Thursday, February 28, 2013

Grow in Faith

While writing that same young leader, Paul urged him to follow a number of practices and to strive for a number of things. Among those things he was supposed to strive for were: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

A person can strive for righteousness by learning what is right and what is wrong, and working to avoid the wrong, but practice the right.

A person can strive for godliness by practicing the spiritual disciplines: reading scripture, praying, meditating, etc.

A person can strive for love by serving, recognizing what love is and what love is not, and avoiding what it is not, and practicing what it is as well as possible.

A person can strive for perseverance by “getting back on the horse” after you fall.

A person can strive for gentleness by striving to control hot emotions, and responding more calmly and coolly.

Here’s my problem … how do you strive to grow in faith? Read the promises of God, claim them (by asking God to fulfill what he promised) and waiting for the result? Praying for something and waiting for an answer? Anybody have an idea?

Monday, February 25, 2013


Seems like most Christians say that Christianity is all about our relationship with God. I am beginning to think that following Jesus is all about relationships, period.

In a letter to a young leader, Paul advises him on dealing with relationships with: God, the government, people who once followed Jesus, but don’t anymore, older men, older women, younger men, younger women, and those who do not follow Jesus.

In business, it may be “Location! Location! Location!” but in following Jesus it’s “People! People! People!”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Give Thanks

Praying about everything is not enough. We should also express our gratitude to God for everything he has done for us. Then, we will experience inexpressible peace.
Again, I don't know if this means we should be happy with everything. However, it should affect how we perceive everything.

Many of the Psalm encourage a review and a remembering of God's Works. People are prone to forget. People are prone to focus at the close to hand. If what is at hand is bad, people are prone to focus on the bad.

Focus on God's grace and provision brings a greater awareness and understanding of God's character, commitment to people, and is an encouragement to faith and trust.
Peace is created as we come to greater realization of who is concerned for us, and who is active on our behalf.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Don't Worry, Be Happy?

Scripture encourages us to not worry about anything. Rather, our response should be prayer. We have previously defined prayer as a conversation with God. So, we are being encouraged not to have a conversation with ourselves about issues facing us, but have a conversation with God about them.

There are several things that happen when we approach God with issues. First, we invite his participation in them. That is, we give him permission to intervene and interfere in our affairs. So, he has room to orchestrate whatever concerns us to produce the best possible outcome.

Second, we can ask for and receive wisdom. This has a couple of effects. He is able to give us understanding from his point of view. We might even get a brand new point of view. We also see how we need to respond, what our attitude should be, or if there is any action we should initiate.

Prayer should lead in a change in how we view problems, and how we approach solutions to problems. I don’t know if this means we need to be happy with whatever is facing us, but we should be able to face it with confidence and positive expectations.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Discipleship - IX

Two, there was a tremendous passion for Jesus.

We all know people who seem to drip Jesus from their pores. They exhale Jesus. They give positive testimony to in Jesus in a natural, unforced, unembarrassed, non-cheesy way. While the rest of us stumble, fall on our faces and cannot move our tongues in any sort of coherent, understandable manner. Yet, one does not need  to read the New Testament too long before one realizes every follower of Jesus should proclaim Jesus, and it should flow out of a heart filled by Jesus.

In the first church, the difference resided in the heart. People had just had their world turned upside down by  the resurrection of Jesus. This personal revolution made speaking about Jesus a natural, obvious part of a person's life.

Training and evangelism programs can make positive additions to the church's ability to impact the world with the gospel. But the world will really be impacted forthe gospel by lives that have undergone a Jesus revolution.

Many churches realize this, but attempt to start the fire by meetings and speakers that supercharge the emotions. Human beings cannot sustain or continue to exist on supercharged emotions. This does not mean that emotions are wrong per se. The revolution must be continued on the deeper levels of the heart and spirit. And it is the Word and the Holy Spirit that works in these areas.

So, the question becomes, not what can we do to work ourselves into a frenzy, but how can we cooperate with God in changing our hearts?

I recently read a book where the writer wrestled with the question. His suggestion was to meet in very small groups, where people can be very open, honest and vulnerable about their spiritual walk, discuss the scripture they read (after repetitive reading of large amounts of scripture) and praying together for needs, but especially for people without a relationship with Jesus

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Discipleship - VIII

It was community life around Jesus that had a continuing persuasive effect on the other people in Jerusalem. Each day, people were choosing to follow Jesus.

Is this true in your city? I have heard people lament this lack of harvest. People throw up their hands and shake their heads are the hard and resistant hearts.

But Jesus said the harvest was ready! Why did the apostles experience this “reaping” that has not been seen on this on-going scale since. (Meaning there were short time frames that have equaled … or, at least, were close.)

I think there were two reasons. One, Jesus had spent the last three years abundantly sowing. It is obvious – there has to be abundant sowing, if there is going to be abundant reaping. The apostles profited from Jesus’ labor. At some point, the seed Jesus sowed ran out. The apostles continued to sow; so they continued to reap. But the sowing stopped; so the reaping stopped.

Two, there was …

Discipleship - VII

They also seem to hang out together a lot. They worshiped daily in the temple. They met in homes to eat together and share the Lord’s Supper.

Although, it does not explain what this worship looked like (one large group, many small groups, or individuals worshiping separately, but together) but there was daily contact. Maybe multiple times daily. Church life was certainly much more than 2-3 hours on a Sunday morning. More than a Wednesday night prayer meeting. More than a bi-weekly small group. I do not want to minimize these activities, but there seems to be something more.

Community life arranged around Jesus had a powerful effect. Even, though they were Jews, they were from diverse backgrounds and cultures. They got along. They were generous to each other. They were hospitable to each other. And they interacted in ways that were positive demonstrations of Jesus.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Discipleship -VI

The next part of the picture says that the early church got together and everyone shared what they had. They sold possesions and property to provide for people in need.

The picture is of a very open-hearted, open-handed people. There was a genuine concern for one another. There was a genuine desire to help, to meet needs.

A community is born. A family is born. Other parts of the picture emphasize the fact also. People from a large swath of the middle east, Europe,  Asia,  and possibly Africa,  join together across culteral barriers to become genuinely involved in one another's lives.

Like people naturally attract. But, here, people from different backgrounds,  languages and cultures were drawn together, based on a connection of a hunger to learn about this Jesus, and the Holy Spirit forging a heart chain between them. And they sacrificed for the good of each other.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Discipleship - V

Then, the description seems to shift. It doesn’t describe the things the early church practiced, as it tries to paint a picture of what early church life looked like.

There continued to be supernatural events, as when Jesus lived. Healings. Miracles. The blind see and the lame walk. May be resurrections from the dead.

The apostle’s faith was strong. They had seen Jesus’ works. They were confident about what was possible. The Spirit moved freely in their lives.

Many people today do not see nor expect to see any supernatural events. Have we lost faith? Have we explained away anything supernatural by our “scientific,” sophisticated, tainted with materialism, world-views? Or did Jesus “prime the pump?” Or in other words, did Jesus’ faith. Love, prayers, expectations and perspective act as seed – like seeding rain clouds – to the supernatural? Because of the way he lived, the supernatural was more predisposed to break through into the world?

I know some people who believe that he “primed the pump” at least in one area … that we will look at very shortly.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Discipleship -IV

The next item is "prayer." As we have written recently, prayer is conversation with God. It is the place where man can open his heart freely to God, focusing his heart toward God.  Here God confirms his words, his intentions with man. He confirms a man's purpose,  a man's place in God's world,  God's life and God's mission.

Man also invites God to act in the areas of his concern. He invites God into his family, his work, his neighborhood,  his hobbies, his goals, and his pursuits.

And it is perfectly permissible to invite God into the every day, mundane events of life. A person might get a parking place quicker. Or a trip to the grocery store might move from the ordinary to the extraordinary.