Archives for category: Discipleship

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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Php 2:3-8 NIV)

WOW!  This passage sure blows a huge hole in the walls of the current philosophy of the day, “It’s All About Me”.  Not only now, but all times, because let’s face it, in our sinful humanness we want to be first.  We want to be served.  We want it all and we want it now.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Actually, let’s boil that “we” down to “me”.  We all know how we want to be served and when we don’t get it the way we want it or like it, we can have a pretty nasty review.  I hear a lot of people saying that “customer service” is lacking in all areas of business, and as much as that may be true, how is Godly Service doing in the Body of Christ?  What obstacles do we face?

Selfishness and pride were in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve wanted to be just like God and wanted to have all things, even the forbidden one that God knew would hurt them, and us.  God gave man everything but one thing He withheld, And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”” (Genesis 2:16–17, NIV84)  Selfishness says, “I never have enough”, “I want more”,  “Give Me, Give Me, Give Me”, “I Want What I Can’t Have”….  We struggle with the sin of selfishness because we don’t love/put God first and we don’t love/put others second, and us last.  It hurts when we get honest and look at what motivates us and find that obedience to God is often far down on our want list.  The good news is, that Christ gives us the perfect role model of how to beat selfishness once and for all.

The opposite of selfishness is servanthood.  You get no greater example of servanthood than from Jesus!  He served all peoples, in all economic brackets, all health situations, and all walks and ways of life.  He knew that to do His Father’s business required being with others and meeting their needs.  There is no job too big or too small for any of us to step up and serve.  As Christians, service is just part of our Call of Duty.

Christ is our General and we should want to follow in His footsteps out of obedience and happily serve those around us and not think about “what’s in it for me.”  When we think that way, our service is not service.  We can all come up with reasons to not serve but they don’t hold water.  When we hold them up to our example, Jesus, we have the same 24 hrs, and well, we haven’t been asked to give our lives, so the excuses just don’t cut it.  We might even try the “I don’t have any gifts or talents” route but that doesn’t fly either because all Christians, in their baptism, have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gifts all believers.  So the real battle is fighting that old Adam and stop thinking about “little ol’ me.”  We need to start cleaning house and start fulfilling the Call of Duty into Service.

This service is to the Church and to our Fellow Man.  We need to show up ready for Active Duty.  We need to hear the Revelry Trumpet Call of Jesus and get busy so that the World sees and feels Jesus.  If those of us called, Christ Ones, don’t show up, with joyful hearts, to obediently serve, who’s going to show them the Real Jesus? The Jesus that took the time to leave heaven, to come and serve man, touch man and heal him, intervene and change hearts and point them to the Father, and to die so that in the face of a Holy and Righteous God, His Children could be forgiven and set free.  You see, we Christ Ones, are Jesus with skin on.  That’s why others will take the time to hear, when we show up and serve without motive.  Do the lost and lonely people in the shadow of our steeples know that anyone cares, let alone Jesus?

Being in the Lord’s Army, means we represent the Lord.  We can go AWOL but that doesn’t serve anyone but self.  We are called to look to the interest of others, and just like in the Military, others in the battalion/church, are watching our backs.  When we fully serve God and others, we will find that we are served by God and Others.

There is no losing here, only winning and this winning is helping to depopulate the casualties of the war of Sin and Hell and the Devil.  So what are you waiting for?  If you aren’t sure how or where to jump in and serve, it’s really easy, just ask the Pastor at your church.  He will have plenty of ways where you can start serving.  It might be something as simple as praying for those in the church who are sick or shut in.  It might be sending a card to those battling illness, it might be helping make a meal, it might be serving is the worship setting, who knows!  But, I promise you, there are hundreds of ways to serve in the local church, the universal Church, and those around you.  I can also guarantee you there will be God Tricks in it for you!

What is a God Trick?  Simply it is God blessing you for being obedient by serving others.  How does this work?  Well, have you ever seen someone come to faith because you have been walking with them and showing them the way?  If so, you know there is no greater joy or feeling than knowing the lost child is now Home with the Lord.  Have you every visited someone who was sick or in the hospital and left feeling like you were on cloud nine and they made you feel better?  If so, that is God giving back to you.  There are untold ways God will bless you in your acts of true, unselfish service.  You will be surprised when you find out who is in heaven because you put you last and them first and they saw and met Jesus through your acts of love and service.

Dear God, Our Serving Savior, and Giving Holy Spirit, give us eyes to see whom to serve, ears to hear the Lord’s calling in all we do, turn a deaf ear to our desires and the selfish cries of the world, and be make us eager to put our lives in perpetual motion of servanthood, being Jesus to all we meet in humble service and love.  In Our Suffering Servant, Jesus’ most holy name we pray.  Amen.

word_14088cThe law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11

As we start down the road of our in depth travels of discipleship, this week, we are going to look at the basic, foundational requirements of the Christian Life and how to keep the Christian strong for the journey.

Just like the human body needs DNA, and is made up of many cells, and is the basic building blocks of life, so is Bible Study to the one following Jesus Christ.  The Word is so foundational that this is the means by which one comes to faith. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NIV84)

God’s Word is such a building block  to our living a Christian life that without out it, we are trying to live without food, oxygen, and water for the soul.  We can try to travel in this life journey without God’s Word  but we cannot live on the “junk food” of this world.  The world just wants to tell us what our “itching ears want to hear” and quite simply we starve faith and have no nutritional value.  It just can’t be done!

God’s Word is pure and unaltered and is Truth.  All things outside of God’s Word will never satisfy or fulfill.  So if the Holy Scripture is so vital, how much do we know?  Where do we go for more and how much is too much?

When we honestly look at our lives, none of us knows enough about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Not even the most learned scholars in a seminary know enough.  The only way to know more is to be in the Presence of the Lord.  The best way to be in His Presence, on a daily basis, is being in the Word.  That is one of the reasons God left us this divinely inspired writing, so that we can daily have a relationship.

If we want to know what God thinks on a subject, we go right to the source and look at His Word.  If we feel God is silent on a matter, maybe it’s because we are not in His Word.  God calls each of His children to be in fellowship with Him and that means spending time with Him in His Word.  Not looking for what others think of Him, or what someone Twitter’s, Instagrams, or Facebook Posts about.  Going to His Word and to Him should be second nature, just like our DNA and breathing.  To actually “study the Bible” is more than a quick once over or a paragraph of a devotional.  It’s sitting and digesting what God has actually had written down in the Bible.  It’s investing time and then acting upon what one has learned.  It’s not a quick  hear it, read once over, and done.  James addresses this philosophy:  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22–25, NIV84)

Part of helping you study is being together on Sunday Morning in Bible Study at church.  It’s a time to dig deeply in the Word and learn about the history and hidden nuances that come from of the Hebrew or Greek. It’s about being with your brothers and sisters in Christ and feeding upon the Bread of Life that is in the Scriptures.  It’s about being so hungry for God that you won’t stop until you get the sustenance that only He only provides.

Many things are able to help you get a deeper meaning of Scripture and one of them is the Concordance in the back of your Bible or if you have a Chain Reference Bible following the road map of Scripture and carefully spend time on each passage.  Get a good Commentary.  If you need help in picking out one, ask your Pastor.

Pray about the texts you are reading. The Holy Spirit is always there as a guide to help you understand more.  God didn’t make His love letter so hard that you can’t understand it.  If you still have questions, take them to Bible Study on Sunday and ask your Pastor.  Nothing makes a Pastor’s day like someone truly wanting to know more of what the Lord has to say to them.

By now you should have the answer to our last question, there is NEVER a time when you have too much of God and His Word.  May you feed on the Lord’s Word, always growing in the wisdom, of Him, and putting that wisdom in to action which is actually knowledge.

4_1196909807_baseball_playerEach day we are faced with choices and opportunities in this game of life.  We have days where the game seems to go easy; the bats swing and we hit the “sweet spot” and life comes off like a base hit, homerun, or grand slam. Sometimes each moment of each day is an active struggle to choose the right play as we hit foul balls,  get hit by a wild pitch, or we just plain strike out. Depending on how life is going, can often times determine how a person will respond in the game.  Choices, choices, choices.  How we choose is just as important and what we choose.  Day by day we have an active choice if we are going to be a Player, Bench Warmer, or Spectator.

The world screams for “fans” but being a Spectator really doesn’t require much.  You just come watch the game go by and yes you may get excited about something but there is no real involvement or personal expectations. You can choose to stay with the same team or root for another team that might get your heart rate up for another day.  When the game, day, is finished, you have nothing more than what you started with and you wait to watch another day.

As a Bench Warmer, member of the team, you have at one time put in some practice, learned some play books, played in some minor league or major league games but now most of your days are filled with sitting and watching.  You can still talk the game up, you still have a closer seat to the action but sitting in the dugout huddled up with the active players is thrill enough for you.  You occasionally dream of what it “used to be like” when “you made the big play” but reminiscing is about as much action as it gets.

As Christians, God has called us to a lifetime of fulfillment and purpose.  He has called us to active roster duty as a Player or let’s put in another term, Disciple. He has given us the playbook and the game is really very simple.  In Matthew 28:16-20 the clubhouse talk Jesus gives, as our Life Coach, says:  Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

Did you see it in the passage?  The disciples went to the mountain where Jesus told them to go.  They were already there dressed and ready for practice and action.  Being a Servant/Disciple of Christ is active and intentional.  Christ tells them that there is more to this game of life.  The entire game is played out and the playbook is written and it says “Go and Make”, “Baptizing and Teaching” and “Obey”.  Then Jesus promises that He is with them always.  Since He is with us always, then their is no reason to throw in the towel and give up on the mission.

Often times life seems so hard because we have lost touch and not stayed connected to our Coach.  We have strayed from the mission/game plan that Christ laid out for us. We can fall back into what the world says and be a “fan” or “bench warmer” and in doing so we miss out on so much.  Being a member, or on the team roster, doesn’t fulfill the Coach’s direction.  We are called out to play with all our might and be of the nature of a Servant/Disciple.  Another way to say it is: A disciple is a mind though which Christ thinks. A disciple is a heart through which Christ loves. A disciple is a voice through which Christ speaks. A disciple is a hand through which Christ serves.  It’s all about living for Jesus.

We never know what living for Jesus is going to be. Living for Jesus may be “business as usual” today – sacrifice and suffering tomorrow. A disciple remains faithful through good times and bad. A disciple takes the lowliest job just as joyfully as the high-profile job. A disciple is just as happy doing what only God sees as he is doing what everyone sees. The logo for the Baptist Missionary Union makes this point very well. It pictures a bull standing between a plow and an altar. The caption reads, “Ready for Either.”

Over the next six weeks we will take a deeper look into what Disciples/Players are and what attributes they possess.  My prayer is that we stay in God’s Word and fulfill His mission as He has called us.  May the Holy Spirit move our team mightily for Jesus.  In the areas we are weak, may we exercise and practice in Worship, Bible, Study, Giving, Serving, and Witnessing.  May we truly be more than a bench warmer or fan and be the Great Commission in our homes, neighborhoods, and cities.  May we follow Jesus, our Coach, and master the life of Discipleship.  May we be faithful no matter what comes our way in good and bad times.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

 

lighthouse

In the tidal waves of life, what is competing for our soul and time?  Are our moorings anchored in the faith harbor of Christ? Are we bright beacons of God’s light?  Are our role models and heroes from God or from the world?  These are tough questions that each of us are faced with on a daily basis as well as, sometimes, a minute by minute moment.

When things are going smoothly and the waters of like look like a smooth piece of glass, and we think life is perfect, we are easily lulled into the concept that all is well.  However, there is always a storm brewing somewhere. As with most storms, we don’t always see them on the radar of life, nor are we often even looking for them.

But, if we are honest there is always work to be done in the area of our faith and that takes a lot of the “old heave ho” and swabbing of the deck of our souls and lives. These storms , that come from God calling us to faithfulness and holiness can be bigger and rougher than other life events.  Actually, our faith is the only real life event that matters because our faith is the foundation to eternal life.  So how do we handle the storms of life?

We always have two choices in a storm.  We can pay attention to the “Light”house of Jesus Christ where we know the harbor of real rest and peace is, or we can be tossed about on the rocks of life looking to worldly anchors and hope for a hero.

The world would like you to look to it to define what is perfect and what is a “hero” but the world never gets it right.  Most of whom the world lifts up as heroes today might play a sport exceptionally well, or they are a high level, successful, rich guy.  Another worldly hero is found in the fame and posh of the stardom of Hollywood and the rag mags at the grocery store checkout aisle. If you look at many TV heroes, today ,the lines are blurred and they tell you that a “good” hero can do bad things if the end justifies the means.  These type of anchors from the world will also drag you to bottom and drown you.

To successfully maneuver the waves of life takes looking to the faithful of the past, in Holy Scripture, and to those God has given us as positive heroes, role models, mentors and encouragers. It takes hard work to row against the current and without the bright beacons of the faithful we can easily get off course.  And if you have ever rowed a boat in strong current, you know it’s hard, sweaty, dirty work.  Can you do it?  Absolutely!  How do I know?  Because I  look to Scripture for my answer.

You see, the waves of life brought persecution and calamity to Paul and the Thessalonians.  The odds were stacked against them.  Many waves could have over taken them but God lifted them up as people to be followed, as examples, to be banner bearers of faith, to be bright beacons of His light, to be our heroes and role models.

From Paul, Silas, and Timothy. To the church in Thessalonica, the church in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you and mention you when we pray. We continually recall before God our Father the things you have done because of your faith and the work you have done because of your love. And we thank him that you continue to be strong because of your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you, because the Good News we brought to you came not only with words, but with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with sure knowledge that it is true. Also you know how we lived when we were with you in order to help you. And you became like us and like the Lord. You suffered much, but still you accepted the teaching with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. So you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Southern Greece. And the Lord’s teaching spread from you not only into Macedonia and Southern Greece, but now your faith in God has become known everywhere. So we do not need to say anything about it. People everywhere are telling about the way you accepted us when we were there with you. They tell how you stopped worshiping idols and began serving the living and true God. And you wait for God’s Son, whom God raised from the dead, to come from heaven. He is Jesus, who saves us from God’s angry judgment that is sure to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:-10 NCV

Did you see it in the passage?  These beacons of light were bright because Jesus Christ was and is their LIGHT.  Christ is the only Light that will house all we need for this life and into the next.  Christ always provides safe harbor. He shines brighter and fairer and gives us what we need.  He gives us examples to follow and look to as we row through this life.  May you not only have faithful examples to guide you along the way, may you in turn, be a beacon of His light.

 

Gods_Heart_92120306_stdUnselfish is an interesting word and concept in our world today.  It goes against the grain of society, self, and what Satan would have us believe.

Selfishness, being concerned primarily, almost exclusively, with one’s own desires, wants, profits, and pleasures, is all the rage and comes sinfully natural.  We see, read, and hear about selfishness all the time.  TV, radio, and most forms of media report and/or advertise to the sin of self greed and egotism.  We hear about the senseless murder of lives, relationships, families, careers, and reputations at an alarming rate, all because someone’s selfish desires come before the thought of others.  We can easily believe that our world is more selfish now than ever.  However, when we take a stroll through history, we are reminded that since Adam and Eve, selfishness has been ingrained in us.

Jesus, hits self centeredness head on and addresses it and the many ways selfishness is disguised.  As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62

When we look at the Unselfish Love Christ had and has for His Father’s plan of Salvation, how He lived His earthly life, and these verses, we see the concept of Unselfish Love.  We see the need for daily sacrifice of self and the alluring, worldly trappings of this life.  It doesn’t take a PH D in Biblical Studies to see that Christ is calling us to a life that is led, lived, and loved with God as the Leader.  Christ set His heart, hands, humility, and life on the Father’s plan to buy back His children from their sins.  Nothing could or would stop Him – not even death.  Christ challenged these three men and their reasons/excuses for why they couldn’t put God first.

As Christ Followers, we are challenged and charged with the same confrontation as these three men.  We are called to sacrifice our own agendas- selfishness- and put on God’s agenda of Unselfish Love to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and then to our fellow man.  So when you find yourselves challenged to put you first, your career first, your emotions first, your desires first, remember;  God promises us that this world passes away and only salvation in Jesus Christ is forever.  That those who seek First His Kingdom and His Righteousness will have all things added unto them and the First will be Last.    Let’s start living UNSELFISHLY!

Without a constant supply of water, human beings die very quickly. Without living water, the human soul dies eternally. Jesus says: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him (Jn 7:37-38). Jesus proclaims that he is the place where living water can be found. This is one of the times when Jesus puts himself in a class by himself. He doesn’t say he is one place where living water can be obtained. Jesus is the only place living water can be found.  Read the rest of this entry »