Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

We live in a land of optimal wealth.  We have more than most of the world.  If you have ever been to a third world country your eyes will be opened to just how much we really have.  Not only do we have more than we need, but we have an over abundance.  Most of us don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, what clothes we are going to wear tomorrow or what we are going to do this weekend.  We have a multitude of choices and are never at a loss for things to do.

All that we possess and have been given is a gift from God.  The food, home, cars and clothing, trinkets, books and games all have been provided to you as gifts from God.   God has placed us in this time and place for his purpose.  That his glory may shine through us.  That we may demonstrate him to those around us and be a reflection of him.  All that we have has been provided by him for this very purpose.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 – But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Often times we get caught up in thinking and believing this is my stuff.  I own it, I worked hard for it and it belongs to me.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  We need to be wise and take care of this things God has entrusted us with.  I look around my house and realize that my 6 kids are very spoiled.  They have more than they need and often times that is a problem.  They have too much and in doing so, don’t take care of what they have.  I often find toys, books and games scattered around our house and no one wants to be responsible for picking them up.  It gets to the point where I end up giving things away because my kids won’t be responsible with what they have despite how much we talk about it.

Since I grew up poor, everything I planned or dreamed of centered around making a lot of money and doing whatever I wanted. When I was in my 20’s I was all about spending money right and left and acquiring things to make me feel good.  To feel like I belonged and was important.  My wife and I fell into this trap early on in our marriage and I continued to do this well into my 30’s until one day God convicted me that none of it belonged to me.  Everything I had was his and I needed to change my focus and attitude.

1 Timothy 6:17-19Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Since God has convicted me it has completely changed my view and how I live.  In all honesty I still have moments where I can be selfish and not want to share; God’s still working on me.  However, for the most part I prefer to live a simple life, with minimal “things”, but want to be able to provide for anyone who has a need that I can help with.  My wife and I have made it a policy to have an open home and allow most anyone to stay with us, use our things, ask for money or whatever need you have that we can assist with we will provide and we expect nothing in return.  I continually want to be a blessing to others and be able to use my time, money and talents to bless those around me.  I believe this is what God has called us to do. When all is said and done and our time on earth is over, those things we have accumulated will fade and eventually turn to dust and ultimately be destroyed.

When you are asked by someone else to use something of yours, how is your attitude? Are you willing to freely let them use it or are you stingy?

The culture in which we live continually entices us to engage in activities that as they claim will fulfill us.  Test, take, eat, drive and just do it.  Everywhere you turn ads. Commercials and merchandising are specifically designed to  target and speak to the person inside.  The person we could or should be.  That fun, exciting, happy person who is just waiting to get out and take part in all the world has to offer.

Satan lies and I believe these messages are meant to distract us from the truth.  Christ has called us to die to ourselves in Luke 9:23 – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

To die to ourselves means to come before Christ, surrender and admit we need him to take the reigns, guide and direct our steps.  To take our life and allow him to change it.  Is it easy, maybe for some, but for most of us, it’s a daily battle.  To surrender daily and allow Christ to take over is difficult.  We think we have it all figured out and can manage on our own.  The truth is, when we die to ourselves and God begins to reveal what’s really going on inside you begin to see just how selfish you really are.  You begin to see how much of what we do is focused and centered on self.

Philippians 2: 1-3 – So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …

Having our cake and eating it too is more of a practice in gluttony and self-indulgence.  Consuming all that you want, doing whatever you want so that you can be happy.   Using others for our own gain at not point does it stop to put the needs of someone else before yours.

Jesus came to serve the needs of others, he spent his life on earth living for something more than himself.  He was in constant contact with his father.  He was obedient to death upon a cross.  As I look at myself and countless others we fall short of this.  So much of my life has been taken up by consuming other(s) and things, which makes me incredibly sad.  It has not been the life God has called me to.

When we begin to die to ourselves daily and conform to the image of Christ, we begin to have the same mindset and view life from a larger perspective. We begin to see that God offers us something much sweeter.   In what ways do you need to stop having your cake and eating it too?

 

Men you are being lied to.  You are being fed one lie after another and you probably don’t even realize it.  Satan is the master deceiver and if we do not know where our true identity comes from we will continue to believe the lies we are fed.

In order to separate truth from the lies, we must be grounded in scripture.  We must know how God sees us.  When you begin to compare what you believe with his truth, you will begin to see and expose the lies.  As I was reading back through highlighted sections of my Bible I came across these verses that I take comfort in regards to that truth.

 

John 1:12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

1 Corinthians 6:17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from ]God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,  who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

Ephesians 1:3-8 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. InHim we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Colossians 2:9-10For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,  and in Him you have been made]complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

 

The lies are everywhere and if you are a part of this world you are fed them every day and they have been deeply engrained into your soul.  We believe that our career/job defines us as men.  Being a doctor, writer, artist, producer, manager, cook, garbage collector and mill worker are WHO we are.  That is a lie, while God has given us those jobs and allowed us to use the gifts he has given us, we are much more than a title in some job.  Yet we spend so much of our time being caught up in those things that we lose sight of who and what we really are.

Another important aspect I have learned in regards to my identity is surrounding myself with other men who know truth and who are grounded in it.  Having these men in my life allows me to stay in check.  They have the ability to call me out when I allow my head to swell.  They have the right and ability to ask me how my walk with God is, where’s he at work in my life and what am I doing to grow in him.  The best gift I have is men who will walk alongside me as I maneuver my way through life and continue to point me towards God.

What are you doing in your life to combat the lies with truth?

God’s words, which were written by men and provided to us through the Bible have always been and will always remain truth.   The problem we have with this is that is challenges our beliefs and thinking.  It rubs us the wrong way and often times frustrate us in how we want to live our life.   As it states in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Lately is seems there is a trend occurring within the body of believers for people to identify and refer to themselves as Liberal Christians.  That’s an interesting term and concept in my opinion.  I’ve seen many who refer to themselves in these terms discount parts of scripture as not being truth and affirm sinful patterns and behaviors as being ok.  As it says in 2 Timothy, all scripture, which means, all that God has given us in his word is truth.  If God calls it sin, then we must align ourselves with that and call it sin as well.  I don’t believe at any time anyone can take part of scripture and throw it out and say that doesn’t apply to us today.

Does this challenge my thinking, absolutely?  As I read the word of God, I have to check myself and evaluate my heart, motives and actions.  It is easy to be deceived by the world.  Satan is excellent at deception and I have been caught up in the lies he feeds to many times.  In this sense, it is imperative that we be grounded in his word so that we can align ourselves with his truth and call Satan out on his lies.

Truth is always going to push buttons, offend and divide people.  While I am continue to work out my faith daily, I believe the only real way this is accomplished is through reading his word and making sure I line myself up with what he has called us to do.  I do believe as followers of Jesus Christ it is imperative we be in the word and allowing it to shape and change our lives.  I also believe that we need to be bold in our faith and how it’s lived out.  We can’t allow the word of God to be tossed out or discarded – every word that is in the Bible is there for a reason.

Do you consider the Bible to be the word of God? Have you chosen to disregard part(s) of scripture?  How does the word of God impact your life and views as you live in this world?

There seems to be too many instances where we see people who fail and when I say fail, I mean they morally fail in some way and they are dragged through the mud.  They were caught in adultery or something sexually immoral, stealing, lying, spying and cheating.  What makes it even worse is these are folks who have for all intent and purposes been living a life where they have chosen to identify themselves as someone who is a Christian.  In doing so, it’s given the rest of the world or those in their world the opportunity to see how badly we model what it looks like to be the image bearers of Christ.

When we choose to identify and become like Christ, we are meant to surrender our lives over to Christ and allow him to transform and renew us – from the inside out (the inside being our heart).  At no time will we ever be perfect and not struggle with sin.  Until the return of Christ we will daily struggle with sinning.

The world already believes we are hypocrites.  So many horrible acts and atrocities have been committed and behind it were people who considered themselves to be Christians.  What hope does this offer others, if what they see modeled by us to say one thing but do the complete opposite?

If you really plan on following Christ, than you must be willing to be in relationships with other, we must be willing to be open and honest, we must be willing to allow others to hold us accountable.  It is way to easy to fake it, lie and pretend we have it all together. I’ve been there to many times.  What gets me the most is the fact that I am representing something bigger than myself.  When I make the choice to say and identify myself as a Christian, yet continue to live a life opposite of that, I’m not really living my life for Christ.  I’m living for me, but am hoping as a Christian I can get by.  Really in the stupidity of that, all it takes is me living in my sin and hiding, getting caught and proving once again, how big of a hypocrite I am.  Realizing that I may be the reason someone wants nothing to do with God or other believers.

I don’t believe God has called us to live our lives in this manner.  I believe he wants all of us, each and every part and he wants us to be dependent not only on him, but each other.  If what I am living for, believe with all of my heart to be true and the very thing for which I get up daily, than my actions should back that up.  I was involved in group with other men and choose to remain silent about my sins and choices.  I lied and continued to keep up and image.  Eventually my world came crashing down and it was in that, I learned I couldn’t continue this way.  Sometimes it’s still a struggle to want to go and do things I know God does not want me taking part in.  It’s in those times where being a real man means I access my brothers, where I get on my knees and take those thoughts to God.

2 Corinthians 10:5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

I know all to well that which I am speaking of, I have chosen to identify myself as a Christian all the while living a life completely opposite of what I should be doing.  I have made the choice to continue living a sinful life all the while making it appear as thought I had it altogether.  It took me a very long time to finally understand what I was doing and how wrong it was

 

Do you find it’s difficult to live the life Christ wants you to?  Is it easier to live a double life?  What do you think when people who call themselves Christians fall?

I’ve been reading a book lately that has made me think about my walk with God,Born to Runby Christopher McDougall. I say it made me think about my walk with God, but it took a round about way of doing it. You see, the book is about The Tarahumara tribe who live in the Copper Canyon region of the Sierra Madres. To make a long story short (one that I recommend to anyone who wants an interesting story about amazing athleticism), McDougall tells his reader that every one of us was born to be a runner, and he tells us why.

I’m not going to go more into the book, or even why I like it, but I will go into my rambling thoughts that started on the pages of a book and have now led to an entirely different kind of exercise; the exercise of following God’s path. You see, the Tarahumara are ultraendurance runners. There are legends of these guys running more than 400 miles in a single run, and there are records of them doing over 300 in 48hrs(and that’s not counting the elevation changes of running over 3000 ft mountains)! These men and women recognize how they were created, and they have embraced it. I’m betting a few of you are starting down the same rabbit hole that I went down on reading about these amazing human beings. If they can harness their bodies in this amazing way, why do I sometimes feel like I’m in the longest endurance race ever conceived of when I set out the door to do God’s work, to be God’s man?

As a believer, I know that we were created to follow God. Everyone of us, every one, is shown His glory and given a chance to be His disciple, but most turn away for the lies that our culture and world offers. So why is it so hard for those of us who have made the choice to accept His son to follow Him? Why do some of us hit walls at every turn and face seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the path God has placed us on? I’m asking these questions, not because I have the answers, but because I often feel like I’ve entered a race that I don’t know how to finish.  That’s the thing, Jesus tells us, it doesn’t end. He also tells us that we will be hated. We will be persecuted. We will run into obstacles and we will fight for every inch, but when we get to the place He has prepared for us, we will be given the greater reward, God’s reward.

All of this makes me ask, why do we do it? Most runners (at least the ones I think are sane) will tell you that when they started running, it wasn’t because they liked running, it was because they wanted to like running. That’s the stage I’m in as a runner, I hate going out the door to run, but I want to like it! Now what about walking (or running) with God? Almost every believer I talk to says they love being on His path, but then when I look, they are only really following on Sundays and major religious holidays. I actually have had believers tell me that they are following God by living as the world around them lives (even to the extent of getting drunk and living in debauchery). I don’t think most people love following Jesus, at first. It’s hard. It calls for a transformation. It means giving up freedom and control to God. This is that stage I feel is most difficult for the new believer. I’m not doubting salvation here, I’m questioning conviction, mine as much as anyone else’s.  It’s only after you’ve made the sacrifices and become sold out for God that you start finding true joy in following His path. I’m somewhere at the beginning of that joy phase. I do truly feel joy at running His path for me, but it still hurts sometimes. I still stub my toe at times and I still stumble and scrape my knee. But He gives me taller, steeper hills to climb. He gives me seemingly impassable terrain, and then gives me the ability to pass it (with Him carrying me most of the way)! He gives me the endurance to do what He built me to do.

Thinking on this, I think it’s time to start running that road again. Who’s with me?

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

I have been saddened to see over time the amount of programming, sermons and activities in church that take place and little prayer that has gone into them.  I’ve watched people sit down in meetings make plans and then move forward with it and not offer up any prayer to God, or if they did it was one right at the beginning of the meeting with a quick, “Thanks for allowing this meeting to happen, please be with us in this meeting.”  Not sure if that is really a prayer or an obligatory, we are doing the work of God so we better make it look good statement.

God has given us knowledge and the ability to make plans and do great things and we should.  We should use our gifts to bring glory to the name of God.  The caveat here being only after we have spent time seeking God’s will for those things.  My other concern is how often we plan something, believing it’s the will of God and then really listen to see if this is where he is guiding and directing our steps.  Where is the discernment for God’s clear voice?  How do we know if God wants us to go in a different direction?  How do we know if all the programs, events and activities we’ve always been doing are still the things God wants us to do?

I am not sure at what point we feel like we have it all figured out and know exactly what God desires, be it at church or in our own life.  What I do know is if we fail to come before God, talk with him, seek his will, discern his voice and wait on his answer than we aren’t doing his will.  In my experience a quick 1 or 2 minute prayer has never drawn me closer to God and allowed me to really hear what he has to say.  When I clear out my schedule, spend time with him and earnestly seek him is when I hear him and sometimes it’s not always been what I planned.  God has thrown some curveballs in my life.  Granted this doesn’t always happen, and I usually haven’t made really big decisions in my life without really putting into practice those things.  I think it foolish to do otherwise.

Is God really leading you in that direction or are you just going on knowledge and experience.  Maybe it’s time to stop, clear out your schedule and really spend time finding out what God has in store.  Are you really willing to listen and follow what he’s asking?

How much time do you spend seeking God’s will for your life?

In todays Church, there is a tendency to focus on “growth” or “conversions.” I think this is missing a major part of Jesus’ teaching. If we look at the Gospel and the epistles, we see more about how to live as a believer and Church than how to recieve salvation. So why do so many churches today only teach the Gospel? Why do they teach that salvation is an end instead of teaching that salvation is the beginning?

Jesus didn’t teach this. Look at Matthew 4:19, “He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'” Jesus did not say “Come here and I will make you a fisher of men,” or “Go there, and I will make you a fisher of men.” He said “Follow me.” These two words sum up the walk of a believer for me. We are to follow Jesus.

There is a saying that goes something like this, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When considering my walk with Jesus, this is how I often feel. My journey with Christ may be a journey of a thousand miles, that’s up to Him, not me. The key is that I continue taking the steps to follow Him. To grow in Him. To become more like Him. In my walk, I will join others, and this is what we as the Church should be teaching. We need to teach to follow, not to come. We need to teach to walk together and grow in Him.

A challenge to you: Instead of being content with where you are, follow Jesus and grow in Him.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

 

Over the last several weeks, I have watched “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

As I watched the final few scenes, I was reminded that Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings with many Christian symbols. While not like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, Middle Earth has many clear references to Christianity in it. It’s easy to identify Sauron as an image for Satan, and Aragon as being a Christ figure, but there are others worth looking at. I’m going to focus on one.

Samwise Gamgee. In the movie, as Frodo falls, just feet from the entrance to Mount Doom, Sam picks Frodo up and carries him. I cannot remember if the quote is the same in the book as it is in the movie, but Sam tells Frodo, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.” I think this is an echo of Christ in our lives. While Christ can take all burden from us, we are meant to bear some burden for Him. He allows us these burdens, even when they seem paralyzing, but He also lifts us up so we can carry them. If the burden is too much, He will lift it from us, but if we can bear it, He will lift us up. Just a thought from a great movie.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

As a kid I heard the saying – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”.  How untrue that is.  It’s not secret that words are powerful.  Ask anyone who’s ever dealt with verbal abuse from a parent, spouse or boss.  The words and phrases spew out of their mouths leave hurts just as much as physical wounds.  Words spoken this way are curses cast upon us.  I am reminded of the Proverbs 21:23Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. Yet how many times have I been guilty of this.  So many times I wish I could go back and take back what I said to someone.  Unfortunately once it’s spoken it can never be taken back.

We are told in Proverbs 18:8 – The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.  Gossip seems to be something everyone wants to get in on or hear.  Unfortunately, gossip and bad mouthing are never meant to build a person up.  In fact they seek to bring a person down and point out the person is flawed and somehow less than others.  Those talking ill about someone else make them appear as though they either have a really boring life or they have everything together.   It has been my experience we are all aware of our flaws.  When someone makes the choice to talk badly about us, put us down or point out our mistakes it solidifies what we already know about ourselves.  We are told in Matthew 15:10-11And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.  There is nothing about gossiping or bad mouthing others that does any good.  And yet so many people are happy to do this daily and make it a continual part of their lives.

When we talk about ourselves, we use degrading phrases like “I’m an idiot, I’m stupid, and I’m worthless.”  These are things I’ve said and I hear people every day say about themselves.   When we make a mistake, mess up or fall on our face we have a habit of talking badly about ourselves.  Everyone seems to be ok with degrading themselves and making these comments.  Its second nature and we now are less than God created us.  By our own words we have spoken curses upon ourselves.  In James 3:6-8 we get a very clear picture of just how bad it is.  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

 

What if we shifted our outlook?  Take it upon yourself to start complimenting and building others up.  Begin looking for something good about the person and state it.  Better yet, publically state what’s good about them.  What if when we make a mistake we evaluate it, learn from it and move on, but negate all the bad self talk.  What if we choose our words carefully in talking with others?  We make statements and comments that are genuine, sincere and when we leave lift the person’s spirits in a way that it wasn’t before we engaged with them.  The following verses have always been good reminders for me in regards to this.

Colossians 4:66 – Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

In the end we will stand accountable to God.  Matthew 12:36-37 is a good reminder of this – I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.  We all the gift of edification within us, but it must be practiced.  How good would it feel to start each day by being told something good, positive and uplifting?  I have tried very hard to make this become a daily habit.  You’d be surprised at how it will change your own spirit by building others up, if you doubt – go and give it at try.

What verses convict you in how you speak?