Thursday, 10/18/18 – Discipleship: Fellowship

In 1964 Barbara Streisand released the song “People.” Originating from the play Funny Girl it’s refrain, “People who need people / Are the luckiest people in the world,” struck a chord with many. It was subsequently recorded by Andy Williams (1964), Johnny Mathis (1965), Aretha Franklin (1967) and many others.

NASA spends millions researching and experimentation to learn just how long a human can tolerate being apart from other people before it affects their mental well-being.

Inmates who transgress prison rules are sometimes placed in “Isolation,” being denied contact with other persons as a deeper punishment for their behavior.

“Isolation pay” is given to those whose employment removes them from the presence of others for extended periods of time. In fact, during WW II an error in paperwork doubled the isolation post of my father serving as a radio operator during the war. He suffered an emotional breakdown which continued the rest of his life.

Clearly, we are communal creatures. Our Creator designed us this way with purpose.

Sin however has made us think we can be independent. The vigor of youth supports this notion as we hit life feeling we can do anything! When the wheels begin to fall off, we scramble to repair them, but eventually we discover we cannot. Sadly, for many, this discovery may take their lifetime.

It is essential that every believer understand Gods design for community. Coming to Christ is not about you finding some power to make your independence successful! No, no! It is about you laying yourself before your Creator Whom you have come to see loves you, and giving to Him your life to do with as He knows best. You give Him yourself and surrender to His design for you. It is a design that includes community: brothers and sisters in a much larger Family of God, the Body of Christ of which He is the Head, His Church.

Consider the following insights from the scriptures…

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Eccles. 4:9-10)

John attributes fellowship as an aspect of his motivation in sharing the gospel: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)

Four times in his gospel (John 13:34; 15:12,17) and six times in his epistles (1 John 3:11,23; 4:7,11,12; 2 John 5) John reiterates Jesus’ command to “love one another.”

In fact a simple study of that phrase alone will give one a good idea as to the importance of fellowship and our need for “one another” as we journey this life of faith.

Scripture teaches us to be kind, even prefer one another (Rom. 12:10), greet one another (2 Cor. 13:12), bear the burdens of one another (Gal. 6:2), to forbear [put up with] one another, and forgive one another (Col. 3:13). We are to be teaching and admonishing [warning] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16), and we must comfort (1 Thess. 4:18), edify [build up, encourage] (1 Thess. 5:11), exhort (Heb. 3:13), provoke to love and good works (Heb. 10:24) one another, and to not stop meeting together (Heb. 10:25).

Throughout scripture the Church, the Family of God, is likened to a Body, of which Christ is the Head. It doesn’t take long for any one of us to realize how interconnect our bodies are. Just stub your big toe or bang your index finger with a hammer and you’ll see. (Read about this more in 1 Corinthians 12.)

Billy Graham was a great servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. After most every public preaching of the gospel Billy would add, “… and go to church this Sunday.”

Christian fellowship is essential to your spiritual growth and is another key component to discipleship.

Are you looking for a church home? Why not stop by our church, take out “three try challenge” and decide if it might be a home for you too. Whatever you decide, find yourself in a good Bible-believing, Truth-teaching church this Sunday. You need it, and it needs you!

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, 10/11/18 – Discipleship: Prayer

About once a week I get a call from a friend of mine asking me to pray for him.

I often refuse.

“I can’t pray,” my friend laments. “You are a minister; you know about that stuff. If you ask God to help me He will listen to you, and help me.”

Time and time again I tell my friend that yes indeed he can pray! If he can talk to me on the phone he can talk to God. Prayer is just simply talking to God and then listening to Him speak silently within you, or through His Word, or perhaps through another believer.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

I tell him it doesn’t matter if he thinks he’s not very good at it. God is like the parents of a little child delighting at and encouraging every first word, however feeble. I remind him that even when our burdens are too difficult for words God knows our hearts. We need only cry out to Him. As scripture says, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)

“I know The Lord’s Prayer,” my friend hopefully offers. “Well, that’s good,” I tell him, “but the important thing is to speak to God from your heart, not just recite something you have memorized.”

“I know The 23rd Psalm too… is that a prayer?” he asks, missing my point. “Maybe if you pray, and I copy after you…”

But I know this is no solution. We have done this before and my friend’s stilted echo betrays the fact that he is still only reciting words. Finally our conversation comes to an end: he still convinced he cannot pray, and I still telling him “Just talk to God.” He promises to try, but invariably I received the same call the following week.

Oh how we stumble over the most simplest of things!

We are like Martha scurrying about being busy thinking her busyness is accomplishment. But we must be like Mary. Only one thing was necessary: to sit at the feet of Jesus! (see Luke 10:38-42)

We live in an increasingly complex society. But the gospel has not changed. It is so simple: God loves us! He wants to restores us. He wants relationship with us, and He is available at every hour to have a chat.

Talk to Him today.

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, 10/4/18 – Discipleship: The “Word” of God

20181002_101943Confidence in the “Word” of God is the next foundational element of discipleship.

I have a hunch many Christians don’t fully realize just what is meant when it comes to the ‘Word’ of God. Certainly it is a term we use referring to the written Word, the revelation of God to man through the writings of inspired writers over hundreds of centuries in 66 volumes yet all in full agreement and which we commonly call ‘the Bible.’

The Word ‘Bible’ really just means a ‘Library’… a big collection of books. It is the root word from which we get the word ‘bibliography.’

But from God’s perspective the ‘Word’ of God is something much more! In fact, it is God Himself. Like the Love of God, the Word of God is God expressing Himself.

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At creation the Bible tells us that God said “Let there be…” and then ‘poof!’ There was! God expressed His Voice and things were created — things which reflected His very Nature and Being (Gen. 1:1-31).

When it came to the creation of mankind, God took a more personal ‘Hands-On’ approach: He formed man from the dust of the ground, scripture tells us (Gen. 2:7). Then again, from His mouth, God expressed Himself, He breathed into man – a living soul.

20181002_100721When “the fullness of time” had come (Gal. 4:4-5) God sent His Son into this world. John describes it like this: he says “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God expresses Himself in His Word which became flesh in His Son Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews says of this, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2)

James exhorts “…get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you (James 1:21). If we want God to be at work in our lives we must receive His Word into our hearts and obey it. James adds…

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)

Yes, the “Word” of God is God speaking to us. The Living Word, expressed in living things, reflected in nature, manifest in Christ, inscribed in the Bible, and deposited within our hearts. No Christian can be without it!

Want to learn more about the wonderful, living “Word” of God? Join us Sunday mornings as we study the video series “The God Who Speaks” in our Adult Bible Class. [10:00-10:45, Lincoln Baptist Church].

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, 9/27/18 – Discipleship: ‘The Kingdom of God’

Recently in Canadian politics a member of Parliament suddenly decided to switch parties. She left her party, walked across the floor of the House of Commons, and took a place among those of a previously opposing party. In so doing this individual now acquired a new leader. No longer did she heed the voice of the former party leader, but now she followed the voice and values and authority of a ‘new’ leader. Now she had a ‘new’ opposing party too. Everything had taken a reversal!

This is what it is like when a person comes to Christ! One turns around and leaves the old way (repents) and no longer follows the inner dictates of their own ego. Now one follows a ‘new’ leader, the Lord Jesus Christ Who now dwells within! “All things have become new!” (2 Cor. 5:17, NKJV). Paul put it like this, “He [Jesus] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13,14).

But old habits can die hard. We must train our thinking to hear and obey that sometimes still and small voice of the Spirit speaking within us. We need to feed our minds on the Word of God and recognize and obey what it teaches. We must work toward maturity as scripture says: “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb. 5:14)

Constant use… that’s how we learn any new habit – we do it over and over again. Each time it gets a little bit easier, and soon – surprisingly soon – it takes no effort at all. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

20180923_154707As we grow in this habit of listening first to the voice of God in the Scripture and through the indwelling Spirit, we are in fact learning to “seek first the kingdom of God” as Jesus taught:

Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:31-33)

We learn to appreciate more what Paul confessed “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16)! Our priorities change and decision making becomes easier.

The Kingdom of God is simply wherever God rules. Though He rules over the entire universe, He has given to us the freedom to accept His rule or refuse it. Billy Graham observed “I have never known a man who received Christ and ever regretted it.”

Neither have I.

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, 9/20/18 – 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.