Discipleship

A Matter Of Perspective

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A blog post by Vicki Graff

Recently a daughter was reading Romeo and Juliet.  There was a good deal of giggling. Strange, as that particular story is known as a tragedy.  Why was she laughing?  She chose to read it as a comedy.  Seeing Romeo as a pathetic teen boy and his ‘whining’ as laughable.  Her sister said, “It’s a matter of perspective.”

Perspective is a powerful lens that shapes your attitude and behavior.  I lived much of my life as a pessimist. A firmly embedded habit, it was an unconscious defense against disappointment and sorrow.  I expected and saw the negative side of plans and people. Now, maturing in the Word and faith, I am practicing putting on the lens of the scripture to view life.  

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I’m not talking about thinking positive, name it and claim it, or putting on a Pollyanna perspective.  Rather, living within the Bible's promises.  Believing and applying the truths of Scripture to the events and experiences that we react to all day long.  Criticism that crushes. Trials that feel overwhelming. Grief that consumes. Accusing guilt. Struggles and doubts that discourage and weaken. Sin that separates.  Bitterness to bind us.  Pain and anger to prevent forgiving. A world full of lies and distractions. 

I’m not talking about thinking positive, name it and claim it, or putting on a Pollyanna perspective. Rather, living within the Bible’s promises.

Grasping firmly to the Biblical truth that, as a beloved and treasured child of God, I am forgiven and embraced for a purpose, known and held by Him. Empowered with strength to stand before enemies and temptation. Enabled to love and forgive through His mercy and grace applied.  Living in hope that overcomes all trials, failures, sickness and grief by holding onto the promise of eternal life and a heavenly dwelling that is a blink away through Him. Believing He acts from love and knows best.

This only happens with deliberate devotion to God’s truth through study, prayer and fellowship.  Being saturated in His influence to overcome all others. Nothing good will come from a casual faith.  An acquaintance with Christ and His church results in an ineffectual anemic Christian defined by hypocrisy. The Biblical promises need to be a part of you, believed and applied. A conscious effort on your part, but what joy when you find that the hope and joy within has become a part of your thoughts, coping skills and reactions. A new lens to see the world in the light of Christ and His Word.

Nothing good will come from a casual faith. An acquaintance with Christ and His church results in an ineffectual anemic Christian defined by hypocrisy.

1st Peter 1: 3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Study the Word. His truth cannot come out if it does not dwell within. Pray to know Him and understand His Word because this is not something you can do alone.  The depth of His riches are deeper than a passing glance but the Holy Spirit is a willing guide.  Fellowship for edification and encouragement because the Lord uses us for each other. 

Recently, a longstanding misunderstanding of myself and my motives was immediately overturned by one sentence spoken to me.  She had no idea that her words brought revelation and repentance.  I thanked the Lord in prayer for her faithfulness to nurture her faith which in turn, strengthened mine.  I hope the Lord will use me in the same way for another.

 Titus 3: 4-7 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Family Church In August

During the month of August, our gatherings will be “family-style.” I don’t like calling it that because realistically every Sunday is "family-style", but what we mean by this is that Taproot Kids will be taking a break during the month of August, and therefore children of all ages will be with us for the entirety of our Sunday Gatherings. 

This is something we do on occasion in Taproot, and when we do it, it’s intentional. In other words, family church gatherings aren’t because of a lack of volunteers, a lack of organization or anything of the sort. (Though a great benefit is that our amazing Taproot Kids team gets a break!) 

Family church gatherings are done with the intention of discipling families. 

Why We Exist

Taproot exists to know Jesus and make him known. This is what it means to be a disciple and a disciple maker. Therefore, we structure our Sunday Gatherings and Gospel Communities around this mission and vision given to us by Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). 

Included in this vision are the children of Taproot Church. In our current season, we’re thankful to have a growing Taproot Kids ministry that currently disciples children who are walking and up to six years of age. We know that this component of our gathering serves parents in their discipleship process and we hope to see it continue to do so. But one thing we want to be crystal clear about is that Taproot Kids is NOT the primary discipleship venue for our children. Rather, the purpose of Taproot Kids is to come alongside parents and help them to be the primary disciple makers of their children as God intended it to be.

This means that just as we believe the Sunday Gathering alone is not sufficient for any Christian to mature, so too Taproot Kids alone is not sufficient for the discipleship of our children.

Beyond The Gathering

Our Sunday Gatherings are geared toward the equipping of the saints. We open the bible every week and work through entire books of the Bible because we believe that Scripture is sufficient for our maturing as Christians. This, however, is not just a Sunday thing. Sunday’s are the sending out point for our mission of making disciples in the context of our every day lives. Furthermore, we connect our Sunday Gatherings with our Gospel Communities to continue making disciples and being discipled. 

So how does this relate to Taproot Kids? By proclaiming the finished work of Jesus week in and week out we are equipping you, the parents, to disciple your children. Yes, we seek to make disciples wherever we are, but the easiest and primary disciple making venue for most of us is in our homes and with our own families.  

Why Family Church?

So how does family church serve us in this? 

We believe that the occasional family church gathering helps all of us in the overall discipleship process. There is something beautiful about watching a little child raise his or her hands in worship to our Loving Father simply because he or she is watching mommy and daddy do the same thing. There’s something profound about watching a child fumble through the pages of a bible to follow along even though they might not be able to read yet. There’s something humbling about watching a child engage in the worship gathering with joy and laughter that “grown ups” have all too often and easily left behind.

Our children are learning from us as a collective family, and we are learning from them too.  

I’m looking forward to our month of family church gatherings, and I hope you are as well. I admonish you to not view this as an inconvenience but an opportunity to allow the little children to come to Jesus alongside their parents. 

Praying for His kingdom to come in Twin Falls as it is in Heaven.

Pastor Mike 

Baptism...should you, and why?

 

This Sunday is Easter. There is no bigger celebration for the Christian family. It is on this day of course that we pay special attention to the fact that Jesus resurrected from the grave thus defeating Satan, sin, death, and Hell. The good news of the gospel is that those who believe in this finished work are participants in this victory with Christ and his people. One specific way we get to celebrate this is by baptizing new believers.

This post is for those of you wondering if you too should be baptized.

What is baptism?

The simplest way to define baptism is this: Baptism is a public way for a new Christian to say, “I’m with Jesus.” 

Here’s a little lengthier and robust definition: "Baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.”* 

Why get baptized?

With a definition of what baptism is, the next question is, “why to get baptized?” This is a good question and an important one. There are some religions that teach that baptism is necessary for salvation. I'll address this more specifically in a bit, but for now, I’ll just say that we wholeheartedly disagree with this. The only necessary work for salvation is the work of Christ. It is our response to his finished work by faith and repentance that saves us. 

However, though we believe baptism isn’t necessary for your salvation, we believe it is essential to your faith. 

So why get baptized?

First, Jesus said to. This is the clearest reason for getting baptized. If Jesus says to do something, his followers should do it. This is seen most clearly in what we know as the Great Commission. Jesus said, "“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20; emphasis mine). Simply put, baptism is an essential part of what it means to be a disciple and a disciple-maker.

Second, we see the disciples of Jesus obeying Jesus’ command through the book of Acts. After Peter preaches his Pentecost sermon, the crowd responds. The gospel message cut deep into their hearts, and they wanted to know what to do. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every single one of you for the forgiveness of your sins.” A few chapters later, a disciple named Philip is given the opportunity to share the gospel with an Ethiopian man. After hearing and believing the gospel the man replies, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-39)

We see in these texts that baptism wasn’t an option for disciples of Jesus. In fact, there is no such thing as an unbaptized disciple of Jesus in Scripture. 

What does baptism do?**

Baptism is often looked at as some sort of “super-spiritual” or “magical” act. But it isn’t. The physical act of baptism is simply being dunked under water, but this act has great significance. 

First, baptism is a public confession, and public confessions strengthen your faith. Baptism can be a little intimidating. You’re standing before a crowd of people, professing before them that you believe in Jesus’ finished work and that your life is wholeheartedly his for the rest of your days. That’s a big deal and a big commitment. But this is one of the most faith strengthening and affirming things a Christian can do. 

Second, baptism is an opportunity for evangelism. When you get baptized, it’s possible that people who don’t know Jesus are watching. In this case, baptism acts as a visual portrayal of what has taken place in a new believer. When you go under the water and are brought back up, you are visually displaying for people what Christ has done on the cross, and also what Christ has done in you. Specifically, you’re publicly displaying that your sins are washed away because of your faith in Christ.

Third, baptism confirms your new identity and commitment as a follower of Christ. By getting baptized you’re saying that you belong to Jesus, and by belonging to Jesus, you belong to his people too. Baptism is a public way of proclaiming that your life has been made new, and you’re going to live it in connection with your new family, the church. 

Does baptism save me?

This question was addressed briefly above, but I want to be clear in saying that baptism is not a work that saves you. It is not baptism that guarantees your place in God’s kingdom. Only the finished work of Jesus does that.  

How do we baptize?  

In Taproot, we practice baptism by immersion. This means we set up a portable tank of water and fully immerse the person being baptized under that water. 

Who should get baptized?

If you’re a Christian and you haven’t been baptized, then you should get baptized. You may only be a few minutes, days, or weeks old in your faith, but you should get baptized. You may also be someone who's been a Christian for 20 years who, for whatever reason, has never been baptized. You too should get baptized.

Baptism is for all people who believe that God has saved them by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and have never been baptized. 

It is a joy and privilege to celebrate new life in God’s family. We hope you’ll join us in the celebration this Sunday. 

If you have any question at all, please click on the link to email us and we’ll get back to you ASAP. 

Christ is all!

Pastor Mike

 

*This quote is taken from the booklet Understanding Baptism, by Bobby Jamieson. 

**These points are my own paraphrase of sections taken from Understanding Baptism.  

Will You Continue To Learn?

Knowing Jesus. Making Him Known.

On Sunday, we took the time to delve into why we exist as a church. The big idea was that we exist to Know Jesus and Make Him Known. This statement has at its heart the obeying of Jesus’ commission to the church to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20). Simply put, the main point for us Taproot, is to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus. As we said, this is both loving and glorifying to God.

There are, however, some roadblocks when it comes to discipling and being discipled. Primarily: it’s hard. 

Discipleship Is Hard

It’s very hard. If we’re going to effectively make disciples, we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being a disciple and making disciples is messy. It involves blood, sweat, tears, long conversations, and sometimes sleepless nights. It’s no wonder Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). In other words, following Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires that we die to the comforts of this world. It requires humility.

In light of this, one question we need to continually keep before us is: Will we continue to learn? Our pride tells us we have nothing–or at least very little–to learn. Our pride tells us that having received Christ is enough. And indeed it is. But the life of a disciple doesn’t end once our faith is placed in Jesus. It’s just the beginning of a lifetime learning process.   

Learning from football players

Football season is among us again! For some of you, this brings great joy. For others, not so much. Whatever your view of this beloved season, I’ve learned over the years that we can learn a lot from athletes (both in terms of what to do and what not to do).
If you were to spend the afternoon watching a football game, you will quickly notice that these guys aren’t merely athletes. They’re also students. I particularly love watching great quarterbacks. Guys like Russell Wilson, and formerly Payton Manning. What is it that made/makes them great? Yes, they’re good athletes on the field, but what we often miss is that they’re great students on and off the field. A great professional athlete, no matter what sport, is never done learning.

And so it should be with Jesus’ disciples. Yes, Sunday morning is important, but our discipleship process is intended to go well beyond those two hours a week. 

Will you continue to learn?

So ask yourself this question: Will you continue to learn? We have more resources at our fingertips than ever before. Will you pick them up? Great bible teaching is easily accessible 24/7. Will you listen? The God we worship is infinite. Will you spend your lifetime learning about his plan to love humanity and bring glory to himself?

Taproot, let’s continue learning about our great God and Savior Jesus Christ and in turn joyfully make him known. 
 

Back At The Club

The past four Sundays, we've had the joy of gathering with "the church" at the Twin Falls city park. It was a wonderful opportunity to see two local churches in one city gather as one under the Good Shepherd, Jesus. We anticipate seeing what God will continue to do in and through this. 

This Sunday, September 18th, we'll be back to our regular gathering time and place: 10:00 a.m. at The Boys and Girls Club of the Magic Valley. If you've never gathered with Taproot before, and you've been wondering what we're all about, the next two weeks will be a great opportunity for you to join us. We'll be looking at why we exist as a church, what our vision for the city of Twin Falls is, and how this practically works out in day to day life and in the context of Gospel Communities. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to Contact Us. 

Christ is all! 

Pastor Mike

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

There is a famous line in Genesis 4. It says, “Am I my brothers keeper?” The line comes after Cain brutally murders his brother Abel. God asks, “Where is your brother?” The only way Cain can think of answering is by “minding his own business,” and pointing the finger at the brother he just killed.

Most of us are familiar with this section of scripture and this verse in particular. What we’re not familiar with is how to handle it. It’s easy to take the side of Cain. In a culture of hyper-individualism we shake our heads in agreement that we are not our brothers keeper. We think to ourselves, “their business is their business. I don’t need to worry about what they’re doing or not doing.” And when we do poke into someone’s business, we’re often told, “mind your own business!” Maybe there are scenarios where we ought to mind our own business, but more times than not we’re simply abdicating a responsibility that is ours to keep. We are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.

The church is the family of God (Mark 3:31-35). This means that if we are a Christian, our brothers and sisters are not only those who are related to us by blood, but are also those related to us by the blood of Christ spilled on the cross. To be a member of this family means that we care for one another. It means that we are in one another’s business–not for the sake of gossip, slander, shame, ridicule, or scorn– but for the sake of building up. It means that we care whether or not our brothers and sisters are representing Christ in their day to day lives. 

Jonathan Leeman, in writing about church membership, puts it like this: “Church membership is not about additional requirements. It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church."*

“Church membership is not about additional requirements. It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church."

The gospel of Jesus frees us to love one another in ways that we would not have previously. It frees us to celebrate with our brothers and sisters in their victories, and weep with them in their failures. It frees us to ask questions, and to have questions asked of ourselves. The church is to be a family like none other on this earth. It is God’s grace that we get to care for one another in such a way that doesn’t promote our individualism, but exemplifies his kingdom instead.

*Quoted from Leeman's book: Church Discipline.
 
 

Thoughts On Orlando

Good morning, Taproot. 

It’s been a couple of days since the shooting in Orlando. By now you’ve likely read numerous articles, opinions, and arguments–some wise and some foolish–about this tragedy. Having had some time to think through it myself, I wanted to share some thoughts in an effort to guide our hearts and minds as a local church. 

We ought to mourn
We cycle through information in our culture at a pace no human has the ability to handle. News that ought to be before our eyes for an extensive period of time is often pushed to the bottom of a webpage–out of sight and out of mind–far too quickly. Part of the consequences of this is that we’ve forgotten how to mourn.  

Let me encourage you to not move on from this too quickly. There is reason for us to mourn as a church and a community, and we should do so.

Russell Moore wrote a more extensive piece about mourning together. You can read it here.

The LGBT community DID NOT deserve this
I’m sickened, and my heart breaks, any and every time I see someone declare that this was an act of God’s judgment on the LGBT community. “They deserved it,” or “they had it coming to them,” are thoughts that we should vehemently guard our hearts and minds against, and are words which should never be uttered from our mouths.
 
No, we don’t condone the sin of homosexuality. But let me be clear…we also don’t condone anger, pride, malice, gossip, and the like. Furthermore, we don’t condone any type of sexuality that is outside of God’s design. Apart from the context of a heterosexual marriage, sex is sin. (Much more can be said about this that this article won’t address).

A person is a person. And regardless of lifestyle choices, all people are image bearers of God. I pray this is how we would view the LGBT community. I pray this is how we would view the Muslim community. Before we find ourselves disgusted by their sin, looking for a stone to throw, we need to see them as someone fearfully and wonderfully made by our gracious God.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus was judged in our place. He, though he didn’t deserve it, bore that wrath (judgment) of God that we all deserve. So before we attempt to think, “they deserved it,” stop for a minute to praise the God who hasn’t given us what we deserve.    

Think about what you read and hear
Anyone and everyone who has a platform to write or say something about a tragedy like this does. My voice is only one among millions. But I want my voice to be specific to our church and the context of our city.

The tragedy beneath the tragedy of this event is that it’s been missed for what it really is and has been used as a political platform. As a church, I want us to be so very careful about turning this into a political “he said, she said,” type of fight. At the end of the day, this tragedy is not about ISIS, Islam, the LGBT community, gun rights, or Republican versus Democrat. It’s about sin. This shooting was a show of human depravity that should drive us to our knees. The next President is not going to fix any of this. Only King Jesus can.  

Pray
Finally, Taproot, I encourage you to pray. Pray for the LGBT community. Pray for the Muslim community. Pray for the leaders of our country. Pray for the churches. Pray for the kingdom of Jesus to come. Let your feelings of hopelessness, despair, fear, doubt, and anger drive you to your knees.

Some day, these things will be no more. Bullets won’t fly. Terror won’t exist. Tears will not be shed. Hate will be gone. We’ll be with Jesus face to face. Until then, we pray for the redemption and renewal of our cities and nations. We faithfully follow Jesus even in the midst of great fears. And we pray he comes quickly. 

Christ is all!
Pastor Mike
 

Laboring, Equipping, and Maturing

Yesterday was our first Sunday Gathering of 2016. We took the opportunity to address where we are and where we're going as a church family. In case you missed it, below is a brief recap. Sorry, there is no recording of this sermon.

Why we exist

Knowing Jesus. Making Him Known. Taproot Church exists to know Jesus and make him known. This will remain the constant mission and vision for us because it is the commission that Jesus gave (Matthew 28:16-20). Knowing Jesus and making him known is what making disciples is. 

Maturing Saints. We don't, however, stop at simply making disciples. We labor together to present the saints as mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28-29). When the body of Christ is enabled to function in her gifting to the fullest, we're able to disciple one another to the point of being mature disciples. The result of this will inevitably be healthy disciples making healthy disciples making healthy disciples and so on. It is a maturing church submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit that will enable us to see this city saturated with the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Sending Out Laborers. In Matthew 9, Jesus told his disciples to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest. This is because the harvest is huge, while the laborers are few (Matthew 9:35-38). It seems to be an age old problem in the life of the church–never enough people to do all the work that can possibly done. But by God's grace, we will continue laboring to equip the saints for the purpose of being sent out day by day into everyday mission fields such as our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, etc.

When it comes to sending out laborers, our ultimate prayer is that God would enable us to equip church planters and church plant teams. A preliminary goal and prayer for us is to equip and send out five (5) church planters (with teams) in the next ten (10) years. The cities we're praying to see churches planted in right now are: Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Boise, and Sun Valley. In this, our prayer is that God would do above and beyond all that we can imagine or even think to ask him. 

Needs in the family

As our family continues to grow, there are several areas in which we need to structure.

Set up and teardown. By God's grace, we're a mobile church and will be for the foreseeable future. There is nothing wrong or bad about this. The church is not (or at least should not) be confined to a building. However, being mobile means that there is a little more effort required for the Sunday Gathering event. We're looking to build out our set up and teardown team. Specifically, we're looking for eight (8) people to be split into two teams of four (4) and put on a volunteer rotation. 

Hospitality. It's a blessing to walk into the gathering on Sunday and have a fresh cup of hot coffee with a homemade treat of some sort. This doesn't just happen though. There are people working behind the scenes to provide these things for us. We need about four more people to fill out our Sunday morning hospitality team. 

Greeters. There's something about being greeted that makes things more welcoming. We've yet to have greeters, but it seems it's about time to start. We need 4-6 people to help out here. 

Sound and Media. It's a blessing to have amplified music and words projected on a screen that allows everyone to sing in worship to King Jesus. We're in need of a few more volunteers here. One more volunteer for media and one more volunteer for sound would be great. 

Taproot Kids. Finally, one of the greatest ways we can serve families in Taproot, and families who are visiting Taproot, is by discipling their kiddos well. This year, we want to see our children's ministry grow in a healthy way. We want to see the kids discipled well in the gospel of Jesus while at the same time learning if a fun and safe environment. We need a lot of help to do this though. Right now, we're looking for 16 people to work in teams of four on a monthly rotation on Sunday mornings. 

it is finished

The amount of work that needs to be done is often overwhelming. When it comes to a call for laborers in the life of the church, the tendency is to guilt people into doing a job or to tell them that serving more will cause God to be more pleased with them. But this is a lie. 

The truth is that God is already perfectly pleased with those whose faith is placed in the finished work of Jesus even if we don't lift up a finger or fill another volunteer spot for the rest of our existence! This is because the work that ultimately needed to be done has already been done. Jesus came and lived the perfect life we couldn't, died the death we deserve, and rose victoriously from the grave! In this, he has defeated Satan, sin, Hell, and the ultimate enemy death (Colossians 2:14-15). Before he breathed his last breath, he proclaimed from that cross, "It is finished!" 

This good news is what changes our lives, and this good news is what motivates our labor, church. It is in light of the reality that we will not be loved any less and are already loved as much as we possibly could be that motivates us to labor until Christ returns.  

I'm excited about what lies ahead, Taproot. The details are unknown to us, but our plans and dreams are submitted to the God who knows every detail down to the second. He will establish our steps as he sees fit.

If you have questions, please ask at the next Sunday gathering or head over to our connect page and fill out the form at the bottom. 

Christ is all!

Pastor Mike