Thursday, July 31, 2008


North Americans are fond of success, and Christians here are prone to think of how to make our congregations successful. We measure success with different numbers: doors knocked, baptisms done, new members welcomed, service rendered, dollars donated, posteriors planted in pews. ╬čur standards of measurement vary, but no one seems to doubt that the church ought to be successful.

Isn't it interesting, then, that the New Testament never uses the word “success” in relation to the church? In fact, the NT writers aren't nearly as concerned about measuring success as with simply going about the life of discipleship: glorifying God, encouraging one another, and growing in Christ. Sure, you can make a case that whatever we call it, doing those things all add up to success. But in our quest for success, let's not forget something more powerful than success: victory. And Jesus already has that one under control.

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dirty work

Let’s face it: we don’t need special glasses to see how apathetic, inconsistent, and hypocritical the church can be. The problem, of course, is that it’s made up of people like you and me. Some things God does himself, flawlessly. Everything else he leaves for his people to do the best way we can. The best way, of course, is through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Even with the reality and power of that Spirit, Kingdom work can sometimes seem fitful and messy.

But don’t let the messiness blind us to the blessedness. Jesus sometimes compared the Kingdom of God to seed, and of course seeds grow in dirt. The seed of God's Word is the power of Jesus Christ himself. And something unique happens when Jesus touches dirt: instead of getting dirty himself, Jesus makes the dirt clean.

So Christians, let's be encouraged in the church. At times we may see mainly dirt, but God sees what's growing underneath—for our blessing and his glory.

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Grace and truth

Discipleship requires balancing truth and grace (as a sister in Christ recently explained), but each Christian usually leans too far toward one or the other. If we’re truth tellers we may gush out truth for the benefit of those around us, but they may end up being swept away by the torrent. These truth tellers are sometimes called legalists.

If we’re all about grace, we may spare feelings by never speaking hard truth, but those around us may never know how far they’re wandered. These gracers are sometimes called wimps. But if truth and grace, both good qualities, can cause trouble if unallayed, how do we balance the two?

In Christ. When Jesus came into the world he was “full of grace and truth. . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14, 17). Finding just the right balance between grace and truth may not be easy, but if keep our eyes on Christ, we won’t wander too far out in either direction.

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley