Fight Time

Growing up I loved watching wrestling and boxing. One of my favorite moments was when they announced the fight was going to start. It didn’t matter if it was a bell or an announcer saying something. The start was this magical moment when the story that had been building reached its climax and the fight would begin. My favorite wrestler was Sting (Steve Borden). He just carried himself in a great way. By the way, if Steve happens to see this feel free to pop over to the site and grab a mission’s t-shirt. Anyway, my point in telling you this is that we have similar things going on in our lives. For each of us, God is always building us up for something that he wants to do. For our family it is missions but for you, it might be something different. Either way, things have been building and growing or maybe they are still building and growing but there comes a moment when its go time.

The thing to remember is that you don’t go it alone. Ephesians 1:3 and 1:13 say that we are blessed in Christ and that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. It’s a done deal. So yes, there is a go time, but we go from a place of being blessed and sealed. We don’t fight some wild fight out of anywhere. It has been building, growing, and waiting for the right time for you to move. Whatever God is doing in you and moving you to, you will have a fight time, but you fight with God for His mission.

That is amazing when we really think about it. We fight from a place of Christ’s victory. It is still scary, but it is awesome too. When we start to get scared because it doesn’t seem like things are going the right way, we have to remember three very important things. First is that Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. If you could see it then it wouldn’t be faith. Second, is Hebrews 11:6. I like the way the Message version reads – God cares enough to respond to those who seek him. Third is that failure is an option. If it wasn’t then it would not be a fight. I know that is not comforting to some, but it always makes me feel good. To know I could fail means I need to be that much more determined not too.

So, wherever you are at in the battle or whether the story is still building, it is going to be great in the end. Keep pushing into Christ. Keep fighting the good fight of faith. Keep pressing into Jesus. It might hurt and it might be scary, but God is so worth it.

Just a thought,

Mike

The cat is out of the bag

The cat is out of the bag. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But we all know the how that went. Adam and Eve ate and now we all suffer. We now have knowledge of good and evil. So, what do we do with this knowledge?

Well, there are two things we need to do with it according to Scripture. First, we must be wise about what is good and innocent of evil (Rom 16:19) and second, we must be trained to distinguish between good and evil. I must admit this seems a little confusing because Paul writes that we should be innocent of evil and the author of Hebrews says we should be able to able to distinguish between the two (Hebrews 5:15). If we need to be able to know the difference, then doesn’t that mean we won’t be innocent of evil? What’s the deal?

Have you ever heard the expression I know enough to be dangerous? It is like this – I know enough about how electricity works to know that if something goes wrong I need help. If my power shuts off I know to check the breaker box but if that is not it then I need help. The same with good and evil. We need to know enough to know what is right and wrong but not so much about what is wrong that we actually partake in it.

There are some people who think they should be completely cut off from the world and anything worldly, but I don’t think we should go that far with it. We need to know about things, but we need to make sure we are not intimately involved with those things. I can know there is a crack house in town without going there. I can know what is going on there without participating in. I can know that people who are going in that place are going to get drugs without getting drugs myself. I can know these things and then if someone tells me they were at that house I can safely assume they might need to go to rehab.

We need to know right and wrong because the cat is out of the bag. We have to know what is right and what is wrong. We learn this in large part by studying what is right, that knowledge of right helps give us an understanding of what is wrong.

Now we can use examples like a crack house but really it needs to get closer to home. God wants us to study the right things so much that He is able to shine a light on the dark things and we easily see it. God wants to sanctify us and that is just a fancy way of saying He wants to set us apart or clean us. We are sanctified in Christ but there is also an ongoing process where God strips away the old man and filth so that we are able to walk in the new life He has given us in Christ.

God wants you to study the right things so that when you are walking outside of His best for you there is a tug that makes you realize it. That tug is an awareness of the Holy Spirit saying, “hey remember what is right?” When you get upset and start dropping F-Bombs like you’re the star of an HBO show God wants you to have so studied the right things that you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in you saying “really?”

Like I said the cat is out of the bag. We now have the knowledge of good and evil so now we have to study. Let’s study the right things.

Just a thought,

Mike

Confession of Hope

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What is the confession of your hope? For me, it is not in material things or a promise of an easy life because goodness knows that is fleeting. It is not that everything will go right either. No, the confession of my hope is that I trust in Jesus. I trust in Jesus to be there when all hope seems lost. I trust in Jesus to comfort me when I morn. I trust in Jesus to make all things work together for good because I know I have been called by Him. I trust that when I said “Lord you can have my life if you want it” He said yes. I trust in Jesus to not only be Savior but also Lord of my life. I trust Jesus loves me, that He has a plan and calling for my life. I trust Jesus to lead. I trust that the Jesus knows I am not perfect and takes me anyway. That is the confession of my hope and I am confident that He will keep His promises!

 

 

 

A more excellent ministry

Sometimes I read the Old Testament and think “wow look how cool it was” or “people were hearing from God left and right.” But that’s just not true and in fact hearing from God was not common like we think. What’s more is that for a period when they did hear from God it was about judgement (see the prophets). We just have this idea of that is what was happening because we read the Bible like it took place in a short time period when actually the story of Abraham to Jesus is thousands of years. Moreover we think of Abraham and God sitting down and chatting all the time but really it was only a handful of times that God spoke directly to Abraham. A lot of times when we read the Bible we read what we want it to say or what we would like it to say or even what we think it says but not always what it says.

The reason I bring that up is I am re-reading Hebrews after a pretty quick read through the OT and came across Hebrews ch 8 which is fantastic. Specifically verses  6 & 7 (the rest of the chapter is pretty much a quote from Jeremiah 31) and it talks about how much better we have it.

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.

We know that we have forgiveness of sins through Christ but we also have other things that come in that covenant. We have direct access to the throne of grace (Heb 4:6) which we can go to whenever we want. We do not have to wait for a specific time or season but when you need help you can go there all on your own because you have the Mediator. But still there is more.

You now have gifts from God like wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, other languages (tongues), and interpretation. All these things are given to us by God and yes it says “to some” but I see that as meaning more to the point of not everyone has all. The point is God gave gifts. Ephesians 4:8 says Christ gave gifts to men. But there is more.

On of the best things we have under the new covenant is knowledge of God. Specifically laid out in the new covenant is that we will be taught by God. You become a Christian and you get indwelt with that Holy Spirit (that means He takes up residence in you) and in that you get one on one teaching about God by God. Now that is awesome! God says I want to teach you about me. That is like having Bill Gates says he wants to show you how MS Office works. You cannot get a better instructor than the one who made it all.

Now as a side note to that there are a few things to keep in mind. If you want the instruction you need to read the Bible. You cannot get directions and avoid the manual. You need to pray and listen. If you want to talk to God then you actually need to talk to Him, and if you want to hear from God you need to actually listen. I know it sounds redundant but I have spoken with people who want to talk to God and hear from Him but do not want to pray or listen. Another thing you need is to spend time with other Christians. I know I said God will teach you but you need to spend time with other believers to be encouraged, and to help equip you for the work of ministry. Christianity is not a sit down and do nothing religion. You become a Christian and you get a new job title. You are now ambassador to the King of Kings. And in that some people have the ability and gifting to help encourage and equip you to do that job.

So just remember you have the better covenant, and you are now in the good o’le days. You can sit down and chat with God anytime you want so maybe you should take Him up on that offer.

Just a thought,

Mike

Thought on Kempis thought.

Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
Chapter 12: The Love of Solitude and Silence:

“Hence, for many it is better not to be too free from temptations, but often to be tried lest they become too secure too filled with pride, or even to eager to fall back upon external comforts.” – Thomas Kempis

I both like and dislike silence and in our modern day it is easier to not have silence than to have it. I like the silence because it is in the quiet that I can hear the voice of God, but it is also in the silence that I hear the voice of temptation and accusation. Thomas Babington Macaulay said “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out” and I must admit that at times I am afraid of myself. I am not so much afraid of what I would do but what I am capable of doing and in the silence those fears can be seen. I am aware that it is also in that same silence God is pruning and bringing things to the surface so they can be dealt with but the pruning is painful while it happens so I wish to avoid the pain. But at the same time I desire the pruning because it will continue to remove those things I desire removed. It is a sad state to be sure; to desire the thing you do not want in order to be the one you wish to be. Maybe that is what is meant in Hebrews 12:2 where it saysFor the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Christ had to do nothing to be God but in order for us to be reconciled (which He desired) He had to endure the cross. So too must I take up my cross not to be reconciled but to continue to prune away those things which are not fitting for a child of the King.

What is Discipleship and why do I care?

The Gospel of John was written about AD 85, while Luke, Mark, and Matthew were all around 50-75.  That puts the New Testament at somewhere around 1990 years old.  Think about how kids today will not understand what the sound of a modem is.  They do not know the joy and anger that is Space Invaders.  They do not understand why we get nostalgic about seeing a Pac Man tabletop game.  They do not know the tragedy of the Challenger space ship. A large portion do not understand the significance of 9/11.  These are not things they are familiar with.  They can hear about these things, they can see them in their history books, or see them on TV but unless we use something they can relate to they will not know the importance of these things. Not understanding the importance the reference is lost on them.

We can read through certain sections of Scripture and come away with an understanding, but if we read the Scriptures as a whole and look at the context in some of the meanings we can come away with a larger and fuller understanding.

A preacher went to visit an elderly woman from his church who had just had an operation. As he was sitting there talking with her, he noticed a bowl of peanuts on the stand next to the bed. He began to eat them, and soon it was time for him to leave. When he got up he noticed he had eaten all of her peanuts.

“Sister Jones,”he said” I’m sorry I ate all of your peanuts.”

She replied “That’s okay pastor, I already sucked all of the chocolate off of them.”

 

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  

We see then that discipleship is not something that a church, or group should do, but it is a command from Christ Himself to make Disciples.  It is an ordnance from the Messiah to reproduce.  Think back to Adam and Noah (Gen 1:28 & 9:7).  When God does something good he wants it reproduced.  We are to be fruitful and multiply.  We are to make more disciples.  We have this amazing love in us and we should want to share it.  It is my opinion that God takes the command to multiply very seriously.  If we look at the Tower of Babel, and the Apostles in Jerusalem as an example we see that if we do not choose to go out and reproduce then God will push us out.  The same way a baby is comfortable in the womb and then evicted we as Christians can be quite comfortable in our cozy churches and groups but God will push us out of our manufactured and prefab wombs in order to complete the task set before us.

Today I want to just scratch the surface of discipleship.  I want to look at what it meant to be a disciple in antiquity, and see what it can mean in our time.  Moreover and to the point I want us to see the what and why of disciple making.

 

A disciple is a student.  Specifically in Christian terms a disciple is one who follows and studies Christ, His finished work, and how they are to live out the meaning of that.

The Greek word for Disciple is mathetes, and it simply means learner or student.  Similarly there is a Hebrew word lamad which just again means to learn.  We are called disciples, and those we call are disciples.  We can have disciples of our own but truly they are disciples of Jesus. Those who taught us would would be our teachers but we understand that we are still students of the Teacher.

Firstly, a disciple was called to follow the teacher and make everything second to the teacher.  Jesus talks about this a few times and we struggle with it.  Property is always a good sign of importance.  The second tractates on the Talmud (Bava Metzia) helps us understand this.  It says regarding property that would belong to a teacher

“If his lost object and his father’s lost object [are to be attended to], his lost object takes precedence; his own lost object and his teacher’s lost object, his own takes precedence; his father’s lost object and his teacher’s lost object, his teacher’s takes precedence, because his father brought him into this world, but his teacher, who taught him wisdom, brings him to live [in] the world to come; if his father is a sage, [the object] of his father takes precedence. If his father and his teacher were carrying a burden, he should relieve his teacher, and afterward relieve his father. If his father and his teacher were in prison, he should redeem his teacher and afterward he should redeem his father; if his father was a sage, he should redeem his father and afterward he should redeem his teacher.”

We can see from this that a disciple was to be solely devoted to his teacher.  This is what Jesus is talking about in Luke 14:26.

If anyone comes after me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

Jesus was not talking about hate like I hate brussel sprouts or broccoli.  No the hate here is in to be understood in light of the Bava Metzia that those things and people need to be in second place to the Teacher.  It is OK to hate and detest brussel sprouts or broccoli.

A disciple understood they were devoting themselves to a teacher.  The teacher taught them everything.  How to pray, how to search the Scriptures.  Everything.  You wanted to be like your teacher.  This is why the 12 ask Jesus to teach them to pray.  That is why they say like John taught his disciples to pray.  The teacher taught you.

Also a disciple was someone who was typically planning or trying to be a disciple of a teacher.  They would study the Torah and Talmud in hopes of being picked up by a teacher.  They would set their lives up to be noticed by a specific Rabbi.  Rabbis did not typically just call anyone.  They looked for those who had promise to be called and associated with them as the teacher.

The same way now someone goes to school to be a Doctor, Lawyer, Pastor, Nurse, or Businessman.  They were intending to pursue discipleship in order to become a teacher.  But also to say and have the notoriety that they studied under teacher so and so.  It was understood and still is today that if you are going to be a ____ then you need a teacher, and if you are going to have a teacher you should have the best.

If we look through the Old Testament we find many examples of disciples.  Abraham was a disciple of God.  God was teaching Abraham directly as there was no one else around to teach.  Moses was also taught by God.  Notice though that they both then taught someone else.  Abraham taught Isaac, and Moses had Joshua (and all of Israel).  Elijah taught Elisha.  The concept of student and teacher has a long history.  Teachers understood and should understand the awesome responsibility they have to teach.  James (3:1) in the New Testament says:

 

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

 

The role of disciple is so important that the role of teacher must be carefully taken.  Teachers would have understood in old times that that they were on the line.  This is why the relationship between teacher and student was so important and why teachers were to be held in such high regards by their students. Disciples followed the teacher everywhere and did everything they were asked of.  It was not just a relationship of fellowship but more like dependence.

 

So what should a modern disciple look like?  If we are to follow Jesus’s teaching and command to make disciples what should that look like?  Are we to have people following us around everywhere?  Are we to have a following that clings to every word we make lives with us?  Is it supposed to be a constant as the connection between a Rabbi and Disciple?  Are we to set-up a bunk in our house?

Modern disciples – What does a modern disciple look like?  What does it mean to be a disciple in the 21st century?  I mean is this a term that is even still relevant in our culture today?  I think it is relevant and I think it is still a command from Jesus.  A modern disciple is not a consumer though.

Alan Hirsch says it like this:

“You can’t make disciples out of consumers. You can’t consume your way into the Kingdom. It doesn’t work like that. Jesus says die…You come to the cross. Now who said you can take that out of the equation and expect the results that Jesus points to later on in the piece. If Jesus says it’s good enough to go through the cross upfront, in the beginning, who are we to make it different.”

It is to be about more.

I think in part we are afraid to take discipleship to seriously because it can be viewed as “culty”.  It has a bad view because of the brainwashing cults out there that are serious about discipleship like the Heaven’s Gate group or the Branch Davidians (aka Wako in Waco).  These people took discipleship really serious but they were also crazy as an old lady with 100 cats.

So lets look at the discipleship you are already doing.  Every parent is already discipling someone these people just happen to be your children.  That is what you are doing when you teach them to cook, clean, read, fold laundry, etc.  You are discipling them.  Hopefully you are also teaching them the ways of God.  You should also be teaching them what it means to be a Christian.  Joe and I went on a hike the other day and he mentioned something very important.  Does it really matter if their room is clean?  No, but the lesson they are learning from a dirty room is what is important.  So as mature adults we understand this and we teach them to clean their room.  We teach them mercy, grace, and judgement.  Because while Christ forgives the cop who pulled you over might not.

We follow what Proverbs 22:6 says:

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart.

Well new Christians are children.  They are as 1 Peter 2:2 says newborns.  That means that we should be training them in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart.  We should be not only interested in their eternal salvation and closing the deal, but also in helping them learn what it means to walk this out.  We should be spending time helping them navigate the hard things in life.

I don’t want to touch too much on the how because that is half of next week’s focus.  But it very much ties into what it means to be a modern disciple.  A modern disciple is someone who is studying under a teacher.  Someone who has a person they can call on to help understand how to navigate this new walk.  Someone with whom they meet regularly to talk and learn.  It is just like fellowship but with the purpose of education.

Calling disciples is not an option.  It is not a thing the Church should be doing but the thing the church was tasked with.  It is not the job of the missionary, the pastor, the preacher, the evangelist, or the church staff, but it is to be the work of all Christians to make disciples.

Why Disciple? We are supposed to train followers of Christ to eat solid food, and teach them the ways they should go.  In short we are to teach them how to walk out their faith.

Hebrews 6:1-3 says:

Therefore leaving the discussions of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance, from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptism, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement.  And this we will do if God permits.

The writer of Hebrews just called out most of the people having nonsense arguments in our churches today.  Everyone wants to hang their hat on an understanding or special understanding on one of the above but the writer says lets move on.  These things are basic and you are sitting around talking about them and not growing.  Are they important?  YES, and again I say yes, but they are to be taught to the children and then built on.  We are not supposed to have to revisit them every day or week.  How many times do I have to teach you that two plus two equals four?  You should know that by now so you can build on that and learn more.

What are the things you should be learning now?  Is it some new secret revelation?  No it is just what to do with that.  It is just how you walk that life of faith out.  The writer is saying; now that you understand these things here is what you do with it.  It is about growth and maturity.  Again just like Proverbs 22:6 applies to your children it applies to Gods children.

We disciple because we love.  Jesus says in John 15:17 “These things I command you; that you love one another.”  And John says in 1 John 3:16 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  Discipleship making is not just about making new Christians.  It is about maturing the Christians we have.  When someone comes to Christ they are referred to as a babe in Christ because they have been born again.  Like a baby they know nothing, and it is our job as the body to educate them.  To train them up right and when they are old they will not depart. We have a job to do church so lets do it.  There are spiritually hungry Christians out there and so many of them are being fed by false teachers.  The internet has become a breeding ground for bad doctrine.  We have immature Christians feeding immature Christians.  Christians giving advice to just get a divorce because times are hard.  People living their lives based on feelings because no one is holding them accountable and teaching them how to search the Scriptures, or how to pray.  How to hear from God, and what to do when they do.

It is our job to teach, instruct and protect.

I want to share a quote from Rabbi Zalman in talking about a candle:

When you use something physical, it is diminished. The more money you spend, the less you have; the more gasoline you use, the more empty your tank becomes; the more food you eat, the more you need to restock your pantry. But spiritual things increase with use. If I use my wisdom to teach, the student learns, and I come out wiser for it; if I share my love with another, I become more loving, not less. When you give a spiritual gift, the recipient gains, and you lose nothing.

This is the spiritual property that candles share. When you use one candle to light another, the original candle remains bright. Its light is not diminished by being shared; on the contrary, the two candles together enhance each other’s brightness and increase light.

We sometimes worry that we may stretch ourselves too thin. In matters of spirit, this is never the case. The more goodness we spread, the more goodness we have. By making a new friend, you become a better friend to your old friends. By having another child, you open a new corridor of love in your heart that your other children benefit from, too. By teaching more students, you become wiser.

 

By taking on a disciple you will not diminish the things God has put in you and given to you, you will only add to it.  By taking some time to teach others you gain much more than you would if you had kept it to yourself.  Jesus says in Luke 6:38:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

We use this verse when talking about money but I think we should also look at it when it comes to teaching and giving of ourselves to others.  The more we give of ourselves to others the more we gain.

If what we want individually to grow closer to God, and receive more of Him then we must disciple.  It is part of the equation for results.

Just a long thought,

Mike

1/4 Inch That Is All It Was

1/4 inch that is all it was.  A small bone growth only 1/4” by 1/4” yet something so tiny caused so much blahh.

I should probably explain.  For the past few days I have been feeling a little more tired and just plain blahh.  I figured it was just because of everything that was going on until today.  I had a tooth removed a few months back and the spot where the tooth was has been bothering me for two days.  I thought I stabbed it with a chip.  Turns out there was a small bone fragment growing there.  After a few minutes of playing dentist I got it out.  It was not pleasant and I bled a small amount but I was able to get it out.

Sometimes we have something either infecting or growing in us that needs to come out.  It does not belong there and it’s continued presence will only cause more discomfort.  Of course the alternative is more pain and discomfort than leaving it alone, but only for a short time.  In this example I already feel generally better.

Hebrews 12:15 warns that we should let no root of bitterness grow and cause trouble.  Simply put if something is growing in you that does not belong there it will cause trouble.  But what can cause a root of bitterness to grow?  Honestly a lot of things like, unforgiveness, anger, malice, and such.  Maybe you were passed over for something you should have received, you are now angry and cannot let it go.  Bitterness grows.  Maybe you were hurt by someone you love, you do not forgive them.  Bitterness grows.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Bitterness grows.  I cannot know your story, and I might now want to.  But what I do know is if you do not remove the thing that does not belong you will not feel like you should.  You will be tired, have a headache, or the 50 other symptoms of bitterness.  Regardless you need to remove it.

Here is the thing about it though.  It is going to hurt a little maybe even a lot, but once it is out you will start the process of recovery.  My suggestion is to go through the momentary pain and discomfort and prepare to heal.

Just a thought,

Mike