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.

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

A Fallen Brother-in-Arms

Some of you may already know that I write a devotional on weekdays.  I normally leave it to its own blog, but this one is being brought over here with a few additional thoughts and some formatting changes.

I got word Tuesday morning that a dear friend of mine, a fellow brother in Christ and a warrior for the faith had fallen in battle.  No, not on the fields of physical warfare in some foreign land.  This was a spiritual battle that claimed the highest toll.  I spent much of the day alternating between tears and disbelief.  There are all the questions that come in times of grief and loss, especially a loss such as this.  As ministers, we are not immune to the stress of life and the pressures of ministry can often add a dimension that few are aware of unless they experience it firsthand.  Yet, there are still the promises of God and His Word.  I found this promise appropriate to where I am today:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
     He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”  – Isaiah 25:6-9

Death will be done away with someday.  Jesus Christ has proved that this is true by His own resurrection from the dead.  The tears will be wiped away someday, just not today, at least not yet anyway.  But we wait for Him and the day we can rejoice with no tears to dim the celebration.  Please pray for my fallen brother-in-arms and for his family during this time of sorrow.

That was the basic content of the devotional post I wrote to post on Wednesday morning, but I felt the desire to expand further and so I carry on over here.  As I write this, it has been over 12 hours since I first got word of Bill’s death.  The shock and dismay and hurt and grief have been so raw at times that I have been able to do nothing but weep.  The Scripture about mourning with those who mourn has been in my head most of the day.  Bill was one of the first guys that I really got to know well after we moved to South Dakota almost 9 years ago now.  I spent many hours driving across the state with him and two other pastors just a month or so after we first arrived.  By the time we had spent a couple of days in Sioux Falls together, he felt comfortable letting me drive his Durango most of the way back to Rapid City (either that or it was due to the fact that I was the one who offered to drive through the wee hours of the night rather than sleep another night in the hotel).  It certainly might have been the fact that he needed to give his knees a rest after driving all the way there a couple of days earlier.  Either way, he showed a lot of trust in a 20-something kid he had only known for a couple of days.

I am not sure that I can think of anyone I know who was more giving and selflessly so than Bill.  It was my honor to spend so much time hanging out with one of his sons and mentoring him in youth ministry for a while(at least he says that he learned something from me, sometimes I had to wonder what I had to teach).  It might have been the only thing I could have done that could in any small way repay the ways that Bill had an impact on my life.  He was a big encouragement to me and his church was faithful to support us during our stint in the hills as MSC missionaries.  In my mind, I have replayed some of the many happy memories he has been a part of over these years.  I still remember him coming up to my kids at an annual meeting a couple of years ago and commending them for their good behavior before he handed them each a $2 bill.  His giving heart and kind spirit will be greatly missed on this side of eternity.  His funny impressions and cut-up nature will also be missed.  He touched many, many lives along the way in his ministry and his life.  I cannot adequately express with words all that I want to say.  All I know is that I have all the more reason to look forward to that day that Isaiah spoke of and the apostles affirmed was true because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ, when death is swallowed up and the Lord wipes away our tears and takes away our reproach and gives us the full joy of our salvation.

Maranatha!  Come quickly Lord Jesus!


Categories: devotional, Faith, family, friends, ministry, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pfunday Pmonday – Week 2

Well, no one commented on whether they liked or didn’t like the silent P gag, so I am just going to run with it for now.  I figure the fun stuff belongs on Monday as a little extra pick me up for those who start the week off on a hard note for whatever reason.

If you have to laugh, I highly recommend this story out of Canada of a drunk man’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.  I didn’t expect it to be as funny as it was when I read about it.  I won’t embed the video here.  The news story has a charm all its own.  Videos like this should be mandatory viewing to put people off of drinking for good.  One of the reasons I have never consumed alcohol myself is the fine displays of a few of my HS friends who aptly displayed the foolishness that resulted.  But those are stories for another time.

I had so much fun with the baseball stories last week that I saved another one.  My favorite team, the World Champion St Louis Cardinals, had a funny moment on the TV broadcasts during spring training.  A top prospect in the organization was labeled on TV as “Minor League Guy” when he came in to pinch run during a recent game.  You can see a photo of the screen capture by viewing the link.  I am looking forward to seeing how the new team comes together this year.  While I am sad to see Pujols go, I am glad to see Mike Matheny getting his first shot at a managing position.  May the Redbirds have a great year and get 12 in ’12.

In the list of truly laughable, I saw news that the NYC school district has issued a list of “banned words” that could be taken for an April Fool’s joke if it weren’t a little early for such craziness.  We wouldn’t want kids to be offended when they are taking a test after all.

And speaking of things that should be April Fool’s jokes, I saw a story on Fox News about a new push to promote “healthy eating” at church.

“A couple of years ago I came up with the idea that churches were sending people to heaven early because of all the food they served at church functions, like bacon and sausage and ice cream and donuts,” Dr. Amen, who is a Christian and a graduate of Oral Roberts University Medical School told  “I have been going to church since I was a little boy and the food in churches is just outrageous.”

This could turn into a non-funny rant if I am not careful, so I will try and save the rant for another post.  Rather, let me poke fun at this with a little bit of sardonic humor.  If we are sending people to heaven early, that would be a good thing:

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.  – Ecclesiastes 7:1

To borrow a few words from my favorite singer/songwriter:

Don’t you get sick of health freaks? I always want to say, look Bud, you’re gonna die anyway. You may as well go out eating something that you like. (applause) What is the point of living to be a hundred and fifty if all you get to eat is bean sprouts? (laughter) I’ll never understand people, I’ll tell you…   – Rich Mullins (concert transcript)

Lighten up and live a little.  Let your Pmonday be blessed with Plaughter and Pfun.  And if you didn’t get enough laughs from today’s post, check out the fare from yesterday’s April Fool’s Day fun at SBC Voices.   All posts from April 1 are gag posts, including one contributed by me about the new list of banned words.

And if you need one more, I saw my favorite gag from ThinkGeek last night as well.

Categories: America, baseball, blogging, Canada, Christianity, church, Culture, friends, Fun, Humor, ministry, SBC Blog Madness, Southern Baptist | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Don’t Get to Pick Your Own Nickname

I would generally be content to stay out of the fray when it comes to the new “nickname” that the SBC has informally adopted.  As a commenter shared on one of the posts over at SBCvoices, everyone learns in elementary school that you don’t get to pick your own nickname.  I had a friend in college who desperately wanted a nickname and asked us to give him one.  Unfortunately the first thing that came out was “muffin” which was said as a joke, and it stuck.  Here is a funny video of a nickname mishap that I just had to share because it reminded of that story at the time and it seems fitting now too.

The SBC has decided that they want to be know as the Great Commission Baptist Convention.  It isn’t a formal or legal name change, so it has earned the distinction of a voluntary nickname.  I really don’t have a whole lot of feelings about this one way or the other.  If anything, I think it is kind of silly and I fear that it has the potential to be seen as dishonest.  I was in Amway when they tried the Quixstar business online as a way of getting around bad feelings about the Amway name.  It didn’t work.  I don’t imagine that an informal change of name will do much different for the SBC, but time will tell.

Of course, self-picked nicknames hardly ever stick.  Look at Chad Johnson.  He legally changed his name to a couple of numbers just to force people to call him that and now he has had to change it back because his new bride-to-be didn’t want to be called by that silly name.  Self-chosen nicknames are rarely a good idea.

Categories: blogging, church, Fun, Humor, ministry, Southern Baptist, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Growing Sense of Anavah

Last year’s “one word” was growth.  I always had a sense that it was more than just a word for the year.  I even blogged about the fact that growth is integral to life itself.  If we aren’t growing, we start dying.  I am beginning to see that continue to play out in this year as well, as my understanding of anavah finds its way on the path.

There are a growing number of responsibilities that have been finding their way to me.  These are things that I really haven’t sought out, they just sort of happen before I realize it.  In fact, I am becoming extremely aware of the fact that my propensity to be willing to “serve” in whatever capacity is asked of me is going to have to come to a halt; if I wish to remain sane and able to see my family.  It used to be that no one asked much of me, so saying yes and being willing to serve wasn’t a big deal.  I had plenty of time to do those things.  Not anymore.

Beginning late last year, I suddenly found myself in a leadership position with the Dakota Baptist Convention and have picked up another role within the convention in the form of Disaster Relief work as well.  My wife and I have been promoted to the role of commander for our AWANA club here in Langdon this school year also.  All of this is stretching me and causing me to think more about this idea of anavah and filling my space.  Incidentally, and I suppose somewhat ironically, I have been given another exhortation by another doctor that I need to lose some more weight (which will have me filling up a little less space in a spatial sense).

All of this means that I am truly finding my proper space more than I ever imagined already this year.  It would seem that anavah is becoming more fitting than I would have ever guessed.  I am excited to see how God continues to use this awareness in the days to come.  I know many of the things that I anticipate on the horizon, but I know that He has things I cannot possible imagine in store as well.

Categories: Anavah, Growth, ministry, One Word, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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. 


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


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?


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

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

Funny Stuff for Your Friday

Another Friday and a chance to kick around some of the funnier things that have crossed my path online during the week.  There is so many bizarre things out there and so little time to find them all.  Here we go again.

In the spirit of true frivolity, I offer you a Klingon translation of the Gospel of Mark as done from the Greek text.

29 chaHvaD ghelmeH jatlh:

‘Iv jIH, ‘e’ bomaq?

jangtaHvIS pe’tlhoS, ghaHvaD jatlh:

‘IHrIStoS SoH.

– Mark 8:29

Which, when translated says (never do tongues without a translation ya know), And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”  Now even Klingons can acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.

In the category of I still can’t stop laughing, I get a huge kick out of these Things Your Lutheran Pastor Totally Loves videos that our local ELCA Lutheran pastor has been posting on Facebook from time to time.  This one is about anonymous complaints.  It isn’t just a Lutheran thing.

And a bonus clip for Steve, if he happens to stop by and any others who can relate.

My sister brought another clip to my attention this week.  This is for anyone who has ever participated in a prayer circle.  I can identify with several of these from personal experiences.

I have a couple of more funny things to shoot your way today, but I am going to go ahead and put them in a post here in a few hours.

Categories: Christianity, church, Fun, Gospel, Humor, ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pastoring in the Great White North

Fair waring, this is a “day in the life” kind of narrative post.  If you get bored with such things, you should probably come back for the next post, later today.

Yesterday was one of those fun, interesting and somewhat draining days.  We went to Fargo this weekend for an evangelism conference and I was privileged to lead worship and also help with some round-table group discussions, so we had a busy weekend already going.  The trick though is that a winter storm was forecast to arrive on Saturday night and last through this morning sometime, which promised to make Sunday more challenging than the previous two days.

The storm started as promised on Saturday night with a little rain that quickly switched to mostly snow.  It didn’t stick to everything right away (we had gotten to 50 degrees earlier that day), but it did start to make a mess.  When we woke Sunday morning, it was readily apparent that the day would be different than originally planned.  Sunday was supposed to be regular church services followed by a meal, business meeting and then a small troop of us heading out to do services at two area nursing homes.  But with several inches of wet, heavy snow on the ground, plan were in the air.

We got a call from our deacon/song leader that they would not be able to make the drive from 30 minutes away, which was not a surprise.  Another deacon and his wife live out in the country as well and with visibility low and roads packed with this “wet powdered sugar” (that’s what it looked like anyway), there was no way they were going to make it in either.  I knew the business meeting was a no go, the only question that remained was how much other stuff would get dropped during the day.  My other deacon drives a plow to clear the roads and his day had started a 4 AM according to his wife, who did make it to church.  There were three other guys who braved the elements and showed up as well, so we had a good time together worshiping in song and word.  I broke out the guitar (because I just hadn’t played it enough already during the weekend) and played through the songs, changing one because I couldn’t play it.  Note to self: need to play guitar more to keep callouses on my fingers thicker.

We stood around and talked with one another for quite a while afterward and then got out to brave the elements once again.  The snow was blowing almost sideways for most of the day, but the intensity had let up just a bit.  The highways were now mostly wet instead of deep slush, so I called the nursing home that was about 15 miles out of town to possibly cancel our service there.  The nurse who answered informed me that if I had a 4WD, I shouldn’t have any problems getting there.  She had come from the other direction and made it just fine and the plows had been through.  So, I told her I would start up the Expedition and make my way out there for the service at 2:15.

I hit the highway at about 1:30 in order to give myself plenty of time and not be rushed.  The highway wasn’t too bad, although I got hit with slush from an SUV passing in the other direction that sounded like a bag of rocks hitting the windshield.  There was no apparent damage to anything other than my nerves and I continued on my way.  Making the turn south onto the secondary road proved to be no trouble, but after less than a mile on this county road, I was ready to turn back.  The only problem was that turning around wasn’t really an option.  Between the size of my vehicle and the lack of shoulders on the road, it was Osnabrock or bust.  I finally made it to the nursing home and enjoyed spending time with the residents.  Since I didn’t have anyone with me this time, out came the guitar again (my fingers didn’t like me much at this point) and we did some songs and I shared a short devotional.  It was nice to have a break from being on the road in the slush and mess.

As soon as we were done, I had to rush to get out the door in order to give myself plenty of time again to get back to Langdon and head for Maple Manor.  Many thanks go to one of the visitors there who collected the books for me and saved me time.  Normally, this isn’t a real stressful thing; but with the roads like this, it promised to be more interesting driving back.

The road north to highway 5 was better than it had been when I was on it just an hour before, so I was thankful for that.  I encountered a few more vehicles that were out as well, but not many.  When I got to Hwy 5 there was a Cadillac going west, so I pulled out behind it and figured if he didn’t have any trouble, I wouldn’t have any trouble.

Everything passed without incident until about 4 miles or so east of Langdon.  The Cadillac pulled onto the shoulder and came to a stop ahead of me.  I thought it was odd, but I saw a semi coming from the other direction and assumed that the car didn’t want to get plastered with slush like I had earlier.  I went around them cautiously just before the semi arrived coming from the other direction.  I had slowed down a lot and looked back to see the Caddy start to pull onto the roadway again, but they looked like they were having trouble.  It was sliding sideways and looked to be having trouble getting traction.  I slowed to a crawl, preparing to stop and turn around if he didn’t make it on the road.

The next thing I saw was the car fishtailing the other direction so that the car was now completely sideways across the road with his front end pointing north on an east/west highway.  I could see the tires spinning furiously and I was now convinced that I was witnessing an impending wreck.  It looked like he was completely out of control from my perspective.

Next thing I know, the car goes shooting off to the north like a bullet.  At this point I realize that the whole crazy dance I witnessed was a truly mad driver getting up enough speed to tackle a side road full of snow with a Cadillac.  He disappeared going north and I didn’t figure he needed my help as much as he needed my prayers for his safety driving like that.

I made it to Maple Manor without further incident and did the second service.  More singing and guitar playing (my fingers still hate me today for this I think as it hurts a little bit to type with my left hand) and a little visiting afterward.  It was a long day, but a fun and blessed day.  It isn’t like this every week, and for that I am thankful; but it is what you might find yourself doing when you pastor in the great white north.

Categories: adventures in the cold, Christianity, church, Discipleship, Fun, Love, ministry, personal, Southern Baptist, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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