Thursday, 4/18/19 – Discipleship: The Bible

red strawberry and raspberry on white ceramic bowlI love Greek yogurt — plain white Greek yogurt. I even like Greek yogurt better than ice cream! I use it like ice cream too sometimes. I take plain white Greek yogurt add some fruit and nuts, pour on some syrup, or maybe molasses. Mmmm. This stuff is yummy! The best part is, I don’t have that blood sugar crash an hour or so later. In fact I feel nourished. in fact I am nourished! Greek yogurt is good for me!

I use Greek yogurt sometimes like sour cream on a baked potato or sometimes I use it in place of mayonnaise. Greek yogurt hasn’t let me down yet. it’s always sustained me well, been good for my bones, good for my bowels, and stuck to my ribs.

black ceramic bowl filled with cereal

Now, I didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I never ate Greek yogurt at all — especially plain white Greek yogurt. I preferred the lighter, fruit-flavored, colorful ones. The first time I tried plain white Greek yogurt it was simply a matter of discipline. I was told it would be good for my health, my fragile bones, and irritable digestive system. I got it down okay. It wasn’t repulsive. It just wasn’t what I had got used to. But the more I indulged in it the more I began to really enjoy it, especially because of that ‘feel-good,’ nourished and healthy feeling I’d have afterwards.

Well for some folk, developing a good Bible reading habit is similar. I mean, just look at the size of that thing! It’s probably the thickest most formidable looking book you’ve ever seen on your bookshelf!

person holding opened book

But looking at the Bible like that is like looking at an entire supermarket! Or as an even better analogy, it’s like looking at an entire Library! In fact, that’s exactly what the Bible is! The word “Bible” derives from the Greek word “Biblia” which means “books,” sixty-six books in all. It’s also from where we derive the word “bibliography.”

So don’t be intimidated. Go to the Bible like you would go to the library. Browse around a bit, but pick a book that you can start to read. Perhaps it will seem like a discipline at first but soon you will find, as I did with my plain white yogurt, that the Bible is good for you. It nourishes you deep in your soul. It makes you stronger on the inside, and it sticks with you especially in times of trouble or need. The Bible will never let you down.

Soon you will come to desire it, to seek it out as a newborn looks for its mother’s breast. As Peter writes, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet. 2:2,3)

Taste and see.

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, 4/11/19 – Discipleship: Priorities

Are you beginning to think about spring cleaning?

Soon this annual task will be forefront on everyone’s mind: What to keep? What to toss? And where to put things once we decide?

close up photo of hang clothes in wardrobe

One problem I frequently face when trying to organize is that I would begin with one area and decide okay I have to put this sort of thing over here — in ‘spot one,’ let’s say. But of course because I’m just getting started, ‘spot one’ already has stuff in it. So then I think, okay let’s look at this other pile over here, and then I’ll put these sorts of things in ‘spot two’ over there. But, wouldn’t you know it, ‘spot two’ is also currently occupied. Frustrated, I decide to postpone the challenge to another day. But of course by then the task has only grown more difficult!

This problem must be common to many who find themselves disillusioned and disorganized — as the popularity of books advocating a more simplified and organized way of living appear to testify (e.g The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Joy of Less, etc…).

One such book promotes a process which typically begins by making a huge pile of everything you have in the middle of your living room floor! This sounds radical but the advantage is that now every storage place in the house is empty ! Next, you begin picking through the pile — not taking things to their destinations right off the bat, but by making many separate piles of related items all around the floor. In addition to these ‘category piles’ you will also make a pile for ‘items needing more thought’ (where to assign them). You will also build a pile for ‘items to give away,’ and another for things to trash.

batch books document education

Finally, after many hours work when you have your house full of sorted piles and your storage spaces still empty, you can begin to assign storage locations with capacity appropriate for to the quantities of items you have for each category. The bigger the pile the bigger the storage area necessary for that particular group of related items. (This is why you make the piles first rather than take items directly to a particular storage area. Only when you are done sorting into piles will you know how large a storage area will be needed for each pile.)

Well our lives can get all a-clutter too! They can lose their focus and start going in many directions at once. It becomes time for a personal inventory and resorting.

bible book close up eyeglasses

One definition for “organization” is “a group that is ordered around a particular purpose.” As a new or seasoned follower of Christ you have a new “particular purpose.” Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33). This is the central pile from which to sort out all the other components of your life. Some parts will need to be trashed, some may be gifted to others. But the stuff you hold on to will have renewed focus and purpose.

It’s a big task, but you are not alone in working at it. You have Christ Himself, His indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Word of God to help you. You have the wisdom and fellowship of other believers to guide and encourage you, and you have the hope of eternity to inspire you.

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12, 13).

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, 4/4/19 – Discipleship: Freedom

The original hymn “Amazing Grace” was written in 1772 by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton and published in 1779.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see

20190402_080932Newton was born in 1725, he had a troubled childhood, in his 20s he tried to desert the Royal Navy, was abandoned by his crew in W Africa, became a slave trader’s servant, he was eventually rescued, cried out to God during severe storm at sea, but became a slave ship master for several years. After a violent illness at sea in 1754 he abandoned the slave trade and devoted his life to serving God. Newton was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764 and wrote some 280 hymns including “Amazing Grace.”

20190403_130339Newton fought alongside William Wilberforce to abolish slavery and lived to see the British passage of the Slave Trade Act before he died in 1807. The hymn was set to its popular tune by William Walker in 1835.

There have been many renditions of this classic over the years. Familiar to many is the contemporary “Amazing Grace (My Chain’s are Gone)” version released in 2006 by Chris Tomlin & Louie Giglio. After its second stanza an added refrain explodes in exuberant praise,

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

Link here to a you tube video of the song.

What are these people singing about? Why are they so emotionally thrilled?

It is because of this very fact of freedom… of chains now gone. They celebrate the great truth that “…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2:4-5)

grayscale photo of the crucifix

God has done all the work. The Christian is set free from fear of death, of punishment, of self-effort to please an angry God. Paul reiterates, “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork…” (Eph. 2:8-10)

They have seen that God is not angry. Christ took the wrath. He has done all the work, reaching out to us when Him doing so would be the last thing we might ever have imagined God would do, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8).

We give up trying, we acknowledge the myth of the “self-made” man. We surrender to Him only to find that all the while He was chasing us not to punish but to offer pardon! Now He is ours and we are His for eternity. “God, who called me here below / Will be forever mine

The relationship is no longer judicial, but personal. We no longer desire sin… we are freed by the attraction of a greater love… a love which satisfies. We do not wait for eternity to begin at death. Eternity has begun now. “You are forever mine.” The Tomlin rendition ends.

We are free! Sin is no longer the thing which we want. Our new desire is to do what we ought.

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, 3/28/19 – Discipleship: Assurance

20190327_072547I sat in the surgeon’s examination room waiting for him to come in to discuss operating on my rotator cuff. My family doctor had referred me to this man. He had already viewed the x-rays. He could see what the problem was inside me, beneath my pain and limitations. Today he would offer what he could do about it.

20190327_072738I glanced around the little room as I shivered a bit, shirtless. On the walls, in stark, black frames, hung numerous certificates and recognitions assuring me of this man’s competence to correct what was wrong within me. I had spoken with others too, folk who had experienced his surgery. Not one regretted the touch of his hands… the incisions of his blade. All had been remarkably improved by surrendering their futures to him. These testimonies also bolstered my confidence that what he’d done for others he could also do for me.

But I wanted to hear it from his own lips. I wanted to —

man wearing white long sleeved shirt

Just then the doctor entered…

“Yes,” he smiled. “I can help you.”

A few moments later as I reached for my jacket hanging on the waiting room coat rack the receptionist called to me. My signature was required on a ‘consent for surgery’ form. I signed it gladly. There was nothing I could do to fix myself, and it was clear from testimonies and documentation that this man could help me. But also, today I had looked him in the eyes. I had heard the words of assurance directly from his mouth, directed specifically to me. I trusted he was what was claimed, and I entrusted myself to his power.

Jesus is often referred to as ‘The Great Physician.’ In fact, He is very God… our Creator (John 1:3; Col. 1:16). He can see what the problem is deep inside you, beneath your pain and limitations. Millions testify to what He has done in them, and can do in you. Not one has regretted the touch of His Hands… the incisions of his blade. He has told you what He can do. He invites you with His own lips… He says,

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Several months rest and rehabilitation were required following my surgery. There was some pain, some stiffness, and a good bit of relearning how to do things… how to live. But none of these facts shook my assurance in this physician. He had helped me like none other could.

opened bible on wooden surfaca

In this world the Christian will continue to suffer, to experience discomforts, to battle inner and outer sins and evils. But none of these should shake our assurances. Christ is on His Throne. He has made and is making us — and all things — new… for eternity.

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. / I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-13).

“…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings… Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:22, 23).

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, 3/21/19 – Discipleship: The Soon Return of Christ

grayscale photo of luxury car

A minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him in front of the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.

“Reverend,” said the young man, “sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”

The minister chuckled, “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.”

trees under starry sky

The Soon Return of Jesus Christ is one of God’s sure promises we discussed yesterday: “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Luke 12:40). The second coming of Christ is as certain in scripture as was His first appearance in this world as an infant some 2,000 years ago. Yet through many centuries worldly-minded souls have neglected to prepare for it.

burial cemetery countryside cross

Whether one lives to see Christ’s second advent or not, one’s own mortality should be abundantly and undeniably clear. “All flesh is like grass,” says scripture (Isa. 40:7,8; 1 Peter 1:24), it withers quickly. “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” writes James (James 4:14).

But the soul lives on. Job realized this centuries before Christ’s birth:

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

The soul-shaking truth of humanity is this: “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27, KJV).

black and white cemetery christ church

Yet the very next verse brings hope: “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” (v.28). Note well: this salvation is not to everyone, only “to those who are waiting for Him.” Are you waiting for Him? Do you acknowledge that you have fallen short… that apart from Him you are indeed a sinner… you need a Saviour, a Mediator between yourself and God?

Come to Him today and whether you live to see His promised return to this world or die to meet Him in the next you will be ready for the trip.

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, 3/14/19 – Discipleship: God’s Will

20190308_184509On December 15, 2000 The movie “What Women Want” was released. Mel Gibson played advertising executive Nick Marshall who, after experiencing an electrical shock, gains the ability to hear what women are thinking.

20190308_184427Just last month, on February 8, 2019 the obvious counterpart movie “What Men Want” was released. In this flick Taraji P. Henson plays sports agent Ali Davis who, after drinking a strange concoction, gains the ability to hear what men are thinking.

Figuring out what’s going on in the head of the opposite sex can certainly be daunting. (My wife and I will be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary next month, but on good days I’m still only scoring maybe 60% !)

Yet the Christian is commissioned with what seems a comparatively monumental task. “Find out what pleases the Lord,” writes Paul, “…do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Eph. 5:10, 17). As Christians, we need to hear what God is thinking!

Paul next goes on to tell us not to get drunk but to instead “be filled with the Spirit” (v.18). I wonder, do you suppose the Holy Spirit might have something to do with a child of God understanding the Will of God?

bible blur book christian

Then look where Paul goes next in his epistle – right into that whole men and women relationship thing! He seems to be saying that the marriage union is very much like the union between Christ and His people, the Church. Turns out that knowing God… knowing His Will… is really all about this learning the ropes of a united relationship. “The two will become one”(v.31), cites Paul from Gen. 2:24.

We have many helps in learning to grow in knowledge and in relationship with God: we have prayer, we have His written Word, we have other godly believers who have walked this path before us, and we have the Holy Spirit Who helps us in all of these and Who Himself whispers directions in our ear… “a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isa. 30:21).

There are many other things to learn about knowing the Will of God and following Him. If you have never been discipled one-on-one with another believer why not consider doing so. (See below.) Discipleship is for new as well as seasoned believers who may wish to consolidate or review the fundamentals of their faith with a fellow believer.

Discipleship also equips you to be a discipler of someone else, as Jesus commanded, “Go, and make disciples…” (Matt. 28:19). — It’s part of God’s Will.

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, 3/7/19 – Discipleship: Evangelism

Many “new” or “renewed” believers find the topic of Evangelism rather unsettling. The very word calls to their mind images of huge gatherings in stadiums or tents as a fiery Bible-waving preacher sputters and sweats over a podium. “I could never do that,” they say. Yet, there it is… the Great Commission to all believers, Christ’s last words and wishes — the last will of the first risen testator.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:19, 20a).

bird s eye view of group of people

“That must just be a command for people gifted to preach,” one might say. But no… He is speaking to His disciples… to those who follow Him… those who love Him and have committed to obeying Him. Yes, there are those specifically gifted and subsequently called to mass meeting, perhaps cross-cultural, itinerant evangelism, but we are all called to share, to testify, to Christ… to be lights to a dark, dark world. (Matt. 5:16).

close up of teenage girl

Peter knew the stomach churning regret of having evaded this duty. He thrice renewed his commitment and was strengthened. He spoke and now continues to speak: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet. 3:15).

So, you may ask, if not a mass crusade gathering what does evangelism look like expressed in my life, my world, my situation?

On page 101 of the First Steps One-on-One Discipleship adventure we are urged, “Ask the Lord to give you a burden for one person” and then “Commit to … praying” for this person (and perhaps others) “for whom the Lord has given you a burden.”

Admit it. The spiritual condition of every individual you run into in a day does not keep you up late every night with worry. That is as it should be. That would be a burden far too great to bear. As Jethro said to an overwrought Moses, “…you will only wear yourselves out….you cannot handle it alone.” (Exod. 18:18).

two women sitting and chatting near table

But God does have a mission for each believer. We must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit: Who in our sphere is He convicting this day. What or how much is our role to play. “Always be prepared,” says Peter. How? He prefaces this with “…in your hearts revere Christ as Lord”… or, “Sanctify [or set apart] the Lord in your heart…

photo of men having conversation

We ask God to guide us, we make ourselves clean and available vessels ready for use, and as He leads, we speak. To His disciples about to face persecution and make defense of the gospel Jesus said, “…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matt.10:19) [See also Mark 13:11 & Luke 12:11,12].

Invite the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers for a specific individual. Pray faithfully for this person, and for specific opportunities to open to you. Keep short accounts with the Lord by confessing and avoiding known sin. When an opportunity appears, simply share Christ trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results with God.

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.