Archive for the ‘Renewal’ category

Mind Mapping and Personal Planning

April 17, 2012

I found myself this weekend at a juncture where the majority of my time was mapping out a multiplicity of things–from personal planning to discipleship investments to book proposals. Rarely do I mention mind mapping on Twitter that I do not get several folks asking about what program(s) I use and how I utilize them.  I’m sure there’s more of a science to them than what I employ, but I nevertheless have greatly benefited from the mental exercises of visual information dumping and creative brainstorming.

Last weekend, I posted a twitpic with this status update about some personal planning I’ve been doing lately. I use iThoughtsHD for my iPad to do all my mind mapping. Currently, I have approximately 40 mind maps (going back almost a year).  The cool thing about iThoughtsHD is that you can export the maps anywhere, including email (PDF), camera roll, dropbox, cloud, or over various apps and devices.

Personal Planning

I just recently completed some major projects, including 2012 Band of Bloggers, South Florida Regional Training Event for PLNTD, and a major relocation (and replanting) of Grace Baptist. To bring clarify, focus, alignment, and clear directives, I use mind mapping as a means of untangling the web of thoughts that exist in my brain.

The four primary areas I now employ for planning my personal life are (in Baptist alliterative style):

1. Renewal – what I need for vital spiritual health (prayer, Word, Gospel, meditation, etc.)

2. Rhythms – disciplines I employ on a regular basis (reading, writing, exercising, discipling)

3. Roles – priorities that bring balance, accountability, and filters for how I spend my time, energy, etc.

4. Responsibilities – primary areas where I use my gifts and abilities in ministry

What I’ve come to find is that everyday we live, all four aspects of personal planning should intentionally forming how I spend my day and week.  Obviously, there is a lot of overlap.  The point of this exercise is to be rigorously intentional to invest my life well in the areas God deems most important and to conform my life according to God’s revealed will for my life. A life well lived necessarily includes a day well ordered.  Roles dictates my priorities. Responsibilities govern the stewardship of my time, energy, and gifts. Rhythms are incorporated disciplines to leverage the margin in my life. And renewal is all about “keeping the heart” and stoking the flame of affections for God, His glory, His people, and His mission.

D0 you have an approach for planning your personal life and ordered your day? Do you use any tools such as mind mapping apps or other means of accomplishing your goals?  I’d love to hear them!

Tis Always First Quadrant

February 7, 2012

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” – Acts 20:28

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Timothy 4:16

Pastor friends, there is nothing more important to you or your the congregation entrusted to your care than your own personal holiness and passionate pursuit of God. There is never a time when keeping your heart with all diligence is not most urgent and most important.  With all the needs, challenges, opportunities, and demands upon your time, money, and energy, be militant with your spiritual life. Persist in this. It will be good for you and those who benefit from your usefulness.

In all your task management and getting things done, keep these at the top. Assumption is not an option. Careful attention, close watching, diligent persistence is the order of the day. Every day. For Jesus’ sake, and His church.

May we be known not merely by the skillfulness of our hands or the swiftness of our feet or the eloquence of our words, but let it be our nearness to Jesus and the sweetness we’ve tasted in His gospel. Let it be known that we can be found at the banqueting table of our Lord–remembering–renewing–reviving with all joy and delight in His presence. And above all else, command our lives to the cause of our hearts, confessing “Jesus is Lord” in the power of the Spirit. Amen.

Free Resource: Gospel-Centered Personal Renewal

June 10, 2011

Yesterday morning, I took some time to do some spiritual inventory and assessment, and one of the things I have made a priority in my life is renewal through (re)discovery of the gospel in my life.  A couple of years ago, I wrote a seven-part series on gospel-centered renewal but noticed I never compiled the blogposts into one downloadable document.  So I took some time to do that, and as I revisit these blogposts, I thought perhaps they may be of some encouragement me to you as well.

Here’s the blog series:

1.  I Have Been Made New
2.  I Am Being Made New (Part 1)
3.  I Am Being Made New (Part 2)
4.  I Will Be Made New
5.  Renewal Through Remembering
6.  Gospel Renewal Through the Fear of the Lord
7.  Jonathan Edwards on Continued Transformation and Renewal 

>> To download the series as a PDF, click here

Gospel Presuppositions

July 22, 2010

In his book, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy talks about the presuppositions of the gospel which make up the “material priority of the Scriptures.”  These presuppositions are prior truths without which the gospel could not be the gospel.  He lists them as the following:

* The God who is there is the God of the Bible, who is (among other things) Creator, Savior, and Communicator
* Human beings were created in his image, which involves us as those with whom God communicates
* The truth of God is evident in all creation
* Sin means the human declaration of independence from God, and the suppression of his truth
* Grace means that God mercifully provides special revelation that informs, redeems and makes God present to us
* This redemptive revelation, the word of God, is focused on Jesus Christ

Goldsworthy goes on to say that “Christian theism maintains that these presuppositions of the gospel are foundational truths that stand the test of having explanatory power for all human experience and having rational consistency.”  The gospel, then, is not only the message that transforms sinners into saints but also the medium through which we rightly understand all human experience.

These gospel presuppositions are important because, outside of Christ, the world has alternative presuppositions about life that are shaped by the Fall in Genesis 3, which Goldsworthy summarizes as:

* If God is there, he does not communicate the truth
* We do not need God to reveal the rational framework for understanding reality
* Human reason is autonomous, and the ultimate arbiter of truth and falsity, right and wrong

According to Paul, we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16)–a mind that is spiritual and shaped by the gospel (person and work of Christ).  Jesus is not only the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24) but has become to us wisdom from God (1 Cor. 1:30).  Jesus is not only the substance of the wisdom of God, but He is also the source of it as well.  So what happens in the Spirit’s work of renewal is a rewiring from presuppositions of the Fall to the presuppositions of the Gospel.  This is what Goldsworthy calls “episteomological sanctification.”

In summary, the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), and the more we appreciate the truths of the gospel (presuppositions) and so have our experienced grounded in it, the more we appropriate the mind of Christ.  The gospel is the message that transforms our minds (“achieves noetic salvation for us” – epistemological redemption), and the gospel is the medium through which our minds are daily being renewed as we behold the brilliance of Christ, who has become to us wisdom from God (“the ongoing process through which our thinking is conformed more and more to the truth that is in Jesus – epistemological sanctification).

To read Goldsworthy’s arguments in detail, read chapter 3 of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics on the presuppositions of the gospel and the subsequent section on noetic salvation (58-62).

Addressing the Damaging Effects of Professionalism in the Local Church

March 16, 2010

“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry.  The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet.  It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ.  Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry.  The more professional we long to be, the more more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.”

These are the first words of John Piper in his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry.  God has used these words in profound ways, not just in changing my thinking but really the course of my life.  It was in a staff meeting one morning that I read this chapter and spoke of the dangers of a professionalized ministry, and the consequence of that meeting was a sovereign shift that directed me to seminary and now to the local church where I serve.

I am increasingly concerned, however, about the state of the church, and specifically how professionalism has caused her to suffer.  Every minister ought to do everything he can to be skilled in his craft, competent in his work, and unwavering in his commitment to fulfill his calling.  And yet, what I am finding today is that when well-trained, gifted men of God excel in their ministry, those who are blessed by them experience two things: a sense of “I could never do that” and a sense of “I only want him to do that.”

The first response reveals the distance created between the pulpit and the pew, and the second response reveals preferential culture that has been created where God’s truth has added value when it is communicated from this particular person (professional).  Here is what to be the consequence of these realities:

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No one needs the gospel more than me.

March 11, 2010

This morning, I enjoyed another meeting with two young men of Grace (my A-team) at Panera talking about being faithful to apply the gospel to our own heart.  If I truly know myself, we will be quick to confess that the worst sinner in the room at any given time is me.  Therefore, there is no one who needs the gospel more than me.  This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others.  When my heart is renewed in the gospel and utterly satisfied with all that God is for me in Jesus Christ, then the joyful overflow of the gospel’s work will enlarge my affections for the lost and loose my tongue to share of the amazing mercies found in Him.

The gospel should never be like that computer file stuck in your hard drive that has not been accessed in over a year so that it is impossible to find.  Instead, when the gospel is retrieved time and again on a regular basis, it be readily accessed to share and for others to “download” for themselves.  If we believe that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) we cannot limit that transforming work to a brief period at the beginning of a Christian life.  For those who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation in an ongoing basis as we see more of God’s excellencies, expose our sinful depravity, and increasingly exult in the glories of Jesus Christ who is for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Let me give you a personal example from this morning . . .

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Gospel Renewal Through the Fear of the Lord

September 16, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I started up a series on gospel-centered renewal, and I want to continue thinking through spiritual renewal that is gospel-nourished.  One of the things that has struck me of late is how the Scripture connects “the fear of the Lord” to metaphors or direct references to life, sustenance, and satisfaction.

Before I do, I want state by way of premise that I believe the “fear of the Lord” is the outworking of the gospel as stated in the new covenant promise (Psalm 130:4; Jer. 32:39-40).  Apart from the gospel’s work in a believer, it is impossible to know the fear of the Lord and thus impossible to experience the realities depicted in the verses below.

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Renewal Through Remembering

August 13, 2009

I’m continuing my series on gospel-centered renewal with excerpts and commentary focusing on how we experience renewal in the Christian life.  If our union with Christ is the heart of renewal, then we should also consider the main arteries from which such nourishment and vitality comes.

Today I want to encourage you to consider how remembering the works of the Lord bring renewal in the Christian life, and in particular, I want to pull from the book of Psalms. There are times in our lives where we are hungry and feel empty, thirsty and cannot find water to satisfy being parched, downcast in spirit and seemingly walking in perpetual darkness.  When your life feels like it is being wasted away, what do you do to find renewal?  You remember who God is and meditate and all that He has done, specifically in the gospel.

In Psalm 42, we find the psalmist panting and thirsting for God where his tears have been his food day and night.  The refrain of this psalm reveals the nature of his struggle, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Psalm 42:5, 11).  The answer to this question is hoping in God by remembering what He has done.  Verse 4 explains:

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Psalm 42:4

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We do pant for this.

August 8, 2009

On March 24, 1878, Charles Spurgeon prayed over his congregation, and included in that prayer are the following requests for renewal:

“O Lord, give us more and more to have the new life, yea, and to have it more abundantly, for this is one of the objects of His coming.  May the new life always rule us, may we walk by its power, may we have strength through its influence, may we be elevated by its energies, may we be indeed entirely subjugated, as to our own entire manhood, to the control of the Holy Spirit through the new-born life.  We do pant for this.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon, The Pastor in Prayer, 31.

Jonathan Edwards on Continued Transformation and Renewal

August 7, 2009

In his book Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards argued that one way distinguish truly gracious affections from others is that they are attended with a change of nature.  When the soul has a spiritual understanding of the excellency and glory of divine things, such understanding brings the supernatural effect of transformation, or a change of nature.  Because this conversion not only imparts “light from the Sun of Righteousness” but also becomes “a luminous thing” by partaking of the nature of the Fountain of their light.  To put it another way, Edwards says “the saints not only drink of the water of life that flows from the original fountain, but this water becomes a fountain of water in them, springing up there and flowing out of them.” What Edwards is illustrating is the continual renewal that comes from participating in the glory of divine things through the transforming power of the gospel.

As I have been developing a theology of renewal in recent weeks, I want to post the following excerpt from Edwards quite pertinent to the discussion.  Check it out.

“As it is with spiritual discoveries and affections given at first conversion, so it is in all subsequent illuminations and affections of this kind; they are all transforming.  There is a like divine power and energy in them as in the first discoveries; they still reach the bottom of the heart, and affect and alter the very nature of the soul, in proportion to the degree in which they are given.  And a transformation of nature is continued and carried on by them to the end of life, until it is brought to perfection in glory.  Hence the progress of the work of grace in the hearts of the saints is represented in Scripture as a continued conversion and renovation of nature” (270).

Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Will Be Made New

August 5, 2009

:: The Series ::
I Have Been Made New (Justification)
I Am Being Made New (Part 1) (Sanctification)
I Am Being Made New (Part 2)

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:5-10
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

What we often fail to consider is the eschatological hope of renewal in the glorification of the saints–the future tense of the gospel.  As those who enjoy the good of the gospel through repentance-driven renewal, we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth” according to His promise (2 Pet. 3:13).  We who have been made new through the promise of the Father in the new covenant, purchased by the Son in His death, and applied by the Spirit in His regeneration, are awaiting the day where we will be changed so that mortality will taken on immortality and corruption will taken incorruptibility (1 Cor. 15:52-54).

This is only possible because the “second Adam” brought new life where the first Adam brought death (Rom. 5:12-21).  Where sin brought death and condemnation, grace brought life and acceptance in the beloved–and it is this reign of grace that will persevere to glory and usher us into His presence.   Paul tells that the first Adam was merely a living creature, but the “last Adam” is a life-giving spirit because of whom those bearing “the image of the man of dust” will also bear “the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:45-49).  This is a picture of the progressive renewal of the image of God in man through the application of the gospel in apprehending our union with Christ which satisfies the heart of the one who treasures Jesus.

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Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Am Being Made New (Part 2)

August 3, 2009

:: The Series ::
I Have Been Made New
I Am Being Made New (Part 1)

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:5-10
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

According to Scripture two things are happening simultaneously.  Outwardly, we are “wasting away” while inwardly we are “being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).  This body Paul calls a “jar of clay” has in it “this treasure” of the gospel of the glory of Christ.  And it is because of this treasure that we both experience “momentary afflictions” and one day “an eternal weight of glory.” Without the centrality of the gospel, neither of these realities would be known.

Beholding Christ and Being Made New

The way in which we are being made new is seen in 2 Cor. 3:18 which says:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This little verse packs glorious truths of how we are being made knew and what God is making as the Potter upon these jars of clay.  The means of renewal is “beholding the glory of the Lord.”  Sounds quite abstract, doesn’t it?  But Paul makes it plain what, rather who, we are to behold in 2 Cor. 4:4, 6.  We are to behold (vs. 4) “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” and again (vs. 6) “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  The gospel is the eternal spotlight on the glory of Christ, so if we want to know the glory of God, we must look supremely upon the face of Jesus Christ.

The effects of beholding Christ is that we might be renewed (transformed) into the image of God from one degree of glory to another.  We are being transformed because this process of being made new is so glorious that we cannot handle it but in degrees!  The image of God marred by sin is be recreated in the new man being perfected for glory.  Paul tells the church at Colossae that they have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10).  The image which God is committed to renewing comes from the knowledge found in the gospel which leads us to see and savor Jesus Christ who is our hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

What this means for you and me is that renewal in the Christian does not come by growth steps but by gospel sight.  It is not what we do for Jesus but what we see in Jesus that brings us into greater conformity to His image.  A failure to center your life on the gospel and embrace the supremacy of Christ has tragic implications because this is precisely the means of renewal we need to experience the eternal weight of glory that awaits us.  Each degree of glory in our daily renewal and transformation are like birth pangs when we shall be like Him fully, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

And oh, what a glorious day that will be!

Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Am Being Made New (Part 1)

August 1, 2009

Picking up where I left off, I want to draw out the continuous nature of gospel renewal through the ongoing work of sanctification.  Behind these posts is the central theological motif that our union with Christ is the fountainhead of all genuine renewal in the Christian life, and therefore we should center our lives, churches, and ministries on the gospel of Jesus Christ and experience its satisfying and strengthening work from beginning to end.

Justification and Sanctification

We are made new by the justification of God where the new covenant promises of the Father are fulfilled in new and living way of Christ’s atoning death through which we experience regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.  This work of renewal continues as those who are being saved continually repent and believe the good news which is forever theirs in Christ Jesus.  God is committed to perfect a people for Himself by reversing the curse of sin through the Fall as His people are changed into the likeness of Christ, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).

In justification, we are made a new creation in Christ by the sovereign work of God in bringing those who are dead in trespasses and sin and making them alive (Eph. 2:1-5).  The continuing work of this resurrection power is seen as “the old passing away as all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17b).  We are being made new (sanctification) only because we have been made new (justification).  Those who seek renewal upon spiritual performances and not the gospel are trying to be made new without having been made new, thereby replacing justification with sanctification.  This deathly treadmill is a cycle which does not breed new life but new despair in the heart of those whose hopes are in what they can do for God rather than what God has done for them.

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Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Have Been Made New

July 29, 2009

I believe one of the defining theological marks of my generation is a passionate commitment to the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel for all of life.  Some of this could be understood as a corrective to a truncated or shelved gospel, but I am more inclined to believe that God is awakening His people to see all of life through the lens of the gospel and apply it to every area of the Christian experience, from beginning to end.

Along these lines, I want to share how renewal in the Christian life is grounded in the gospel as those who have been saved (justification), are being saved (sanctification), and will be saved (glorification).  In terms of renewal, it could be stated that I have been made new (justification), I am being made new (sanctification), and I will be made new (glorification).  In this post, I will address justification and follow up with subsequent posts to round out what I hope to be a robust understanding of gospel-centered renewal.

Justification says, “I have been made new”

To a rebellious, hard-hearted people, God promised to make a new covenant (Jer. 31:31).  This was a covenant that would be everlasting and established by God not only dwelling among His people but in His people.  It is a new covenant in that God promises to “give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them” (Ez. 11:19).  Not only will they receive a new spirit, by God continues with giving them “a new heart” (Ez. 36:26) thereby removing the heart of stone and grant a heart of flesh.  To put this in New Testament terms, God saved us “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).

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