such, the layout of the Psalms provides the reader with a wonderful platform for meditation and devotion.

The ESV Devotional Psalter (Crossway, 2017) pairs each of the Bible’s 150 psalms with a short devotional on thick, cream-colored, opaque paper with wide margins—allowing for note taking and written prayers alongside the Scriptures for deep personal study, thoughtful interaction, and prayerful reflection.

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How to Embrace Creative Evangelism: An Interview with Peyton Jones

Peyton JonesAccording to recent research, only 25% of Christians think it’s their job to share their faith. Do you struggle to tell the gospel to the neighborhoods you drive through on your way to church programs? What are the timeless principles of evangelism found in the book of Acts?

In this Q&A—in time for the International Day for the Unreached (June 4, 2017)—Peyton Jones (@PeytonJonesPunk) talks about his book, Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art (Zondervan, 2017).

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[Browse resources in the Evangelism section in the Bible Gateway Store]

There’s a not-so-subtle allusion to Indiana Jones in the subtitle of your book and in the cover. Explain what you find inspiring about Indiana Jones.

Peyton Jones: Indiana has an unassuming day job. Glasses, bow ties, archeology (before it was cool). Nobody expects that he has an inner adventurer that’d rather be out in the jungle on some adventure. I think that every believer has this hidden, yet reluctant adventurer inside of them in the form of the Holy Spirit, who was deposited in us for, among other things, mission. We settle for the classroom, but the adventure is out there.

You were once close to becoming the senior pastor at a megachurch, but your life took a very different turn. Describe your story of ministry.

Peyton Jones: I thought I wanted to be the next Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones as a young man. Those guys are still among my heroes, but my goals to be like them really stemmed from wanting people to hear me talk. The worst part about that was that in the life I pictured for myself, I was the center of attention who only expected people to listen. I have new heroes now. Wesley, William Booth, and others who got out on the streets, and brought people with them. They activated others, and turned them loose in the power of the Spirit to transform society around them.

You turn to the book of Acts throughout your book. What can we learn from Acts about what the church should look like and do?

Peyton Jones: We live in the age of webinars and online courses that promise the silver bullet solutions. The problem is they don’t deliver. Yet Jesus promised power; real power to the apostles if they waited on him. Peter said the promise was for them and their children, and as many as God would call. It’s a perpetual promise. It’s our unwillingness to maintain the tension between going and waiting that creates most of impotence today.

Power was promised in connection with mission. That’s why the missionaries have all the great stories. They’ve been called to go, and they’ve went. As a result of putting themselves in situations where they’re out of their depth, the Holy Spirit turns up as promised. Why? Because they’re doing things that require his assistance. They actually NEED him for what they’re doing. Placing ourselves in missional postures today will create the same results as we obey by both going and waiting.

You say, “The church has substituted fun instead of adventure.” As someone who has spent a lot of time overseas doing church planting, what do you think of the state of the American church?

Peyton Jones: Not to sound like a fuddy duddy here but I think that if you’ve been around for a few decades, it’s easy to see that our churches have largely turned to entertainment as a means of keeping butts in the pews. But keeping butts in the pews was never the point. Weren’t we supposed to be turning them out of them? Proliferating? Spreading?

The problem with entertainment as worship, or spiritual sustenance is that it’s like cotton candy. It’s eating, but it’s not providing substance or nutrition. Mission does that.

Think back to when you’ve ever gone on a short term mission trip. Isn’t that where your faith came alive? Anyone who’s come back from the field can’t go back to business as usual. I believe that many of our young people have left the church because they haven’t seen it in action. They’ve seen it in entertainment and it leaves them empty. Mission will reverse that trend. Young people get Christianity when they see it in action. They respect it then.

What happens to Christians if they don’t follow God’s call to make disciples? What is the role that the Holy Spirit plays in all of this, and how can we experience the power of the Holy Spirit?

Peyton Jones: When a believer doesn’t follow the call to make disciples, their spiritual gifts atrophy. When Paul said “stir up the gift of God in you” it was an admonition to not let the passion die out.

Our gifts lie very close to our passions. That’s why when you use your gifts, you feel alive! When you don’t, you feel bored. The thrill of feeling your gifts come alive is really the thrill of the Holy Spirit channeling through you to show the world what Jesus looks like. It’s him with a “you suit” on. He wears you like the yellow Bruce Lee suit, and you start doing some spiritual kung-fu…and kicking some butt for the kingdom (can I say that?).

In your book you describe “gift-driven ministry.” What does that look like?

Peyton Jones: Gift-driven ministry comes from not wanting to be the central figure in a church. My first book Church Zero was about team ministry, which is the first step in a leader not taking charge, but allowing Jesus to lead through a team. I took that from Ephesians 4, when Paul mentions the 5 roles of leadership, but the point of the verse was this: “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” That means that church and Christianity are participatory sports, whereas we’ve made them spectator sports. Our churches are interactive because of this. Interaction means that people’s gifts become used. That’s why we sit in small groups on Sundays in our service, the chairs organized into semi-circles throughout the room. It says, “You’re a part of this. You’re going to be interacting here.” Sitting in rows staring at the backs of people’s heads says, “You’re going to be an audience. Sit down, shut up, and just listen.”

You write that your natural inclination has actually been to hate people! How has being a Christian affected your compassion for people?

Peyton Jones: I think all of our natural inclinations is to hate people! I think I’m just honest about it in this book. What I argue is that love, forgiveness, and all of the fruit of the Spirit is a supernatural experience. It’s not something that we work up. But when we’re on mission to see people saved, those things flow through us more readily. It’s because we’ve adopted the missionary posture of Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve.

You point out that the entire book of Acts “practically takes place outside.” Why is it important to be witnessing in public spaces?

Peyton Jones: Buildings are helpful in that they serve as a gathering hub, but the people of God gathered outside too. Crowds are kind of a thing in the New Testament, but the crowds gathered outside of the four walls, not behind them. Public space is where it’s at. When we planted in urban Long Beach, we had 20-30 people every week standing around the edges of our meetings. They would listen, and in a non-commital fashion, they would listen to the preaching. One of those people is on our leadership team now. He heard me mentioning Anthony Kiedis (singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Jesus in the same sentence and had to stop to see what they had in common. If we’d been inside, we would have never reached that guy!

Give some examples of getting creative to reach unreached groups of people.

Peyton Jones: I think it should be things that are natural to you. For example, hospitality is such a big thing in the New Testament because it was natural. It was something that you already did. Right now, the buzz is to invite people over to dinner, but that’s not very creative. We’ve done everything from college student video game tournaments that alternate every other week with a Bible study, to Film Critic’s Club, or reading groups. I actually started a church in a Starbucks after hosting a “Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code” book club night. It was only supposed to go one night, but became an ongoing thing with 50 people showing up. This was in Europe where 0.3 percent of the population believes the Bible is the Word of God. That’s one third of a percent, and people were spiritually hungry. I believe that if you enter the streams of life that you’d normally be in, and get creative, you’ll find that the gospel touches on every aspect of life.

You write churches have often held that, to belong to the church community, you must—in this order—believe, behave, and then you can belong. You say that in church planting, the equation must be reordered to be: belonging, believing, then behaving. Explain how this has worked in churches you’ve planted.

Peyton Jones: This is the part of Reaching the Unreached where I talk about being witnesses in Samaria. It starts with Jerusalem, our own neighborhoods; like Cheers where everybody knows your name. Judea is where we learn to do church outside of our buildings (like when they were driven out of Jerusalem—their comfort zone), but the real litmus test of reaching the unreached comes when we begin to reach the marginalized.

Jesus had a soft spot for people that nobody else did. Lepers, Samaritans, prostitutes, tax-collectors. How we treat our modern day Samaritans tells them a lot about what kind of gospel we truly believe. The community of the church in the New Testament was welcoming to outsiders. It wasn’t exclusive and there wasn’t a metal detector at the door keeping certain sins out. If the transvestite comes to your church, is acting loving toward them compromising the gospel or fulfilling it? These are some of the questions that I tease out as I unpack why we saw so many from the LGBT, gang, and homeless population come to faith and transformed.

Bio: Peyton Jones has been on the front lines of ministry for over ten years. In 1999, at the age of 25, he moved to Europe, and served as the evangelist at Lloyd-Jones’s legendary Sandfields church, Aberavon. An accidental church planter, Jones planted in a Starbucks before returning to America, and planting in inner city Long Beach. To reach those nobody is reaching, Jones has worked as a firefighter, factory worker, barista, and psychiatric nurse, bringing all these experiences to the table. Jones received his MA Theology: Pastoral Studies from Wales Evangelical School of Theology, and is the Regional Catalyst for NAMB. He is also the host of the Jump School Core Team Training Series, managing editor of Church Planter Magazine, co-host of the weekly Church Planter Podcast, and author of Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church.

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