This is part of a chapter out of a book I’m writing, “Total Transformation.” You might find it to be of use.
When we want to be transformed, Jesus shows the way. That way is not easy, but it is simple. It is the way of discipleship.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” Mt 16.24.
It might seem strange to us that Jesus makes this affirmation to his followers so late in his ministry. His declaration, however, comes at a critical point, after the confession of his identity and the Lord’s subsequent revelation of his death. Now his group can begin to understand the nature of discipleship. Continue reading
In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus begins to reinforce his inner-circle of disciples by convincing a few fishermen that he was worth being followed.
Some might see Jesus’ choice and say he started off on the hook. Fisherman? Why not a highly respected public individual like a priest or even a temple guard? Why not start off with a well-noted scribe of Moses’ Law or even a beginning-student that had been properly trained by a well-known rabbi? How could someone expect to change Israel (not to mention the gentile world) in the most needed way by starting off with a few blue-collar, temperamental, untrained and unknown fish-net throwing people?
Apparently Jesus wasn’t worried about meeting the credentials of what they or we might think when it comes to who’s worthy of his calling. As it would be said later – Jesus chose them, they did not choose Jesus (John 15:16).
You see, when it came to his inner-circle of disciples, Jesus started off on exactly the right hook! He started off by telling Simon Peter to do something that went against conventional wisdom. Think about it, a carpenter telling a fisherman how and when to catch fish? But that’s exactly what happened…and Peter listened. Boy did he ever listen! And so did James and John. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought. What mattered is that they didn’t take any “bait” – they took the truth when it was presented to them.
When an individual shows a willingness to hear the word of God and follow it, then that person is starting off on the right hook with Jesus; a hook that would make fisherman of men out of these new dedicated disciples; and a hook that can do the same thing with us.
We don’t need to let first impressions keep us from making an effort that can have lasting effects.
“For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”” (John 5:9-10)
Almost seven years ago, Forthright Press launched The Fellowship Room as a group weblog of saints who could contribute and interact at will. (Here’s the first post.) In that time this modest effort has grown to include more than 11,400 posts by over 30 Fellows over the widest range of topics related to faith and discipleship in a fallen world.
Today, we take yet another step forward, with a new dot-com domain, which recently became available, and an installation on our own hosting. Several advantages now appear thanks to the move. Continue reading
Years ago, an elderly couple in a congregation whom we barely knew were often heard to say, “We just want to love everybody.” Their phrase has stuck with me across the decades.
I don’t know what they meant by it. Did they want to ignore the doctrine of Christ and be, back in that day, all-inclusive? Had they been hurt seeing some harsh attitudes in the body of Christ?
They were not prominent people in the congregation. Even their attendance may not have been as regular as one might expect. Back then, their phrase didn’t impress me much. It seemed to leave too much out. Maybe they meant to cut away beliefs or actions important to others. Maybe not.
Whatever they meant by it, they struck the right note. The Way is the path of love, if it is anything. One thing for certain, God just wants to love everybody. And not only wants, but seeks it.
God sent his Son for salvation. He sent his Spirit for transformation. He sent his Word for sanctification. All in the name of love.
Maybe that couple was on to more than I knew. Continue reading
Jesus freely fed thousands.
Jesus freely healed an untold number of people.
Jesus freely gave signs that pointed to who he was.
Jesus freely gave his blood to cleanse a lost humanity from sin.
But Jesus also said to count the cost if we’re going to follow him.
““If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14:26-30)
In my previous post, I reflected on how God’s forgiveness and discipline intertwined in our lives, gleaning principles from Psalm 99 and Hebrews 12. Psalm 99 also teaches some powerful truths about holiness and the sovereignty of God in connection with prayer by heroes of faith. Psalm 99 has universal perspective: People from every nation (and even the earth itself!) should tremble at the realization that God rules. While, especially in Western society, people cherish autonomy, Psalm 99 reminds us that even rulers, priests, and prophets are accountable to God. The psalm mentions Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. Each of these three had a connection with priesthood; Moses and Samuel also functioned as rulers and prophets in Israel. The role of prayer in the ministry of all three is noted when the psalm’s writer observes about Samuel, “…Samuel also was among those who called on his name,” in a literary structure that equates the service of Aaron and Moses with that of Samuel. While all three were spiritual leaders of the people of God, Moses and Aaron especially were held accountable for sins committed in the course of leading Israel. Even Samuel had to answer for the unethical behavior of his sons after he delegated some of his responsibilities and authority to them.
Psalm 99 emphasizes the holiness of God in its call to worship him: “Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!”(verse 5) and “Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy” (verse 9). We know the LORD is holy because he is a “lover of justice” and has “executed justice and righteousness”(verse 4). In regard to the prayers of Aaron, Moses, and Samuel, verse 8 observes, “O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.” The psalmist also notes that this trio of faith heroes “kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.”
God’s holiness is to be reflected in the lives of his worshipers; passages like James 3 underline that teachers and leaders of worship especially should live holy lives. The lives of the three leaders named above reveal that even flawed leaders can lead God’s people well, but that there is a personal cost for their sins. Psalm 99 applies this truth to leaders, but also to all in our world who call on God’s name in prayer. Prayer is not a glib conversation with a friend, but a dialogue with the holy Creator of life and our world. As Hebrews 12:28 states, “Therefore, since wee are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.” When we “call for fire” in prayer, we must pray with awareness of the power of the One to whom we cry.
I hate to rain on your parade. But all this talk about taking advantage of Easter, when some people may show up at church for this one time during the year (throw in Christmas if you like), sounds like a bunch of bunkum.
Did anyone ever convert to Christ from showing up in their Easter finest? Did any church suddenly grow from a fine Easter production? Did the Sunday after Easter suddenly swell with new members because an eldership and a preacher put on their Sunday best to impress the suddenly pious visitor? Continue reading