Thursday, 7/4/19 – Discipleship: Fellowship

Fellowship

man in brown long sleeved button up shirt standing while using gray laptop computer on brown wooden table beside woman in gray long sleeved shirt sitting

“Why should I go to church? I can worship God right here as I do my gardening Sunday morning.” Or, “I can worship God just by going for a walk in nature. Why should I waste a morning in church? I’ve only got the weekend for my chores… the family… to go shopping…”

I’m sure you’ve heard statements like these, but how do you respond? Do you retort with a list of reasons? Or, are you a bit shaken, thinking that possibly the speaker may be correct?

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A few years ago Rich Langton published a list of “99 Reasons You Should go to Church This Weekend” on the Hillsong.com website. See below for the complete link, but here’s the first 25 to get you started…

1. The Bible indicates it’s what we should do. (Hebrews 10:25)
2. You will have the opportunity to worship God.
3. You will likely have some of life big questions answered.
4. The preaching of the Bible will help set direction for your life.
5. You will probably make some new friends.
6. You’ll probably see some old friends.
7. Being there is a sign of your discipleship.
8. Being there will encourage your pastors and leaders.
9. You’ll be encouraged in your walk with God.
10. You’ll likely encourage other people in their walk with God.
11. If you’re single, you may meet someone.
12. It will help you define what you believe.
13. It will help you understand the Bible.
14. If you have kids, it will teach them to value God and His Church.
15. People who attend church usually live longer (I didn’t make this one up… google it!)
16. It will give you an outlet for service and ministry.
17. It can help you develop personal leadership.
18. You’ll sing inspirational songs that will carry you during the week.
19. It will encourage you that God is good (if it doesn’t, it should).
20. It will help you to look outside yourself.
21. It will provide an opportunity to give financially to those in need.
22. You’ll receive love from other people.
23. You’ll be able to show love toward others.
24. You’ll hear about the great things God is doing in His Church locally and throughout the earth.
25. You’ll be prayed for.

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Fellowship is necessary if you want to grow as a Christian – it is part of the plan of God, not an option. Other believers need you too in order to grow in their walk with Christ. Jesus created the Church, His Body, to function as a Body: interdependently, as one whole thing! A hand or a foot, or even an eyelash cannot survive severed from the body… and leaves the whole body diminished and suffering by its absence.

Thinking you can forego church is one problem, but even desiring to forego gathering with other believers indicates a cause for concern. In fact, scripture warns it is a sign of the last days,

“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.” (Heb. 10:24-25)

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Church is where you nourish your soul, and a soul should be hungry for nourishment! We live currently as “strangers and foreigners” in a sin-filled world. The opportunity to get away from it, to scrub up our souls, and feast on spiritual food, should send us running to the church, to Christian fellowship, encouragement, challenge worship and service whenever it is available.

Don’t neglect meeting together… encouraging one another… and all the more… Don’t neglect Christian fellowship!

Press on…

Link to Rich Langton’s “99 Reasons…” post here: https://hillsong.com/collected/blog/2014/09/99-reasons-you-should-go-to-church-this-weekend/#.XRSiUGiVmf0

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, 6/27/19 – Discipleship: Prayer

In September 2007 the TV sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’ made its debut. The show featured two Mensa calibre physicists Sheldon and Leonard employed at the California Institute of Technology. These boys are geeks to the core, but Sheldon is an especial piece of work!

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Though adept at genius calculations in quantum physics and numerous other complex theorems that few if any viewers would comprehend, Sheldon is inept at social interaction. He approaches it with Spock-like rote memorization of social rules which he attempts to strictly apply–usually with devastating or insulting results!

Penny: “Guess what ?”
Sheldon: “I don’t guess. As a scientist I reach conclusions based on observation and experimentation. Although, as I’m saying this, it occurs to me that you may have been employing a rhetorical device, rendering my response moot.”

The show aired its 279th and final episode just this past May after a twelve year run. Some 23.4 million viewers tuned in. With that kind of viewership I’m thinking a good number of you may get the picture when I say it has been my observation that much of Christendom’s praying resembles Sheldon’s attempts at social interactions.

praying man looking up

I’ve heard some Christians “praying” The Lord’s Prayer or dutifully reciting text previously written in full ‘King James’ jargon as if it were an incantation or awkward and somber soliloquy? Why? Well… thats the way “its” done, right? But, do you talk like to any human person like that? Do you talk that way to a baby… to a dog?

“Big Bang” praying is distant, emotionless, impersonal and mechanical. It sounds more like a recital than a relationship. I don’t think folk are trying to be hypocritical, but many believers just don’t understand what a simple and natural thing prayer is.

Talk to Him with respect but also with closeness and privileged intimacy. Yes, He is a great King of kings, but, miracle of miracles, He has also adopted all who trust in Him into His Royal Family!

In the book of Hebrews we read “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence…” (Heb. 4:16a), and “Jesus is not ashamed to call them [i.e. those trusting in Him for salvation] brothers and sisters.” (Heb. 2:11). While He was yet among us in bodily form on this earth Jesus comforted His disciples, saying “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). And He promises us, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:14).

Talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. After all, He is, isn’t He?

Press on…

20190522_065320Are 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, 6/20/19 – Discipleship: the Bible

20190618_194246Canadian rock star Bryan Adams sings “…it cuts like a knife / But it feels so right…” He s singing about his bittersweet acceptance of his girlfriend breaking up with him in favour of another. Losing her is severing, but deep down he knows it is for the best.

How easily and swiftly even as Christians we can sometimes fall prey to allures that are really not good for us at all. This world is a landmine field of such snares. When unwholesome loves get hold of our hearts it takes the Word of God to excise them. It too “cuts like a knife…” it performs surgery like a scalpel, and it slays like a sword.

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” urges Paul (Eph. 6:17). And in Hebrews we read, “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).

20190618_195111A “double-edged sword” is typically a narrow, straight, flat sword with a blade on each side which comes to a sharp point. These features make it an excellent weapon for accuracy and deep penetration. A “double-edged sword” can be thrust through gaps in armour and wielded with greater versatility than a single-edged weapon. In battle a “double-edged sword” can whip backwards as well as slash in an arc. It’s ability to also thrust make it a useful weapon even in very tight environments.

Idiomatically the phrase “double-edged sword” refers to something that has or can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences. It “cuts both ways,” as we sometimes say. It can have both a desirable and an undesirable effect. The medicine may cure the disease but also bring uncomfortable side-effects.

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The Word if God can seem to be having this effect as it inspires our souls, guides us or brings comfort yet convicts us of areas of stubborn will or practices of sin which are unyielding. Its work is similar to that of the Holy Spirit, “to convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

The Word of God exposes all: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)

What should be our response to its incising work? We need to admit like Bryan, “…it cuts like a knife / But it feels so right…”

God has our best interests in mind. Let His Word do its work…. often.

Press on…

20190522_065320Are 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, 6/13/19 – Discipleship: Priorities

20190610_130207Christ gave this directive to every believer: “Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33). It is a command. Yes, it is s command with a promise: “…seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” But it is a command first. That fact is right in the command itself: “Seek first…” It is the command’s essential aspect.

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Still, many believers, new and seasoned, get these aspects reversed. They read “Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” But They think “The way to obtaining ‘all these things’ is to seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness.”

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In that subtle mental flip-flop they have defied the command. They have placed first the obtaining of ‘all these things’ and placed second the ‘seeking of His Kingdom’ as a means to that usurping first end. In this self-deception they have committed a ‘coup’ against the Kingdom.

God is most certainly wiser than I, but I sometimes wonder why He did not simply say, “Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness,” and stop at that? For this is a command and we are to obey it whether or not we are rewarded with ‘all these things.’

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And just what are ‘all these things’ anyway? He did not say “all things” will be given you — as if you now had His services as some sort of divine genie. No, He said ‘all these things‘… all the aforementioned sorts of things.

He had been speaking of human worry and he had just made mention of the worry-less state of His natural creation. Don’t chase after money, chase after God, He had taught and then adds,

…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. …See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. …So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them… (See Matt. 6:25-32)

It is here that He commands what we must do instead… what we must do instead of worry. “But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness…” When we make this quest our first priority ‘all these things’ — all the necessities of life: food, drink, shelter and adornment — will be provided for us, and provided abundantly.

Press on…

20190522_065320Are 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, 6/6/19 – Discipleship: Freedom

20190605_161446Perhaps you heard about the poor squirrel who was found under a vehicle in St Andrew’s last month by a couple of teens. The poor animal must have run through some still wet foam insulation which dried quickly on its body making it near impossible for it to move at all! It had got into so much of the stuff that it was hardly even recognizable anymore as a squirrel!

20190605_161523Thankfully Jaydon Pettipas and Aiden Hart came along, spotted the squirrel and took action. They contacted the closest veterinarian clinic in St George some 33 km away and brought the poor creature in immediately. Dr. Melanie Egan had never seen anything like this before in fact it was the first squirrel ever to be treated in the clinic. Using rubbing alcohol and gentle combing she was finally able to free the animal from its rock-hard, certain death prison. The squirrel was eventually released near the clinic.

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Jesus said this: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36). He taught that sin had gripped a hold of us, it had hardened around us and there was nothing we could do to break free. The law had taught us how holy we had to be but we were helpless to obey it perfectly. Jesus came with the authority to make a new way… to die in our place… to appease the Justice of the Father, clean us up and set us free. One day He will indeed make us actually holy!

Paul reminds the new believers in Galatia not to return to attempting to obey the law… attempting to behave themselves holy. He’s telling them forget it; it won’t work. You’ve tried that already and you know it doesn’t work. Don’t go back. Trust Christ’s substitution before God as the way he has made for you. Stay away from attempts at self-righteousness.

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The King James translation puts it like this: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (KJV). The New International has it: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (NIV). I rather like the direct simplicity of the New Life Version: “Christ made us free. Stay that way.” (NLV).

20190605_161556I hope that poor squirrel learned to stay away from construction sites — and especially to stay away from foam insulation! Likewise we as redeemed people of God must avoid sin and must avoid all the attempts to please God through our own righteousness. Christ has done it all!

Christian, Christ has made you free! Stay that way!

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, 5/30/19 – Discipleship: Assurance

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial: a dancing trio clad in pink jumpsuits clutch chest, stomach, derriere, and sing “When you have nausea, heartburn indigestion, upset stomach diarrhea….yeah…” Its an ad for a popular stomach-coating antacid.

20190528_142753The dance reminds me of what some have labelled the 21st century ‘Macarena’ as panicking palms pat breast pocket, front then rear pant pockets seeking reassurance they have neither forgot nor lost cellphone, keys and wallet. If any one of these come up “lump-less” sheer panic sets in for it means they have left one of these items behind!

20190526_064738It’s much worse when you actually forget a person! (Remember that first “Kevin!” moment in the 1990 film Home Alone?) Jesus got left behind once too. He was only 12 when he went with Mary and Joseph to the Passover Festival. Luke picks up the narrative in chapter two…

After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:43-46)

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The only way to retrieve forgotten things is to return to the place where they were left behind. If you left home without them, then to home you must go to retrieve them.

The Christian’s assurance is that Christ goes with him. Are you conscious of His Presence as you go about your day? Have you brought Him with you?

God in the Morning
Ralph Spaulding Cushman

I met God in the morning
When my day was at its best,
And His presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O’er a very troubled sea.

Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them
Brought to us a peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings,
With the Presence left behind.

So I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day!

Do you want that deep assurance resting within you each day? Seek Him early every morning.

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, 5/23/19 – Discipleship: The Soon Return of Christ.

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On page 127 of the First Steps discipleship manual an illustration entitled “Burning House” is given:

If you walk along a street and peer through a window, you might see a family eating dinner together. You would probably not want to knock on the door because disturbing the family at this time just wouldn’t seem right. Many Christians don’t witness because they just don’t want to disturb people.

However, if you continued to look at the house and then noticed a fire on the opposite end of the house, you would immediately disturb the family because their lives are in danger.

When we believe and hope for the soon return of Jesus, we don’t feel as bad about disturbing our friends, co-workers, and family members because their eternal lives are in danger.

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The thing is, we are not noticing the flames!

Instead, we focus on the family… Ooh… what nice dinette set, is that steak? Are they eating steak? Why is God so unfair as to bless these sinners with such good things? Where’s my fine furniture, my sumptuous meal?

Sounds an awful lit like the prodigal’s older brother, doesn’t it? Hear him griping to his father…

Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Luke 15:29-30).

20190522_071715Replied the father, “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:31,32).

Saint, have you also forgotten your sure inheritance? The mansions of splendor? … the marriage feast of the Lamb? But for these remains only a place made for the devil, fire, torment, grinding teeth! God is doing all He can to woo the ignorant to see the fire and run to Him.

Are you doing yours?!

Press on…

20190522_065320Are 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.