Eric Geiger - a Husband, Father, Author, Vice-President of LifeWay Church Resources

12.16.2013

God includes You

We include our friends in our plans, in our lives. When someone gives you great seats to a game, you think of friends you can invite. When Memorial Day or Labor Day rolls around, you include your friends in the plans for the cookout.

Jesus declares that as His friend, you know the Father’s business (John 15:15). You are included. God does not need us. He is completely sufficient in Himself, yet He chooses to include us in His plans.

From the beginning of humanity, God has entrusted responsibility to His people. Early in the story of humanity, we see God including us …

So the Lord God formed out of the ground each wild animal and each bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. (Gen. 2:19)

Why did God hand the naming process over to Adam? Was He tired and out of energy? Had the entire creation process sapped His energy? In part, He enjoyed partnering with Adam on the significant and enjoyable process of naming animals.

The only miracle recorded in all four Gospels is the story of Jesus feeding five thousand people with two fish and five loaves of bread. There is a huge crowd walking around with Jesus. It gets late in the day, and the disciples suggest that Jesus send the crowd away. Jesus asks Philip where the closest bread store is located. Philip did the math in his head and pointed out that it would take eight month’s salary to feed everyone.

Jesus knew what He was planning to do; He was simply testing Philip (John 6:6). He did not need a brainstorming session with the disciples. His question was an invitation; an invitation to be included in what Jesus was going to do.

Andrew finds a boy who has two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus transforms the kid’s lunch into enough food to feed the entire crowd. And the disciples are included in the miracle as they pass out the food to the people. After everyone eats, Jesus asks the disciples to gather all the leftovers. The disciples gather the leftovers into food baskets. There are precisely twelve baskets, one for each disciple.

As your friend, Jesus seeks to include you in His plans, in His mission. Even in the details of our days, God invites us to join Him.


Adapted from Identity (2008, B&H Publishing Group)

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12.13.2013

Everyday Serving in the Workplace

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A common misconception among Christians is that their work is not spiritual, that a regular 9-to-5 day cannot be sacred. If they’re going to do anything spiritual or ministry-oriented, it’ll have to happen around these occupied time slots. But this implies that everybody needs to be a full-time pastor of some kind if they’re going to be “spiritual” for the better part of the day and week. The misconception that normal work is not spiritual is both inaccurate and damaging.

Work is very spiritual. In fact, God invented work. Work was present in the garden of Eden prior to the fall of humanity. Adam and Eve were given responsibility to tend the garden, and their work was enjoyable and honorable to God. When sin entered the world, yes— work became tainted with sweat, difficult bosses, Microsoft Excel, and frustrating situations at the office, but the concept of work is still very spiritual. When we spend forever with God in heaven, we will have work and industry to accomplish.

So don’t ever give the impression that work is mundane and insignificant. God desires Christians to bring their best to their profession so the city and culture will benefit and its people will be served well. Martin Luther believed that all professions were sacred, that “God Himself was milking the cows through the profession of the milkmaid.”

In the workplace, believers are given an opportunity through the gospel to serve in several different directions—upward, downward, and laterally. Serving upward means consistently working hard, knowing you ultimately work for the Lord. Believers should be the best employees on the job because they realize their work is truly done for God’s glory. Serving one’s supervisor well is a means of serving Christ well. And if a believer works for another believer, he should serve that person even better (1 Tim. 6:1–2).

Believers who are supervising others are given the opportunity to serve downward. By treating employees well and fairly, calling out the best of their gifts, the supervisor honors his or her ultimate Boss in heaven, who sees everything that’s done on the job . . . and who is not impressed with the lines and boxes on the org chart (Col. 4:1).

Most believers are also given the opportunity to serve laterally, assisting the colleagues who work alongside them. Because of the gospel, believers should encourage and serve these who are equal to them in responsibility, without being a burden to them, without being the slouch at the office who must continually be bailed out by others. One of the best ways a believer serves those who work alongside him is just to do his job well (1 Thess. 4:9–12). That alone is more spiritual and gospel-centric than many people realize.

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12.09.2013

God Shows His Greatness

When something great happens in our lives, we call our friends. If we have great news to share, we tell people we love. Moses enjoyed a close friendship with God, and God showed Moses His greatness.

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. . . . Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exod. 33:11, 18–20 NIV)

Obviously the language about Moses speaking face-to-face with God is imagery because just a few verses later God tells Moses that no one can see His face. But the imagery is powerful and illustrates the close friendship Moses and God enjoyed. Moses would talk to God as a friend.

And because of their close friendship, Moses asked God to show him His glory, the greatness of all His attributes. Amazingly God agreed. God put Moses in the cleft of the rock and let Moses see the backside of His glory.

Asking God for a great day and asking Him to show His glory are two very different prayers.

William Carey famously said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” I fear we often live bland and boring lives because we don’t press in and enjoy friendship with the God who reveals His greatness to His friends. I fear we miss out on the greatness of God because we pray small prayers and attempt small things for God.

By God’s grace, I want to pray “God, show me Your glory” type of prayers and not mild and tame “help me have a good day” kind of prayers. I want to be such close friends with Christ that He is constantly showing me His greatness. I want to be a part of big things for God, things that can only be attributed to the greatness of God.


Adapted from Identity (2008, B&H Publishing Group)

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12.06.2013

Our identity as children

Romans 8:14-16 says,

All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.

The phrase “Abba, Father” was new and exciting for the first believers to receive Paul’s letter. The first believers were Jewish, and Jews never dared to utter the name of God. They would not refer to Him with an affectionate name like “Father.”

The Jews were afraid to utter His name. Theologians are not sure how Yahweh was pronounced in the Old Testament because there is no record of how people pronounced the proper name of God, the name He gave Himself. Even when the Jews wrote the name of God, they would leave out the vowels because they believed His name was too pure for human hands to write.

While Jesus walked this earth, He referred to God the Father with the intimate Aramaic term “Abba.” This was scandalous because the Jews viewed God as distant, too holy even to mention. Then Jesus enters our world and refers to God with the intimate term “Father.”

The apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans in Greek, but when he says, we cry “Abba, Father,” he grabs the Aramaic word “Abba” that Jesus used. He was boldly saying we now, by God’s grace, enjoy the same relationship with God the Father that Jesus enjoyed. He is our Father, just as He is to Jesus.

He is close to us because of one moment, one moment recorded in the Gospels, where Jesus does not use “Abba” in His reference to God. When Jesus is on the cross, He yells out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” In this moment Jesus was being condemned for us, becoming sin for us; thus He could not enjoy the close relationship with Abba. He experienced painful separation from the Father so we can experience joyful connection with Him.

The identity we have as His sons and daughters is a work done exclusively by God on our behalf. He sought us, suffered for us, and sent His Spirits into our hearts. He is our Father. We are His. And our increasing awareness of our identity as His adopted children results in greater gratitude and joyful obedience.


Adapted from Transformational Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)

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11.25.2013

Not Only Servants

In John 13, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, holding high the value of serving. He challenges them to embrace their identity as servants. Moments later Jesus tells His disciples that they are more than servants. He calls them friends.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13–15 NIV)

When Jesus proclaims His eternal friendship to His disciples, Judas is noticeably missing. He is not there to hear the proclamation, to be declared one of Jesus’ friends. Before Jesus assured the disciples of their eternal friendship, Jesus asked His betrayer to leave (John 13:27). In other words, Jesus does not toss the friendship word around lightly.

By His grace, He calls us, those of us who know Him, His friends. He reveals Himself to us, allowing us to know Him personally. He invites us to join Him on His mission of reconciling people to Himself. He walks with us. He comforts and encourages us. There is not a friend like Jesus.


Adapted from Identity (2008, B&H Publishing Group)

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11.22.2013

Living Our Identity

Our identity in Christ necessitates rejecting an identity built on something else, on something less. In the research behind Transformational Discipleship, believers consistently showed that they know this to be the case. When asked about denying selfish impulses, believers expressed their understanding of the privilege of living a new and transformed life. Transformation is seen when believers are swiftly rejecting that which does not match up with our new identity in Christ.

Helping people encounter the truth of their identity is vital. As we understand who we are in Christ, we are motivated to live the reality of our identity. Leaders who see discipleship through the lens of a new God-given identity are burdened to show people the beautiful ramifications of the identity God brings. They are convinced that a deep hindrance to transformation is seeking satisfaction and fulfillment in a lesser identity, one not found in Christ.

Leaders and churches that view discipleship through the identity lens continually connect the fruit of a transformed life to the identity Christ gives because of the gospel. They are careful not to teach for the fruit of transformation without reminding people of their core identity, the new root God has placed in their lives.


Adapted from Transformational Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)

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11.18.2013

Fast Food Menus and Church Ministry

There is an epidemic of fast-food spirituality among believers today. We like big spiritual menus with lots of options. And we want those options served to us fast.

Many churches have become like fast-food establishments. A new idea emerges, and the menu is expanded. Someone wants a special event served a particular way, and the menu is expanded. People assume the more that can be squeezed into the menu, the better. So the brochure, the week, the calendar, the schedule, and the process get expanded. Cluttered.

And we keep getting more and more unhealthy.

One would think that the more programs and the more special events that are offered, the greater the impact. Our research has confirmed that the opposite is true. Unfortunately, the big and expanding menus are not producing vibrant churches.

The conclusion: fast-food spirituality is not healthy. In fact, the large and fast menu approach to ministry is killing our churches.

The appropriate response: Stay focused on your church’s discipleship process. Don’t add to the menu.

If you follow the input  offered in Simple Church, you will begin designing a simple and clear discipleship process for your ministry. It will be designed to move people toward spiritual maturity. You will also align all of your people and your ministries around this process.

Then the hard part will begin, and it will never end. It will be ongoing for the rest of your ministry.

Focus.

As we have said from the beginning, this factor is the most difficult to implement and practice. It means saying no a lot.

Most church leaders have the heart of a pastor who cares deeply for the people they serve. And saying no is difficult because it tends to bother the person who hears it. While it may be difficult, our research indicates that it is necessary.

A church cannot stay focused without saying “no.” While it is not easy, the health of the church is at stake. We must boycott fast-food spirituality.


Adapted from Simple Church (B&H Publishing Group, 2006)

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11.11.2013

Dinner with God

While on this earth, Jesus spent a lot of time at a house in Bethany where two sisters, Mary and Martha lived. One day Jesus visited for dinner.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42 NIV)

Jesus comes to the house to be with Mary and Martha. He plops down tired from walking, and Mary sits at His feet. Martha gets extremely frustrated. Martha is producing an elaborate meal and there are some unfinished tasks. She yelled at Jesus, Tell her to help me!

Awkward moment. Martha just yelled at God.

Jesus literally says to Martha, Martha you are worried about all these dishes of food, all these preparations for the meal, but only one portion of the meal is necessary. The best part of the meal is not the turkey or the dressing. I am the best portion of the meal.

Martha was too busy doing things for Jesus to be still and be with Him. She was more occupied with her cause than she was with Christ. Mary, however, savored the opportunity to be with God.

Martha viewed the evening as dinner for God.

Mary viewed the evening as dinner with God.

When we lived in Ohio, Kaye and I enjoyed an Outback ritual on many Saturdays. We would skip lunch and go to Outback at 4:00 before the evening crowd arrived. By the time we sat down to eat, I was starving. I was dreaming of a filet mignon all day, but I could not wait to eat any longer. So we would order the Bloomin’ Onion and insist the server bring us some more bread. I would literally devour the Bloomin’ Onion and almost inhale the bread. By the time the steak arrived, I was no longer hungry. I filled up on the cheap stuff. I was too full to enjoy the best part of the meal, the part of the meal that pulled me into the restaurant in the first place.

Jesus told Martha that He was the best part of the meal. Mary enjoyed the best part of the meal. Martha filled up on the cheap stuff.

If you are not hungry for a close friendship with God, you are probably filling up on the cheap stuff of life. If you are not hungry to sit at the feet of Jesus, as Mary did, perhaps you are devouring parts of life that will never truly satisfy.


Adapted from Identity (2008, B&H Publishing Group)

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11.08.2013

Discipleship and Identity

The apostle Peter viewed discipleship, in part, through the lens of identity in Christ. When he wrote the epistle of 1 Peter, he was writing a group of Christians who were struggling with how to live in the world as they were experiencing intense persecution. The root of the hostility toward them was the fire that burned Rome to the ground. The Roman culture was devastated as careers were lost, homes were burned, and families were ripped apart.

As often occurs when a national tragedy strikes, the Roman citizens wanted to blame someone. Initially the Romans believed that Nero, the Roman emperor, had set fire to his own city. He was suspected of the unthinkable act because of his insatiable desire to build new things.

Nero responded to the anger and suspicion by shifting the blame and hatred toward Christians. He accused Christians of setting fire to the city, and great hostility broke out against the Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Because Christians were spread and dispersed, Peter wrote a letter to encourage them to continue in the faith. He reminded them of their new identity and challenged them to live accordingly.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Pet. 2:9–12)

In a few short sentences Peter reminds people they are chosen, priests, holy, God’s possession, and strangers in this world. Peter urges these believers (and us) to proclaim God’s praises, live pure, and engage nonbelievers with integrity. But notice how he connects the commands to their new identity. He connects their sanctification (living out their faith) to their justification (who Christ has declared them to be).

Unfortunately the self-help movement has hijacked critical teaching on our identity in Christ. Many leaders have overreacted to the narcissism of the Christianized self-help section of Barnes and Noble by refusing to touch the identity lens. Sadly, the result is that many Christians fail to realize the greatness of their identity.

The end result of understanding our identity is not looking in the mirror and telling ourselves how awesome we are.  In fact, our new identity is ultimately not about us. Our identity is from God and results in God’s being glorified. As Peter highlighted, the end result of understanding our identity is that Christ is proclaimed. When we really understand who God has made us to be, the automatic response is to declare how great God is. Not how great we are.


Adapted from Transformational Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)

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