Disciple Life

We all have different types of lives. There is thought life, love life, work-life, and so on. We spend a good amount of time looking at and discussing these different lives and for good reason. How we think determines our actions. When we think of the right things, we typically, do the right things. Paul writes in Philippians 4:8 that we should think about good things. In all honesty, a case could be made that Paul talks about our thought life a lot. He says things like, be innocent of evil but wise about good, transform our minds, have the mind of Christ, and on and on. God cares a great deal about our thought life. Our love life is important because it should be healthy and biblical. When a couple has a bad love life, other areas of their life suffer as well. Our work life is important because we spend a great deal of time at work. On average we spend about 1/3 of our lives at work. A bad work-life will spill over to other areas. But what about our life as a disciple of Jesus?

I believe that our life as a disciple is made up of at least 4 other lives just like how our thought life, love life, and work-life create a bigger life. I will not get unto too much detail with them, but they are our Word life, our worship life, our prayer life, and our service life. When we look at what it means to be a disciple of Jesus these are 4 key areas of what we do and where we live (so to speak). Whenever I am counseling someone, discipling someone, or walking through a problem with someone these are the 4 areas that I want to know about first because as disciples as Jesus everything comes from that place.

Our Word life is how much time or devotion are we giving to God’s Word. If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that He communicates truth to us through it then it makes good sense to read it and know it. If we are to be transformed in the way, we think then we need to read the Bible and allow the truth found therein to transform us.

Our worship life is how much time or devotion do we give to giving God the praise He so rightly deserves. I will admit as a new Christian I struggled here because I thought of it only as singing. I found more growth from reading the Bible and gaining knowledge and wisdom then I did from praising God. My worship life was weak, but the more I learned about God the more it drove me to worship Him. It is about having an attitude of worship and praise that is directed towards God. He is the Lord of the universe, the maker and sustainer of all things, does He not deserve our praise?

Our prayer life is how much time or devotion do we give to praying to and listening to God. The best description I heard for prayer was to think of it as a currency exchange. In prayer, we take our thoughts, wants, desires, and pleas to God and exchange them for what He has for us. So many times, in prayer we stop short of receiving from God what He would want to give to us because we end the conversation after we list our side. Prayer connects us to the Lord Almighty so why would we not spend time in prayer. I love the song What a friend we have in Jesus. One of the verses says “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” I have prayed with people and seen them delivered from all sorts of things because they took the time to bring it to God in prayer. We have to remember that talking about God is different than talking to God.

Our service life is about how much time or devotion do we give to walking as Jesus walked. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and we are called to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). We are called to emulate Christ and that means doing what He did. Isaiah wrote about this when talking about what an acceptable fast was. We are called to feed the homeless, clothe the poor, love the wounded, care for the sick, and so on. The amount we serve will be related to the amount we love God. James writes that if we send someone away with only a verbal blessing and not actually care for them, we have shown what our faith really is (empty).

When we get our Word life, worship life, prayer life, and service life right we move closer to the heart of God and that is what we are called to do as disciples. We are called to be transformed into the image of the Son and become more like Him. We are called to be mature believers of Jesus and to move forward. So, the question is if we find that we are not becoming more like Jesus then what do we need to do?

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Dreams and Service

What do we do when we are faced with opposition to the dream God has placed in us? We have a lot of options but not all of them are right. Today I want to take a quick look at Joseph because Joseph had a dream. In Genesis 37 Joseph has two dreams and while we can debate on whether he communicated those dreams to his family properly the point stands God gave Joseph a dream. God gave Joseph a dream and he was excited for the dream God gave him. The dream, in essence, was that he was going to be over his family. He had no idea how this was going to come about and I can only imagine that in his foolish youthful mind he wanted to see his brothers literally bowing down before him. He was one of the youngest, so it is not like he had the opportunity to lead the family.

Joseph has this dream in him but how will it play out? How will God fulfill it? When will he see it come to fruition? Will he reign in the land he is in? Where will it happen? Will he know it is starting to come to pass? These are only some of the questions I imagine young Joseph thought about. But none of those thoughts matter because Joseph is thrown into a well and then sold into slavery. From there he is brought to Egypt and sold again. Joseph at this point has this dream but now he is a slave. A slave in a new land. So, what does Joseph do when he is faced with opposition to the dream God gave him? He sees an opportunity to serve and honor God.

That went well for a while but then Joseph is framed for rape and thrown into prison. His situation goes from bad to worse so what does Joseph do when he is faced with opposition to the dream God gave him? He sees an opportunity to serve and honor God. While in prison he is able to interpret dreams for two other prisoners. He asks the cupbearer to not forget him but as you can imagine he is forgotten. Two whole years pass, and Joseph is still in prison. How many times have you and I felt like our dreams are in prison?

Joseph finally gets the opportunity to stand before Pharaoh and interpret his dreams. Finally, he is put into a position of authority. After years of suffering, he is put in the place where the dream God gave him can come out but now, he is different. Not only is it time for the dream to come out but Joseph is not the man who he needed to be for the dream to come out. In the waiting, in the difficulty, Joseph always chose to see an opportunity to serve and honor God while waiting.

So, my question is this, has God given you a dream? Has God places something inside of you? Has God given you a calling? I know God has placed something in me. God has given me a dream to tell everyone about who He is and how wonderful this God I love and serve is. I want to see the whole world fall in love with my God. I want people who are hurting, lost, broken, and confused to see that God is there for them. That they can have a relationship with the one who holds the universe. How will that play out? I have no real idea. I have some ideas and I can see doors God has opened but the situation in the world confuses me right now, but I hold on to the dream of telling everyone about this amazing God I love and serve. That is the dream.

I want to challenge us today, you and me to see the opportunity to serve and honor God in the midst of challenges to the dream. To choose to believe that God sees the end and whatever situation we find ourselves in today that we have the opportunity to choose to serve and honor God. I want to challenge us, you and me, to see adversity not as something that stands in opposition to the dream God has placed in us but as an opportunity to serve and honor God. I find it amazing that Joseph is not living out his dream. He is a slave and a prisoner but during that time he is helping others understand their dreams. His dream is deferred but that does not stop him from helping others understand their dreams. He became so focused on serving and honoring God that he forgot about his dream as we will see later.

Maybe the opposition we see is not opposition but an opportunity that forms us into the people we need to be in order to allow the dream to come to pass. Maybe the delays are not delaying but opportunities for growth. How we respond could very well determine how many more so-called delays we have. Do we respond with service and honor to God or something else? I am sure Joseph cried at times, maybe when he was in that well, or in prison but in the end, he chose to see an opportunity to serve and honor God. What about you, what about me?

I think a big part of the key for the dream to come about was timing. Yes, there is the obvious part that the famine needed to come on the land but there is also the timing for Joseph to be ready. In Genesis 42:9 it says that when Joseph saw his brothers, he remembered his dream. He was just doing what he needed to do. He was honoring and serving God in the midst of his situation and he finally became the man that he needed to be for his dream to come about.

Today, let us choose to honor and serve God so we can become the people we need to be to have the dream come about. Let us be so fixated on Christ that we see nothing else but Him and His ways. Let us become the people we need to be.

Just a thought,

Mike

Kenosis – Fancy Word but Important

Today I want to look at Philippians 2:1-11 which is called the self-emptying or kenosis of Christ. This one gets a little wild but I promise you I won’t waste your time. Just push through to the end with me.

Philippians 2:1-11

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any conciliation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on the goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility considers others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not for his own interest, but also the interest of others.

Make your own attitude that of Jesus,

Who existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.

Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.

And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.

For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow- of those who are in heaven and on earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

What does Christ emptying of Himself mean?

This is called the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ. This was the cause of many heresies. Heresies are great because sometimes to help understand what something is we have to know what it is not.

Docetism – (dokeo seem or appear) this is a late first-century heresy that said Jesus only appeared to be a man.

Rebukes:

1 John 4:2 Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

1 John 1:1 That which is from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim to you.

John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Ebionism – 2nd century heresy that says Jesus was adopted by God at His baptism. Also known as adoptionism.

Rebukes:

The seven I Am statements of Jesus which are Jesus claiming divinity.

The recording of the Virgin Birth.

John 10:30 – Jesus says He and the Father are One.

John 14:16 – Jesus says the Holy Spirit is another helper. This implies Jesus and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence or homoousios (same substance) as opposed to the same homoiosios (similar substance).

John 10:33 The attempted stoning of Jesus because He claimed to make Himself equal with God.

Isaiah 42:8 – I, the LORD, am one, and I won’t give my name and glory to another, nor my praise to idols.

God does not share glory. To say that Jesus was adopted as God’s Son would be to say that God does share His glory because Jesus says in John 17:5 that He has and had God’s glory. 1 Peter 1:21 says that God glorified Jesus.

Arianism – Jesus was the first created being of God. This is also modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses. Somewhat like Mormonism that says that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers in the sense that they deny the trinity and the Godhead.

Rebukes:

Colossians 1:15-16 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the first board over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Arians and JWs argue that right here it says that Jesus was the first born but that is a legal term indicating rights of inheritance. The image reference means exact representation something along the lines of looking in a mirror.

John 14:9 – Jesus says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Also, as we already looked at God does not share His glory.

There are other heresies we could look at, but these are still some pretty popular ones. But again, the point at looking at these is to get an idea of what the Kenosis is not. So, what is the Kenosis of Jesus?

First, we have to understand that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. He is not a divided or mixed man but fully God and fully man. The Kenosis of Jesus then was His laying aside His divine power and rights in order to sympathize, save, redeem, and live forevermore as a High Priest King.

Jesus in taking on humanity made it possible for Him to die as a man taking the weight and wrath of sin upon Himself. As a man who is now raised to live never to die again He is able to live forever as priest and king.

In setting aside, His deity He was able to live like you and me. He did not stop being God He stopped using His powers so that, in part, He might demonstrate dependence on the Father and the Spirit. Jesus showed us what it means to live obedience to the Father. Jesus rarely used His own divine power while on earth. He chose to humble Himself and we can now live in that same way.

What do we do with this?

The next question we should ask is what do we do with this? I have already spoken somewhat on this (here) but Paul says that we are to serve one another and we can do this by looking to the example of Christ. Jesus had the rightful place to rule from where He was (in heaven) but He chose to come and save us. He chose not to use His divinity but instead humbled Himself. He chose to be weak so that we might become strong (in Him). He chose to serve. We can see this when He washed the disciple’s feet. He had the right to demand and instead He took served. He had the right to command and instead took request. He had the right to judge and instead took the judgment.

Jesus could do this for a few reasons. First, He was secure in who He was. Jesus is God. He knew this before He took on the form of man and He understood this during His earthly ministry (I Am statements). He could serve and be humble because He knew who He was. When we understand who we are (children of God indwelt with the Holy Spirit) we can be confident and when we are confident we can be humble.

Second, Jesus was aware of and sought the Fathers glory. Jesus said I and the Father are one I only do what I see Him doing. When we understand that God is good and that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by His name we are able to see others because we want to see our Father glorified.

Third, Jesus trusted in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew the Spirit was on Him. He was aware of the leading and power of the Spirit and He trusted the Spirit to do His work. When we trust the leading and power of the Holy Spirit we can be humble and serve others because we know that the Holy Spirit is working in or on them.

The purpose of all of this is to serve others in Jesus name. We are called to love and build up others. In our understanding of who we are, who God is, and the power of the Holy Spirit we can build each other up. We must do this even if it costs us. Jesus left us no other option.

Just a thought,

Mike

More than a story about sharing fish

God is looking for a heart that is after Him. He wants people who desire Him and His sufficiency. In John chapter 6 and the story of the feeding of the multitude, we see that all the people ate and were satisfied. We can look at this story and see the obvious. We can see that there was a need and a boy shared his loaves and his fishes. We can see this and if we stop there we can learn a little something. However, if we push through just a little we can see so much more. There are three great points that we can take away from this story.

  1. God works through people. God gives the gift. He is the One who provides the means, but He does this work through people. He works through the church. He works through you and me.
  2. When we serve God by giving generously our faith increases.
  3. Jesus is sufficient for us. He is more than enough.

If we look at the story we see that Jesus multiplied the little that was offered. This tells us that Jesus did not need the little that was offered. Why? Because He is God. He used it, but He did not need it. The power of God, the presence of God is sufficient with or without our offerings. God is more than able to meet any need because God is sufficient. More on that in a moment.

God works through people. Again, He does not require you or me, but He chooses you and I. God has decided that in His infinite wisdom He would work through the Church. He would choose the lowly and foolish things to accomplish His plans and purposes. I wouldn’t choose you and me, but God did, and it is for our good that He does.

God choosing to use us is for our good just as much as it is for someone else. When we serve others, when we give of our time, when we give of our money we grow into the image of Christ. God choosing to use us means we get to partner with God in the things He is doing. If we think about like when our parents would let us “help them” we can see this a little clearer. Our parents did not need our help and in some cases, our “help” was actually no help at all. But that used those moments to teach us and to grow us. We learned more about how it was done, the heart of our parents, and the value of service in those moments.

God being a good Father is so much more than our earthly parents. Again, He does not need our help, but He allows us to help so that we might grow. God does not need me to share these things with you. The Holy Spirit is much more capable than I and could easily communicate this message to you and He can do it better than I can, but He allows me to help so that I might grow too.

Going back to the first part of this story we can see that Jesus us sufficient. He can meet the need all by Himself. Somehow this gets turned into a prosperity Gospel message but when we look at the text we see the people got what they needed and wanted Jesus to do more so He left. That should be a message to all those who say God wants you to have it all.

Jesus is the sufficiency, not the stuff. God gives gifts. He supplies the need, but He wants us to desire Him and His ways.

Just a thought,

Mike

Service = Shalom and Holiness

If God is calling you and I to serve others how do we do that? How do we go out to reach people and show them the love of God?

I would argue that it starts with Shalom and a pursuit of Holiness.

Shalom in the Bible is not simply peace. Peace is the partly the absence of striving but Shalom is the absence of striving and completeness or soundness. It is safety, rest, favor, prosperity, happy, friendly, well, wholly. Shalom is the goal we are all after.

It is more than simply not fighting but it is living in total soundness. This means whether there is peace around you or not you are in a state of rest and wholeness. In order to go after those who are in need and love them, we need to be at peace with God and at peace with ourselves. We need Shalom!

Holiness in a basic understanding is being set apart. We need to not only be set apart but to walk in that set-apartness. We cannot hold onto the things that drag us down. If we are going to actively seek others and their good, we need to actively seek God and to be holy like Him.

How can we expect to go and serve others if we are holding onto other things in our life? Maybe it is just our desires, our plans, our wants. Maybe it is sin. Maybe there are sins in our life that we hold onto and that stops us from being free enough to go and love someone else.

This is short but that is because sometimes less is more. Sometimes it is better to go the Blaise Pascal way and let people come to the conclusion on their own, so they might be more thoroughly convinced. Today I would just ask two simple questions.

Do you have Shalom with God?

Do you pursue Holiness?

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Imagine or What If

I must admit and I know this puts me in the minority but I do not like the song Imagine by John Lennon. Maybe I am just more of a Mccartney guy… What I do like though is the thought of imagining. Take 1 Peter 5:5 for example. In Peter’s letter, according to translations that use the Textus Receptus, he says that we should all submit to one another. Now you may dismiss this if you prefer translations that use the Majority Text but you would also have to throw out Luke 22:26 & 9:48, Mark 9:35 & 10:43, and possibly Galatians 3:28 and Romans 10:12 as well as all the passages that talk about loving and serving one another in Christ.

Anyway, on to the point… What if we loved and submitted to one another and gave preference to each other? What if we looked out for the best interest of others before ourselves? What if we thought, what does my brother or sister in Christ need? What if instead of thinking “how can I get” we thought “how can I give?” What if we actively sought out ways to bless people? What if we served the lost and hurting without expecting something, anything, in return? What if we trusted that some plant, some water, and God gives the increase? What if?

This is not meant to point fingers because honestly, we are all guilty at different times of not thinking biblically. I myself find it hard sometimes because I am tired and just want to worry about myself. I think that is why Paul said: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” It is not easy to think about and actually serve others but it is necessary.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Just a thought,

Mike

There are no extras in the church

As Christians, it is easy to get caught up in wanting to do more, wanting to accomplish more for the Kingdom, and sometimes even wanting more recognition. We can start to think that in God’s amazing plan we are just extras who get a little screen time when needed in order to highlight a main character. That somehow, we are less than others and when God was passing out gifts He decided we would be fillers for someone else’s story. We can read Paul’s letters and wonder why we cannot be more like him. We can read about Peter in the Gospels getting off the boat and wonder if we will have or even can have such experiences. The list goes on and on and if we are not careful we can think that somehow, we are not as good as other Christians. Now, there are things that can hinder your growth as a Christian but for now, we are going to assume that you are doing what you need to do. We are going to be on the working assumption you are a redeemed, Spirit-filled, Christ loving child of God.

I want to look at Romans 16 which is the last chapter of Romans. The book of Romans covers many great topics like predestination, the message of the Gospel, fulfilled prophecy, liberty in love, and much more. One thing that is covered that can be overlooked if we are not careful is Paul’s closing where he commends or to use modern vocabulary, he gives a shout out to some people. In the closing of this amazing book Paul names twenty-six people and says to either greet them or recognizes them for their work. We do not have the space to cover all of them and maybe that would be good to do sometime but for now, we will just briefly look at a few.

Before we do it is important to reiterate again that there are no extra’s in God’s story. There are heroes for sure that stand out and these people should inspire us and drive us to more but their abilities still come from the same God who made us all. Even at that the “hero” we see is usually flawed, broken, and has failed more often than they have succeeded. The list in chapter 16 of Romans should inspire us because these are “average” people. These were everyday grocery shopping, mall going, Starbucks drinking, trying to get by people of the first century.

First on the list is Prisca and Aquila who are actually mentioned quite a bit in the Bible. They do not have any deep stories but they are mentioned six times in the New Testament. The longest episode is in Acts 18 where this couple takes in a young man who has just come to Christ. They take him in and explain the way of God more accurately. They discipled this young man who some believe went on to write the book of Hebrews. This average ordinary couple saw a need and fulfilled that need and for that, among other things, Paul says “Everyone need to greet these people when you see them because I love them and they have always been there for me.”

Skipping down one, Paul says to greet Mary who has worked very hard for you. There are a lot of Mary’s in our churches. They are the ones who do Sunday school for the kids every week. They are the ones who come in and clean the church when nobody is around. They are the ones praying daily for our pastors and our suffering. There are people in our churches working harder than most and you would never know it because not once do they ask to be recognized for their labors but without them, we would all suffer. Think about your toes for a minute. When is the last time you thought about how valuable your toes are? I read once that your toes come in contact with the ground about seventy-five percent of the time (75%). We take that for granted and we take so many people in our churches who are much more valuable than toes for granted too. When we come across a Mary we should be saying thank you to them and letting others know that this person is vital to the growth, success, and love in our church family.

Lastly, we will look at Andronicus and Junia. There is a lot of controversy around this one because some will argue that Junia was an Apostle which would be a big deal because she was a woman. I am not going to go there right now. Rather, let us just look at what Paul says and put it into modern terms. Have you ever met someone and asked them if they so and so? They say no and you respond with “What, they are amazing how do you now know them?” We all know someone who does not get nearly enough air time in conversation but deserves it more than we do. I am talking about people that when someone says, “you are awesome” you think “I am not so and so.” That was Andronicus and Junia. Paul says that this couple us noteworthy and in the Greek that word also means “well known, respected, and admired for past achievements.” Paul says these two these two are what it is about, and all the Apostles know this. I do not know another way to explain the significance of this. The Apostles who are the big guns give credit to this couple.

I know this is a rather short version of the list Paul gives but the point is that you are someone in God’s story. Maybe you come in early or stay late to stack chairs but without chairs, new people would not know where to sit. Maybe you vacuum but without you, there would not be clean floors and that is not only a little gross but distracting to people who are looking for reasons to not pay attention. Maybe you run a little blog and feel like no one is being helped by your words but someone somewhere out there might be. Maybe you are a pastor and cannot figure out why you are not reaching people like others are but you have planted seeds that will grow into mighty trees. Maybe just maybe, the thing you do is service to and for Christ and He will make it into something more.

Just a thought,

Mike