Archive for the ‘discipleship’ Category

Now That You Have Escaped (II Peter 1, Isaiah 19-20)

May 19, 2014

“By which He has granted to us His precious and very great promised, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires,” II Peter 1:4

Years ago I remember being introduced to the older movie, “The great escape.”  This movies setting was in a concentration camp in WWII.  The allied troops are planning a great escape.  The movie chronicles their efforts and their escape.  I wish the movie would have ended here.  But the movie continues by showing us how that almost all the escapes fail in their efforts.

This morning I was reminded of this movie as I read Peters words, “Having escaped the corruption that is in the world.”  In context Peter is writing to believers who have “obtained a faith of equal standing.”  

Two things stand out:

1.  They have been delivered by the power of Jesus, Vs: 1-4

2.  They were now being directed to live in the power of Jesus, Vs: 5-15

Think it through:

How many people seem to come to Jesus but then seem to never escape the corruption that is in the world?  Let’s get personal, “How often do we seem (who are followers of Christ) to get trapped by the corruption that is in the world?”  Could it be that we have the same problem as the prisoners of war in the movie The Great Escape?  The problem being, “They did not have a perfect plan.”

But on the other side of this we discover that our God does have a perfect plan.  He has given us His Word as the perfect guide for our lives.  Here is how Peter describes God’s Word, “As a lamp shinning in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart.”

Until Jesus comes, you and I have been given God’s full proof escape plan!!!

Our response:

It is at this point that we must apply what we have read.  In I Peter 1:5-9 we discover no less than 7 disciples that we are to daily dedicate ourselves to.  If we do, we will have success in our lives.

Your take away is to spend time in discovering what these 7 disciples require of your life.

Ps. I look forward to seeing my fellow escapees on the other side!!!

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Who Are You to Judge Me? (Romans 2: Esther 7)

January 30, 2014

“Do you suppose, O man-you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself-that you will escape the judgment of God,”  Romans 2:3

The Apostle Paul begins chapter 2 in the book of Romans with a strong statement, “Therefore you have no excuse.”  In context, Paul knew that his Jewish readers would consider themselves not in the category of those previously mentioned in Romans 1:18-32.  Paul knew these readers prided themselves in being God’s chosen people.  This was clear to them in that they were possessors of the Law of God.

Paul reminds them of this fact:  “Possession of the law does not automatically translate into the practice of the law.”

The truth is, the law simply revealed to Israel that she was not capable of being right with God on her own.  But Israel would not believe this.  She lived a double life.  A life that outwardly seemed “Law abiding,” but inwardly, “Law breaking.”  She was no different from the world.

Paul sets forth one truth:  “Only God is qualified to judge.”  Out of this truth we discover two important points about judgment:

1.  God’s judgment rightly falls on humanity, Vs: 1-5

God is judging Israel as being without excuse.  Notice what this Judge sees:

a.  People who are condemning others for what they are secretly doing, Vs: 2

b.  People who are trampling on the grace of God, Vs: 3

c.  People whose hearts are clearly hard, Vs: 4-5

d.  People who are storing up wrath until the time comes, Vs: 5

2.  God’s judgment is rendered fairly to humanity, Vs: 6-11

a. Those who are self-seeking and self-serving will experience the wrath of God.

b.  Those who surrender their lives to Jesus will experience glory, honor, and peace.

God alone is qualified to judge the deeds and thoughts of men.  Certainly we can trust that he will judge correctly.  So what should our response be to what we have read today?

Our response:

1. We must remember that God shows no partiality, Vs: 11.  God offers salvation to all men.  But he also will judge all men.

2.  When we live a double life the name of Christ is blasphemed in the world, Vs: 24.

So our response must be, to daily seek God’s judgment in our own lives so that we can know where we are sinful (so we can repent) and to know where we must take the gospel (God, who will stand before you this day?)  

The Devoted Life (II Kings 17: Titus 3)

November 4, 2013

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.  These things are excellent and profitable to people.”  Titus 3:8

One week from today I will be in the heart of Malawi Africa with a team of men from our church. Our purpose will be to encourage and equip the local churches with the gospel.  One of the many things we will be doing is to host a pastor’s conference.

I am always humbled by the opportunity to help other Men of God in their development as pastors.  On the of the topics that I was chosen to teach was “the character of the pastor.”  In my research, I reread some of Charles Spurgeon’s book, “Notes to my students.”  One of his illustrations haunts me today.

Spurgeon told the story of a pastor who was extremely gifted as a preacher but terribly sinful in his character.  Here is what was said of this man, “He was such a gifted speaker that no one wanted him to come out of the pulpit. However, when he was with the people, he was such a wicked man, no one wanted him to go to the pulpit.”  Brothers and sisters, this should not be!!!

This morning I found great encouragement as I read Paul’s letter to Titus.  Before us is the correct way to live a devoted life before God:

Think it through:

1.  We see the character of the devoted, Vs: 1-2

A truly devoted follower of Christ evidences behavior he or she did not have before (Vs: 3).  He or she is now submissive, kind in their speech, and humble.

2. We  see the cause for their devotion, Vs: 4-8

Here is a person who has come to understand the following:

a.  God reached out to them in mercy.

b. God redeemed them through His might.

c.  God is preparing them for ministry.

d.  God is preparing for them a mansion.

3.  We see the caution in their devotion, Vs: 9-11

A devoted person knows both what and whom to stay away from.  They give themselves over to the urgent things of God.

Taking it out for a spin:

This morning I want to encourage you to live your days in devotion to our Great and Glorious God!!!  Each day seek to evidence the character of grace.  Each day seek to avoid useless work and useless relationships. Give yourself to gospel growth.

Building the Father’s house (I Kings 6, Ephesians 3)

October 3, 2013

“So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places,”  Ephesians 3:10

Around all the walls of the house he carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms,”  I Kings 6:29

Several years ago, Sherry and I had the joy of building a house with our specific needs in mind.  A wonderful family (Ernest and Beth Williams) built for us a house that was tailor-made for our needs.  I can still remember the daily excitement as we would drive to the building site to examine the progress of the day.  Also there was the daily increased excitement of anticipation of one day moving in.  Finally the day came when we were able to move in.  On that day we dedicated our house to the Lord!!!

This morning I recalled those days, as I read I Kings six, where the writer gives us the account of the seven-year building project of God’s house (The Temple).  Two things stood out as I read:

1.  Solomon gave great detail to the building of the physical house of the Lord, Vs:1-10, 14-38

2.  God gave great detail to the building of the spiritual house of the Lord, Vs: 11-13

Think it through:

God did not guarantee His presence in the physical house simply because Solomon built the house.  God guaranteed His presence only if the people walked in obedience to His commands.

Solomon’s building of the physical temple is a picture of how God is building a spiritual temple in our lives.  The fact is, we are born without God’s presence in our lives.  We are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

Solomon depicted our rebellion when he had the painting of the Garden of Eden placed on the walls of the temple.  Only in Christ could our house be restored to a place where God would dwell with us.

Our response:

1.  It took Solomon only seven years to build the physical house.  How long does it take to build a spiritual house?  It will take our entire lifetime.

2.  Solomon gave great detail in building the physical house.  We must give great detail in building our spiritual house.

3.  Solomon greatly anticipated the day when the people could move in.  You and I should have daily joy as we live in our spiritual homes.

So Then (I Kings 2, Galatians 6)

September 30, 2013

“And keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies…”  I Kings 2:3

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith,”  Galatians 6:10

“So then, what will you do with this wonderful present?”  This question could have been asked by anyone who saw the value of a gift given to someone in need.  But specifically I am thinking about the gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to anyone who is born again (John 14:27).   The question is, “So then what will you do with the Holy Spirit?”  The Apostle Paul answers this question in Galatians 6.  The so then will evidence itself in two ways:

1.  You will serve others, Vs: 1-10

People who are “Spiritual” will reach out to serve others.  In particular, the others are those who are characterized as people who have burdens.  These burdens can be either self-inflicted (caught in trespasses) or from outside sources.  In either case the spiritual are to serve those people and at the same time being careful not to be burdened by the same trespasses.

This is serious business.  One must be willing to serve (sow) day after day until the harvest comes.  You have to stick with the business of serving others.

2.  You will be shaped by the cross, Vs: 11-18

Certainly the religious crowd has no desire to be shaped by the cross.  Neither does the world see the need to even embrace the cross.

However, it is different for the child of God.  He or she sees their sin and their need of a Savior.  It is the power of the cross that makes the sinner into a new creation.  This new creation desires to be crucified to the world.  Their lives are now shaped by a different spirit.  This spirit leads them to serve others.

Think it through:

1.  Is there a clear, “so then” in your life?

2.  Can people see the cross taking shape in your life?

3.  Are you serving others or yourself?

Take it out for a spin:

Spend time evaluating your life (Gal. 6:4) in light of the scripture.  Make the adjustments that are needed.  Commit yourself to serving others as a clear sign that your life is being shaped by the cross.

The Unfolding of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 32; Psalm 119:121-144)

June 27, 2013

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts an understanding to the simple.”  Psalm 119:129

This morning I found myself in complete awe of God as I read His Word.  I am presently, in addition to our More for Christ readings, reading through Romans.  This wonderful letter from Paul is truly the theological constitution of the Christian faith.  As one reads he or she comes away with an amazing awareness of who God is and how men are to relate to him.

This morning I was in Romans 7 where Paul continues his discussion concerning the laws relationship to man.  I encourage you to open your Bible to this passage and follow the outline below:

I.  The law reveals the depths of my sin, Vs: 7-14

The 10 commandments reveal, without question, I am a sinner.

2.  My sin reveals the depths of my depravity, Vs: 15-23

The commandments reveal, without question, I am a slave of sin.

3.  His grace reveals the depths of His sufficient sacrifice for my sin, Vs: 24-25

God’s grace clearly shows me how God saves all who come to him by faith through grace alone.

As I finished this chapter, I could not help but praise the name of our great and glorious God who has not only given me grace but has given me an understanding of his Word.

In Psalm 119:121-144 the Psalmist makes the following discoveries:  1) All of God’s precepts are right.  2) All people fail to keep the law.  3) All God’s promises are well-tried and they are true.  God’s desire is that we would try His Word, trust His Word, and obey His Word.  When this happens, the path we took in Romans 7 will be clear each and every day.

Lord, teach us to daily seek to be in your Word, to be changed by your Word, and to communicate your Word to others.  In it is the food we need for eternal life.”  

You Are Different (Titus 2:1-15)

November 6, 2012

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1

Yes, you are different!  As a follower of Christ your life and my life is to be radically different from those who are not followers of Christ.  In Titus 2 Paul turns his attention away from the pretenders to the possessors of faith in Jesus Christ.

Back in chapter 1 we find Paul’s description of pretenders, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.  They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work,” 1:16. However, here in chapter 2 we find instruction for possessors of faith:

1. They teach and model sound doctrine, 2:1-10

Take careful note of how Paul addresses every person and their position in life.  We see instruction for the following: older men, older women, young women, young men, and slaves,” I want to encourage you to investigate the season that describes your life.

2.  They are trained to model holiness, 2:11-15

Paul reminds us of two things in this section: 1) We are different only because of grace.  In grace Jesus appeared on the earth and He brought grace to us.  We receive this grace because of Christ payment for our sins.  This grace is offered to all kinds of people.  2) We are different in the way we live.  We now renounce the old way of living and we reside in the new way of living.  This is the way we are to live in this present age.

Because of this everything about us is different. Paul reminds us of the joy of living in this way in anticipation of God’s glorious return.  As we wait we worship and we witness of His grace and greatness (Vs: 13-15).  This is truly a different way of living life.

Question: “Is this how you and I are living our lives?”  This morning, I was greatly challenged to investigate my life in light of the Word.  After doing so, I sought forgiveness for those things that did not look different from the world.  I sought strength to walk more and more in the things that look different. I also praised God for the day that He will return.

I challenge you to follow this path as well.  For further reading I encourage you to read Psalm 75, Matthew 24-25.  Praise be unto our God who has made us different!!!

 

Spiritual Parenting (II Corinthians 12:11-13:140

August 6, 2012

“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you.  And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you.  For children are not obligated to save up for the parents, but parents for their children.  I will most gladly be spent and be spent for your souls.”  12:14-15a

The life of a parent is certainly not and easy life.  It begins for the mother at the moment of conception and for the father at the moment of birth.  There are the many days of restless nights as you seek to care for your infant.  Then there are the cluttered days when your toddler is seeking to destroy the earth.  Finally there is the joy of potty training and the struggle of keeping up with your child’s ever-expanding desire as of and Indiana Jones.  Certainly we could go on and on, but you get the point.

This morning I was captivated by Paul’s metaphorical use of “parenting.”  Paul considered himself as a spiritual parent to the members at the church in Corinth.  These children had many problems, but Paul was committed to their coming to the place of spiritual maturity.  Here is the outline of the text:

1.  Paul faces head-on this task of spiritual parenting, 12:11-21

Paul had been humiliated by their lack of support (Vs: 11-13).  He had been heart-broken by their lack of love (Vs: 14-15).  He was now fearful that he would be humbled by their lifestyle of sin (Vs:16-21).  But these negative things did not deter him because he had the goal firmly before him.

2.  Paul is facing hard truth as a spiritual parent, 13:1-14

Paul would return to this church and exercise spiritual discipline (Vs: 1-4).  Also there was needed spiritual discernment (Vs: 5-12).  The fact is not everyone who claimed to be in the family was really in the family.  Paul placed this truth before them and was dedicated to completing what he started.  Again the goal was still before him.

At this point we ask, “what is the goal of spiritual parenting?”  Verses 11-12 give us the answer: “There would be joy, restoration, humility, unity, and peace in the family of God.” Worthy goals worth fighting for!

Now the question that comes to my mind is this, “Are you willing to stay the course as either a physical or spiritual parent?”  In both cases there are many days of humiliation, heartbreak, and deep humbling.  But in both cases there are great dividends at the end of the journey.

This day I encourage you to stay the course of spiritual parenting.  Take joy in knowing that restoration, unity, humility, and peace are just down the road.  I am praying for you.

 

The Difficulty of discipline (II Corinthians 7)

July 31, 2012

“For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it, for I see that letter grieved you, though only for a while.”  II Cor. 7:8

“I tossed and turned all night as I considered my meeting the next day.  I went over the reasons why I had to have this meeting and often I tried to talk myself out of it, but Biblically I could not.  I rehearsed over and over what I would say in the meeting.  Then suddenly the alarm went off and it was time for me to follow through.”

This scene has been played over and over in my 21 years as a pastor.  Often I have had to meet with people with the subject of discipline before us.  There have also been times when I have been in the other seat of being disciplined.

Even though discipline is difficult, it is one of the most needed parts of a person’s Christian development.  Maybe you are struggling to understand this?  If so, consider Paul’s teaching in II Corinthians 7.  Here Paul is specifically speaking to a church that he was exercising discipline with.  In other blogs we have chronicled the background.  This church needed to come to a place of repentance.  As we read this chapter we come away with this reality, “It is Godly sorrow that leads to repentance.”

Without Godly discipline the church will never see it’s need of being held accountable for its actions and attitudes.  II Corinthians 7 is and excellent read for anyone who has charge of other people.

This very day you maybe are a parent who is wondering how to deal with a child who has a rebellious heart? It is discipline that will lead to repentance.

This very day you maybe are and employer who is struggling with employee’s?  If so it is discipline that will lead to repentance.

This very day you could have a friend who is living a lifestyle of sin?  If so discipline in accountability is the answer.

Finally, you could be the one who needs discipline?  If so, you are like me.  I challenge you to receive discipline with thankfulness and with repentance.

Because of discipline Paul had, in his own words, “Perfect confidence in the church at Corinth.”  Because of discipline I believe everything you are facing can be resolved.

One last footnote, “We discipline out of a heart of love, I Timothy 1:5-8.”  One who disciplines has to be pure of heart and filled with love.  Without it we will be legalistic people who discipline for conformity instead of for Christ-centeredness.

This is Demanding!

June 1, 2012

“And Jesus said to him, ‘foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58

Certainly you and I live in an age where people are bold in saying, “I want to do what I want to do and you have no right to tell me different.”  The buzz word of our day is, “Tolerance.”  The older I get the more keenly I see this ever-present rebellious attitude among humanity.

Consider Jesus response to all of this in our More For Christ readings, “Lk. 9:49-10:12.”  Jesus teaching is extremely demanding to those who hold the tolerance viewpoint.  However to those who are followers of Christ, this teaching is light in a dark world.  Notice Jesus teaching:

1.  Vs: 49-50, “We need to respect those who are on the team.”

Not everyone agrees on every tidbit in our faith.  We each have third tier differences.  We worship in different churches and have different denominations.  However we all agree that Jesus is the only way of Salvation and we agree that God’s church is His tool to get this message to the world.  We must respect others in the family of God.

2. Vs: 51-56, We must reach out to those who are not on the team.

Jesus reminds us to extend mercy to those around us.  The disciples had zeal, but they did not have mercy.  We must seek to do more than condemn people.  They are already condemned.  We must seek to reach out in compassion.

3. Vs: 57-62, We must focus on the goals of this team.

 Following Christ does cost.  It will cost you several things:  1) Personal comfort  2) Family must become second only to Jesus  3) We must never look back.  We must look ahead to all Christ is leading us to do.

In chapter 10 we discover 72 men who are appointed to this task.  2000 years later God is still appointing people to this task.  This very day, I have been challenged to check my motives.  I want to live with a heart that desires to do God’s work.  I do not consider it demanding, I consider serving God as a delight.

For further study: read Philippians 3 and also a book I just finished entitled, “Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman.”