Discipleship

Review – The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

Life is a funny thing sometimes.  As I have journeyed down the path of discipleship, I have found many things along the way that helped my journey: people, books, audio messages and video messages and music that have inspired me at various times.  In the last couple of years, I have gotten to know a brother in the Lord who sprang from the same hometown as I did; but whom I didn’t know in person at that time, even though I knew his siblings (and even graduated with one of them).  I first started reading Darren’s work on his blog, Digging with Darren, which you will notice is linked in the sidebar here.  Over the last couple of years, we have exchanged the occasional message on Facebook or in the comments at either his blog or mine; but that was the extent of the interaction, until I noticed his posts and musings on discipleship.

Discipleship has been a strong point of emphasis for me as a believer for a long time.  I have long held that one of the reasons that our churches struggle as they do is because of a lack of intentional discipleship on our part.  We have done an excellent job of trying to get as many converts as we possibly can, but we have little idea what to do beyond that other than to tell people to “come to church” and participate in whatever their church has on offer.  This is why I was intrigued and excited to read some of Darren’s ideas regarding discipleship and I am glad to see them placed into written form that can be shared with others.  The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple is a work worth checking out if you are interested in discipleship and how to make disciples.

Darren has done a wonderful job of taking some of the more recent works about how we make disciples and blended these ideas with the “ancient paths” of discipleship that have in many cases been lost or ignored.  Essentially, this booklet has been structured around a simple process of forming disciples in four areas: Dedication, Memorization, Imitation, and Replication.  I will not expound on them here as the booklet does a good job highlighting what is needed in each of these areas.  Let me simply say that this booklet is a quick and challenging read that will give you a clearer vision and some concrete, practical tools for working to become a disciple of our Master, if you are not one already; or else it will give you a framework for working with others who wish to become disciples as well.  After all, you cannot make disciples for Jesus if you are not a disciple of Jesus yourself.  I highly recommend this work for all who wish to undertake the lifelong journey to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Disclosure: Please note that I received a copy of this booklet as a thank you for my work in volunteering to help proof the text and format of the book.  I have included a link in the review to the site where the book is available for purchase at Emet HaTorah.

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Categories: Book Reviews, Christianity, Discipleship, Messiah, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Secret Is not Safe

There is a scene in the early part of the first Lord of the Rings movie where Gandalf is cautioning Frodo regarding the ring that Bilbo has left to him.  Gandalf suspects that this ring is the “One Ring” that belonged to Sauron and therefore holds great danger to him.  He tells him to “keep it secret; keep it safe.”  This sounds like totally prudent advice.  For a time, the “keep it secret; keep it safe” plan might work, but eventually the ring has to be destroyed in order to break its evil power once and for all.

I know that many have used the symbolism of the Lord of the Rings to make spiritual points before.  I have no doubt that someone else has already drawn out the same conclusion I am going to make here.  The way that Gandalf initially tries to handle the ring is very similar to how most of us seek to handle sin in our lives.  We would prefer to keep it secret and hope that this will somehow keep us safe.  Secret sin however is far from safe, it is a time-bomb that is waiting to go off and destroy the one who holds it quietly in hiding.

The news came down Sunday that a fellow blogger and one who interacts frequently over at another blog I read at was caught in sin.  That which was thought to be secret and hidden had come out of the dark and into the light.  In one sense, this is not a new story.  It is a sad truth that has been repeated and will be seen again.  We cannot hide sin.  Trying to keep it secret will consume us and will leave us far from safe.  At times like this, my mind often recalls a song from one of my favorite artists.  A stark reminder that none of us are immune from the potential catastrophe of sin.

Do not seek to keep sin hidden thinking that it will be safe as long as it is unseen.  Jesus cautioned His disciples that there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.  Just as Frodo had to take the ring out of hiding so that it could be destroyed, we too must bring sin into the light for its power to be broken.  This is God’s promise.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:9-10

From what I have gathered thus far, the person mentioned above is now beginning the road to restoration that follows confession, but real consequences still remain.  They always do when we don’t destroy what was secret in the hopes that it will be safer that way.  Please pray for this man and for those affected.

Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Grace, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting Understanding

7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.  – Proverbs 4:7

I have a funny post queued up for later in the day, but I wanted to get this up first.  I have been doing several messages in the last few months playing off of this realization that we frequently misunderstand or make up meanings for obscure or difficult things in Scripture.  It is based on something I heard from First Fruits of Zion a year or two ago.  I found a couple of video clips on youtube that give a fuller explanation of this concept that I highly recommend.  It will take about 15 minutes of your time to watch these two clips back to back.  It is time well spent.

I know the end of the second clip includes a promo for some of their study material, but I can say this. Their study material is some of the most in-depth and thorough stuff I have ever seen.  When I got my first copy of Torah Club Volume 4 several years ago, I went through it with a fine tooth comb to look for areas of questionable scholarship or theological issues.  These guys do a great job of providing information as well as the sources that go into their materials and conclusions.  I highly recommend their work to anyone I talk to these days and I always enjoy checking out their new materials.  I currently have a small wishlist going for stuff I haven’t yet managed to purchase.

Here is one last video that talks about some of the deeper Hebraic concepts in the Gospels.  Enjoy.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Misunderstandings, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Discipleship, Faith, FFOZ, Giving, Gospel, Hebrew, Holy Spirit, Humor, Kingdom, Questions, theology, Truth, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Problem of All or Nothing

God is holy and perfect and commands us to be “perfect as He is perfect.”  Perfection: it is a standard that we all know we cannot keep.  Those who spend a great deal of time thinking about it are in real danger of driving themselves crazy.  It is this insistence of perfections that drives the “wretched urgency” that Michael Spencer, AKA the Internet Monk, used to opine about back in the day.

But we humans have a hard time with not taking this the other direction entirely.  Since we know we can’t be perfect, we have developed whole theological systems that essentially say, “why bother.”  Jesus paid it all, you can do nothing; so just fall on Him and do nothing.  What’s wrong with this?  You are saved by grace and that not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8).  Right?!?  So just sit back and relax and quit.  Be still and know that I am God, if you will.

It is the problem of all or nothing.  If all isn’t enough, then why bother.  If nothing will get me there, then why not.

I saw an interesting quote from Dallas Willard posted by a friend of mine.

“In most churches we’re not only saved by grace, we’re paralyzed by it. We’re afraid to do anything that might be a “work.” The funny thing is we will preach to people for an hour that they can’t do anything to be saved, and then sing to them for a half an hour trying to get them to do something. This is confusing. People need to see that action is a receptacle for grace, not a substitute for it. Grace is God acting in our lives to do things we can’t do on our own. Grace is not opposed to effort; it’s opposed to earning.” -Dallas Willard

This is the problem of all or nothing boiled down into a couple of sentences.  That same Bible that tells you that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation, still calls you to a life of service and obedience once you have been saved.  Keep reading from that quote I earlier pulled from Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  – Ephesians 2:8-10

The problem is that if you don’t take all of Scripture to place a single verse in good context, you may find that nothing you say makes good sense.

We don’t handle this dilemma well.  Might I suggest a solution with a little humor in it.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” – G.K. Chesterton

Stop making it all or nothing.  God takes care of it all, but not so that you can do nothing until eternity.  Rest period doesn’t start until then.  In the meantime, do all that you can, badly if you must.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Fun, Grace, Humor, Love, Salvation, theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

One Word 365 – Anavah

I really appreciated the One Word 2011 thing more than I ever could have expected last year.  I figured I would give it another run this year, but something funny happened.  The word that has really hit home with me is not an English word at all.  The word anavah is a Hebrew word that recently crossed my path courtesy of a blog post I read a couple of weeks back.  The simple “one word” meaning of the word anavah  would best be conveyed as humility, but the word carries more depth than that really.  As I read the post, a chord was struck by this simple idea that defines this term as he paraphrased the concept from another source:

Humility is occupying our proper space, neither too much, nor too little.

I have given this a lot of thought over the last few weeks.  My initial thought was that I struggle with pride, but the more I considered this, the more I think it is the opposite.  I am uncomfortable taking pride in the talents that God has given me and the gifts that he has blessed me with as well.  I took stock of the times that I can remember when people have commented on these things and I have developed some “stock answers” that are essentially holy sounding deflections to avoid the issue.

I realize that I am not the first person to grapple with this concept.  Maybe there have even been songs written about it.  I am not sure what this word will look like for me in the year ahead.  But I am ready to embrace it. 

Anavah

It shows up in this passage from Zephaniah 2:3:

3Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;
 seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the LORD.

The word humility in this verse is the Hebrew word, anavah, and we are told to seek it.  So that is what I plan to do this year, seek anavah and what that looks like in my life of faith on the journey following the Master.  Thanks for sharing in it with me.

Categories: Anavah, Bible Thoughts, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Growth, Hebrew, Humility, ministry, One Word, personal | 3 Comments

One Word 2011 – Growth – A Wrap Up Post

Growth.

It was just a word at the start of the year that stuck out to me.

Could have been more about change – but it wasn’t

Could have been about just maturity – but it wasn’t that either.

So much has played into this idea that I am not sure where to start.  Do I feel like I have grown in the last year?

Yes.

And I will continue to grow as the years pass on, but I will spend this post looking at some things that I can see specific growth in in the past year.

Growth as a father: Being a dad is one of the biggest challenges of my life.  Being an example is not an option, it is a given.  I am keenly aware of the ways in which my life will shape the lives of three young people that God has blessed me to look after.  It has been a growth process this year as I have tried to be more intentional in the ways that I raise up my children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  I have found great encouragement and purpose in learning to lead by example more.  I have grown as a father and I will continue to walk this path with humility and God’s grace and grow year by year as my children grow into men and women of faith and character.

Growth in ministry: Opportunities to minister were abundant and I found myself growing and stretching in this area more than I would have expected.  Having finished work to be certified as a Disaster Relief chaplain through the SBC, I figured it would be a while before I could put most of this training and skill set into real world practice in a disaster.  Family and church commitments were certain to keep me from going too far from home for disaster situations and yet I got the chance all the same.  Flooding on a historic scale in Minot brought me face to face with keeping a commitment I had made – to go and serve as a DR chaplain if it was nearby.

There are so many ways that I have grown as a result of the experiences in Minot this summer that it would be impossible to catalog them all.  A passion for DR work that I didn’t even know existed has been found and I am now considered the “point man” for our DR response in the North Dakota side of the DBC.  This included a trip to Alpharetta for training so that I can train others to be a DR chaplain as well.  I am excited to see how God will use this in the future.

I also continued to have the opportunity to fill the pulpit and minister to another church here in town.  I was asked to stretch and grow in this area as well.  It was a privilege to preach and minister in a wholly different context than what I am normally used to being in and it has been a growing experience for me.

Growth as a blogger:  I set several goals for myself this year as a blogger and some of them were directly related to this particular thing.  In doing so, I learned something about myself along the way.  I have a strong tendency to “jump in with both feet” before I stop and consider the cost or the ramifications.  This is kind of a dangerous thing is some places and it is something that Jesus cautioned about as well.  Blogging is not my life.  In a way, my journey through this year has helped me to grow in such a way as to put blogging in perspective.  I no longer come by and check the stats everyday here or at my other two blogsites.  I have actually missed the occasional comment for a day or two before noticing it was there.  I plan to be a little more intentional in my blogging in the coming year to be sure, but I am already a lot less obsessive about it.  And as for arguments on the comments of this blog and others: well, I really have better thing to do with my time.  This isn’t to say that I am not up for a good discussion.  Discussions and even disagreements keep life interesting and keep me learning, and that is enough for me.

Growth in my personal health: I mentioned this area more than once and as the year comes to a close, I figure I am at a standstill in this one.  I took up some efforts to run, but those met with setbacks due to physical issues (there are my flat feet getting in the way).  I haven’t given up on that quite yet, but running isn’t a realistic thing around here this time of year either.  I eat better overall and I am still making adjustments in my diet.  My weight is stable, but I still want to take it to a little lower number in the coming year.  If there is one area where I didn’t see “growth” in the way that I expected and hoped to, this is the one.

Growth – the final word:  There is probably more that I could write and might even want to write.  Growth doesn’t get confined to a season and never return, even though it is often seasonal.  Growth isn’t always realized in ways we expect or even want it sometimes.  It does come hand in hand with living.  Living things grow.  Often in ways that are easy to see as well as ways that are imperceptible.  That which ceases to grow, dies.  So may we all continue to grow and may God bless you to grow in the likeness of His Son above all other growth.

Categories: Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, family, Fun, Growth, Love, ministry, One Word, personal | 3 Comments

TULIPY: The Acronym for Hyper-Calvinists (i.e. 6-pointers)

I have had a flash of inspiration.  Perhaps someone, somewhere has already done this before, but I can’t say that I have seen it elsewhere so I thought I would give it a whirl.  I run in some blog circles where people complain about hyper-Calvinists.  I have a dear brother in the Lord who was burned so bad by a group of extreme hyper-Calvinists (we referred to them as 6.5 pointers in humorous love) that he would nearly froth at the mouth at the mere mention of Calvinism at all.  This post should not be taken as a diatribe against Calvinism as a whole or even all that seriously.  It is meant in a spirit of levity to encourage potential discussion.  I love my brothers and sisters who are serious Calvinists and who are passionate for the Lord and the Gospel.

Please further note that I am not a 5-point Calvinist.  I am probably more like a 2-3 pointer if anything, but I will try to describe the points with some accuracy up through my own addition.  These descriptions will be intermingled with my observations as well.  With all that said, here is the acronym spelled out for posterity.

T – Total Depravity

Ok, we all pretty much get that and know what it means I would think.  Man is totally depraved.  Scripture makes this point repeatedly, and one episode of Jerry Springer will drive this point home to even the most reluctant of individuals I would think.  The other point behind this however is that man is completely helpless regarding his salvation.  We don’t even look for salvation on our own.

U – Unconditional Election

We can not earn God’s grace and cannot merit salvation.  There is nothing within us that makes God love us, He just does.  All our righteousness is filthy rags type of things are the general point of this point.  From my perspective, the idea behind this is generally right, but I hesitate to do much explaining about how God does these things.  Even Paul was eventually rendered speechless in this regard (see the end of Romans 11).

L – Limited Atonement

Since not everyone is saved based on the words of Jesus, it follows that Jesus’ death must not be effective for all people in the end of all things.  This particular point is generally arrived at through logical means in my experience.  Both those who support it and those who argue against it can cite John 3:16 as it becomes a discussion/argument of who is covered by whosoever.

I – Irresistible Grace

This is the teaching that God’s grace is irresistible to those who are elected to salvation and they will respond to the call of God through the Spirit.  This is also a hotly debatable topic, mostly because simple observation yields plenty of examples of people who hear the clear Gospel message and don’t respond to it.  Frankly, I think it is more amazing that anyone can reject God at all.  This doctrine reflects that in some means, but I think any attempt to explain why some reject God’s call by placing them in a category of “unelected” or whatever is not correct.

P – Perseverance of the Saints

This doctrine simply states that those who are called, elected and chosen will remain in the faith without fail as God is capable of keeping them.  This sentiment is perfectly biblical and true as far as it goes.  I think the main problem in applying it stems from the fact that we never can know who is who from our limited perspective.  In fact, many of the problems of Calvinist theology and much of the rest of theology is our extremely limited understanding and perspective.

Y – You’re Irrelevant

This one is all mine, but you may have seen it coming.  Given all of the above as absolutely true, many have moved on to another very logical point.  It doesn’t matter what we do, since God has planned it all ahead of time.  This comes out in various ways.  I have seen a church that did no external evangelism.  They preached the Gospel in Sunday morning service and expected God to draw those who were called to their building.  I have seen others who assume that because everything is up to God, it absolutely doesn’t matter what you do about anything.  Ultimately you are either chosen or not chosen, so just live your life and trust God(I mean why not do it anyway right) and He will do everything.

Let me say it once again.  I love my Calvinist brothers and sisters.  I will work alongside you all day long to share the Gospel and make disciples for Jesus Christ.  I just wanted to write a post that points out the all too real end of taking this theology to its logical conclusions (I have seen it far too often for my liking).  The only thing that can keep us from going there is the reminder that while all of these points may be true from God’s perspective; we are not God and they don’t work from our limited perspective.

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, church, Discipleship, Faith, Fun, Gospel, Grace, Humor, Questions, Salvation, Southern Baptist, theology, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mercy, Judgment, and All that Falls Between

Sunday night after we had arrived back home from a longer than expected return trip from the Black Hills, I pretty much just wanted to veg out and then head to bed a little early perhaps.  But that plan was interrupted by a text message from my sister that simply said:

R U watching the news?

It took a few seconds to switch on the TV and flip to Fox News, only to see Geraldo (who Rush jokingly refers to as “the grim reaper” for his ubiquitous presence in announcing celebrity deaths) and a crawl that announced that Bin Laden had been killed.

There are no words to convey what was going through my mind at that point.  I couldn’t have said much or typed anything.  In fact, I missed sending out a weekday devotional post completely on Monday from a complete inability to process or write anything useful (this blog has been on a slightly longer hiatus of the same sort).  The next day, I ended up writing a devotion for the Tuesday edition that addressed some of these feelings.  All of my friends on facebook seemed to have something to say about the matter and the opinions ran along a pretty varied continuum.  Blog posts were written and things were shared from every corner, but all I could put down at first was this post for Tuesday’s devotional.  While this could be a shameless plug for the devotional, I will just repost it here as well:

When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.  – Proverbs 11:10

After the news broke about the death of Bin Laden Sunday night, I had kind of a conflicted feeling about the scenes of celebration that I was witnessing.  I understand the sentiment to be sure; as this proverb indicates, this is a natural reaction to such an event.  I also noticed many people quoting various Bible verses both “pro” celebration and “con” celebration, which might lead some to think the Bible is a bit contradictory about this type of thing.  But that only comes from a failure to recognize the difference between commandments and observation.  The Bible observes the truth, we tend to celebrate when we feel someone gets “what’s coming to them” in whatever way that manifests.  That isn’t a commandment however.  We are encouraged to mourn the demise of the wicked and to seek their repentance and warn them of judgment if given an opportunity to do so.  God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked either and we are to take our cues from His standards and His perspective.  We shouldn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked and when we do it is another reminder of God’s perfect character juxtaposed against our own fleshly nature.

Take this time as a reminder of the fact that God loved each of us while we were still His enemy and wicked in His sight.

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  – Romans 5:8

A few weeks back in Bible study at our church, we were talking about the passage in the book of James where he states that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”  There has been a lot of talk about this lately in fact with Rob Bell’s book proclaiming that “Love Wins” and seeming to say that judgment will never come.  But while we are commanded to love and forbidden to judge, God is perfect in love and in judgment and has the authority to administer both.  He will judge, both the living and the dead.  His judgment is sure, more sure than the CIA or the Navy Seals or a human court or any other judgment on this earth.

In that verse I mentioned from James, we are told that judgment is “without mercy to him who has shown no mercy” and Jesus taught this same principle in Matthew 18:23-35.  Why do I share it here?  As much as we are tempted to condemn Bin Laden or someone else that we feel “deserves it,” we should never imagine that we are any better or different.  Yet, God’s rich mercy has flowed to each of us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  If you have received mercy, you must give it as well.  Leave judgment and all that falls short of mercy to the only One who is qualified to mete it out.

Categories: America, Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Culture, devotional, Discipleship, Gospel, Kingdom, Law, Messiah, politics, Questions, Salvation, theology, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fun Videos for Friday

Since it is fitting for this time of year.  Pondering what it would have been like if Moses had used modern technology during the Exodus.

We did our Seder at the church last night and it was fun to relive the experience of the Exodus as well as the final night of Jesus with His disciples.

Here is another one in the same line of thinking.  The story of Jesus through the eyes of Twitter.

May you be blessed as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and the redemption from sin.  Our Deliverer has come and He is coming again.

Categories: Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Feasts, Fun, Gospel, Grace, Hebrew, Humor, Messiah | Leave a comment

Preparing for an Encounter

Tonight we are going to do a Passover Seder dinner at the church with our church family.  I am using a new Haggadah from FFOZ this year and combining an element or two from the older one that we used the last two years.  We have more people planning to come this year and I am looking forward to an exciting night as we relive the last meal our Master shared with His disciples before His crucifixion.

I expect posting to be a little sparse (I didn’t get anything yesterday) as we make final preparations for the meal and fellowship tonight.  Tomorrow I plan to post a couple of videos that are part funny and part thoughtful.  May the blessings of this season be yours in abundance through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Categories: Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, family, Feasts, Fun, Gospel, Grace, Hebrew, Messiah, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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