July 29, 2013


I was really hoping that Twitter would die, but since it hasn't you can follow me at @NateArcher1.

I can't offer indulgences to everyone who follows me but you should do it anyway.

July 25, 2013

A God-Centered Discipleship Reading List

These are some of the very best books that I recommend for Christian growth. These books also correspond to areas in the God-Centered Philosophy of Discipleship I developed. Together they form a discipleship curriculum that I commend to believers as a reading plan. 

I have used many boxes of these books for discipleship over the last few years. None of these books are difficult to read. I have used them both with adults and high school students. You could read them in order, or you might want to start with Transforming Grace or Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible.

Glorfy God
The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul
Outside of the Bible, this is one of the top three Christians books I have ever read. You will not see God the same way after reading this book. If you get the message of this book you will realize that everything is God-centered. 

Treasuring Christ
When I Don't Desire God, by John Piper
This is one of John Piper's best books for describing how God is glorified when we delight in Him as our highest treasure. This is also an incredibly practical book that helps us to learn how this is if hindered or helped.

Prophet (Teacher)
Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, by Erwin Lutzer
Treasuring Christ as Prophet means hearing the voice of Scripture as the voice of God. This is a very readable book that will help you have confidence in the Bible as God's own Word. 

Priest (Savior)
Transforming Grace, by Jerry Bridges
This book does an excellent job of clearly explaining that salvation is by grace alone and that the Christian life is based on grace as well. 

King (Lord)
The Joy of Fearing God, by Jerry Bridges
Along with Sproul's The Holiness of God, this is the best book I know of for helping believers stand in awe of God's majesty. This books is deep, and warm, and will cause you to bow the knee to God with reverence and joy. 

Change in Thinking and Actions
How People Change, by Timothy S. Lane & Paul David Tripp
As Christians, we need to learn to be students of the human heart. This book does a very good job of showing how real heart-change takes place. 

The Bible itself is the only book that is essential to read, but excellent non-inspired books can still be a major benefit to your Christian growth. There six books are great ones to start with for a solid, God-centered foundation.

Related: A God-Centered Philosophy of Discipleship

July 16, 2013

A God-Centered Philosophy of Discipleship

What are we trying to do in people’s lives? It is easy to talk about discipleship without having a clear idea what it is or why we do it.

Several years ago I developed this tool to train ministry teams. My goal was to help us think about the heart of discipleship in a way that is biblical and God-centered. There are hundreds of things that could be said about discipleship but my intent was to create something simple and memorable.

Our ultimate goal is to Glorify God by helping people to Treasure Christ as their Prophet, Priest, and King resulting in a continuous and life-long Change of their Thinking and Actions.

Glorify God 
First and foremost, the ultimate goal of discipleship is to glorify God. This is because the ultimate goal for everything is to glorify God. It is the reason God created us. It is the reason we exist. As Romans 11:26 states, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”

This is non-negotiable. It is crucial to have a God-centered view of discipleship rather than a man-centered view. We are not the center of the story. Although many great blessings often come as the result of growing in Christ, God is not a tool that we use to get something else that we really want. He is the focus. He deserves it. His glory is worth it.

So, what exactly does it mean to glorify God? The next part of this model is meant to help us grasp what this means by saying the same thing with different words.

Treasuring Christ 
But how do we glorify God? Do we do this by building a giant golden statue of Jesus or getting God the most “likes” on a social media site? No. The real way that human beings glorify God is by treasuring Him in their hearts. Whatever our hearts delight in the most is the thing that has the most worth to us. The more our hearts value God’s worth, the more God is glorified in us. As John Piper puts it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Real discipleship aims at the heart. Real Christian growth is about what we love.

Christ is the focus of our worship, but what do we treasure Christ as? Is it okay to treasure Christ as our magic genie, or perhaps as the ideal humanist role model? As I thought about this, I recalled the three Old Testament offices that Christ fulfilled: Prophet, Priest, and King. I realized that Christian growth will always be deformed unless we treasure Christ in all three of these roles.

The prophet was the mouthpiece of God. The main function of the prophet was not to predict the future. The most important thing about the prophet was that God spoke His message through him. In Deuteronomy 18:18 God tells Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of this promise. In Hebrews 1:1-3 we read that in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son…the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. In John 1:1 Jesus is even called the Word of God.

To treasure Jesus as Prophet means to treasure Him as the one who teaches us what is true. We want to believe what Jesus believed and taught. This especially means that we believe the Bible as God’s Word. Jesus taught that the whole Old Testament was the Word of God (Jn. 10:35) and He told his disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them in all truth (Jn. 14:26). Jesus confirmed the Old Testament and commissioned the New Testament. As followers of Jesus we need to adjust our beliefs to everything God teaches through the Bible.

Let me be clear, we need to believe everything the Bible teaches, not just the “red letters” of Jesus. Printing Jesus’ words in red letters is a modern invention. “All Scripture”—black and red—“is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In the Old Testament the priests were the ones who made sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. The book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is the final and permanent fulfillment of the office of priest. For example, Hebrews 4:14 states, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Not only does Jesus present the sacrifice for us, Jesus gave himself as the sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 7:27). He took the wrath that we deserve when He went to the cross in our place.  

Treasuring Jesus as our Priest means treasuring Him as Savior. You are not a true Christian if you do not treasure Jesus Christ as the one who sacrificed Himself to pay the price for your sin and to make you right with God. As Christians, we never outgrow our need for God’s grace. We need to grow in our appreciation for it every day. We also need to realize that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

In the Old Testament, the king was the one who rules with authority. In the New Testament, Peter declared, “let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16).

To treasure Jesus as King means to treasure Him as Lord or Master. He is the one who deserves our obedience. He is the one with authority over our lives. He is the one who we must gladly bow the knee to. Jesus is the King and we need to recognize that fact and live like it—all the time. We need to stop living like we are on the throne.  

The problem is that the sinful human heart hates the fact that Jesus is King. That is why some churches neglect Jesus as King. It’s a big turn-off to rebels. It is much easier to fill a church talking about Jesus as a great humanitarian role model than as the Lord to whom we must bow the knee. We need to focus on Jesus as Prophet and Priest and King. If we neglect any of these three roles, discipleship will be unbalanced. 

Change, Thinking, Actions
When a person genuinely treasures Christ as their Prophet, Priest, and King there will be change in their life. Change may be dramatic, but usually it is a gradual process. It will be from the inside out—the way it is supposed to be. Lasting change is change that starts in the heart and flows outward to the rest of life. Romans 12:2 calls us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The result that God is aiming for is to conform the believer into the image of Jesus Christ (Rm. 8:29). As we treasure Christ as our teacher, Savior, and Master we will grow to become more and more like Him in every way possible.

Please notice that life change is at the end of the process, not the beginning. This is important because, on the contrary, too often it is the main thing that people are after. For example, imagine some parents whose main desire is for their kids to stay off drugs and keep from getting pregnant. These are good things to desire, but it would be a shallow victory if their kids avoided scandalous sins but didn’t have hearts that cared about Jesus.

If you just change the outside, the change is fake and temporary. If you change the inside, the outside will follow. Don’t make the mistake of trying to change behavior without changing hearts. The true goal is not behavior modification, but heart change for the glory of God.


There you have it. My guess is that you could now take out a piece of paper and draw this diagram yourself. There is much more that could be said about discipleship, but I hope that this model will help you to think about Christian growth in a way that is (1) God-centered, (2) Heart-targeted, and (3) Biblically-balanced.

Related: A God-Centered Discipleship Reading List

July 10, 2013

The Conviction to Lead

Albert Mohler has written what is probably the best book on leadership I have read. What sets The Conviction to Lead apart is that it is thoroughly Christian, cohesive, and conviction-based. Unlike some leadership books which would be equally as helpful in a secular setting, Mohler’s book is specifically geared for Christian leadership. Certainly, there are principles that apply in both worlds, but this book is not business principles baptized with Bible verses. Second, it is not a random collection of wise principles. The chapters dovetail together and build on each other. Finally, what really sets this book apart is that it teaches leadership based on conviction rather than pragmatism. At the core, we must be more concerned with “what is right” than merely “what works.” Mohler’s book exemplifies that type of godly practical leadership.

Here are several gems mined from this book. These quotes help describe the heart of conviction-based leadership: 
True leadership starts with a purpose, not a plan.
Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip. . . Put simply, a conviction is a belief of which we are thoroughly convinced. I don’t mean that we are merely persuaded that something is true, but rather that we are convinced this truth is essential and life-changing. We live out of this truth and are willing to die for it.
The leadership that really matters is all about conviction. The leader is rightly concerned with everything from strategy and vision to team-building, motivation, and delegation, but at the center of the true leader’s heart and mind you will find convictions that drive and determine everything else.
The leader develops the capacity to think in convictional terms and leads followers to do the same.
The leader draws followers into a story that frames all of life. . . That story frames the mission and identity of the organization, and explains why you give your life to it. The excellent leader is the steward-in-chief of that story, and the leader’s chief responsibilities flow from this stewardship. Leadership comes down to protecting the story, bringing others into the story, and keeping the organization accountable to the story. The leader tells the story over and over again, refining it, updating it, and driving it home.
Leadership is the consummate human art. It requires nothing less than that leaders shape the way their followers see the world. The leader must shape the way followers think about what is
real, what is true, what is right, and what is important. Christians know that all truth is unified, and so these concerns are unified as well. Leaders aim to achieve lasting change and common alignment on these questions.
Leaders must be unquestionably committed to the truth, and they must lead their followers to do the same. Beyond that, leaders must lead followers into a growing maturity that enables them to discern the true from the false.
Matters of priority are also central to worldviews, and the leader must teach followers what is most important, most urgent, and most essential. If not, followers will go off in different directions, working out of very different understandings of what matters most. The great aim of leadership is to lead followers continually into a deeper and more comprehensive love for what is most real, most true, most right, and most important. The thrill of leadership is in seeing this happen, and long-term success depends on it.
This is how effective, faithful leadership works. You aim at the heart and the head of your followers, confident that if they share the worldview and embrace it with conviction, the right actions will naturally follow.
Passions must arrive out of convictions. . . Passions arise naturally or not at all. It happens when convictions come to life, and deep beliefs drive visions and plans. The passionate leader is driven by the knowledge that the right beliefs, aimed at the right opportunity, can lead to earth-shaking changes.
In any context of leadership, passions arise out of beliefs. For the Christian leader, those convictions must be drawn from the Bible and must take the shape of the gospel. Our ultimate conviction is that everything we do is dignified and magnified by the fact that we were created for the glory of God. We were made for his glory, and this means that each one of us has a divine purpose. 

Related: Leadership: Character, Connection, and Direction 

July 3, 2013

The Star-Spangled Banner's Unanswered Question

The last time I was at a minor league baseball game I started thinking about the lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner. The thing that struck me is that our national anthem asks an unanswered question. 

The anthem was originally a poem written by Francis Scott Key who had been captive on a British warship during the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Through the night, he could see from the flashes of the artillery that the U.S. flag was still flying. However, he wouldn't learn until morning how the battle turned out and if the flag had been taken down in defeat. 
O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
We know how the battle turned out. We take it for granted that the flag would still be there in the morning. But Key didn't know that. He was desperate for any word that the flag was still flying because there was a significant chance that it could be gone. We need to realize the same thing.

Every time we hear the national anthem it should remind us that the flagand our freedommight not always be here. We assume it is permanent. We take it for granted. We don't cherish how valuable, rare, and fragile our freedom is. It might not exist tomorrow.

All the great empires of human history eventually fell. Even if America is protected from her external enemies, the threat remains that she will rot from within until only a star-spangled shell is left. 

Our historic liberties are being assaulted. The values of our founding fathers are being forcefully abandoned. Their work ethic is evaporating. Our heritage is being squandered. Religious liberty is being eroded as the new morality of the cultural elite is pushed on everyone else. 

There may soon come a day when the only circle of  liberty that remains is that which is horded by the liberal idealists in power. The only freedom that will be tolerated will be freedom from God's transcendent morality. The goal of the new freedom will not be freedom of conscience but freedom from conscience. 

How long will the tattered flag of true freedom still fly? How long until all is dark? Do not take for granted what we still have. Pray for sanity. Pray for revival.

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