Christianity 201

July 4, 2018

Follower’s Default: Blaming the Leadership

In preparing material at Thinking Out Loud, I visited the blog of Ron Jacobs, only to discover it is presently inactive. This was the last item posted, and I thought it would be a good fit here at C201.

Lessons In Followership

“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” Exodus 16:2-3

I feel for Moses. This situation is not his idea nor is it of his making. It is the result of following God. Much has and will be written about the leadership lessons and abilities of Moses. But I want to focus on the other half of the leadership equation. The followers.

The Israelites complain and grumble against Moses and Aaron. Why? Why do they not realize and remember that the entire vision of this exodus from slavery, from Egypt is from and directed by God? Yet they yell at Moses and Aaron and not at God.

It is human nature to complain to those we see-the leaders.
Even though God is in control and is responsible, it is our broken nature that complains and grumbles to man.

Leaving Egypt was God’s plan.
The plagues were God’s plan.
Hardening pharaohs heart was God’s plan.
Leading them to the sea was God’s plan.
Pharaohs Army pursuing them was God’s plan.

None of this was the fault of Moses or Aaron. And yet they complain to them as if it is.

The mistake of the follower is to blame those who are at the front, but not who is ultimately in control.

Leaders have a responsibility to hold the truth that they are, “Not God” in all they do. But do not followers have a responsibility to hold this same truth about their leaders?

The leader doesn’t part the sea, he or she merely holds up the staff
Bitter water is made clean by God’s hand.
Manna comes from heaven, not from man.

What is the responsibility of followers to their leaders?

The Israelites are a broken people.
They thought and acted like slaves.
They complained out of their brokenness.
They grumbled out of their hurt.

But it is not the leader’s responsibility to heal their brokenness. Followers must take responsibility for that themselves. I have often criticized leaders out of my own brokenness. Followers have just as much responsibility to work on their character as leaders do

The world suffers from the brokenness of leaders daily. It is on display in social media feeds continuously. But what is missing is an honest look at the brokenness of followers.

Broken followers must deal with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups and not project them onto their leaders. Broken followers will complain to leaders, again and again, looking for the leader to provide what only God can give.

Broken followers hunger for what the leader cannot give.
Broken followers thirst for what the leader does not possess.
They fear and seek protection that the leader cannot provide.

Followers must not look to leaders to do what only God can do.

June 19, 2016

Being “In Christ”

•••by Russell Young

Being “in Christ” is the designation given to a position of comfort through confidence in a person’s eternal hope.  Being in Christ also means that all of the attributes of Christ are accessible to the believer; he is the believer’s means of being kept and of being delivered.

Being in Christ does not mean that the believer is in the body of Christ but that he or she has a connection through relationship with Christ from which they can take on the personality and heart of Christ through his enlightenment, leading and divine power.  The believer is so linked with him through the Spirit, that Christ is his or her life. After all, through baptism he or she has declared themselves to have died to all nourishment outside of him and of all interests outside of his.

Those privileged to be in Christ should not assume it to be their fixed place of residence, however.  Before his crucifixion, Christ said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (Jn 15:1-2, NIV) Vines can become wild and fruitless and of little value.  Further to this teaching, Christ has revealed understanding about the nature of a person’s relationship with him.  “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” (Jn 15:4, NIV) “If a man remains in me and I in him he will produce much fruit.” (Jn 15:5) And, “If you obey my commands, you remain in my love, just as I have obeyed the Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:10, NIV) The Lord used the conditional word “if” in these statements implying that the permanence of remaining in him rested on the believer doing or obeying his commands.  In fact, he directly taught that a person’s position in his family was dependent upon the manner in which he or she dealt with sin, and according to their practice of obedience (Heb 5:9) “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son [one who obeys, Rom 8:14, 6:16], belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV)

God is faithful to those who remain faithful to him.  It is written: “The Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chr 15:2, NIV) He will, however, forsake the unfaithful.

Abiding in ChristThose in him get all that is needed through him, and in turn produce the fruit for which the root grows and provides nourishment.  Christ who is the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal 5:22) Those who do not produce these will be “cut off.”

It is just as important to consider who is not in Christ. The person who claimed through profession of faith that Jesus is his or her Lord and who is living or walking in spiritual darkness has no fellowship with God. “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness.  But if we are living in the light [obeying his commandments or being led] as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6, NIV) This is another conditional statement concerning fellowship and cleansing.

John summed up his portrayal of who is “in Christ” and who is not.  “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) And, “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:5-6, NIV)

A person’s position in Christ depends upon his or her willingness to allow Christ to live through him or her by practicing obedience to the Spirit.  When someone looks at a person in Christ, they should see Christ.  The Lord did not sin while in the flesh and those in him will not sin.  When sin is practiced, that person is not in him on that occasion but has taken nourishment from Adam or Eve, his or her sinful nature.  When a person reverts to their old nature they once again become subject to destruction. “Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction. (Gal 6:5, NIV)

Whether or not a person remains “in Christ” depends upon his or her will.  It is a person’s doing or their walk that reveals his or her position and will determine their eternal outcome.   Christ told His disciples, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21, NIV) A person’s “doing” is important to his or her eternal state and to their remaining in Christ.  Many promises are made to those in Christ, including the promise of freedom from condemnation (Rom 8:1) and of resurrection. (1 Thess 4:16)

February 20, 2015

Building on an Existing Foundation

CEB* Luke 1:1  Many people have already applied themselves to the task of compiling an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used what the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed down to us. Now, after having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, I have also decided to write a carefully ordered account for you, most honorable Theophilus. I want you to have confidence in the soundness of the instruction you have received.

When most people start reading the gospel of Luke, any subsequent discussion usually revolves around two things:

  • the painstaking thoroughness of Luke’s account; his attention to detail; his desire for accuracy
  • speculation as to the identity of Theophilus; who he might have been or if the term is a generic to describe God-seekers everywhere, or perhaps a coincidental combination of this with an actual name (such as we get with Barabbas, a sort of Everyman name.)

For that reason, it’s easy to miss what is taking place in verse four.

so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (NIV)

The Reformation Study Bible points out that the word used for taught here is the word from which we get our “catechism” and Michael Card points out in his commentary on Luke that Theophilus is wanting to know more of the background behind the things he has already been catechized in.

In other words, Theophilus is not sitting on the fence here, he’s crossed the line of faith but wants to go deep. He wants to move from Christianity 101 to Christianity 201. And beyond.

Michael Card writes,

…Theophilus is entrusted with one of the greatest pieces of literature on the planet, all for the purpose of being sure of his original catechism.

~Michael Card, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, page 33

The IVP New Testament Commentary notes that,

There is a geographic flow to the order: Galilee through Samaria to Jerusalem. But above all, the order seems to be redemptive-historical. Luke is concerned to trace the progress of God’s redeeming work in Jesus, especially by highlighting his teaching and the rise of opposition to him. The emphasis on promise-fulfillment also suggests this sort of order. The Gospel is roughly chronological, but not precisely so. More important to Luke is revealing how God worked through Jesus. This is “sacred history” revealing the order of God’s plan. (emphasis added)

Michael Card also notes that in the verse that follows, “ In the time of Herod king of Judea…” the reference to Herod is intended to send chills up the spines of Luke’s readers. In other words, Luke is doing more than just accurately pinpointing years and months, he is painting a picture for his readers as to the mood of the times in the story. This is the contrast between the teachings of Jesus and the opposition that the IVP commentary references.

Matthew Henry writes,

Theophilus was a person of quality, perhaps of noble birth; and so much the more pains should be taken with such when they are young, to teach them the principles of the oracles of God, that they may be fortified against temptations, and furnished for the opportunities, of a high condition in the world… It was intended that he should know the certainty of those things, should understand them more clearly and believe more firmly. There is a certainty in the gospel of Christ, there is that therein which we may build upon; and those who have been well instructed in the things of God when they were young should afterwards give diligence to know the certainty of those things, to know not only what we believe, but why we believe it, that we may be able to give a reason of the hope that is in us.

While we haven’t used the word so far here, we’re clearly talking about apologetics; of being able to say with certainty, “I know who I have believed…”  (II Timothy 1:12)

We know from the first verse that Theophilus commissioned this writing by Luke. He wanted to know more or perhaps with some of the narrative, he simply wanted to hear it again.  While Luke’s introduction assures us of his attempt to get the story right — to be an exemplary journalist — it also speaks to our need as Christ followers to study, review and even immerse ourselves in the story that changed the world.

So, finally, we can never be sure of the identity of the mysterious Theophilus. But that is not, strictly speaking, true either. He is you. He is me. For we have received some initial instruction on Jesus’ life and ministry. We need to know with more certainty the truth of what we have heard.

~Michael Card, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, page 34


* Common English Bible

 

 

August 5, 2014

“Lord, to whom can we go?”

I discovered this article over a week ago, and hesitated using it here because I would have to reformat it. But I kept returning to it and decided to just go for it. The blog is named Redbird’s Roost and the author also links to a large number of faith-focused blogs by women. To read this at source, click on the title below:

Is Jesus Your Kind Of Christ?

“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NASB)

Some persons have a fixed notion of what the Messiah, the Christ, ought to be. He has to conform to that idea or they will not have Him. The five thousand whom Jesus fed expected a Christ who would deliver them physically from the humiliation of political bondage to Rome. Some of Jesus’ works had led them to believe that He could gain that freedom for them. A new Moses, He could feed them with bread from heaven and do other marvelous things for them. If Jesus would be that kind of Christ, they would gladly have Him.

But we read that “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” How did that come about? Jesus simply refused to be their kind of Christ. He offered Himself to them as “the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:14). He said other things that were strange to their ways of thinking, and it was all too much for them to take.

Have we set the terms on which we will have Jesus? Have we said to ourselves, “If Jesus does thus and so for me, I’ll follow Him”? Often what we do today is not to reject Jesus outright, but to distort His mission and message so as to get rid of Him less painfully. Perhaps we gladly accept the idea of His Saviorhood and reject His Lordship over all of life, or we gladly accept the idea of His demanding Lordship and ignore His gracious Saviorhood. Or we may do other things that minimize His real mission.

Most of us who have met Jesus would be reluctant to give Him up. He has an eternal fascination. But we may be confused and frustrated as to who and what He is and what He expects of us. Among the five thousand who heard Jesus and were fed by Him were many who forsook Him temporarily and later came back to Him to be faithful disciples. A loud minority can work havoc among a confused majority or can confuse a majority and take advantage of it. Looking for leadership, the majority often takes the ideas of a vocal minority too seriously. Suppose a few leaders had openly accepted Jesus’ teaching. Would most of the people gone along with them? We don’t know, of course. But it is quite likely. Years ago, a famous preacher presented a sermon on the theme, “The Hope of the World (Is) in Its Minorities.” But ignorant, prejudiced, selfish minorities can cause great mischief–as can majorities when confused in value judgments.

Who stirred up the crowd that wanted to make Jesus King? Who cause the confusion? Could it have been Jesus’ own disciples? They were slow to understand His teaching and His plans. Mark tells us that Jesus made His disciples go to the other side of the lake. Was it because the disciples themselves had added to the popular misunderstanding about the Messiah and about Jesus in particular? It is certainly true that sometimes Jesus’ truest friends make it difficult for others to believe in Him and take Him for what He actually is. Some potential disciples, therefore, have to wait for the air to clear a bit before they are ready to commit themselves to Jesus.

It must have been appalling when many went away from Jesus disappointed. Doubtless Jesus felt the pain of it and the disciples shared Jesus’ pain. Was this the way to win a world to God?

The disciples could have parted company with Jesus then. The situation was right. They were free. “You do not want to go away also, do you” Jesus asked.

Jesus does not force us to follow Him or to continue to follow Him. The best religion is free, spontaneous response to the promise and challenge of God’s love. The community has to compel its citizens to conform to certain forms of behavior. It does this through laws, courts, and certain judgments. However, every true Christian is a Christian by his own choice. God has given us the freedom to walk out–anytime. But Simon Peter replied to Jesus’ question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

As far as the disciples were concerned, all escape routes were closed. The disciple, of course, could walk away from Jesus physically; they could join the departing crowd physically. Nothing could prevent that. But psychologically and spiritually they could not leave. They were too closely bound to Him by love and conviction to ever leave Him. Staying with Jesus was their hearts’ deepest desire. In Him they had discovered the depths of reality; eternal life, the experience of God.

How can we explain it when a man stands with a minority–or even alone–on some vital issue? Or doggedly goes on believing in God when others around him are losing their faith one by one? Or faces crushing tragedy without giving up? The answer is very simple: Jesus Christ has given them something–an illuminating experience of God–that brings meaning to life. Because of what Jesus has done, there is something to live for, and even die for. Simon Peter would no doubt have a hard time explaining all his reasons for continuing with Jesus, but he put his finger on the basic, the most important reason: none can measure up to Jesus Christ in answering our deepest needs, especially our need for God.


Is there a subject you’d like to see covered here? A scripture verse you’d like addressed? Another devotional blog you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment any time in the current post or better still go to this page.

November 2, 2013

Urging and Leading Others from “Saved” to “Discipled”

discipleship

Around here, we refer to Jim Thornber’s blog as “the other Thinking Out Loud.” You are strongly urged to read this online where it appeared as Scriptures That Bother Me: Matthew 28:19.

“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 –  Matthew 28:19

Can I share something with you that bothers most pastors? It’s the fact that many good church-going people want Jesus to be their Savior, but they’re not too keen on letting Him actually be their Lord. They want to be saved from the penalties of their sins, but they don’t want that salvation to actually impede upon their way of life. They want the comfort of knowing they are saved, but they don’t want to be put upon to bring other people into the Kingdom. They want to ask forgiveness for their sins, but they don’t want to live in obedience to all the teachings of Christ.

This is seen in the ways people invest first in themselves, and then in others. For example, let’s look at the Great Commission of Jesus in Matt. 28:18-20.

Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”

First, Jesus is talking to His Disciples, those who have taken up their cross and chosen to follow Him at all costs. Next, Jesus tells them to go and make disciples. This brings up two questions. First, are you in the process of being a disciple? Not a follower. Not a weekly church attendee, but a disciple, a person who seeks to study the Word, who gets together with other Christians to challenge and be challenged to live the life Christ died for us to have. Hebrews 10:23-25 says,

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Look at that word “spur.” It means to provoke, incite, irritate. When you gather with other Christians then you should be spurring them, provoking and inciting and even irritating them on towards good works. It also means when you gather you are willing to be spurred. But we cannot be spurred if we are not gathering, and we cannot be spurred or provoked towards good works if we only show up every once in a while to a church and leave as soon as possible. Still, this happens week after week in churches all over the world. But according to the Great Commission, to be a disciple and to make disciples means you are personally investing in the lives of others.

And this is terribly inconvenient. It means you will have to invest the one thing that means more to many of us than money – our time. We would rather pay someone to take our neighbor to the grocery store than actually drive them ourselves. We’d rather pay someone to work on the church than show up ourselves. We’d rather buy someone a book on finances than commit to going to their house for 12 weeks and taking them through the book and teaching them through our own example. I’m very glad that Jesus didn’t send someone else to earth to do His work. He came personally. He took time away from His throne in Heaven to invest His life, and then His death, so He could make disciples. That is what it cost Jesus. What are we willing to invest to make disciples? It will cost us our time, our talents, our personal touch and yes, even some of our treasure. But that is what it means to be a disciple. So ask yourself: “Am I a disciple, or am I just content with being saved?” I don’t know how anyone can think of the price Jesus paid to bring us to Heaven and be content with merely being saved.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m saying this. Why do I teach in a way that provokes, spurs and irritates people? Because I don’t want anyone I know to face Jesus one day, and knowing what He did for you in order to save you from hell, say to Him, “Thanks for the salvation. Sorry I wasn’t really a disciple. Sorry I didn’t find the time to study your Word and or take the effort to make disciples. Sorry I didn’t find it a priority to teach a Bible study or a Sunday school. Sorry I didn’t make it a priority to invest my time in the lives of the people You died for.” I don’t want anyone to be sorry for the way they lived their life after they knew what Jesus did to pay the penalty of their sins. I want people to be able to declare their complete, not their partial, but their complete dependence upon God, and this means doing more than getting saved. It means taking the time and the effort to become a disciple.

So, are you a disciple or are you just saved?

October 29, 2012

How Material and Sexual Cravings Block Ministry

Church Relevance has posted a number of summaries from global:church forum. (I’m sure these are excerpts/summaries.) Here is just one:

At the Global:Church Forum, Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries discussed how the global Church is changing.

Luke 14:12-33
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” 15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you,[d] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

What happens at the end of the world? There will be judgment. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. And western cultures say, “Oh, and there is going to be a banquet!” But what type of banquet? A wedding banquet. And whose wedding is it? Partly ours.

What does it mean to be betrothed? Think of the anticipation. Yet I find it interesting that we often struggle to live as though we are the bride of Christ.

Most people in affluent cultures, find themselves having to constantly increase the pace and volume of consumption in order to maintain the same level of enjoyment. This cycle is called the Hedonic treadmill. Research shows that consumers consistently make self-defeating choices.

Now in Jesus’ parable about the wedding banquet, the servant is not inviting people to the banquet when he goes out. The invitations have already been sent out and accepted. When the servant goes out, he is merely ringing the dinner bell. But everyone made excuses. The first 2 excuses are commercial in nature, and we understand how people get caught up in money. This is what happens with the affluent.

But the 3rd excuse causes a lot of Westerners problems. The 3rd excuse is a man saying, “I have a women at home, and I would much rather be doing something with her than you. The is not an affluent excuse but a sexual one. The modern era has become too focused on viewing men and women as sexual objects. We live in e that tells women that they are empowered if they act as sexual objects. How is that progress?

In the Western world, sexual desire was driven by a sense of spiritual connection. In India, sex has been long thought of as a mystical connection. But today sex is increasingly viewed as a product to consume. Pornography is rampant. And we increasingly think of ourselves as animals.

Slavery reduces people to objects rather than people. Pornography treats people as objects. Sin dehumanizes us. It makes us less human than we actually are. When we treat people as objects, we lose our way.

Is it even possible that today’s Christians treat God as an object that is to be consumed?

One US government analyst said, “Hypocrisy is the new unforgivable global sin.” When you marry objectifying people and unhealthy consumption with our integrity, what do you have?

In Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet, people had an invitation that they ultimately rejected, so the servant went out and evangelized. The servant sought out who would come. The servant compelled people. He must be compelling.

If you do not pick up your cross and forsake all you have, you cannot be Christ’s disciple. That statement cannot be compelling unless God’s servants live it.

The trouble is we are trying to teach morals of discipleship that do not demand everything. Even some churches treat people as objects that give them money.

Don’t ignore the people in the trenches that are laying down their lives. We have arm chair quarterbacks that are ignoring the pleas of help from those in the trenches as well as their feedback on how to do things better. I’ve known people that would not fund a ministry initiative because they are afraid people will be martyred. But I wouldn’t fund ministry by people who weren’t willing to lay down their lives.

Salt that has lost its saltiness is worthless. If the impurities in salt reach a certain level, it will be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Poor areas of the world are modeling out an incredible spiritual richness. So since we are in the West, it is not just enough to learn from the theology of the Church of the South and the East. What we need to do is learn from those who are persecuted and willing to die yet keep growing in their passion for Christ.

If as a Church we are willing to pay the cost that the majority of the Church is paying, you will be scared at times, but you will also be more effective.

Affluent cultures are born by sacrifice. When we are poor, we mistake scarcity for spiritual discipline. But when affluence comes and scarcity becomes scarce then peoples lives are destroyed if they lack discipline. The trouble is that in the West, we have been affluent for a very long time. The types of disciplines that we need have been gone for a very long time.

God has a habit of humbling people who trust in themselves. The goal of life isn’t to live as long as possible but to live a life that is obedient to Him. That is the only life worth living.

I think the models of discipleship we have in the West (1) move too slowly, (2) expect to little, (3) promise too much, and (4) expect quick maturity.

~Michael Ramsden

April 15, 2012

Spiritual Transformation

Today we introduce you to yet another new blog, I Want to Believe in God by Justin Powell; where this post appeared recently under the title Be Transformed.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” –Romans 12:2

There are two parts to man—the spirit and the natural.  The natural part of man is what the Bible often refers to as our “flesh.” I realize my flesh will never be satisfied.  Man was created to walk in the Spirit but our flesh calls us to darkness and wishes for us to remain there.  Lust by nature and definition cannot be satisfied.  Our carnal lusts will continually want more.  It is only through Christ that we can walk in the Spirit and seek the will of God in our lives.

The Chuck Smith commentary on this verse states:

“Many people seek to relate man to animals, because they want to live like them. Animals don’t possess a spirit and live solely on a body-conscious level.  So, the man who wants to feel free of any responsibility to God disclaims his spiritual capacities and proclaims himself a highly evolved animal. He’s constantly searching for the missing link between himself and the ape.  Natural man does have a missing link, but it’s not between man and the animal kingdom, but between man and God.  Man, once created in the image of God, has fallen from the spirit-controlled being he once was to the flesh-controlled creature he has become.”

Once we have tasted the goodness of the Lord our spirit is never content unless we are walking in the will of God.  If we are Christians but led by our flesh, then we are not walking in the will of God and this will only bring confusion, bondage, strain, depression and discontent.  That is not the joy the Bible talks about.  Jesus offers a way out and a way to freedom—it’s called being a disciple.  The way to freedom is to simply follow Jesus, so what do we have to do to be a disciple of Jesus?

Jesus said:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Be strong today and be encouraged because Christ is with you!  When your flesh calls you to darkness rely on the power of Christ and His word to lead you from temptation.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13 

Glory to God and Christ our Savior!

~Justin Powell

Read more at the same blog by the same author: The Lord Has Set Peace Before You.

January 30, 2011

Imitate Me, As I (try to) Imitate Christ

Jon Swanson’s blog, 300 Words a Day is one of a very few listed in this blog’s sidebar because of his consistent devotional focus.   This piece appeared there several days ago under the much simpler (!) title, Being a Model…

Am I living a life I’d want someone to copy?

Why not?

Those two sentences found their way into my journal over the weekend, as I was thinking about a presentation I’ve got coming up. I’m going to talk about being and making disciples. (That subject has shown up as my one word and in my list of 8 ways to get better at following.)

As I thought about the idea of making disciples, of developing followers, I realized that part of making a disciple is being willing to be a model.

I hate that. So do you. The last thing we want is for someone to use our life as a pattern. We know all of the ways that we fail. We know all the strategies that don’t work. We know how we don’t measure up. We know how we hurt someone we love.  We are, we think, models for spiritual failure.

But I think I’m wrong.

Paul consistently said, “Here are my failures. Here’s what I don’t do well. Here’s what God does wonderfully, sometimes in spite of me, sometimes through me.” He said this especially to Timothy, his most mentioned disciple. (A working definition of a disciple is a person who chooses to allow the life and teaching of someone to shape his/her own life.)

Helping people learn how to follow Jesus doesn’t mean being perfect.

It means being translucent, keeping the details hidden but allowing the outline of your humanity to show. It means acknowledging the failures and the forgiveness. It means showing when you let your mouth get ahead of your brain, here is how you ask forgiveness.

When you don’t know how to talk to God, here’s where you start. When you feel like you aren’t measuring up, here’s how you stop trying so hard.

~ Jon Swanson

January 11, 2011

What is your “Word” for 2011?

It’s been a busy couple of days, and I knew that if there was going to be a post here today at C201, it was going to be a repost from the blogosphere as opposed to an original piece.   But nothing was waiting in the wings.   As I scanned the list of some 300 blogs I monitor, I knew I had to turn to someone who would have something solid to say.

What about you? Are you someone that people know they can turn to for solid, Biblical counsel? Are you known as a person of spiritual depth? Each one of us building a reputation including a spiritual reputation…

…Well, with the awesome weight of that introduction on his shoulders, I now introduce the blog post where I ended up, Jon Swanson’s 300 Words a Day – Following Jesus for this post…

For the past three years, I have chosen three words to provide some direction. It has been a great exercise. And for the first two years, it was very helpful. This last year, however,  I realized that three words are two too many for me. I am too easily confused. I forget them. And, in retrospect, there was a gap between the three words – attuned, Jamaica, product – and what I my responsibilities are.

So for 2011 I have one word. Disciple.

Once, I defined a disciple as a person who chooses to allow the life and teaching of someone to shape his/her own life. People shaped by life-changing relationships. I’m still comfortable with that definition. And I know that I have written a lot about the disciples, about being a disciple or follower of Jesus.

What I’m wondering, though, as I begin this new year, is what would happen if I made disciple the centerpiece of what I do? What if I did everything I could to allow my life to be shaped by following Jesus? What if I spent my writing time and thinking time and teaching time helping myself and other people clearly and simply understand what following Jesus could and does look like?

Over the weekend, for example, I wrote two posts about how to follow better. (Here’s a one-page version of 8 ways to follow better.) What I realized (after the fact) is that those eight things would make great themes to explore this year. So I’ll be doing that. In as practical ways as I can. Because if we together  (assuming I can count on your interaction) were to put those eight processes into practice, this would be a remarkable year.

Disciple is, I know, both a noun and a verb. This year, I’ll work on both.

~Jon Swanson

 

I encourage you to follow Jon’s blog to see where these themes lead.  It’s currently one of only five devotional blogs listed here…

So what’s your word for 2011?

September 27, 2010

Personal Growth Questions

I ran this piece from Perry Noble on Friday at Thinking Out Loud, but it bears repeating here.   To expand this into a richer study, click on the Bible Gateway links for each scripture verse.

#1 – Am I reading my Bible for information or transformation?  (James 1:22-25)

#2 – Am I allowing people or circumstances to steal the joy that Jesus promised to me?  (John 10:10)

#3 – Is there anything in my life that God is consistently dealing with that I am trying to ignore?  (Ezekiel 14:1-5)

#4 – Who are the people in my life that God has placed around me for the purpose of me sharing Christ with them and/or inviting them to church?  (II Corinthians 5:16-21)

#5 – Is there anyone I need to apologize to?  (Ephesians 4:25:27)

#6 – Is there anyone I need to forgive? (Ephesians 4:32)

#7 – Is there a sin I need to confess to others and ask for help? (James 5:16)

#8 – Am I fully utilizing the gifts and abilities that God has blessed me with…or am I simply choosing to waste my life?  (I Peter 4:10)

#9 – Do I know more lines from the movies [or popular songs] that I love than verse from the Bible that I read? (Psalm 119:11)

#10 – Is there anything going on in my life privately that, if it became public, would cause me and/or the body of Christ to be embarrassed? (I John 1:9, James 5:16)