Discipleship TV: How Jesus Productively Made Disciples

On this LIVE edition +Tony Marino and Pastors +Brian Whiteside, +Michael Duncan, and +Jeff Klick explain, “How Jesus Productively Made Disciples.” Christian may know “what Jesus said,” but most are NOT familiar with “what He did” relative to making disciples. Special Guest Panelists: +J.R. Miller,+Michelle Hollomon, and Shawn and Caroline Savage (+Shawn Savage).

God’s Justice is Based on Fairness… Really?

God’s Justice is Based on Fairness… Really?

For thirteen years, I lived in a region of the United States unlike any other place where I have lived.  The West Coast in the state of Washington  is a place where the light of the Gospel is most dim.  Only 10% of the population in the Puget Sound region near Seattle call themselves “Christian”.  The culture is spiritual, maybe a little religious, but definitely not friendly to a vibrant faith in Jesus.  It is from within the context of a culture that is antagonistic to my faith that I interpret Romans 2.

In direct contrast to the misperception that God is “mean” for judging the world “sinful,” I am convinced that the lost must hear that God’s justice is based on fairness to all people, all cultures, and all ages.

For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:11 NKJV)

Justice Is NOT

First, God’s justice is fair because He does not condemn anyone to eternal separation from His love (Hell) based on a rejection of Jesus.  God’s justice has no regard for a person’s knowledge of Christian theology or how well they know the historical Jesus.  Such knowledge would favor the educated or people born into Western Civilization and therefore unfairly punish those in non-Western civilizations, the illiterate, and the uneducated.

Second, God’s justice is fair because it is not based on wealth, education, parentage, cultural privilege, or skin color–it is only flawed human beings who make judgments based on such superficial observations.  God, however, offers justice to everyone based on their personal choices.

Justice IS

First, God’s justice is fair because those who have specific knowledge of YHWH’s Law and do not follow it 100% will be judged and found guilty!


Second, God’s justice is fair because those without the knowledge of His Law will be “graded”   based on 100% conformity to their own personal moral code in their lives.  God’s justice is fair because it is based on each person’s…

  • actions which demonstrate a rejection of love and kindness toward others.
  • actions which demonstrate a rejection of love for all creation.
  • actions which demonstrate a rejection of self-love.

There is no partiality with God.  His justice does not take into account a false perception of who we “think” or “feel” we are.  God’s justice does not factor in Media image or PR campaigns.  Instead of perception, God judges the reality of our being.

Case In Point

I am reminded of the incident a few years back with soccer player Elizabeth Lambert from the University of New Mexico.  This young woman acted viciously on the field; pulling hair, kicking girls in the back, and punching other players in the face.  At least a half-dozen times in one single game she attacked other players.  After the game when a video of her actions spread across YouTube and the consensus from those who defended her was,

“that video does not show the real Elizabeth.  She is really a kind and gentle person, and that video of her does not show who she is.”

But the video in fact does show who Ms. Lambert is—certainly not all of who she is—but it does show her choices, her anger, and her willingness to hurt other young women.  So as much as Ms. Lambert does not think it is “fair” to show this video–it is fair.  The comments from her defenders only make it worse because they prove that Ms. Lambert knows better.  She is a nice person in other situations and knows how to be nice, yet during this game she chose to act in a way that violated her own moral code of conduct.  Ironically then, in an effort to preserve her image, Ms. Lambert’s friends have actually revealed her hypocrisy.

But… don’t be too quick to judge her!

Ms. Lambert is not alone in her hypocrisy.  Every one of us who saw Ms. Lambert’s video and recognized “she was wrong”  also shares in her guilt.

I am equally guilty of the same anger…

There is no video showing me yelling at my kids.

There is no video of me speaking cruel words to my wife.

Yet in these choices, and many others I will not mention, I am no less a hypocrite than Ms. Lambert. 

No matter where a person draws the line of justice, every single one of us falls short and every single one of us is fairly judged by God as a hypocrite–we just don’t have our failures shown on YouTube.

We All Share The Blame

…as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. (Romans 2:12b-13 NKJV)

Everyone is condemned based on their choices and the only way for God to be fair is to provide a solution that is the same for everyone. God cannot excuse the actions of one person and then condemn someone else for the same thing.  That would make God a hypocrite.  The Law that God revealed in the Old Testament teaches us that everyone needs Jesus.  He is the only solution that makes God’s justice fair.  We are condemned by our choices, but forgiven through the life of Jesus.  Our choices condemn us, but Jesus’ choice to die on the cross frees us.

Gal. 3:24 – Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Matt. 5:17)

“But That’s Not Fair!!!”

I hear the complaints now from my atheist friends.

“How can God possibly be called fair?”“

“How can God’s solution be fair when not everyone knows who Jesus is?”

“How can people be judged for not knowing Christ?”

“What about people who have never heard of Jesus?”

These are great questions and people are totally right for asking them.  The sad part is, too many Christians don’t even understand how to answer them. Romans 2 addresses the very heart of this issue when Paul wrote  to the non-believing Roman culture of the day.

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law… for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:12a, 14-16 NKJV)

As I mentioned at the start, the lost are not judged by God on the basis of ignorance about Jesus, they are judged because they are born into sin and chose to cooperate with that sin.


The basis of God’s judgment is not the degree of revelation received, but the choices each person makes in response to the revelation they do possess.  In other words, it is not how much you know, but what you do with it that matters.  At the risk of sounding like a Universalist, there will be people in God’s eternity who have really bad theology.  There will be people in God’s eternity with YHWH who do not have a deep understanding of the historical Jesus.  There will be people in God’s eternity who cannot articulate the Gospel in clear and concise terms.

The best way I know to explain God’s fairness is to share with you two truths and a mystery.

Truth #1Freedom from our own sin comes only through the person of Jesus Christ.

His death and resurrection is the only power that can save us.

Truth #2: God has promised to reveal Himself to anyone and everyone who seeks Him.

From the African tribalist, to the South American native, to the Chinese villager to the Seattle citizen… all who see God will find fair opportunity for salvation.

Mystery #1:  God’s justice is fair.

People ask, what about those who die and have never heard the good news of Jesus.  All I can say is that anyone who genuinely wanted to hear, will hear, and somehow when it all shakes out; God is fair.  The “how” of God’s self-revelation continues to be a mystery, but the mystery does not invalidate the truth of what I know–God’s justice is based on fairness.

Elders Lead A Healthy Family: My Story

Elders Lead A Healthy Family: My Story


The numbers on pastoral burnout are all too obvious. Most observers understand that even the most favorable numbers reflect a problem with the pastorate in the West. The answer to pastoral burnout is not found in  another program or another leadership conference. The answer to burnout is not more coaching or better education. The answer requires our churches change the very structures that foster isolation and burnout. If we hope to save our pastors, then we need our pastors to abandon the Pastor as CEO model of leadership. If we want to save our pastors, we need a systemic change in the way we plant, grow, and maintain our churches. Instead of putting a solo-leader at the top of Church Incorporated, we need to build teams of Elders, doing ministry together, as they lead the Family of God. Elders Lead A Healthy Family explores what the Bible teaches about shared leadership, Elders as the spiritual ‘Big Brothers’ and shepherds to the Family of God.

The book is for current and future Christian leaders; church planters, missionary-planters, bi-vocational pastors, students, and all those interested in reshaping leadership. This book will draw in readers interested in the organic church movement and young Christian readers frustrated with the celebrity-pastor culture.

Readers of Elders Lead A Healthy Family, will discover the power of shared leadership to strengthen our leaders and transform our churches into vibrant communities of Faith. Because the book will introduce them to a fresh approach to Church as a Family and the transformative power of biblical Eldership.


Dr. J.R. Miller’s Elders Lead a Healthy Family: Shared Leadership for a Vibrant Church is a refreshing alternative to the numerous familiar (and generally fruitless) attempts to baptize the pragmatic priorities of secular leadership theory into the waters of New Testament ecclesiology. For all the talk about community in our churches today, Joe reminds us that healthy relationships must begin at the top—with a community of leaders. This book is full of solid biblical teaching packaged in a winsome and appealing way, by a practitioner who has experienced the benefits of shared leadership first-hand. Elders Lead a Healthy Family ought to be required reading for vocational and non-vocational church leaders alike.

Joseph H. Hellerman, Ph.D.

Author of When the Church Was a Family

Elders Lead a Healthy Family: Shared Leadership for a Vibrant Church is a fascinating fresh look at church leadership. No one wants their sacred cows questioned, but that’s exactly what this book does. With excellent scholarship and personal stories, Dr. J.R. Miller builds a biblical case for elder-led churches. I love how Joe includes women in the discussion in a way that honors and elevates us. It’s a friendly, easy read, but one that will challenge assumptions and inspire every Christian to respond.

Lyn Smith

Bible Activist, Speaker, Author

This book by Dr. J.R. Miller is a helpful addition to books on the biblical vision of shared leadership. Not only does Miller weave in wisdom gained from his pastoral experience but he also treats sensitive topics with thoughtfulness and grace.  With so many churches defaulting to the CEO model of leadership, Elders Lead a Healthy Family: Shared Leadership for a Vibrant Church provides an alternate model to help churches, and church leaders, embrace God’s design of shared leadership.

Benjamin L. Merkle

Bible Activist, Speaker, Author

Dr. J.R. Miller is a rare combination of theorist/practitioner, except when you’re doing what you’re writing about, it stops being theory and starts becoming experience. I appreciate Joe’s well rounded approach to the subject of shared leadership; a heady piece with heart.

Peyton Jones

West Region Catalyst, SEND Network

Turning Defeat Into Success: David

Turning Defeat Into Success: David

Life is full of ups and downs. There seems to be a natural flow to it that is beyond our control. There are times when everything seems to ‘go your way’ and then there are times when it seems like everything is turning for the worse. Quite honestly, it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to these natural ebbs and flows—they appear random, meaningless, and uncontrollable.

Boy, that is depressing even to write…

But, what I find when I read the Scripture is an assurance that these ebbs and flows are not meaningless. God uses them and sometimes even orchestrates them for His glory and our good.

As I survey the life of David, I am hit with the question, ‘how much did David really know about God’s hand on his life?” Read through the decades of his life and only in a very few cases do we read where God revealed Himself to David. In 1 Samuel 16, God’s sends a prophet to anoint David King. In 2 Samuel 7 God speaks to David through a prophet that his desire to build a temple will not be granted, but his descendant will have that privilege. 2 Samuel 12, another prophet comes to David to rebuke him from his sin of adultery and murder.

Months, years and even decades span the times where God speaks to David. But what about all those in-between years? How does David respond to the ebb and flow of life when he does not hear directly from God?

As a reader, we are privileged to meet the God behind the story.

1 Sam 16:21-23
21 David came to Saul and stood before him. Saul liked him a great deal, and he became his armor bearer. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse saying, “Let David be my servant, for I really like him.” 23 So whenever the spirit from God would come upon Saul, David would take his lyre and play it. This would bring relief to Saul and make him feel better. Then the evil spirit would leave him alone.

1 Sam 18:10-12
10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul and he prophesied within his house. Now David was playing the lyre that day. There was a spear in Saul’s hand, 11 and Saul threw the spear, thinking, “I’ll nail David to the wall!” But David escaped from him on two different occasions.
12 So Saul feared David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.

The hand of God was continually helping David, nurturing him, saving him, helping him, but David did not always see God working.  David’s poems suggest that he had doubts about God’s presence during the ebb and flow of life.

Psalms 10:1-4
Why, LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you pay no attention during times of trouble?
2 The wicked arrogantly chase the oppressed;
the oppressed are trapped by the schemes the wicked have dreamed up.
3 Yes, the wicked man boasts because he gets what he wants;
the one who robs others curses and rejects the LORD.
4 The wicked man is so arrogant he always thinks,
“God won’t hold me accountable; he doesn’t care.”

God is continually turning defeats into success, yet David’s eyes cannot see it.   Meanwhile, you and me, the readers, are privileged to meet the God behind the story. We see God st work so clearly because the story is written for us, but David was often left feeling alone and desperate for God.

At the heights of his “spiritual” high, David was never ashamed to worship God.

2 Sam 6:15-16
15 David and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD, shouting and blowing trumpets.
16 As the ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Saul’s daughter Michal looked out the window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him.

At his worst, David was not aware that God was with him and he gave into his own passions and lust.

2 Sam 11:2-5
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. Now this woman was very attractive. 3 So David sent someone to inquire about the woman. The messenger said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
4 David sent some messengers to get her. She came to him and he had sexual relations with her. (Now at that time she was in the process of purifying herself from her menstrual uncleanness.) Then she returned to her home. 5 The woman conceived and then sent word to David saying, “I’m pregnant.”

Instead of repenting and facing the consequences of his sin, David sought to hide it.

2 Sam 11:6-17
6 So David sent a message to Joab that said, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked about how Joab and the army were doing and how the campaign was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your home and relax.” When Uriah left the palace, the king sent a gift to him. 9 But Uriah stayed at the door of the palace with all the servants of his lord. He did not go down to his house.
10 So they informed David, “Uriah has not gone down to his house.” So David said to Uriah, “Haven’t you just arrived from a journey? Why haven’t you gone down to your house?” 11 Uriah replied to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah reside in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and my lord’s soldiers are camping in the open field. Should I go to my house to eat and drink and have marital relations with my wife? As surely as you are alive, I will not do this thing!” 12 So David said to Uriah, “Stay here another day. Tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem both that day and the following one. 13 Then David summoned him. He ate and drank with him, and got him drunk. But in the evening he went out to sleep on his bed with the servants of his lord; he did not go down to his own house.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote: “Station Uriah in the thick of the battle and then withdraw from him so he will be cut down and killed.”

In grief, David turns to God and seeks Him

Psalms 38
O LORD, do not continue to rebuke me in your anger!
Do not continue to punish me in your raging fury!
2 For your arrows pierce me, and your hand presses me down.
3 My whole body is sick because of your judgment;
I am deprived of health because of my sin.
4 For my sins overwhelm me;
like a heavy load, they are too much for me to bear.
5 My wounds are infected and starting to smell,
because of my foolish sins.
6 I am dazed and completely humiliated;
all day long I walk around mourning.
7 For I am overcome with shame and my whole body is sick.
8 I am numb with pain and severely battered;
I groan loudly because of the anxiety I feel.
9 O Lord, you understand my heart’s desire;
my groaning is not hidden from you.
10 My heart beats quickly;
my strength leaves me; I can hardly see.
11 Because of my condition, even my friends and acquaintances keep their distance; my neighbors stand far away…
15 Yet I wait for you, O LORD! You will respond, O Lord, my God!…

Sometimes in life, circumstances turn against us, and sometimes we suffer defeats because of our own actions. Have you ever done something you regret and felt like there was no escape from the pit you dug yourself into?

David’s life was filled with blessings, and often he could not see God at work. Yet history teaches us that even in his darkest time and greatest sorrow, God was there. God was there to redeem him. God was there to save him. To comfort him. To turn his greatest defeat into success.

God is with you and me.  We cannot always see Him.  We cannot always hear Him.  But someday when we see the story of life through God’s eyes, we will know that God is here, right now, working behind the scenes, and turning our greatest defeat into success.

RE:Write Conference News

RE:Write Conference News

First, let me say thanks for all those who were supporting me in my quest to win the 2012 RE:Write contest— especially my lovely wife Suzanne.  While I did make the top ten of 200+ submissions, I must admit that I am disappointed, and discouraged, my submission did not earn the win.  That honor goes to another amazing writer,  Kurt Bubna. Kurt and I have some connections that go back to my days pastoring in the PNW with the Christian & Missionary Alliance so I wish him the best.

Although I could only afford to go to one day of the conference, I was very impressed with the quality of people involved at every level.  All the credit goes brilliant Esther Fedorkevich, President of the Fedd Agency Inc (BTW, not the same Esther Fedorkevich who plays poker) who partnered with the publisher of Tyndale House Momentum, Jan Long Harris.

At the conference, I had the chance to rekindle some old relationships and meet some new, and amazing, people. In no particular order…

Peter Strople spoke and I had a few moments to speak with him personally.  Peter is a former High-tech Executive  at GRiD (inventor of our Modern Clamshell Designed Laptop) and former Director at Dell. Now, he considers himself a compassionate capitalist.  He is an impressive man blessed with a lot of money, but an even greater pasion to use what God has given him to help others.  I’ve never met anyone like Peter before, and I am so grateful to know him.  His “Home Plate” changed my whole approach to creating meaningful conversation with people I meet.

Joel N. Clark is the co-founder and Creative Director of Switchvert, a production and ideas house co-located in Washington, DC and Johannesburg, South Africa. Joel is a gifted filmaker and author of Awake. I spent a lot of time talking with Joel just learning from his experiences.  He is a talented story-teller and I can’t wait to dig into his book which also weaves online movies into the story—very cool idea!

Paul Young is the famed author of The Shack.  Some of you may recall my interview with him a few years back. I had a brief opportunity to reconnect with Paul and have a brief conversation. Paul shared some of the most amazong stories of his life that touched me deeply beyond words.  I was moved to tears just listening to how God has put his life together.  It gives me hope that there is a light at the end of the long tunnel I have been traveling for many years. Paul has a new novel coming out in November called Crossroads, that you can pre-order now if you just can’t wait.

Darrell Park offered some engaging conversation over dinner about his book, “Better Than We Found It,” which details real-world, tangible solutions to the myriad of problems facing our world. We talked about fossile fuels, alternative clean energy, mostly solar, and Darrell’s years of experience in that industry. Darrell is a bright guy with a lot of passion and I was glad we had the chance to connect.

George Barna is best known for his research work at the Barna Group.  As you may recall from the interview I ddi with him a short while back, George has since left BG and his primary passion is writing. George is focused on writing books on discipleship and leadership, as well as novels.  I suggest you check out his book, “The Power of Team Leadership.”  I only had a brief conversation with George, but it was good to meet in person for the first time since our only previous interaction was the two interviews we have done together in the past four years.

Wayne Connell is a fascinating man.  He has the founder of “Invisible Disabilities Association” which encourages, educates and connects people around the globe who are touched by illness, injury or disability. This is a very personal thing for Wayne as his wife has been fighting Multiple Sclerosis for the past two decades.  His wife went from a very activer woman to a woman who struggles to accomplish some of the most basic daily tasks.  Wayne was an inspiration to me and I look forward to learning from him in the years ahead.

I met lot more great people, sorry I could not list everyone here, but I look forward to staying connected to as many as possible in the days to come.

Oh, and if you are interested, RE:Write 2013 is already slated for Texas and I highly recommend you make the time to go.

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