Archives January 2018

Specialized to Go

We live in an age of expertise.  Everything from the medical world to athletics, and computer technology to engineering, the workforce has gotten more specialized.  Authorities in certain areas a called upon constantly in the media for their opinions.  Training has gotten more specific and the workplace for that training has narrowed because of it.  This is the natural progression of a society that is learning more and applying that knowledge as a service to humanity.

Photo courtesy of Rita Morais (

Is there, however, a caution necessary when considering this and the role of a disciple?  Is there potential for us to approach being a disciple of Jesus with a “specialist mindset”?  If so, is there potential for too many people top feel “unqualified”?  How “expert” must one be to fulfill the great commission of Christ to make disciples?  Or, even to witness for Christ in one’s neighborhood?

Amos is an individual who shatters the specialist theory within the confines of the work of the Lord.  By his own admission this prophet did not have the specific training or background to do what God commanded him to do.

14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah:

“I was no prophet,
Nor was I a son of a prophet,
But I was a sheepbreeder
And a tender of sycamore fruit.
15 Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock,
And the Lord said to me,
‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’

Amos 7:14-15

As a sheepbreeder or “herdsman” (as some translations put it), his expertise was in a different area.  He even clarifies his lack of pedigree further by saying he was not the son of a prophet.  What he was, though, was obedient. The Lord told him to go and proclaim God’s truth.  Talk about a career shift!

Amos was from Tekoa which was south of Jerusalem near the dead sea.  His northward mission was to a place where he was considered a foreigner.  He was the representative of the Lord’s message. A missionary.  He was not groomed, nor trained as a preacher.  But, was used of the Lord because he obeyed the Lord when the Lord told him to go.

His bold message was communicated in a place devoid of the Gospel’s presence.  His influence was so significant it was annoyingly, acknowledged to the king!

 10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words.

Let’s let the example of Amos ring out loud and clear.  The Lord equips those willing to be used.  Every breathing believer has been given a command by Jesus… GO (Matthew 28:18-20).  Let’s allow the Lord to direct the extent of that going because Jesus has already outlined the plan…

…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

We need to look no further than the book of Acts to see how that power of the Holy Spirit used common people in extraordinary ways to accomplish astounding things.

Dear resolute, active, harvest-minded disciple, let’s go in confidence that the Lord equips, specializes and empowers those who are determined to follow His plan…regionally, nationally, internationally and to the farthest reaches of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Consumer Restraint: Some thoughts.

Being a resolute, active follower of Jesus “in the culture” means to engage our society regarding the hopeful options a Biblical worldview provides.  In kindness and love we must go towards people to enable opportunities to be salt and light in a society that desperately needs it.

Photo courtesy of Igor Ovsyannyko (

Engaging a society as a resolute, active disciple of Jesus on the other hand, however, may necessitate the drawing of some lines of separation to illuminate the importance of standing on Biblical principles that should not be compromised.

At what point should Christian people actively choose “consumer restraint” and purpose to not patronize certain business and/or shun certain products?  Does the setting of first generation Christianity provide any insight for us in the Scriptures?   Paul makes a very interesting comment in 2 Timothy that may shed some light on this subject.

For starters, let’s be clear about one thing; corporate America cannot and should not be the entity that determines what is moral and what it not.  Power, money and love of it has corrupted many over the ages and Scripture clearly verifies that fact (1Timothy 6:10).  For followers of Jesus, there can only be one standard as the source for a morality.  That source is God’s inspired, inerrant Word. To abdicate that to any other source would be an offense to the God of the universe.

Secondly, on a pragmatic level we should also consider how much convenience direcst us toward some of our positions.  Most individuals, if honest, would not argue that ease and efficiency drive many of our choices on a consumer level.   If it is cheaper, closer, more convenient, or a good bargain it is understandable why that becomes the obvious, default choice.  But is it so obvious?

Choices that are prudent or Biblically principled are never going to be convenient.  For a male youth worker, it is not a convenient approach to have a policy in place to never drive a teenage girl home alone in a vehicle.  But, it is the wise, proper, safe and principled choice!  On the consumer level we need to ask ourselves if paying a few cents more, or driving a few miles more to obtain it, or perhaps (perish the thought!) not having something at all, is a worthy consideration in contemplating whether to specifically not purchase or associate with a business that clearly is opposing God’s Word.

It may be, that for the sake of the Lord’s purpose, we should consider consumer restraint under certain circumstances. In 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul seemed to be singling out an individual who was rigidly opposing his cause; making of disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) …

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

Now, I understand Paul may have been simply warning folks to be aware of this individual and mentioning his occupation specified who he was.  Fair enough.  However, after reading Paul’s words, do you think the first generation believers still went to Alexander for their coppersmith needs?  Is it a stretch to think the first-generation believers of the early church may have chosen to not do business with Alexander because of his position against the ministry of Paul?

But, what if his price was the best in town?  What if his shop was conveniently located nearby?  Not to mention the variety. He has so many options and of such good quality!  Where else could I get it?

 There are two statements in this passage that can help us with some guidelines for application of this subject as it is relevant for today…

  1. Alexander the coppersmith did enough harm that Paul was invoking the Lord’s vengeance upon him (v.14).
  2. Paul wanted it to be clear that Alexander had greatly resisted the message they represented (v.15).

 This, apparently, was much more than a mere difference of opinion or cultural background.  So, can we note there are some legitimate reasons that, for the sake of the message we represent, we could at least consider consumer restraint?  I acknowledge that there are many grey areas in this subject and individuals need to navigate through those grey areas and be gracious even in disagreement.

Using this passage as our application, consider this as a guideline to begin considering a standard for consumer restraint …

  • Is the owner, business, company or corporation doing harm to the cause of Christ and a Biblical worldview?
  • Is the owner, business, company or corporation aggressively against the cause of Christ and a Biblical worldview?

If the answer is “yes” to either of those questions we should ask ourselves if we should support that owner, business, company or corporation with our purchases.  This is where the social struggles of our contemporary society come into play.  Issues like, freedom of religion, abortion, the definition of marriage, and Biblical sexuality are major topics in which followers of Christ have for too long accepted societies definition of acceptability rather than God’s.  We must ask ourselves if God is pleased with His people disengaging from these issues.

I acknowledge there are other ideological things to consider in this concept …

  • What if employees (who are just trying to earn a wage) don’t agree with the company’s policies? Should their jobs be placed at risk by us practicing consumer restraint?
  • Where does educating business owners come into play in this scenario? Are concerned Christians engaging them about this? Some companies may be believing the secular rhetoric, and donating to causes that, if they knew what they represented, would not help to fund.
  • How “nit-picky” should followers of Christ be on these issues? Is there not potential for well meaning believers to divide over these issues?
  • Is it reasonable to be knowledgeable about these things with corporations constantly merging, selling and changing CEO’s and thus producing shifts where they may give or associate?

… Yes, I acknowledge these as legitimate and worthy questions.  However, we must act on what we do know and not turn a blind eye to those realities.  Let’s not shug a “whatever” attitude simply to avoid the potential convolution on this subject but, rather, let’s choose to engage in these issues for the good of the Gospel.  Choices do matter.  Even in where and from whom we purchase or invest.  Resolved disciples of Jesus cannot settle for complacency or consumer ignorance.  To do so is a victory of the for the devil every time.

If necessary are we willing to take an uncomfortable stand for what best honors the Lord?  Each of us taking the time to consider what Jesus would do in this area would not be time wasted. No doubt the cause of Christ will be better because of it.


Need help discerning what some businesses value? Check out – . Acknowledging that our spending habits are like another vote for a value system, 2nd Vote seeks to report on the political and social activities of major corporations around the country.  As a disclaimer, I acknowledge there seems to be some inconsistencies in their rating system and this organization clearly comes from a conservative political platform, but for those of us who are concerned about a Christian worldview value system it is a decent resource to help understand what some companies are funding.

Jonah: It’s not about the fish.

I have a very clear memory of my conversation with Tolata in 1999.  Tolata was a villager of the Malaumandan people remote in the jungle of Papua New Guinea.  He was recalling the major story themes of the evangelistic Bible teaching I had just completed.  He was commendably detailing the great amount of material I had covered in that 5 ½ month teaching phase.  In the chronology, he had gotten to Jonah and how God sent him to Nineveh to share God’s message.  He stopped mid-sentence and said, “You are like Jonah, God sent you to tell us like He told Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh!”  It was a touching moment at a precious time in my missionary career.  However, depending on how you take it, to be compared to Jonah may not be a compliment.

The great fish in the story of Jonah, sadly, distracts from what we should remember about the prophet.  The message of the book Jonah is that God loves to be merciful.  Our repentance invokes His mercy.  Like the people of Malaumanda in Papua New Guinea, the people of Nineveh needed to know they had a reason to repent and that a God of mercy was ready to forgive.

Tolata in 2005 (Village of Malaumanda, Papua New Guinea)

Sadly, Jonah did not want God to be merciful to such a cruel people as the Ninevites.

Let’s be honest and ask ourselves a question; How much are we like Jonah?  If God said to go preach to ISIS, Al Qaida, Boko Haram or Kim Jong Un in North Korea.  Would we? If not, would it be because of fear or, like Jonah, would it be because we really do not want them to experience God’s mercy?

After Nineveh repented Jonah was angry

4:1But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

The fact is, Jonah understood God’s propensity to demonstrate mercy. His failure was wanting to control how it is dispensed.  You and I need to firmly grasp the fact we, ourselves, do not deserve God’s mercy.  We must understand our personal unworthiness before a holy, righteous God.

I am unworthy.

You are unworthy. Period.

Our position in Him is nothing less than His mercy and grace benevolently flowing from Him to us.

Jonah forgot this.   As resolute disciples “by the Son” we must not forget this.  The strive for God-likeness can only be rooted in the knowledge of who we really are – deceived, self-inflating, self-protecting sinners that have been touched by God’s mercy. That being acknowledged, humility should naturally follow.

The book of Jonah closes with a timeless object lesson that, apparently, spoke to Jonah more than his own journey to that point and entire nation that had repented.  In the burning sun of a post-repentant Nineveh God allowed a little shade producing plant to whither so Jonah would remember that God mercifully is the giver of all good things (Jonah 4:5-11).  Even a tiny bit of shade for a rebellious, stubborn prophet.

I think it is safe to say, Jonah learned the lesson.  I am thankful that, even though it reflected poorly on him, he was willing for it to be recorded for us. Like Jonah, let’s be sure to learn that lesson too!  To be resolute, active, harvest-minded disciples, we must understand our personal worth is only possible when positioned in His.