Thursday, 5/2/19 – Discipleship: Fellowship

The word we translate “fellowship” in most Bibles has its roots in the Greek term “koinõnia.” I discussed this word in a previous blog last December. But the English term “fellowship” also holds lessons for us.

people silhouette during sunsetOur English word “fellowship” dates back to around the beginning of the 13th century. Back then it looked like this: “feolahschipe.” Yeah, that’s the correct spelling. It meant “companionship,” i.e. “a body of companions.”
The word referred more to the “spirit of comradeship,” the “friendliness” of being and sharing together.

When the suffix “-ship” is added to a noun, it serves to establish status or condition. In the case of the noun “fellow” the suffix takes three forms:

○ Indicating a state or a condition, e.g. to be in a friendship.
○ Indicating the qualities of a class of people, e.g. craftsmanship.
○ Indicating office or profession, e.g. ambassadorship.

All three of these also appear in Christian fellowship. Each forms an aspect of why fellowship is an essential part of discipleship, and underscores the urgency of the command as the day of Christ’s return draws nearer…

“…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)

group of people sitting on white mat on grass field

We need to gather together with other believers to enjoy their friendship – as friends we do things together, go places together, share with one another and simply enjoy the good pleasure of being with good people who share in our one common faith. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

adult art artisan artist

We need to gather together with other believers to enjoy their craftsmanship – what I have in mind here are the unique spiritual gifts God has given to each believer. No one possesses all spiritual gifts for God has assembled His Body, the Church, in such a way that we need each other. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Cor. 12:21)

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

We need to gather together with other believers to develop our ambassadorship – Paul twice uses the term “ambassador” to describe his testimony in this world (2 Cor. 5:20, Eph. 6:20). Peter reminds us that we who have made Christ our Lord are now citizens of another kingdom: “…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9). Because we represent this new kingdom to this lost world, he urges us “as foreigners and exiles… abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11). To be the best ambassadors possible for our Lord Jesus Christ we need each other to keep us accountable, walking a life of purity and power before a lost humanity.

Whether you are a believer new or seasoned do not abandon the fellowship of the family of God. You need it! You need it for pleasure, for service, for purity. As fellow Bible College alumnus of mine once stated, “We need fellowship sometimes more than we want it.” (Don Horban)

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, 4/25/19 – Discipleship: Prayer

Lord, what can I write today about prayer?

belief bible book business

I feel so inadequate to write any of these weekday blogs, yet You have always flooded me with something… I Thank You Lord for using me in this way. I feel so weak these days… there are so many other things I desire to do and would do if I could count on stamina! I wish the rain would stop. We don’t have any flooding (and I thank You for that!), But I am so wearied by the gloomy skies, the poor conditions for walking and talking with You nearer to nature…

What can I write about prayer…

silhouette image of person praying

Many I have spoken with say They do not know how to pray…. One man said, “I don’t know any prayers.” What is he thinking? Prayers are not pre-scripted. I tried to tell the man that prayer is just talking. He and I were talking. He had the knowledge and ability to talk… and prayer is just talking to You… or, like I am doing now… writing to You… like a letter, but You reply even as I write…

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Ps. 138:7-10)

praying man looking up

Thank You Lord for always being ever so near… accessible. Sometimes we do not even need to talk… or write… we just sit together… or when we walk together… sometimes you will point out a lesson in Your Creation as we pass by.. like the broken tree yet not fallen because it is being supported by its brothers, the surrounding wood. Or, the patient way the deer nibbles at the grass… or the robin pulling a worm… these creatures all resting confident in Your provision… one day at a time.

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” (Ps. 145:15)

But what can I write about prayer… to show that it is so simple. In fact, everything that is true of the gospel is simple… made for a child. It is simply to say ‘Thank You,’ to know day by day to trust, and make things right when one strays. Even your punishments are loving.

“…the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son…. God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” (Heb. 12:6, 10)

Thank You.

Prayer is like breathing… the Word is food… Your Spirit gives rest. All are so simple…

Anyway… what can I write about prayer?

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, 4/18/19 – 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.