Thursday, 12/13/18 – Discipleship: the Bible

If you are new to the Bible it can look pretty intimidating at first glance – all those thin and crinkly pages, odd looking two-column text, unpronounceable people and place names, old English word forms, and the uncertainty of where to begin.

Here’s something many folk find quite helpful…

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The chart shows where the prophetic, poetic and other books fit into the timeline of the historical books of the Old Testament. The New Testament is much more straightforward: four accounts of The life of the incarnate Christ, one book on the activities if the early church, then a collection of letters written to various churches by various authors. The last is the book of Revelation wherein John relates the mysterious vision Christ unveiled to him regarding the end times and the kingdom to come,

The Bible is food for our souls; it is also both a tool and a weapon…

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2)

“…Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29).

Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

Every believer should grow and train in it daily.

Paul charged Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

And eventually dig deeper… “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb. 5:13, 14, see also Heb. 6:1-3)

Don’t let the size of it put you off. You don’t go to the grocery store to try and eat everything in it at once. You go to take what good nourishment you need, and you go often.

“How long does it take to read the Bible?”

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A person can read the Bible aloud at a normal speaking pace (or silently) in less than 72 hours: 70 hours and 40 minutes to be exact. That’s 52 hours and 20 minutes to read the Old Testament, and 18 hours and 20 minutes to read the New Testament. The entire Bible can be read in one year in less than 12 minutes a day!

That sounds to me like a very good new year resolution! Why not swap 12 minutes of Facebook time for 12 minutes of Face-to-Face time with God revealed in His Word? Open that Bible, download it to your device, or as an audio file to listen to as you commute.

Why not make that commitment to yourself today? Start experimenting now, to the end of the year. See what method, medium, translation and time slot works best for you. Developing a daily habit of feeding on the Word is essential to your discipleship in Christ.

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 12/6/18 – Discipleship: Priorities

I set up an old card table the other day. You know the kind… the legs fold out for use and fold back into the sides of the table top for ease of storage, maybe tucked behind a door or leaning discretely against a wall.

20181204_210253The way you set up a card table is to first hold the table top sideways as it rests on the floor on one its edges, then unfold and lock into place all the legs. When all the legs are opened and locked you grasp hold of opposite sides of the table top and set it upright on its legs. If you attempt to set it upright before all the legs are opened and locked the table will topple. It cannot stand. If you fail to lock all, some, or even one of the legs it may stand a short while but soon it will begin to twist, collapsing the unlocked leg further until once again the whole table falls.

If you want to use a card table locking all four legs is a priority.

If you want to grow as a Christian locking these four disciplines into your life is also a priority:

Prayer, Bible study, Witnessing, Fellowship.

Neglect any one of these and… Well… Just take a lesson from the card table!

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Prayer is a priority because it is like air, essential at all times for survival. In prayer we exercise ‘spiritual breathing.’ We exhale our sins, our problems, our worship to God. We inhale His forgiveness, His Grace, His Word, comfort, conviction, forgiveness*. “Pray without ceasing,” urged Paul (1 Thess. 5:17). It’s that important!

Bible study is a priority because it is like food, nourishing to our spirit, instructive to our minds, health to our bodies, and souls. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Witnessing is a priority because it is like exercise; in sharing our faith we grow our faith. We develop spiritual muscle, resilience, agility in the Word, confidence and poise. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” wrote Peter (1 Pet. 3:15).

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Fellowship is a priority because others can keep us accountable to continuing in the other three disciplines. We are all up and down in this journey, but we are not all up or all down at the same time. As Solomon summarized, “Two are better than one… If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” (Eccl. 4:9,10).

These are the essentials… the four legs of faith… the prime-most of priorities… the disciplines of discipleship. If you don’t want to topple or spend your days behind a door or leaning against a wall you must lock these priorities in place.

Press on…

*Yeah, I know… I mentioned “forgiveness” twice. I was gonna fix it but then I realized that often during prayer God shows us other sins in need of forgiveness. I’m leaving them both in. 

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?

Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 11/29/18 – Discipleship: Freedom

Remember now, when we speak of “freedom” in the context of discipleship, we mean “the ability to do what you ought, not the right to do what you want.” We all know we ought to do certain things that we do not. A relationship with Christ makes changing all that possible.

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“The key to overcoming temptation is loving God. The more you love God, the less you will be tempted by sin.” says Peter – No, not that Peter, the Peter in the dialogue which prefaces each chapter of the First Steps On-on-One Discipleship handbook (see p. 24).

But how does that work? How does loving God help me to stop swearing, stop peeking at porn, or start praying more? How do I love God anyway? I can’t even see Him!

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Well let’s scale this whole thing back a bit to something we may understand more readily. How about this: boy meets girl. There’s a pretty basic plot line for any story. Boy meets girl… boy likes girl…. girl likes art museums…. boy takes an interest in art…. girl dislikes moustaches… boy shaves his off… Maybe the girl decides to shed a few pounds, do up her hair in the more alluring style, or invest in a new dress.

Things neither had motivation or desire to do previously they now tackle with gusto! Why? They want to please the one they love. Love accomplishes what willpower alone can never do.

How did they do it? They spent time together. They found out what pleased the other, they made such things their chief interest and priority also, then… they went out and did that thing, or stopped doing that other thing. The happiness of their beloved became more cherished than their own happiness. Yet, by living for the happiness of the other they found a greater joy beyond themselves.

It’s the same with God. “Find out what pleases the Lord,” writes Paul. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness…” (Eph. 5:10,11). ” Rejoice always, pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16,17)

Want more freedom to do what you ought? Develop Your Love relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember, “The key to overcoming temptation is loving God. The more you love God, the less you will be tempted by sin.”

Press on…

 

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 11/22/18 – Discipleship: Assurance (Faith & Doubt)

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Every believer wrestles with this plea at times but for the new believer initial doubt can be devastating.

The new believer has no or little journey of faith behind him to look back on and see past victories of faith over doubt, or the faithfulness of the Lord through trials, or the hope and strengthening of the Word and prayers and brothers and sisters in Christ. The new believer may just have come to faith in Christ and then, awakening the next day, wonder if it was all just an emotional high.

Jesus likens the reception of the gospel into one’s heart to the reception of good seed into the earth.

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. (Luke 8:5-8)

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When his disciples later asked Jesus about the parable, Jesus explained that the seed represents the Word of God and the various soils represent various threats to the new believer’s spiritual growth.

• the devil takes away the Word from their hearts (v.12)
• they have no root… they fall away (v.13)
• life’s worries, riches and pleasures (v.14)

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The believer must guard against all three of these threats by basing their assurance of salvation on the Word of God not charismatic leaders, emotional feelings or expectations, by being discipled by another mature believer and establishing daily spiritual habits in the Word of God and prayer, and by avoiding the temptations of this world. You must hear, retain, and persevere (v.15)

One of the ways the devil tries to snatch the Word from our heart is by planting doubt in our mind. He has done this from the beginning: “Did God really say….?” (Gen. 3:1). Every believer must know how to use the Word of God to fight through the lies of the devil. I like how someone once put it…

Faith is to Doubt what Courage is to Fear.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), yet without doubt it is impossible to step forward in faith. Doubt is the backdrop which makes faith possible.

Our enemy the devil wants to paint doubt in a different light… (or perhaps ‘darkness’ would be more accurate.) The devil wants us to view doubt as an evidence of having no faith at all. That is as inaccurate as saying that fear is evidence of having no courage,. Courage is moving forward despite your fears. The fearless person cannot exhibit courage, only foolhardiness. Faith is moving forward despite your doubts. But faith must be based upon the truths and promises of God. If not, you are just acting presumptuously.

Satan’s plan for doubt…
1. Satan deceives by making you think that God can’t forgive, that God can’t give you strength, that you are unworthy of his love. (Read Romans 8:31)
2. If you believe a deception, you will act as if it is true.
3. Satan will try to get you so discouraged that you will quit.

God’s plan for doubt…
1. To point out a weakness in our walk with Jesus.
2. To develop faith.
3. To increase knowledge.

First Steps, One-on-One Discipleship, p.19

Press on in confidence, knowing this:

“…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39).

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 11/15/18 – Discipleship: Round and Round…

The purpose of these Thursday blogs on Discipleship is to visit, then re-visit nine basics of growing in Christ. These basics are Assurance, Freedom, Priorities, the Bible, Prayer, Fellowship, Evangelism, God’s Will, and the Soon Return of Christ. My plan is to just keep going round and round over these fundamentals.

So far this week we’ve thought a lot about remembering — about our need to keep the fundamentals of our faith in the forefront of our focus. Christian leaders are especially charged to keep these things fresh in the minds and hearts of their brothers and sisters in Christ… as Peter expresses…

“…I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

…Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. (2 Peter 1:12,13; 3:3)

Going round and round… internalizing truth, practicing daily surrender, going over and over…

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Read, re-read, memorize, pray, pray again, then pray some more, be thankful, be confident, talk about your faith, about what Christ did in you today, listen to the Holy Spirit within you, look to the open or closed doors before you, listen to your own heart, weigh the insights of others, be with God’s people regularly, guard your mind, fight sin, embrace purity, fear God, love God expressively, help the needy, give them your time, encouragement, and practical things as you are able.

Look toward eternity. Today is “in your face” but eternity is forever. Remember God’s love, sacrifice, plan and purpose for you. Keep short accounts with Him, acknowledge and deal instantly with sin when you find it within you…. Again, and Again — and again… round and round…

I echo with Peter,

“…I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside…” (2 Peter 1:12)

So, next Thursday we’ll start again with further thoughts on “Assurance.” You’ll need the reminder. I’ll need the reminder. As Red Green says, “We’re all in this together!”

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started

Thursday, 11/8/18 – Discipleship: The Soon Return of Christ

A cartoon character wore a sandwich board which read “The End is Near!” Across from him was another sandwich board wearer whose sign read “The End is Far!” They glared at each other and shared a single accusing word bubble that read “Whacko!”

The subject of end times abounds with opinion. Some discount the notion altogether believing science will eventually propel humankind to godhood. Some believe aliens will rescue us from global destruction, or be the agents of it. Others believe in the return of Christ but say it has already happened… or spiritualize the idea. Some even claim that they are He!

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All this chaos is no surprise to Christ, and should be no surprise to His children either. Every bit of it was foretold long ago: from the deterioration of moral conscience to the multiplicity of false Christs and the scoffing at His true return…

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

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Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many…many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold… At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (see Matthew 24).

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet. 3:3-4)

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In Matthew 24:8 scripture speaks of these things coming upon this earth as ‘labor pains.’ Labor pains have all the elements of birth and grow in frequency and in intensity as the birth nears. The nervous husband sees all the signs, even races her to the hospital and discovers multiple false alarms. But the bags are ready, there is gas in the car, for they know one of these times will be the true birth indeed. That outcome is assured.

This is the believer’s only job as well, to be ready at all times…

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him… understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:35-40)

Are you ready?

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 11/1/18 – Discipleship: God’s Will

“What is God’s Will for my life?” It’s a question every Christian asks at some point in their journey… in fact, typically at many points. But We are not left completely in the dark. The Bible gives several clear statements to guide us.

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We know that God does have plans for us and that those plans are for our goodFor I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11). We know that He has given us His Word to help show the way: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105). We know that as we learn to trust Him He will make these paths straightTrust in the LORD… in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:6). We know that we must pray for His Will to be done (Matt. 6:10), that we can ask God for wisdom and He will give it (James 1:5), and that our perseverance is needed and will be rewarded (Heb. 10:36). .

Specifically, we know God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4), and that “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified [work towards holiness]: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3). Believers are to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18, “deny themselves” and “take up their cross daily” (Luke 9:23) as they follow Jesus.

Paul gives these very clear instructions to Christians in Ephesus

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 5:15-20)

Most importantly we must always remember that God wants relationship with us. More and more I have come to see that God’s Will for each of us is less about what we Do and more about what we Are. God wants us to be like Him — and remember: His Name is “I AM,” not “I DO” (Exod. 3:14).

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.