Thursday, 9/20/18 – Discipleship: Freedom!

20180919_080157Here I am back in July of 2007 soaking wet on the summit of Mt. Head. The rugged journey which got me here was at this point only half completed.

20180919_095721Mt. Head is located midway between Mt. Carleton and Mt. Sagamook in northern New Brunswick’s Mount Carleton Provincial Park. The only way to get to it and the only way to come from it is from the summits of either of these two mountains. If you are going to get to Mt. Head you must commit to ascending and descending three mountain peaks, each approximately 8/10ths a kilometer high over some 12 to 15km of rocky terrain.

We set out from the Mt. Carleton side under a partly cloudy early morning sky following the blue and white markers along what at first was an easy uphill path. After about 3 km though the climb got steeper, rockier and more challenging. By the time we reached the first summit the sky had grown overcast.

There were two marked routes down the mountain: an easy descent down a dried riverbed led back to the base of Mt. Carleton, while the other more rugged led the way to Mts. Head and Sagamook. We chose the latter and hoped the sky might clear. It didn’t.

By the summit of Mt. Head we were completely drenched! I remember how my jeans, weighted down with water, needed to be pulled up constantly! On The descent of Mount Head I slipped on rocks and fell nine times – yes, I counted them! It had gotten to be quite comical — a little slapstick relief that spurred us along despite the ruggedness of the trail and the tiredness of our bodies!

By the summit of Mount Sagamook we just wanted this ordeal to be over! The rain had not let up at all and ahead of us yet lay a final 3 km of rocky, slippery descent. We pressed on as quickly as safety would allow, driven mostly by the thought of getting clean, dry and fed!

We made it down without incident by late afternoon and almost immediately — wouldn’t you know it — the sun came out! Soon we were indeed clean, dry and very well-fed!

20180919_101225As we sat around a campfire that evening we reminisced of the rugged day we had just completed. It felt good now to be refreshed clean, contented, and know that we had accomplished something very difficult. I was probably a better man for it — for not having given up and taken the easy riverbed route down from the summit of Mount Carleton… for having pressed on. Perhaps this is one reason God allows this life to be so difficult.

Our Creator has made us unique above the angels. He has endowed us with free will — the freedom to choose whom we will serve, the freedom to choose the broad way or the narrow way. In Christ we have the freedom to choose the right over the wrong. We have the freedom to face temptations and say ‘no’ or say ‘yes.’ We can choose courage over cowardice, love over hate, faith over fear. This power has been given to us and will not be taken from us.

“Why doesn’t God just make us perfect?” asks Owen on pg 25 of the First Steps workbook. Well, that’s exactly what He is doing! And the struggles of this life are one way he intends to accomplish it while still allowing us the freedom to choose all along the journey. When we choose rightly, when we choose what pleases Him and is best for us, He also gives us the ability. As our workbook defines “Freedom is the ability to do what you ought, not the right to do what you want.” (p.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, 9/13/18 – Discipleship: Assurance

We began this blog last Monday talking about confidence. Interestingly, the first need of a new believer is very similar: Assurance.

The first temptation of humankind was the hissing serpent’s subtle whisper “Did God really say…” then he misquotes the prohibition saying “…you must not eat from any tree…?” (Gen. 3:1). “You will not certainly die!” he lies, in fact, “you will be like God.” (v.4). But they already were like God, created in His Image! By breaking His commandment they would become far less like God.

When new life sparks its ‘new creation’ in a soul, the devil seeks to snatch the good seed away with this same old tool of doubt (see Matt. 13; Mark 4). Then he throws it back in the face of the nervous neophyte and shouts, “Aha! You are doubting! This shows you are not truly saved at all!”

But Jesus said the devil “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Doubt shows no such thing at all! Doubt means you are currently only partly confident–but you are at least partly confident! Where before there was no confidence at all or perhaps complete ignorance, now there is a light… flickering perhaps, but true light nonetheless.

Paul Tournier has said, “When there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith either.” (Paul Tournier, as quoted in Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God. p. 244.) If you are sitting in a chair you require no faith at all to believe it will support you. But if I build you a chair and tell you it will hold you, that will require at least some faith as you commit your whole body to sit in it.

The battle between faith and doubt is simply a reality of Christian experience. “We walk by faith, not by sight,” Paul reminds us (2 Cor. 5:7).

The apostle Thomas is called “doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe Christ had risen until he saw and felt the scars on Jesus’s body — which Christ later gave him opportunity to do (John 20:24-29).

In fact, all of the disciples doubted. When Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him each of the disciples in turn asked “Lord, Am I the one?” (Matt. 26:21,22), evidently uncertain of their own commitment.

The father who brought his demon possessed boy to Jesus cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-25).

John, now aged and exiled, penned from the isle of Patmos, “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 5:13). He wrote to believers… so they may know — i.e, have assurance that they were saved.

Each of these reflect the ongoing tension between faith and doubt. To combat this we all must learn to feed faith and starve doubt. As Paul reminded young Timothy: “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6) so must we.

The First Steps workbook (p.21) lists actions we can take:

1. Walk-in relationship with Jesus through prayer Bible study evangelism and fellowship.
2. Be committed to your discipleship relationship or small group.
3. Confess your difficulties, doubts, discouragements, and sins to trusted supportive believers.
4. Understand that doubt and discouragement are all part of this journey we share together as we travel toward completeness in Christ.

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” (Luke 17:5)

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, 9/6/18 – Discipleship: An Introduction…

The one-on-one discipleship ministry of Lincoln Baptist Church utilizes among other items the First Steps Discipleship Workbook. This workbook is geared to establish both new and seasoned believers who may never have been discipled in the fundamentals of one’s new life in Christ. The workbook begins by asking this searching question:

“If you were responsible to teach and train a new Christian would you know exactly what to do to maximize the chances that this new Christian would reach maturity?”

Discipleship is Christ’s clear mandate to every Christian. It is the heart of the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

Scripture urges every believer to press on to a personal maturity in Christ…
“let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” (Hebrews 6:1-3)

And to be a discipler of others…
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

The fundamentals covered are: Assurance, Freedom, Priorities, the Bible, Prayer, Fellowship, Evangelism, God’s Will, and the Return of Christ.

I have led many in discipleship meeting regularly at whatever pace is needed to instill these fundamentals but there is always need for reminders or review. That is what I hope to look at in these Thursday blogs on Discipleship.

But discipleship is not merely a matter of mastering a textbook. That alone produces only a dead faith. One-on-one discipleship adds the elements of confidential accountability and personal mentorship, prayer support and exhortation.

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.