Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Review of Get Off Your Donkey

Cover Photo of Get Off Your Donkey from Amazon.com

“He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” –Luke 10:34

“The moral of the [Good Samaritan] story is that you have to get off your donkey to help somebody.” —Reggie McNeal

There is an old saying, which you may have heard, it goes something like this, “You should do what you can, not what you cannot.” The point is simple, there are some things that we can do to make a difference and these are the endeavors that we should focus our time and attention on, instead of placing our focus and energies on what we cannot do. There are actions we can take in the contexts of our lives to make a real difference in the world to help others and to love our neighbors.

Reggie McNeal highlights this idea of making a difference where you are in his book Get Off Your Donkey!: Help Somebody and Help Yourself. In this book McNeal highlights the reality that we are all, ultimately, in the people business, especially if we are in church ministry and leadership.

In his introduction McNeal highlights this issue, “I’m trying to help them [church leaders] get out of the church business and into the people business” (McNeal, p. 14). Like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, too often the church “has passed by on the other side of the road when we should be the ones showing the way” (McNeal, p. 15).

Oftentimes we can get trapped in over analysis and in paralysis concerning all of the need and brokenness surrounding us in the world. The needs and the problems around us are great, but we cannot afford to allow these to bring us to inaction, depression or fatigue. McNeal encourages his readers with the following, “We can’t afford to let this negative vibe paralyze us into inactivity while people are bleeding out all around us” (McNeal, p. 23). We must take action and help our neighbors. There is plenty we can do to make a difference in our world.

We must be the church in the world and not just be on our way to a church building with all of our religious activities, neglecting our neighbor who is beaten and bloody on the roadside. McNeal says it this way, “The problem is, religious activity is still getting in the way of our being good neighbors” (p. 38).

As the church, we must move away from religious piety and toward a Biblical model of discipleship. According to the book, “The litmus test of discipleship is ‘follow-ship’! Are we doing what Jesus commanded, or are we just really good at recalling his commands?” (p. 39). We cannot be all talk in our service to the Lord and His church. We must put our faith into practice and get off of our donkeys.

Get Off Your Donkey!: Help Somebody and Help Yourself is an excellent book to light a fire under an often apathetic, complacent and lazy church. Church leaders of every level and church members, and laity at every level, should read this book. The church could use a good kick in the donkey to get us back to our mission in the world.


Bibliography

McNeal, Reggie (2013-02-01). Get Off Your Donkey!: Help Somebody and Help Yourself (p. 13). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Review of The Present Future

Cover Photo of The Present Future: 
Six Tough Questions for the Church, from Amazon.com

Reggie McNeal’s book, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, addresses the need for the church to move from program driven buildings and bureaucracy back to missional service and disciple making.

In this book, McNeal looks at how the church has been inwardly focused and more like a “club” with a “club mentality”, seeking its own good and interests above the mission of reaching the unsaved and those who are “outside the club.” The local church has become something that is antiquated and far removed from its life giving vitality of mission and service toward dead ritualistic programs and facilities.

It has been said that the church is the only organization that exists for its non-members. McNeal asserts, in so many words, that this is no longer the case concerning the church in North America. We, the church, have become more inwardly focused and have done less and less for those who we should be reaching out to in selfless service, evangelism and discipleship. As the church, we must move away from the “country club” mindset and move back toward our mission—people.

The future of the church lies in the present. The old ways no longer work for a new generation with a differing culture and a diversity of need. Old models of ministry and church are ceasing to function and work as they once did. New methods of relationships and decentralization must be put into action. Disciples must be made and leadership must be developed and sent out.

The church is not something we go to, the church is who we are in the world. We must move from an attractional model of church buildings and programs, with the idea of “if we build it, they will come” and move toward being a people who integrate our faith into our work and into every area of our lives. We must be the church in “the present future.”

In The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Reggie McNeal addresses six serious topics, which include the following: The church culture, as we know it, is over; we must move from church growth models to kingdom growth thinking and initiative; a new reformation will begin once the church releases equipped people into the world for mission; spiritual formation and development must be at the heartbeat of the church; church leaders must move from planning to preparation so they will be equipped for every good work; and finally, church leaders need to be trained and equipped, not to do programing, but to do mission, and to be missional, as sent people into the world.

The Present Future is an excellent book for anyone in church and ministry leadership. This book is relevant in addressing real concerns with the current state of the church and is motivational and inspirational in addressing real issues with real solutions of mission and focus.


Bibliography

McNeal, Reggie. The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summer Update from the Pruitt's in Haiti


Hello Family and Friends!

We hope that you and your family are doing well. Thank you so much for your friendship, encouragement, and prayers. With the school year coming to a close for us, we want to give you an update about our life and work here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Ministry Update

We are so thankful to God for another fruitful school year of ministry here at Quisqueya Christian School. Robbie taught all four levels of high school Bible classes and had a role in the secondary school chapel. In chapel, which is a 7th-12th grade weekly service, Robbie gave several talks about the theme of “Following Jesus,” as well as one about Jonah, and another about Judas. Many of the students do not attend church with their family, and this chapel service serves as their “church.” Robbie loves having the opportunity to preach to them in this context, in addition to teaching them in class. If you’d like, you can listen to some of the more recent talks at https://soundcloud.com/quisqueyachristianschool.

Robbie has also been quite involved in some student activities this semester. As the Senior Class Advisor, he chaperoned the class trip to Florida. Before going to the Disney Parks, the class spent several days at h.e.a.r.t. Missionary Training Institute (heart-institute.org), where they learned about world poverty, hunger, and missions. Even though the students come from the very poor country of Haiti, the experience was truly eye-opening to many of them, and they came away from it with a new perspective on their own country. We hope and pray that this experience will mold them as they continue their education and possibly return to Haiti as the next generation of leaders.

Robbie and a few other teachers have started a bike club, and regularly take students on adventurous “urban mountain biking” rides around the area. Though we are the capital city, many roads are still unpaved, making for some great rides. This time with students has been helpful in building relationships outside of the classroom environment.

Both Robbie and Irene have continued leading discipleship groups this year. It has been a real pleasure to be with these small groups of 12th graders through their last year of high school, as they start the transition into college and adult life. Both of us have been encouraged by the openness of the students in the groups, and the valuable conversations that they have had about life and faith.

In addition to Irene’s primary calling of caring for and nurturing Grace, she has been mentoring and counseling a few younger teachers. She has enjoyed this ministry, helping others navigate the transition to Haiti and other personal issues. As always, it is an honor and truly “sacred ground” to walk with people through life’s joys and sorrows, and Irene feels fortunate to be able to serve the community in this way.

God’s Continued Leading

We are excited that God is leading us to continue our work in Haiti next year. Robbie will continue to teach Bible to high school students, help with chapel, and serve as the school’s social media director. Irene will continue to stay at home with Grace, while also providing some counseling and mentorship. Since all of the students in our discipleships groups are graduating this May, we are looking forward to building relationships with and pouring into new groups of students in the coming school year.

Summer Plans

This summer, we’ll be spending most of June in Columbia, SC, and most of July in Northern Virginia. We would love to see you sometime and catch up in person. If there would also be an opportunity for us to connect with your church or small group, we would be happy to share about Haiti and our ministry.

Prayer

God has answered many prayers this last year, for which we are so grateful. We rejoice to see spiritual growth among the students, including some coming to Christ for the first time, others rededicating themselves to the Lord, and others steadily growing in faith and understanding. We have also felt so grateful for God’s provisions for our family, including Grace. It’s amazing to see how beautifully God provided for everything that she needed this year, especially through keeping her healthy and providing the opportunity for Irene to stay at home with her.

We’d ask for your continued prayers for our family this summer and in the coming school year. Please pray that the summer serves as a time of rest and rejuvenation after the busy school year, and that God would bless the time that we get to spend with friends and family. As we come back in August, please continue to pray for safety and health for us, and especially for Grace, while we continue to serve in Haiti.

Please also pray for our students and our ministry. Ask God to draw students to himself, to transform lives for the sake of the Gospel, and to allow us to glorify him through teaching, discipleship and counseling. Please join us in continuing to pray that our students, through their transformed lives, would go on to transform their communities, their country, and their world.

Financial Support Needs

We are partnered with Resourcing Christian Education International (RCE) in order to raise the funds we need to continue our ministry at Quisqueya Christian School. All donations made through RCE are tax-deductible. Please do not feel pressured, but if you feel led to support us financially, please visit:
Contact Information

We would love to stay in contact with you. Here is all of our contact information:
Email: irenepruitt@gmail.com, stay411@msn.com
Summer US Cell Phones:
Robbie: 571-340-6558 and Irene: 571-346-9583
Skype: irene.pruitt, robbie.pruitt
Sending Mail to us in Haiti: 3170 Airmans Drive,
#2029 QCS, Ft. Pierce, FL 34946

Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement! We’ll continue to pray for you, as well!

Blessings,

Robbie and Irene 

Robbie & Irene Pruitt
Bible Teaching | Discipleship | Counseling


Friday, May 23, 2014

Discipleship Celebration

Guest Post by Irene Pruitt: http://ourlifewithalittlegrace.blogspot.com 

At Quisqueya Christian School, all of the 7th-12th graders are in weekly discipleship groups with teachers or other adults. Robbie and I, along with two other teachers, have had the opportunity to lead groups of 12th graders this year, and had our final meetings with them earlier this week.

The girls in my group have been wonderful this year. Even though they didn't know each other very well at the beginning, they really bonded together as a group over the course of the last several months. We've had great discussions about lots of different topics--relationships, making decisions, the future, college, faith, boys, and ethics, to name a few. They have supported each other through friendship, prayer, and laughter. It has been such a blessing to me to watch them grow this year, and I am so excited to see how that growth continues over the next few years of their lives. One of the girls in my group said something like, "Miss, you don't have to worry about us when we go to college. We're not going to go off the path and go crazy. We know the Bible. Quisqueya has really prepared us. We'll be okay." And you know, I think she's right.

To celebrate the year of discipleship with the Seniors, all four groups went out for pizza and ice-cream this week to the fast-food place just down the street. We enjoyed spending the time together with this special class that we've grown so fond of over the last few years. May God continue to bless them and draw them toward himself as they transition to life after high school.


:: One of the students blesses the food.








:: Who needs Ronald McDonald when you have this guy?




:: A few of the girls in my group. I'll miss them!







Friday, May 16, 2014

Following Jesus to the End


Our following Jesus is going somewhere. It has been said, “Begin with the end in mind”. So what is the end? Where is following Jesus leading us when we follow Jesus to the end?

John describes where following Jesus is leading in 1 John 3:2 when he says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Following Jesus leads us to a beginning in Jesus, being in Jesus, beholding Jesus and being like Jesus.

We begin in Jesus. When calling His disciples, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-25). We live in a broken and sinful world and we need salvation. It is in following Jesus that we find both our salvation and our very lives.

Paul addresses having our lives found and held together in Christ in Colossians 1:17 when he says, “He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together”. C.S. Lewis also talked about our lives being in Christ alone in The Weight of Glory when he said, “He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.” When we follow Jesus to the end, we end up with everything—Jesus.

We continue our being in Jesus. Paul says in Colossians 2:6 that we should continue following Jesus as we began in Him. He says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.”

Following Jesus to the end is taking us somewhere. God’s ultimate intention for us is total redemption and restoration in Him. The disciple John captures this well in Revelation 21:5 when he records Jesus proclaiming, “Behold, I make all things new.” As mentioned, John’s words capture this idea in 1 John 3:2, “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” In the end, we will be with Jesus and everything will be as it should be—redeemed and restored.

In following Jesus to the end, it is essential for us to recognize that it is Jesus who will see us through to completion. Paul could not have stated this more clearly in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God is making us new in Him. We are being conformed into the very likeness of Christ, if indeed we follow Jesus to the end.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Judas


This sermon, Judas: Our Sin Sells Out Our Savior, is published in its entirety at Preaching.com. You can read the whole article here.

Listen to the sermon, Judas: Our Sin Sells Out Our Savior, here and here.

In his self-seeking sinfulness and greed, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver pieces. Greed is one of The Seven Deadly Sins. However, it is important for us to realize all sin is deadly (see Rom. 6:23). Judas is known as the betrayer of Jesus, and his name has become synonymous with betrayal. Before we get too down on Judas, it is important for us to realize all sin is betrayal. Our sin betrays: betrays God, our neighbors and ourselves. In addition, when we sin, our sin sells out our Savior. It is because of our sinfulness that we all have need of the gospel; we have the need for repentance and the need to walk in obedience to God and His will.

Let's look at what we can learn from the life of Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because of his sinfulness and greed. Psalm 41:9 is a prophecy about Judas' betrayal of Jesus: "Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me." Judas was one of the 12 disciples who Jesus himself had chosen, yet this close friend betrayed Jesus.

Jesus called Judas, and he was given authority along with the other disciples. Judas was sent out along with the others to do ministry. We see this in Matthew 10:1-15, "And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter…Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him."

In John 6:67-71, Jesus talked about choosing the 12and how one of them would betray Him and how this person, Judas, had a devil. Jesus said this in John's Gospel, "'Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.' He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray Him" (John 6:70-71). Jesus chose a disciple whom He knew had ulterior motives and would betray Him, yet Jesus trusted him with ministry and to be in His inner circle.

It is a fascinating thought to consider Jesus would allow someone who was not a true believer, who had mixed motives, who had treacherous plans, who had a devil to be one of His disciples. Could it be possible that some who claim to be following Christ today are not truly His followers? Jesus spoke of this, concerning those who do good deeds in His name, in Matthew 7:21-23 when He said, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!'"

In John 12:1-11, we see the true nature of Judas revealed in stark contrast to Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus' feet with a pint of pure nard, perfume. In this account, Judas was exposed as a thief when he said, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?" (John 12:5). John then noted this perfume was worth a year's wages and went on to tell of Judas' true motive of greed, making a statement of his character when he said Judas, "Did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it" (John 12:6).

Judas was a thief according to this passage in John, and he was looking for personal gain from following Jesus, stealing from the moneybag. Ironically, Judas was attempting to steal what Mary was freely giving to Jesus as a selfless act of worship, pouring out on Him all she had in reckless abandon. The value of this gift was about a year's wages and was meant to prepare Jesus for His burial, from the death Judas' betrayal would set into motion. This gift was worth what would be about $23,000 by today's standards, approximately three times the amount of Judas' blood money.

Jesus said what Mary did in worship of Him would be remembered every time the gospel's proclaimed. In Matthew 26:13, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her." This contrast between Mary's generous and extravagant worship and Judas' greed and treachery is no exception. We see these two accounts side-by-side in the gospels and it is clear we should look at these accounts together in comparison and in contrast.

Judas' price for betraying Jesus was 30 pieces of silver, as recorded in Matthew 26:14-16, "Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?' And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus." This payment was worth about four months wages, about one third of what Mary poured out onto Jesus in worship. This would be around $7,500 in today's market.

Thirty pieces of silver was also the price of a slave. According to Exodus 21:32, "If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death." Did Judas, and the Jews to whom he betrayed Him, value Jesus as a slave? It appears to be so. More interesting is the reality that Judas was a slave to his own greed and his love of money. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "You cannot serve both God and money." Judas was also a slave of the religious leaders when he agreed to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Here he would do their bidding and would be beholden to them as their slave.

What makes Judas' betrayal of Jesus harder to imagine is the scene painted in John's Gospel account of the Passover in which John describes Jesus' announcement of His impending betrayal. In John 13:1-30, about six days after Mary's anointing of Jesus, John tells of Jesus washing all of His disciple's feet. Judas was there and Jesus washed his feet, as well (see John 13:2-5). This responsibility of foot washing was reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In this act of service, Jesus became a slave of the lowest regard to serve all His disciples, including Judas, whom Jesus knew would betray Him. Jesus freely offered Himself as an humble slave, and Judas still betrayed Him at a slave's price for his own selfish gain.

In Haiti, there are silver coins worth .50 Gourdes, equating to about one 80th of $1, a little more than a penny. These coins are despised and rejected by vendors and are looked upon with distain. They are worthless. People do not use these coins, and merchants will laugh you away if you try to pass them off on the street or in the market. Thirty of these silver coins would not buy a soda on the street corner. These coins are worthless. No one would sell anything they owned for these coins, let alone betray someone they love for them.

These worthless coins are like our sins. They appear to have value, but they are worthless. Indeed, all the money in the world is valueless compared to Jesus, our Lord. Christ is of infinite value. As Paul said in Philippians 3:7-8, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."

Everything is a loss compared to Jesus; He is our gain and reward. If Judas believed this about Jesus, he would not have betrayed Jesus for worthless silver coins. If we believe this about Jesus, we will not sell out our Savior for cheap trinkets of sin. However, like Judas, we betray our Lord for personal gain when we sin and seek our own selfish desires. In our sin, we ask with Judas, "What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?" (Matthew 26:14-16).

CompellingTruth.org addresses this issue of following Jesus for selfish gain in the article "What Prompted Judas to Betray Jesus?" According to this article, Judas was not the only person in Jesus' life who used Him. Countless people today do the same thing. They hear about Jesus' healing power, His ability to grant wishes or comfort. Many respect His teaching, and they learn about His character, His claims, and His crucifixion. Yet they don't accept Him as Lord. We are just as guilty as Judas when we use Jesus for our own selfish gain.

This sermon, Judas: Our Sin Sells Out Our Savior, is published in its entirety at Preaching.com. You can read the whole article here.

Listen to the sermon, Judas: Our Sin Sells Out Our Saviorhere and here.

For poetry on Judas, click the following links:




Thursday, April 24, 2014

Who’s in Charge of Bob?: A Book Review

Who's In Charge of Bob?: The Key to Moving from Ordinary to Extraordinary, cover photo from FredGrooms.com and Amazon.com

In our current cultural climate it has become the norm to abdicate responsibility for one’s self, or to shift blame and responsibility onto others. This is why it is refreshing to see the release of Fred Grooms’ new book, Who's In Charge of Bob?: The Key to Moving from Ordinary to Extraordinary. This exciting new resource provides practical tools and insights for students to take charge of their lives, to take responsibility for their lives and to focus on their strengths, as well as managing their weaknesses, for greater outcomes and transformation.

Fred Grooms does a fantastic job of weaving his own story together with the testimony and stories of others to give examples of how to overcome obstacles to success and growth. Fred addresses strengths and weaknesses in his book through the following chapters: A Glimpse into Personal Strengths, You Are Talented, Discover and Uncover Your Talents, Investing In and Utilizing Your Talents, Dealing with Your Weaknesses, and Who’s in Charge of Bob? Learning to Take Charge.

In the back of the book, Fred gives practical insights, advice, tools and resources in his closing thoughts and in the appendix on Strengths Assessment. The appendix provides valuable links to StrengthsFinder®, through the Gallup organization, as well as StrengthsQuest®, through Clifton Strengths Assessment. Fred provides program ideas and offers his speaking and consulting services through FredGrooms.com and Barnabas Consulting.

Who's In Charge of Bob? is a solid resource for students who are not only looking to understand who they are, but who are looking to understand how who they are will shape who they are becoming and how they will impact the world. As life long learners, we must seek to understand who we are, how we will be shaped, and how we can shape the world around us—from ordinary to extraordinary. As Fred says at the beginning of Who’s in Charge of Bob?: The Key to Moving from Ordinary to Extraordinary, “There is no investment you can make that will pay you as well as the investment you make in discovering more of who you were made to be.”

To visit the book’s launch page click here.

To order your copy of Who's In Charge of Bob?: The Key to Moving from Ordinary to Extraordinary, go to Amazon.com here.

Visit Fred Groom’s website here: http://www.fredgrooms.com

To read this review on Amazon.com, click here.

Grooms, Fred (2014-03-11). Who's In Charge of Bob?: The Key to Moving from Ordinary to Extraordinary (Kindle Locations 1195-1196) Barnabas Consulting. Kindle Edition.  (http://www.amazon.com/Whos-Charge-Bob-Ordinary-Extraordinary/dp/0991462807)