Thursday, 2/28/19 – Discipleship: Fellowship

20190226_164939The best case scenario for a manned expedition to Mars estimates it would take about 300 days to get to Mars from the Earth. Another 500 days would likely be spent on Mars before beginning the 300 day return trip to Earth. N.A.S.A. is understandably very interested in the effects of long-term social isolation and confinement as it relates to space journeys of great distances.

Medically, isolation and loneliness can lead to higher stress hormones, inflammation, heart disease, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. Isolation can increase susceptibility to chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, and even lead to premature death.

adult alone anxious black and white

Mentally, isolation can result in depression, dementia, social anxiety, and low self-esteem. Human beings need social contact to survive. Infants deprived of sufficient physical contact can fail to thrive and die. Prisoners in extensive solitary confinement have experienced hallucinations, insomnia, traumatic stress, PTSD, and demonstrated difficulty telling time.

All of this should come as no surprise to the Christian. Moments after the creation of Adam God announced, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18). After everything else he had created he said “It is good,” but not so when he created man and man was alone.

men s white button up dress shirt

So it should come as no surprise as well that Christians need to be with other Christians and on a regular basis. The Bible calls this “fellowship.” It is a fellowship with one another, but much more than that: “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). Christian fellowship is yet another foundational component of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:41,42).

Just as God answered Adam’s need for fellowship by creating Eve, so Christ provides for our need of fellowship. The Church — of which your local church is a part — is God’s creation to meet our need for Christian fellowship. He calls her His Bride, “the Bride of Christ.”

group of people raise their hands on stadium

Paul drives this analogy tightly home in his letter to the Ephesians: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:31-32)

Just as a man loves his wife so Christ loves His Church, and both the man and Christ want their bride to be intact… all one piece… not with various parts of it working at cross-purposes to other parts! So Christ desires His Church to be in loving fellowship… in unity with itself and acting as one. You as a believer in Jesus Christ are a part of this Church. It is a Church bigger than your local church, bigger than your community, bigger than all the churches on the Earth today! It is a Church that spans back into time and stretches ahead into the future… a Church of all believers from all places and all times! It is the Church of the Living 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.

Thursday, 2/21/19 – Discipleship: Prayer

photograph of men having conversation seating on chair

I have plans to meet with a buddy of mine over coffee this morning… in fact I may just be meeting with him now as you read this blog. We usually get together once a week and we often keep in touch electronically through the week. We’ve gotten to know each other fairly well over the years. We’re interested in each other’s lives, try to help each other out when tough decisions are necessary. And when life hurts, we support each other… sometimes by just hurting along with the other person.

coffee lifestyle starbucks coffee shop

Sometimes we have big news to share; sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we need to ask a favor… or sometimes forgiveness. My buddy and I are friends. We don’t need to dress up or talk formal when we meet. We don’t have to plan ahead of time what we will say or even what we will talk about. We can be ourselves… completely. We enjoy being together.

alone calm faith light

Often a brand new Christian will tell me they don’t know how to pray. But God is just as eager as me and my buddy to hear what’s on their mind. You don’t have to dress up, plan ahead, use unfamiliar words or be afraid of doing it wrong. You are just learning, and God will encourage you each step of the way.

What parent is not delighted to hear their babe’s first word… first sentence… and how adorably they add and stumble about with vocabulary. No parent would scold a child for poor grammar! Chatting with God is just the same.

Yes, Jesus had an answer when His disciples asked Him how to pray. But real prayer is not in some formula. Real prayer is just you and God in honest relationship. He s interested in every part of your day, every effort you take to grow, and ready to forgive when you mess up. He wants to help you with your tough decisions, even weep with you when you hurt. He is, after all, your best Friend.

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, 2/14/19 – Discipleship: the Bible

opened bible on wooden surfaca

The King James Bible was commissioned in 1604 and first published in 1611. Many of the original words and spellings in the 1611 version would seem very odd to us today…

“That which we haue seene and heard, declare we vnto you, that ye also may haue fellowship with vs; and truely our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Sonne Iesus Christ.” – original, 1611

The 1769 update was less cumbersome, containing slightly ‘modernized’ spellings and word forms…

“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

The 1982 update (NKJV) is the most contemporary and has further ‘modernized’ spellings and word forms.

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

photo of child reading holy bible

Though numerous other translations are available today the King James is still the favorite of many. One narrow-minded fan once referred to it alone as the ‘Holy’ Bible and added, “If it was good enough for St. Paul then it’s good enough for me.” But of course Paul did not have a KJV or any other Bible. He had access to only a few hand-written parchment copies of books of the Old Testament in Aramaic, and they were precious to him. As he requested of Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (see 2 Tim. 4:13)

But to best understand the nuances of scriptural vocabulary one must return to the language in which the New Testament was initially written: Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament.

person holding opened book

I believe that the rule of Rome and the subsequent introduction of Greek as the dominant language was all very much a part of “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) Paul mentions in preparation for Christ’s entry into this world and the propagation of the gospel which followed.

Greek, you see, is a most rich, precise and nuanced language. A single Greek word can require several words in another language to fully convey its meaning when translated. This is one reason so many Bible versions are possible and why cross referencing them is helpful in studying a passage.

What a great God we have Who pays such attention to detail and works all things to restore us to fellowship with Him! How He must love us! He wants nothing more! “He devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” (2 Samuel 14:14).

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.

Thursday, 2/7/19 – Discipleship: Priorities

hand pen writing plant

Some days when I get home from a good walk, or from driving about on errands, I am eager first thing to visit the washroom! You probably know the feeling.

Yet, urgent as this may be, it is not in such a moment the first thing I will do. Before this priority can be satisfied I must shut the front door, remove backpack and boots, hang jacket and headwear, check the room is not occupied, then wash my soiled hands. Only then can I give what is most important the attention it requires.

man wearing black and white stripe shirt looking at white printer papers on the wall

Our priorities can often get jumbled by the necessities of life. But the disciple of Christ must keep clearly in focus the things that in God’s eyes are most primary. We must seek His Will above our own.

A key verse regarding this is Matthew 6:33 “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

belief bible book business

At first, this takes discipline, but soon it becomes habit; eventually it becomes our desire. God transforms us, “renews our minds,” then what Jesus said becomes true in our hearts: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7). Why? Because our will becomes aligned with God’s will. The things we desire will be the things of the kingdom of God.

Our journey to maturity in Christ is progressive. It requires our diligence and transforms our desires. Consider the steps and goals along the way in the following passages:

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

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly…” (1 Cor. 3:1-3a)

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” (Heb. 5:12)

“…let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” (Heb. 6:1)

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

“…one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13,14)

“…what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…” (1 Cor. 15:3,4)

Again, Matthew 6… “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. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mart. 6:31-34)

Our Discipleship training manual challenges us to “Make a commitment to base every major decision on Matthew 6:33.” (p.46) When we do this, determining life’s priorities becomes much clearer.

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, 1/31/19 – Discipleship: Freedom

20190130_184531Going in circles…

Yesterday I drove the new double lane roundabout in town. I had been on it as a passenger, but this was my first time driving it. Some months back the city of Fredericton created a website to educate folk on how to use it. The right of way rules of the roundabout are these:

• If turning left, you must enter the roundabout from the left lane;
• If turning right, you must enter the roundabout from the right lane;
• If traveling straight, you can enter the roundabout from either lane.

I followed these rules and driving it was not difficult at all. The roundabout works smoothly so long as everyone knows and follows the same right of way rules. Not so smooth though if each driver thinks s/he has a ‘right’ to take any lane they choose.

Many folk are like that when it comes to thinking they have a ‘right’ to do what they want.

man couple people woman

“I’m ‘free’ to do what I want!” “You’re not the boss of me.” “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” “Don’t tell me what to do.” “I’ve got my own truth!” But demanding one has a ‘right’ to gratify one’s lusts does not create a right where there isn’t one.

God has standards and we have fallen short of them. We do not have a right to snub our noses at Him, and disregard His laws and principles. What we call a ‘right’ is really an arrogance. Our free will enables us to do things that we have no right to do at all!

achievement confident free freedom

But in our fallenness we think these demands are declarations of freedom… freedom to do what we want. But the kind of freedom the believer in Christ has is not a freedom to do what one wants, rather it is a freedom to do what one ought.

The Christian knows there is a God and that He has requirements. The most rudimentary of these are the Ten Commandments. Ten things we are obliged to do, but cannot. The desire to do what we want gets in the way of doing what we ought.

But the Christian also knows that in yielding themselves to Christ He works within them, changing their desires, empowering their will, giving them ability to do what they ought.

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act
in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:13)

They also find that in that obedience there is a joy far greater than any self-satisfaction — and their life stops going in circles!

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, 1/24/19 – Discipleship: Assurance

grey metal case of hundred dollar bills
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Suppose you just inherited a million bucks… tax free. It’s in your bank account now.

Everything else in your life is just as it was the day before. You still have that car repair appointment to keep, you still pass the same three needy folk on the street as you walk from the parkade to your office, the cash in your retirement fund is still inadequate by itself, and there is still that overdue $400 tax bill to settle.

adult beanie crisis despair

Yesterday you worried about how much that car repair was going to cost; yesterday you passed all three of those needy folk as you usually do; yesterday you tried not to think about retirement needs, and you wondered what other bills you could juggle to keep the CRA happy.

bank notes banknotes bills cash

But today you are rich! You have a resource well able to take care of all these things. You have a new confidence, you walk a bit lighter, take greater notice of the needs of others, and you begin to imagine what before was unimaginable.

Assurance is a wonderful thing! Assurance brings confidence. But assurance of one’s salvation is far more valuable than all the bucks in the bank this world can offer! Assurance is the root that supports the plant.

John said about the gospel account he had written, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31). Years later he wrote again, giving a similar explanation,

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. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:13-15)

God wants us to be confident in Him, in His love and good plans. But we can so quickly forget!

Peter wrote to believers who had scattered because of persecution, saying,

So 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. (2 Pet. 1:12-15)

belief bible book business

Seems we must always go back to these basics, knowing who we are and whose we are, going deeper, knowing in head and knowing in heart, deeper, deeper returning and resting. Isaiah wrote and Paul cited, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9 NASB; Isa. 64:4).

Paul prayed, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

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We have barely begun to know God! What lay ahead seems such an incredibly long journey. How good it is that we have an eternity to work at it! God Himself will transform us. As Paul confidently asserts “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)

Yes, assurance is a wonderful thing! Assurance brings confidence. You know that you know what you know! You know in your head and you know in your heart. As Alfred Ackley composed in 1933: “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” (Alfred Ackley, He Lives 1933)

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, 1/17/19 – Discipleship: The Soon Return of Christ

multicolored abacus photography
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A devotional I read recently referenced John MacArthur’s book, The Second Coming (1999). In it MacArthur summarizes nine items which await the second coming of Christ:

1. The Promise of God.
2. The Teaching of Christ.
3. The Testimony of the Holy Spirit.
4. The Program for the Church.
5. The Corruption in the World.
6. The Future of Israel.
7. The Vindication of Christ.
8. The Destruction of Satan.
9. The Hope of the Saints.

Some 300 Biblical prophecies regarding the first coming of the Messiah were all fulfilled in Christ. Our Discipleship manual refers to Peter Stone’s book, Science Speaks, in which he describes the odds of just eight of these prophecies occurring by chance (the birth in Bethlehem, a ministry preceded by a messenger, entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, betrayal by a friend, the price of 30 pieces of silver, money thrown in the temple, his silence before accusers, and the piercing of hands and feet.)

scientific calculator ii
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The odds of these eight occurring in the life of one individual are 1 in 10 to the 17th power, or one in one hundred quadrillion. That’s 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000!

Remember, that’s the likelihood of just these eight prophecies being fulfilled, yet all 300 were fulfilled in Christ!

Many of these were events outside of anyone’s ability to control. For example, the star which led shepherds to Bethlehem, the tyranny of Herod which directed the travels of Joseph and Mary, the independent assessment of the magi, Simeon’s prophecy, and many others.

With all these faithfully coming to pass, how can anyone doubt that the second coming will also happen just as the scriptures predict, and as the Angel pronounced, “…This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

So… knowing this, what are we to do?

Peter asks, then replies to this same question: “…what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Pet. 3:11, 12)

John MacArthur resonates,

The Second Coming is not supposed to make you stop what you’re doing to wait for the Lord’s return. And neither should it motivate you to focus all your attention on the events and political developments of this world. Instead, it should prompt you to holiness as you direct your heart toward Christ, whose coming every believer anticipates with joy. – John MacArthur, The Second Coming

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.