Sunday, August 4, 2013

Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning

Unfinished: Believing Is Only the BeginningUnfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning by Richard Stearns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I heard my favorite coach, Mark Richt, of the University of Georgia,  had read "The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? the Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World" and how it had changed his thinking about missions I decided I had to read it. So several months ago I read the book and wrote a review of it and posted it on goodreads, and on my blog,

A few months ago I received a letter from World Vision Project Manager, Blogger Outreach, Ashley Day. She asked if they sent me Richard Stearns new book, "Unfinished," would I read it and write a review. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. I so much enjoyed the book and it challenged me in my walk with my Savior. If you are a believer and want to be challenged I would encourage you to read this book. The book's thrust is how God wants to use us to build His kingdom. As you will read from the quotes below I trust you will be encouraged to buy this book!

Mother Teresa’s profound words are surely true of me and true of you: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”  My prayer is that He will use you to write His next love letter.  ~Richard Stearns

The meaning, purpose, and significance of our lives are found only by aligning our lives with God’s purposes, in lives committed to following Jesus Christ.  ~Richard Stearns

God created you intentionally to play a very specific role in His unfolding story.   ~Richard Stearns

If we are not personally engaged in God’s great mission in the world, then we have missed the very thing He created us to do.  ~Richard Stearns

The Author created you to play a key role in His story.  ~Richard Stearns

Well doesn’t it make sense that our story has an author too – One who created the world and the universe we were born into, One who cast the vision for the expansive plot and story narrative that has unfolded over eons of time, One who began the story and also will bring it to its conclusion? Doesn’t it also follow that this same Author/Creator gave life to each and every character in His story – to you and to me – and that He created each one of us with unique gifts, talents, and personalities; and that He placed us within His story in both space and time?   ~Richard Stearns

What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  ~Romans 1:19-20

The big story of God came to a climax in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the truth; He is the story. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus said. “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life but that it bothers him less and less?  ~Vaclav Havel

In short, I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician … I had always felt life first as a story and if there is a story there is a story-teller.   ~G. K. Chesterton

The story of Scripture is the story of a Father’s love for His children. It is the story of a Father faithfully reaching out to the children who rejected Him. It is the story of a loving God who never gives up.   ~Richard Stearns

The birth of Jesus is the sunrise in the Bible.  ~Henry Van Dyke

A penny will hide the biggest star in the universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.  ~Samuel Grafton

Frei Betto said, “The head thinks where the feet stand.”  If you are North American or European, think of how different your worldview might be if you had been born and raised in Afghanistan, China, Gaza or the West Bank, Russia, North Korea, or Ethiopia.  ~Richard Stearns

Worldview: the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.   ~Richard Stearns

We see people and things not as they are, but as we are   ~Anthony De Mello

Most Americans are still drawing some water from the Christian well. But a growing number are inventing their own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke their egos and indulge or even celebrate their worst impulses.  ~Ross Douthat

Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is “finding his place in it,” while really it is finding its place in him.   C.S. Lewis

Just as God created birds to fly and fish to swim, he created us to live as citizens in His emerging kingdom and to invite others to join us.   ~Richard Stearns

Many of our churches are no longer the boot camps established to equip us for battle; they’re spiritual spas designed to enhance our well-being and give us a glow at the beginning of our week. We sing a few songs, shake a few hands, and listen to a pleasant homily. The call of Jesus to lay down our lives, take up our crosses, and share in His suffering seldom echoes from our pulpits.   ~Richard Stearns

Christ did not call us to retreat from the world’s pain but to enter it. He called us to go. The twenty-first-century church has everything required to finish the job-the resources, the knowledge, and the mandate. But the great mission given to us by Christ lies unfinished.  It is time to relaunch.   ~Richard Stearns

God leaves us here because He has a mission for us to fulfill. We aren’t here by accident; neither are we here simply to enjoy the good things life has to offer. We are here because God put us here, and He has a sovereign purpose in keeping us here. It’s true for us as individuals, and it’s true for His body, the Church, in all of its fullness. As Jesus prayed just before His arrest and trial, “I am not praying that You take them out of the world … As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15, 18).   ~Billy Graham

Jesus’ call to repent was more than merely a call to feel remorse or regret for our sins; it was a call to change our minds, to exchange our agenda for His; it was a call to reorder our lives in the face of God’s dramatic news that His kingdom was now available to all. Eugene Peterson paraphrases Mark 1:15 this way: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Massage” (MSG). Jesus called us not just to believe but also to change our lives.  ~Richard Stearns

Scot McKnight talks about the difference between a disciple and a decider: “Most of evangelism today focuses on getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples.” Jesus called us to be disciples and make disciples, not just be deciders.

Deciders just believe the right things; disciples seek to do the right things. Disciples are dedicated to learning their Master’s truths so they can imitate their Mater’s life. Disciples seek to embrace their Mater’s mission and serve their Master’s purposes. Disciples try to plan their entire lives around Jesus’ teaching and commands. Deciders have their own plans for their lives and invite Jesus to bless them. Jesus had some harsh things to say about deciders.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  (Luke 6:46)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 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! (Matt. 7:21-23)

Regarding entrance into the kingdom of God, Jesus’ death on the cross to atone for our sins made it possible for us to get our “certificate of citizenship” in His kingdom. But His expectation is that we will not only move in but also renounce our former citizenship; that we will become fully engaged citizens, enjoying our new rights and privileges, abiding by the laws of His kingdom, contributing to its growth and prosperity, and even becoming its ambassadors to those who live outside of God’s kingdom. Jesus wants us to enter into a new way of living in the here and now, empowered by the Holy Spirit, living under God’s rule and authority, forsaking the influence of other kingdoms, and taking up the full responsibilities of our citizenship. Tragically, many Christians make the decision, get their certificates, but never really move in to become full citizens of God’s kingdom.   ~Richard Stearns

It is not enough for us to simply enlist [in God’s army]; we are called to join the battle.  ~Richard Stearns

I want to share with you where my mind has come to rest as I approach the end of my pilgrimage on earth. It is this: God wants His people to become like Christ, for Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God.   ~John Stott

These church communities, because they seek to live under God’s rule and according to God’s truth, should be shining examples of a radically different way for people to live.  ~Richard Stearns

Our job is simply to populate the kingdom of heaven.  ~Ted Engstrom

He chooses us for a mission, and He chooses a mission for us.  ~Richard Stearns

We are saved by faith, and we are saved for works. And God Himself has prepared specific people for specific works.   ~Richard Stearns

God’s expectations of us can be summed up simply – love God and love our fellow man.  ~Richard Stearns

The teaching and example of Jesus and the bright thread of compassion for others that runs through all of Scripture underscores God’s desire that followers of Jesus will be recognized by their tangible expression of his love for all people.  ~Richard Stearns

As John pointedly said, “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

The truth is not that God is finding us a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of His choosing – and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.  ~Os Guinness

Your life goal should be to follow Christ, live as Jesus lived, love as Jesus loves, proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God as we are sent into the world as His ambassadors. But being an engineer, accountant, or teacher might just be a very good means to that end. Everything we have and everything we are can be used in service to the Lord and to further His kingdom goals.  ~Richard Stearns

There is no difference for the follower of Christ between the sacred and the secular. All work is sacred if it does not violate God’s laws and if it is offered in the service of building His kingdom.  ~Richard Stearns

So what is the practical benefit of all the theology of the Holy Spirit? It is nothing less than the single enabling power that now makes it possible for ordinary human beings to be transformed and live differently than was ever before possible. Jesus’ call to repent and change our lives, to replace our agendas with his agenda, to literally become a new creation, is only made possible when the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts with power. It is only possible when God dwells in us. When that happens, we have access to abilities and insights previously unavailable. Again, it would take an entire book to unpack this idea fully, but let me list just a few of the gifts made available to us by the Spirit:
Wisdom: the ability to perceive things from God’s perspective
Comfort: the ability to have confidence in God and put our minds and hearts at ease
Discernment: the ability to discriminate between truth and falsehood, right and wrong
Intercession: the ability to access to the Spirit praying with us and through us before God
Direction: the ability to sense what God wants us to do and where God wants us to go
Power: the ability to do things we could not do before, speak things we could not speak before
Boldness: the ability to have the courage to take a stand and to face trails
Endurance: the ability to continue under stress, in suffering, with patience
Conviction: a keen sense of conscience about our sins and our behavior
Strength: the ability to overcome our weaknesses
Protection: the ability to remain safe from evil, from the principalities and powers in this world
Unity: the ability to bind together with other followers of Jesus within the church
Fruit: the ability to demonstrate in our lives the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control   ~Richard Stearns

First, as we learned earlier, we have to set the right destination, the one that involves replacing our agendas with God’s agenda – serving Him and building His kingdom. Second, just as my own GPS sometimes requires, we need to allow time to acquire the satellite; we need to invest the time to connect to God through His Spirit by spending time in prayer, reading Scripture, practicing spiritual disciplines, worshipping, and spending time with other believers. The stronger our satellite connection, the stronger the signal. Third, we need to listen and pay attention to the driving directions that are given. The thing about a GPS is that you can choose to ignore it, or you can just turn it off. We can choose to ignore the Holy Spirit in our lives as well. We can become so enamored with the sights along life’s roadways that we turn off the Spirit, turn off the road, and wander away from God’s plan for our lives. The Holy Spirit doesn’t coerce us. We need the Holy Spirit only if we want to obey God’s will and follow God’s path. If we want to follow our own way, we might as well turn it off. We aren’t forced to listen or obey just as we aren’t forced to heed a GPS. The choice is still ours. ~Richard Stearns

I am only one, but I am one,
I cannot do everything,
But I can do something.
What I can do I ought to do,
And what I ought to do
By GFleeod’s grace I will do.   ~Edward Everett Hale

Prayer is as much about listening to God as it is about talking to Him.    

There is an African proverb I love that goes like this: “If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.” Good advice for all of us on the journey.   ~Richard Stearns

We are to live with this question on our lips at all times: “how can I serve the Lord today, here in this place?”   ~Richard Stearns

The key to discovering your specific calling in the end is patience and faithfulness. Make yourself available, serve where you stand, be faithful with what’s in front of you, and trust God for the outcome.   ~Richard Stearns

There are no ordinary people.  ~C.S. Lewis

Drudgery is the touchstone of character. The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do. “Jesus took a towel … and began to wash the disciples’ feet”  ~Oswald Chambers

God had chosen a different way (then the way men would have chosen), a new way, to change the world. He had chosen the weak over the powerful, the humble over the noble, the poor over the rich, the servant over the master, he had chosen a baby in a manger over a king in a place (1 Cor. 1:25-29).   ~Richard Stearns

Whoever you are and wherever you are placed, know that you were placed there by the King to accomplish His good purpose!  ~Richard Stearns

You are a child of the King, a unique one-of-a-kind miracle, and you were created to play a critical role in the big story of God.  ~Richard Stearns

God does not call the equipped, but rather He equips those whom He calls.  ~Anonymous

It should be of great comfort that God’s plan does not rely on our greatness but rather on His.  ~Richard Stearns

No Goliath we face is mightier than the God we serve.  ~Richard Stearns

We have brought into a church-growth consumer mentality that compels us to make our churches as appealing as possible to “consumers.”  ~Richard Stearns

Better the church should shrink than risk losing its God-given purpose and identity. A community of true disciples, authentically living out the teachings of Scripture, is far more attractive than a latte bar or a Vegas-style musical performance. Jesus called the church to be salt and light in our world – salt to literally prevent decay (as in rotting meat) and light to counter the darkness of our culture.  ~Richard Stearns

Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.  ~Bob Pierce

We have gone from being fishers of men to becoming keepers of the aquarium.  ~Paul Harvey

The evil one wants nothing more than for the church to lose sight of its critical mission to assault the very gates of hell and bring the good news of the kingdom to all of God’s children. Insulated social clubs with fabulous facilities and Broadway-caliber Sunday worship services bring delight to the devil – “no harm, no foul!” The church that causes the demons to shudder is the church hell-bent on finishing the job that Christ commanded the church to do.   ~Richard Stearns

Jesus did not call us to build an institution; He called us to lead a revolution.  ~Richard Stearns

We live in the not yet, but God sees the already. We see today and yesterday but not tomorrow. God sees all three at once. In Him, those crushed in Haiti are alive already. In Him, those orphaned in Haiti are reunited with family already. In Him, those broken in Haiti are healed already. In Him, those grieving in Haiti rejoice already.   ~Richard Stearns

How then should we think? How then should we live? What then, must we do? Unlike God, we live in the time between the already and not yet and we must wait until then. Until then, we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. Until then, we are called to comfort the afflicted, give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty. Until then, we are to shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, and grieve with the grieving. Until then, we are to care for the widow, the orphan, the alien, and the stranger. We are to “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works and glorify [our] Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16 NKJV). Until then we are Christ’s heart and hands and feet – the ambassadors of His love in a hurting world. Until then we are called to show forth God’s deep love.   ~Richard Stearns

Every act of kindness, each moment spent in prayer, and every expression of love in the name of Christ pierces the heart of the enemy and sends him into retreat. ~Richard Stearns

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.  ~Attributed to Carl Bard

You see, Ralph and Cheryl didn’t sell everything they had and go onto the mission field; instead, they saw the mission field in everything they had. God used their passions, gifts, and skills right where they were planted, but they first had to make those gifts and skills available to Him.  ~Richard Stearns

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.  ~Attributed to C.T. Studd

It’s not the things we do in life that we regret on our deathbed, it is the things we do not. ~Randy Pausch

There are things that only you can do, and you are alive to do them. In the great orchestra we call life, you have an instrument and a song, and you owe it to God to play them both sublimely.  ~Max Lucado

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs befotre Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!  ~Beethoven

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