Interview with Rod Culbertson on his recent book, “Do I Love God?”

Do I Love God? The Question That Must Be Answered

New Title From Rod Culbertson


Rod Culbertson
 is the Associate Professor of Practical Theology and the Dean of Student Development at Reformed Theological Seminary/Charlotte. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Rod started Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) in the state of Florida, working at the University of Florida, and in addition to campus ministry, he has been involved in church planting.

Do I Love God? The Question That Must B e Answered is written for the purpose of helping believers in Christ, as well as those curious about God, evaluate their relationship with God. The most important priority and assurance in life is knowing God! Because the one true God is a trinity of persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who have loved one another in full and perfect relationship from eternity, and thus relational, we who are made in His image, can actually know Him personally and walk in loving relationship with Him. God is not impersonal; He is love. Loving God is why we are created. Using the three domains of the heart – know, feel, do – the reader is encouraged to take a personal look into what he or she believes about Christ, how he loves others, and how she seeks purity of life. Assurance of a relationship with God is gained through proper doctrinal belief, passionate spirituality, and godly obedience. These three tests of assurance are evidence that one loves God. God is a God of grace. Do I Love God? will help the reader explore the depth of God’s grace and His love!

INTERVIEW

 What prompted you to write this book?

As I look at the culture that I know – the contemporary western culture in which I live – I have observed over the years that many people identify with the label “Christian.” We are a Christian culture in name and profess a form of cultural Christianity. But are we truly, as a majority of people appear to profess, Christian? And deeper still, are we a people who genuinely love God? If we read the Bible, we see the triune God calling his people to love him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. We would expect nothing less from an awesome, holy, and wonderful God who deserves all of our lives and being. He must be our everything. Yet, often our beliefs are false ones, our understanding of love for God is based upon sentimentalism, and our lives bear little resemblance to the holy calling placed before us in the Scriptures. Do we really love God as he commands us to love him? This book attempts to not only answer the question, “Do I love God?”, but to propose some solutions that might assist us in pursuing a daily, active relationship with God based upon his expressed parameters in Scripture.

How would you say that Do I Love God? The Question That Must Be Answered could benefit the reader?

“Do I Love God?” is written for most any person who wants to grapple with the practical question regarding his or her relationship with God. I address the three learning domains – “know, feel, do” which are the criteria that the Apostle John, in his first letter, submits are necessary for true expressions of faith and assurance of one’s salvation. In my many years of ministry, I have discovered that the thoughtful Christian wonders if he or she is loving God enough. We know that we never do. But the next question is, “Do I love God rightly, i.e., as he calls me to love him?” We must love God in the following manner: 1.  based upon biblical belief and doctrine (know), 2. in such a way that his love transforms how I love others (feel), and 3. through an obedience that spawns Christ-likeness or holiness (do). I also provide some helpful ideas about how to deepen the believer’s daily walk with God. In many ways, I believe that the book is very practical in nature in this regard.

Is there anything unique about this book?

A number of books have addressed the need to view the Christian life in terms of what might be called “wholehearted” living for God, i.e., expressing the three learning domains in the Christian life: cognition (know), emotion (feel) and volition (do). I have attempted to do the same but use the book of 1 John as a basis for addressing these three domains. I also consider the three offices of Christ – prophet, priest and king –  in order to gain further appreciation of the three domains as related to Christ himself. In addition, I add some light theology regarding a very heavy (important) topic, the cross of Christ. I think that the final chapter, one that gives guidance for the person wanting to seek out a greater and more meaningful devotional life, is a unique summary on how to have a regular personal devotional life.

Is this a book for everyone?

I used the title Do I Love God? The Question That Must Be Answered in order to appeal to the most general audience possible. Many people wonder if God exists and there are books written that attempt to prove his existence. Those books can be either too simplistic or too complicated. Yet, because I believe that God’s existence is inherent within each of us, as human beings made in his image, I am assuming that any person who has ever lived has wondered at some time about whether or not they can know God. And if he can be known (i.e., in a personal way), then we wonder if he can be loved by mere creatures. Therefore, Do I Love God? The Question That Must Be Answered will appeal to anyone who wants to know what it means to properly know and love the living, creator God who already loves them in so many gracious ways. 

What was the basis of this book?

I teach a course at Reformed Theological Seminary/Charlotte called “Classics of Personal Devotion.” We look at the devotional lives of those who have preceded us in Christ’s kingdom in order to learn about their passion for God. One thing that is observable throughout church history is that there are men and women who, although very flawed at times, seek the Lord with all of their hearts and being. Sometimes they go to extremes, while at other times they have unusual expressions of their love and devotion; but something can be learned from any of those believers who are trusting in Christ as he is revealed in his Word. Although I do not focus on specific individuals in this book, I do spend a great deal of time in the course (and hence, the book) trying to walk us through what love for God should look like from the standpoint of wholehearted (“all of life”) devotion. Our profession of faith in Christ must be genuine, and if it is, we will love God and others as a way of life, and finally, we will pursue personal holiness without which no one shall see the Lord.

An Excerpt from Do I Love God? The Question That Must Be Answered 

Can we grasp what has happened? Isaiah, who is ready to be justifiably destroyed, is suddenly justified (made right with God), cleansed, and lives to tell about it. The only place where we can grasp this truth—this shadow of a future reality—is to look at the cross. At the cross, we learn truth—God is holy and must judge sin; we are undone and ruined. We need grace, help, and forgiveness. We become desperate. Our affections become involved. We are not unmoved by the depth of our predicament. We feel our dilemma so deeply that our emotions disturb us without relief. Time meets eternity. The finite meets the Infinite. We are shaken to the core. And then—we look at the cross and see a Savior. It is not a Seraphim who shows up; rather, it is the very Son of God who comes. It is not a coal from the altar, but a bruised, beaten, bludgeoned, pierced, and bloodied human body that is sacrificed and provides atonement.  At the cross, we can hear the Father say to those who believe, “Your guilt has been taken away; your sins have been atoned for.” We do not take this exchange lightly. We are amazed that anything like this could happen in our lives. We have entered the realm of grace and have begun to understand the boundless grace of God. Christ is able to wash away the filth of my sins and make me clean. The believer’s emotions are engaged. As Paul writes, every true believer experiences a deep sense that Christ is the one “who loved me and gave Himself for me.

ENDORSEMENTS

“I found Do I Love God? edifying, and will be recommending it to others who want something that has theological depth and clear practicality at the same time. . .  I have noticed over the decades how deeply Rod Culbertson has impacted the lives of ministerial students, as well as some congregations I know well, where he has filled in. He conveys to us a grasp of the ‘deep, deep love of Jesus’ in a way that takes it out to a hurting, needy society in both individual and corporate ways.”                                                           — Douglas Kelly, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina

In Do I Love God? Rod Culbertson fleshes out what he has modeled for and impressed upon countless students and friends in ministry. . . Where this book is incredibly helpful is in diagnosing and then encouraging a love for God that emerges from every corner of our hearts in what we think, feel, and do.”                                                                                              —Blair Smith, PhD candidate, Reformed Theological Seminary, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Charlotte, North Carolina

 Link for Ordering Do I Love God?  https://wipfandstock.com/do-i-love-god.html

Posted in Personal Devotion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interested in Reading The “Disciple Investing” Life? Here’s an Excerpt

Culbertson_06946_Excerpt Disciple Investing Life

Used with Permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers

http://wipfandstock.com/the-disciple-investing-life.html

 

Posted in Discipleship | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Disciple Investing” Life


New Title From Rod Culbertson: 
The “Disciple Investing” LifeHelping Others Grow in Their Relationship with Christ

Have you ever wondered if you could help another person become a stronger, more consistent Christian? At some point in your own Christian walk, you probably received help, guidance, instruction, and encouragement from another believer in order to seek Christ and become more like him. How grateful we are for those who invested themselves in us! I believe that you personally can help someone else understand and live out their faith in Christ. The “Disciple Investing” Life is written to help you invest your life in another person who wants to grow as a Christian. Read it and discover how God can use you in someone else’s life in their journey toward Christlikeness.

Rod Culbertson is the Associate Professor of Practical Theology and the Dean of Student Development at Reformed Theological Seminary/Charlotte. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Rod started Reformed University Fellowship in the state of Florida, working at the University of Florida, and in addition to campus ministry, he has been involved in church planting.

What prompted you to write this book?

From infancy, Christians, including my mother in particular, have been investing themselves in me, trying to point me to Christ. I didn’t respond until college, but their investment in me did not go unnoticed. When I became a Christian, I truly wanted to pour into other people’s walks with Christ as well, which is what I have done now for over 40 years. In time, I learned a lot of principles that were useful in helping others grow as Christians and become more Christ-like, by his grace. I eventually realized that I could put those principles in a book and hopefully benefit others. Here is the first attempt!

How would you say that “The ‘Disciple Investing’ Life” could benefit the reader?

I believe that the book is very practical in nature. I try to help the reader realize that there is a cost to investing in the lives of others, one that they should count. I give suggestions about the direction they could take with another person as they seek to help. The book provides some suggested Scripture passages that they can cover with another individual or individuals in order to help them grow (you don’t have to be a Bible scholar, only a student of the Bible). And I attempt to describe a realistic, disciple investing encounter so the reader can see how this relational style of discipleship can be done.

Is there anything unique about this book?

I believe that there are three chapters that are particularly unique to the book. One chapter provides a long list of topics that a potential disciple investor can use in ministering to another person. The list is composed primarily of Scripture passages and the disciple investor is encouraged to simply ask questions of the respective passage in order to address needs in the life of the disciple. Another chapter provides real life examples of different ways for investing in another believer’s life and the premise is that there is not just one method for doing so. The final chapter is set up like a story, demonstrating how two Christians meet and get together on a regular basis, as they look at “The Lord’s Prayer” in order to discover what it might teach them about prayer.

Why do you call the book, “The ‘Disciple Investing’ Life,” using that phrase instead of words like “discipleship” or “disciple making”?

Well, to answer that question, I probably need to quote from a portion of the book. Here goes, “I would like to pose my basic premise to you once more: Disciple investing is something you can be involved in and also something that you can do. God can use your efforts, energy, time and attention to help change another person’s life. Of course, it is Christ who is using you and Christ, through His Spirit and Word, who is doing the transformation. But you have the potential to make a difference.” Ultimately, while we may very well be involved in the process of help another person become more like Christ and to follow him more seriously as a disciple, all we are really doing is investing in them. My premise is that Jesus is always actively discipling his followers, just as he discipled the original twelve. He is discipling me today; he is discipling others – it is his work! But I can play my part, which means I invest in others and I watch Jesus disciple them through me. Investing can be done in many ways, as I try to demonstrate in the book, but ultimately, Jesus does the work! I just don’t want to be found uninvolved in what he is doing.

Is this a book for everyone?

I don’t necessarily think it is a book for everyone, but if any Christian wonders how he or she can make a difference in another person’s life and help that person grow as a Christian, “The ‘Disciple Investing’ Life” would be a great place for them to start. The book assumes that the reader has a relationship with Christ, is growing and wants to grow more, while helping another person to grow with Christ also. The book includes some motivational encouragement and practical advice if a person wants to seriously get involved in another person’s life and to help them know Christ better. I believe that people in the church, as well as anyone involved in Christian ministry and leadership training – and especially campus ministry organizations – will enjoy the book and profit from it.

Are you thinking about writing anymore books on the topic of “Disciple Investing”?

Yes, I have written a lot on this topic and originally wrote a very lengthy book on disciple investing when I was on sabbatical three years ago. The book was actually considered by some publishers to be too long for publishing, but thankfully, Wipf and Stock was willing to let me work through the material and at least try to organize it into smaller sections that could comprise one readable book. Now, I hope to accomplish the goal of creating two more books on disciple investing in the coming year, as the Lord allows. We’ll see.

An Excerpt from The “Disciple Investing” Life 

…it is my contention (and the basic premise of this book) that Jesus primarily loves to use ordinary people (believers) as the conduits of His ministry in others’ lives. Jesus, the supreme discipler, is doing the work and we are simply investing in others as a part of His plan. We are cooperating with Jesus as His faithful, humble servants. As His followers, having been made alive by the Spirit, we naturally want to be a part of the building and extension of Christ’s Kingdom. You, or any believer, can contribute to the nurture and growth of another believer (or even the conversion of an unbeliever) if you are willing to try. Jesus can use YOU! You can be a part of Jesus’ process of discipling others simply by investing yourself in their lives. How exciting! And that is what this short book is about.

After I became a Christian, many people spoke into my life and gave me guidance. Some gave me counsel and supported me in my struggles as a young man and a new believer (and those struggles were often seemingly overwhelming and at times both fearful and tearful). Others led by example or even from a distance. But their influence did not go unnoticed. The list of names of people who helped me as a new believer is too long to acknowledge here. Some would not even remember me; yet I remember them with fondness and gratitude. Jesus used them to help me grow, love God more, follow Him and become more like Him. And ever since I came to Christ, I have similarly watched Jesus use me in the lives of others as well. Most of these stories are under the radar and are certainly not what some would call glamorous success stories. I haven’t amassed any fame or notoriety in my ministries or through my personal involvement in the lives of others. At this stage of my life, it is doubtful that I ever will. I haven’t made any headlines and don’t expect to do so. However, it doesn’t matter, for I believe that most ministry (pastoral or layperson) is simply carried on in the day-to-day living and sharing of ordinary life with others who are part of our world. With that perspective in mind, I must also state that initiative and willingness to be involved in the lives of others is absolutely essential to what I call the “disciple investing” life. When I look back at my ministry, from college student, continuing in seminary, on to campus ministry and later in church planting, as well as in working with seminary students at Reformed Theological Seminary, the deepest and most rewarding relationships for me have occurred with those in whom I have invested the most heavily. Almost without exception, the more personally I was involved in another’s life or others’ lives, the more blessed I was to be a part of what Jesus was doing in them and to see Him actually working through me, an inadequate sinner. This was an amazing truth, as I discovered that He could and would use me, as I was willing to be used by Him to help others grow or learn. The bottom line to “successful” disciple investing is simply to have interest in the spiritual well-being of another individual or a group of individuals and to give yourself willingly to them. Anyone, even the most extreme introvert, can do this through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The life and enablement is His to give – and YOU can do it.

ENDORSEMENTS

“Making disciples remains the ultimate and urgent Gospel mandate for the Church. It is imperative, then, that we who serve the Church are continually challenged and equipped for this central undertaking of ministry. We, thus, owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Rod Culbertson. The “Disciple Investing” Life is a fine pastoral resource from a trusted and seasoned seminary professor who lives out the essence of this title. I commend it to the Church with great joy.”

— Michael A. Milton, PhD, President, D. James Kennedy Institute; James Ragsdale Professor of Missions, Erskine Theological Seminary

“Read this book to be encouraged again by those who have invested in you, and to be challenged to invest yourself in the lives of others as we together become more faithful disciples of Christ. Read this book also to be reminded of the multitude of ways you need to grow as a Christian, and to learn the multitude of practical ways you can help others grow in their walk with the Lord.”

—Ric Cannada, Reformed Theological Seminary, Chancellor Emeritus

“This book will prove to be a helpful guide for those who long to invest their lives in seeing others come to know the Savior, and then to disciple them in their continued maturity and growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ.”

—David G. Sinclair Sr., Senior Pastor, Clemson Presbyterian Church, Clemson, South Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Story

I was a freshman student of a few weeks at the University of South Carolina walking down the sidewalk between the reflection pond and the Thomas Cooper Library. I was on my way back to my dorm room, having just finished up a Sunday lunch at the Russell House student union cafeteria. I was briskly hustling to my dorm, trying to figure out how to use the remainder of my afternoon. And there they stood. Three guys in conversation and from the looks of it, easily recognizable as most probably one student standing with a couple of religious recruiter types. Two of the guys, apparently students, were persuading a third student to hear them out. I had seen similar fundamentalist style encounters on Main Street, while growing up in my hometown of Greenville, SC and it made me quite nervous. And although God had been dealing with me, a typical prodigal freshman student, I had no interest whatsoever in being a target of these religious do-gooders. I would avoid them at all costs.

However, God had other plans. Just as I veered off, well south of the sidewalk, the third student had had his fill of the discussion and left, leading the two recruiters to simultaneously turn and see me standing there just a few feet away. Foiled! Their first words, which I still remember clearly, were, “Excuse me but we are starting a Bible study on campus and wondered if you might be interested?” Of course, even though I had been attending church on Sunday mornings, was also sensing that I might fail out of my first semester in college, and it appeared that God was working me over pretty well, I had no interest whatsoever. The short story is that I tried everything I could do deflect their pressure (which really wasn’t that strong) but eventually, I was willing to take their information and depart with it in hand. The new Bible study would start the next night at 7:00 pm at the USC International House on the other side of campus from my dorm. I would not be there!

As I continued heading down the sidewalk, progressing toward the Longstreet Theater and Sumter Street, confident that I had dodged a bullet, it was as if I was walking with my back toward God – and I was. However, before I reached the steps to Green Street, I sensed that the Lord was speaking to me, not audibly, but simply and firmly to my heart. As odd as it may seem, I looked back and up, feeling as if I was indeed running from God. He certainly seemed “spatially” in the distance behind me. But I heard Him say to my heart, “What do I have to do in order to get your attention?” That was enough! I thought to myself, and considered my recent circumstances and on the spot, I made a commitment to the Lord, “I will be at that Bible study tomorrow night.” Honestly, I had made many similar religious promises and commitments to God in the past, but I knew that I must keep this one.

Monday evening came, classes were finished, dinner was done and I knew it was time to go – yes, to attend the Bible study. With a sense of both dread and resignation, I reached in my desk drawer and pulled out my childhood black, King James Version of the Bible, well-hidden in the back of the drawer so that no one else could know that I actually had taken a Bible with me to college. Hiding it under my arm as best as I could, and filled with embarrassment that I might be “found out” that evening, I took the long trek across campus to the International Student house. When I finally arrived, I met the few guys (maybe six) who had shown up for this inaugural Bible study, including some awkward moments of introduction and the Bible study began. Without including all of the details, I must say that God was not only working, He was working powerfully in me. For the first time in my life, after having been raised in the church from infancy and attending almost everything the church offered, I found myself interested in what God had to say. Of course, I had been interested a good deal in the past, but not enough to want to give Him my all or my life. Somehow, however, on that reflection pool sidewalk, or in my dorm room, or on the way to the Bible study or possibly during the Bible study, I had been converted, i.e. made new and alive (the scholars call it regenerated; the revivalists call it “born again”). I was now a true disciple of Jesus Christ; it was all so very new and there was no turning back for me!

The Bible study that I attended that night was the first ever meeting on the USC campus of a Christian organization known as “The Navigators”! Distinguished by their emphasis on discipleship, the Navigators were a ministry that, in addition to First Baptist Church of Columbia, guided me in finding and knowing Jesus Christ. In the coming years, I would discover that through the impact and influence of all types of ministries, individuals and other sources, I was ultimately being (and am still being) discipled by Jesus Christ, the risen, living Savior. He graciously and sovereignly called me to Himself that Sunday afternoon and that call was a simple one: “Follow Me!” Simple but profound, because I knew that if I was going to truly follow Jesus as His disciple, it would mean giving up myself and making Him first in everything.  He would take me by the hand, so to speak, and guide me along the way. This is the manner of discipleship – Jesus walking alongside us, His followers, and working His will in our lives, guiding and teaching us through the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells believers. The Holy Spirit is in charge of the entire process because the Holy Spirit is truly the One who orchestrates the discipleship process.

Posted in Discipleship, Evangelism, Up Close and Personal | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Christmas Reflection 2015

Born in a Barn (Stable)?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6-7

The above words were written 7 centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, but the prophet Isaiah, who penned them, provided great expectations for the people of Israel who, over the ensuing centuries, were waiting for deliverance in their bondage. These descriptors and names of the coming liberator are deeply profound.

Without providing an exhaustive explanation, the reader or listener would discover that the messiah would exhibit the following traits, as listed in the above verses:

The coming deliverer would be born, while also being “everlasting.” He would be a son, while also being a “Father.” He would be a man (human) while also being known by the name “Mighty God.” These paradoxes could only be true if the one coming was also “God become man.” The one coming must be fully man and fully God. He will be a king ruling over a spiritual kingdom (this is where the waiting Jews were confused) and will provide Wonderful (acts of wonders – or miracles) Counsel (words of wisdom from above). As the miracle or wonder working spokesman for God, Jesus fulfilled this promising prophecy and would say and do only what the Father dictates, while showing us His Father’s glory and revealing His Father’s will.

Ultimately, it would be through the perfect life that He lived and the gory, shameful death that he died (on a despicable cross, the capital punishment of his day, an embarrassing sign of one “cursed by God”) that Christ would provide peace. Absorbing the curse of God upon our sins and experiencing the wrath of God toward our sins, Jesus becomes a perfect sacrifice and substitute for those who receive him as Lord and Savior. Turning from sin and trusting in Christ alone as the only hope for forgiveness, one finds Him, the one who indeed is the true “Prince of Peace,” and the only One who can take away our guilt and provide acceptance before a holy and pure God.

This is the Christmas message, God becoming man, in order to live the life we cannot live and to die a death that we deserve. Needy men and women still seek him and in doing so, discover that the baby born in the cattle feeding trough is actually God in the flesh and the resurrected Lord of the universe! Let us bow before Him and worship with the angels!

CHRISTMAS 2015

Posted in Evangelism, Uncategorized, Up Close and Personal, Words of Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment