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  • J. Randal Matheny 8:01 pm on 2016-09-30 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , discipleship,   

    Jesus shows the way 

    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. (More …)

  • Eugene Adkins 7:02 am on 2016-09-15 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: discipleship, ,   

    Starting off on the wrong hook? 

    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)

    • docmgphillips 10:26 am on 2016-09-15 Permalink | Reply

      Haven’t heard of this happening recently, but I remember a case where a very rich factory owner attended a congregation of the Church of Christ where one of his janitors served as an elder. Unfortunately, we seem to have fallen, today, into the trap of electing the rich and/or well-known as elders instead of the faithful. Jesus started the principle of looking for the inner man rather than the outward appearance.

      • Eugene 6:46 am on 2016-09-16 Permalink | Reply

        That’s an interesting situation.

    • docmgphillips 12:09 pm on 2016-09-16 Permalink | Reply

      Both were faithful Christians, and the situation at work or at church did not seem to bother either of them. In fact, if I remember correctly, the janitor had baptized the owner’s wife, then the owner. Yes, we do not hear many like this today, do we?

    • J. Randal Matheny 1:10 pm on 2016-09-16 Permalink | Reply

      In one congregation I know of two men worked together in a business, one the manager, the other the assistant manager. The manager was a deacon, the assistant manager, an elder.

  • J. Randal Matheny 3:14 pm on 2016-09-07 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anniversaries, , , discipleship,   

    Another step forward for this 7-year-old effort 


    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. (More …)

  • J. Randal Matheny 12:38 pm on 2016-05-18 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , discipleship, , , ,   

    Striking the right note 


    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. (More …)

  • Eugene Adkins 6:42 am on 2015-01-09 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: discipleship,   

    The free and the cost 

    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)

  • Michael Summers 1:01 pm on 2014-04-30 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , discipleship, ,   

    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.

  • J. Randal Matheny 8:01 am on 2014-04-15 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: discipleship, , , , ritualism   

    Break the Easter egg — Did a church ever grow from an Easter celebration? 


    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? (More …)

    • Bernard Barton 8:47 am on 2014-04-15 Permalink | Reply

      AMEN!!!! Brother I know there will be auditoriums filled this coming Sunday even in the Lord’s church
      Even though we don’t celebrate Easter there will be many of the members of the church of Christ who will
      show up this one Sunday as pious Christians

    • John Henson 9:48 am on 2014-04-15 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, can’t I rant or rave just a little. I can tell them of “unknown tongues,” a similar KJV error in 1 Corinthians 14. Easter and unknown tongues. We speak in a tongue everyday, just not in an unknown one. Of course, there wouldn’t have been a problem if men hadn’t added words to God’s message! There’s my rant.

    • bgiselbach 12:29 pm on 2014-04-15 Permalink | Reply

      Very powerful, brother!

    • Weylan Deaver 10:29 am on 2014-04-16 Permalink | Reply

      Well said, Randal.

  • Michael Summers 10:38 am on 2014-03-25 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: discipleship, , ,   

    When God’s People Humble Themselves and Pray 

    I’m re-blogging this from my “Call for Fire Seminar” blog. Christians struggle at times with whether sins they commit can be forgiven. This blog article examines King Manasseh of Judah’s spiritual crisis and compares him with New Testament examples of both Christians and those who had yet to become disciples of Jesus.

    If Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 could describe himself as chief of sinners, then King Manasseh might have argued that he was next. Manasseh ruled fifty-five years, more than any other monarch of Judah or Israel. During most of his reign, he apparently was a compliant vassal of the Assyrian Empire. Perhaps because of Assyrian influence, Manasseh revoked the religious reforms of his father Hezekiah that had returned Judah to exclusive worship of Yahweh. Manasseh himself participated in the rites of indigenous Canaanite gods and burned one of his sons as a religious sacrifice. This king practiced divination and sorcery. He remodeled the Jerusalem Temple, adding altars to additional gods. In addition to his religious heresy, 2 Kings 21:16 notes that “Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.” The author of 2 Kings regards Manasseh’s reign as the tipping point that persuaded God that the nation of Judah must be punished for its spiritual rebellion. 2 Kings 21 notes no positive aspects of Manasseh’s religious or political influence.

    2 Chronicles 33 also relates the history of Manasseh’s long reign. Its writer repeats verbatim much of what we read in 2 Kings 21:1-10. However, while 2 Kings portrays Manasseh’s reign as consistently evil and assigns responsibility to the heretical monarch for Judah’s subsequent exile to Babylon, 1 Chronicles records that Manasseh, exiled himself for a time by the Assyrians to Babylon, repented of his multitude of sins and prayed to God for forgiveness. While the Bible does not record Manasseh’s prayer, centuries later someone wrote a prayer based on Manasseh’s repentance as described in 1 Chronicles 33. This apocryphal prayer of Manasseh ends with this plea to a gracious God:

    “Do not destroy me with my transgressions; do not be angry against me forever; do not remember my evils; and do not condemn me and banish me to the depths of the earth! For you are the God of those who repent. In me you will manifest all your grace; and although I am not worthy, you will save me according to your manifold mercies. Because of this (salvation) I shall praise you continually all the days of my life; because all the hosts of heaven praise you, and sing to you forever and ever” (“The Prayer of Manasseh,” from The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by J.H. Charlesworth, Garden City, New York: Doubleday& Company, 1985, p. 635).

    In 2 Chronicles, a forgiven Manasseh returns to Jerusalem, where he initiates religious reforms and building programs that demonstrate the genuineness of his repentance. The Chronicler’s account of Manasseh’s life ends: “The other events of Manasseh’s reign, including his prayer to his God and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, are written in the annals of the kings of Israel. His prayer and how God was moved by his entreaty, as well as all his sins and unfaithfulness, and the sites where he built high places and set up Asherah poles and idols before he humbled himself – all are written in the records of the seers” (2 Chronicles 33:18-19).

    Manasseh begins his reign by arrogantly turning away from the God of his father Hezekiah. He brings both religious and political ruin to his nation by his policies. Only after being exiled does he humble himself and pray. His repentance and prayer echoes God’s words to King Solomon centuries earlier, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face an turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). God’s promise is extended to people who already are in covenant relationship with him, but have violated the terms of that covenant. Such was the case with Manasseh and Judah, the nation he ruled. In modern times, it applies to Christians who have strayed from God’s will rather than to secular nations.

    Manasseh’s prayer demonstrates the efficacy of calling for fire when one realizes that through his or her own disobedience, they have placed themselves in great spiritual danger. Just as Peter and John counseled Simon to pray for forgiveness in hope that God might forgive him (Acts 8), so worshipers of God who have lost their way today may ask for forgiveness. Manasseh sinned horribly, killing at least one of his children, causing the death of many others, and leading a nation into apostasy and toward political suicide. Even after his repentance, the aftershocks of his earlier sins continued to influence Judah’s history for generations. Even when we repent, we cannot always undo the effects of the wrong we have done. On the other hand, God does forgive him, and Manasseh, despite the magnitude of his earlier sin, accomplishes great acts of service for God during his remaining years. No sin is too great for God to forgive when God’s people, who are called by his name, humble themselves and pray.

    God of grace and glory, Remember how you granted forgiveness to Manasseh and Saul, who became Paul the apostle. Extend the same grace to those who recognize the horror of their own rebellion. Forgive them when they humbly return to you. Saul had thrown disciples of your Son into prison, and assisted in the killing of others, but when he arose and was baptized, calling on the name of the Lord, you forgave him and gave him a mission which transformed his weakness into strength. Give us strength and courage to do your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • J. Randal Matheny 4:04 am on 2013-12-24 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , discipleship, ,   

    Christmas observance detracts from discipleship 

    Christmas or discipleship?The so-called Christian world celebrates a date that is most certainly wrong in order to mark the coming of the Christ into the world, rather than obey him as Lord and put him on as Savior. Christendom prefers the ritual of a yearly observance to the daily carrying of the cross of Christ.

    Let us be clear: As we speak to those outside of Christ, as we will certainly do this evening and tomorrow, we will seek to use the moment to point people to the Lord Jesus Christ. But let us not work under the delusion that people, just because they might think at some time during this holiday of the God who came in flesh, will be more disposed to obey the Lord. On the contrary … (More …)

  • Michael Summers 2:56 pm on 2013-11-11 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chaplain, , , discipleship, , , , reintegration, substance abuse recovery, trauma,   

    How May We Honor Military Veterans 

    Yesterday morning, I conversed briefly with an older member of the church I attend after our worship service concluded. Near the end of the service, the song director asked military veterans to stand and the congregation then concluded the service with a prayer song: “God Bless America.” The older brother in Christ told me that he had been in the U.S. Army during World War II and had been a Prisoner of War for about two months in 1945 after his capture by German forces. The horrible experience still scars him. He is not unique. While many military personnel return from combat zones reasonably healthy in mind and body, others bear scars they will never lose. We notice some quickly. They lost an arm or a leg; their faces still are scarred by burns from an explosion. Others have emotional scars. They witnessed charred remains of other Soldiers or were tortured as prisoners of war. Some may have performed acts for which they’re still ashamed, even though Christ forgave them long ago. Still others returned and have had trouble finding employment. They range from young enlisted Soldiers with high school diplomas to medical officers and chaplains with doctorates and master’s degrees. These too suffer; many occupied positions of great responsibility and supervised numbers of others in a combat zone, but now that they’re back home, they discover that potential employers don’t understand the skills and the leadership experience they gained. All these veterans hurt and may wonder if anyone really cares.

    On this Veterans Day, I ask, “How may we honor these men and women who volunteered to go where they might die in the service of our country, of us who live in the same nation?” This question applies also to Christians and military veterans in other nations. I mentioned already how our congregation concluded the service. Members also put together an eleven minute video with then-and-now pictures of veterans in the congregation which aired after the service. Another congregation hosted a breakfast for veterans and their wives as well as widow(er)s of military personnel. Some congregations invite veterans to lead the services on such days. These gestures help those who have deployed far away to reintegrate and to regain a sense of belonging once again. More help may be needed.

    A disturbing number of people who laid their lives on the line for us live homeless on our streets. They need different kinds of help; they’re homeless for diverse reasons. Some need mental health or substance abuse counseling. Others need vocational training, clothing, food, and a place to stay. They all need for someone to demonstrate compassion and to take initiative to help them. Again, some of these may even show up at your church’s worship services. You may wonder what happened to the young woman who used to sit in that pew after she returned from Iraq.

    Some veterans just need an opportunity to contribute. The reserve component chaplain who lost his preaching or teaching position when he deployed needs opportunities to serve. If the chaplain, medical doctor, or commander was/is a senior officer, they supervised what equates to a very large congregation’s worship and education activities, a missions organization, a small hospital, or a medium size business. They have real skills that the church and the community need. They may have lost the connections or (after their return) the confidence to gain appropriate employment to use those skills. They also may have had some of the traumatic experiences described above.

    I asked, “How may we honor these veterans?” Others question whether we should even though months ago they asserted, “We support the troops.” If you support the troops, now you have the opportunity to prove it. Thousands are returning to our communities and our churches. How will you prepare yourself and your congregation to help these veterans and their families? Jesus demonstrated compassion and healing throughout his ministry. Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Peter all interacted directly with soldiers; they addressed their medical, financial/ethical, and spiritual concerns. How will you honor our military veterans?

    • Jason B. Ladd 3:05 pm on 2013-11-11 Permalink | Reply

      You might enjoy this poem about families and absence, “While He’s Away: A Poem About Being Gone.” http://wp.me/p3BzWN-lB

      • Michael Summers 5:40 pm on 2013-11-11 Permalink | Reply

        Excellent poem, Jason. I conducted several retreats for families of deployed Soldiers; many comments from people at those retreats are reflected in the poem.

    • Brian Galloway 4:19 pm on 2013-11-11 Permalink | Reply

      I am a veteran and recently homeless (but not anymore). I was able to get out of that situation with the help of a lot of people; some Christians, some not. What I discovered along the way is that homeless people are modern-day lepers, as if homelessness is somehow contagious, and ‘normal’ people seem to think it’s safer to keep their distance. I also re-discovered the truth that Jesus did not come to make good people better but to rescue utterly lost people from a fate much worse than homelessness. Our social position in this life IS NOT de facto proof of our standing with Christ. Credible witnesses of that: Job, Naomi & Ruth, the apostle Paul, King David at certain times in his life, the prophet Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and plenty of others we’ll never hear about in this lifetime.

      • Michael Summers 5:37 pm on 2013-11-11 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you, Brian. As you may have inferred, I too am a veteran; I too have had tough times. Your comment about the modern-day lepers is right on track. I’m glad people did step forward to help you. Keep looking forward with hope and keep your focus on Jesus (who himself knew homelessness, acc. to Luke 9:58).

  • Michael Summers 10:54 pm on 2013-08-16 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: authenticity, , , discipleship   

    Does Commitment to Christ Threaten Our Self-Identity? 

    We may fear being limited by the constraints of being a member of Christ’s Church. However, part of being of a disciple of Jesus is being disciplined so that we may be authentic, that we may function in our appropriate role as members of his body, the church. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both make the point that just as members of a physical body (fingers, toes, neck, etc.) cannot just walk away and say that they do not need other parts of the body, so members of the body of Christ need one another. The church needs each of us: Our authenticity, our uniqueness, and our idiosyncrasies. At the same time, we must remind one another that the church must not simply stare inward but must have interaction with the world while maintaining its identity as a collection of motley, yet committed and changed, followers of Jesus. So be true and authentic, but meditate on Luke 9:57-62 and what it may mean for you. In that passage, Jesus challenges would-be disciples. Discipleship means commitment to Jesus. Distractions from that commitment threaten our relationship with the Messiah. Jesus himself said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62).

    • reneg8or@live.com 12:36 am on 2013-08-17 Permalink | Reply

      What is Christ’s church? It is the sum total of true disciples around the globe. Do not confuse this with church membership at a specific place or building. One can never be constrained by being a member of the true Church, but membership at some fraternity mostly will interfere with the purpose and calling of those who do not follow the good, nor the commendable but the perfect (specific) will of God. In the case of the latter, there will most likely be a conflict of interest.

      • Michael Summers 1:34 pm on 2013-08-17 Permalink | Reply

        Precisely. God adds true disciples to the body of Christ. Scripture teaches that disciples do not function at their best alone (See the passages cited in the article). A conflict does arise, as you suggest, when one’s will clashes with the will of God.

  • Michael Summers 11:10 pm on 2013-07-22 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , discipleship, , , ,   

    The Joy of the Baptized 

    Joy exploded through my mind as I burst from immersion in the baptistry that evening. I submitted to Christ in baptism decades ago, but memory of that burst of joy remains clear. No one told me to expect that experience. I’ve noticed that many others seem extremely happy after baptism. Sometimes, their expression of joy even makes some people uncomfortable. However, converts in the book of Acts experienced joy also when they obeyed Christ in baptism.

    An Ethiopian government official, returning from worshiping God in Jerusalem, read from the prophet Isaiah as his chariot bumped along the road to Gaza. He did not understand all that he read; however, a passerby joined him and explained how the difficult passages pointed to a man recently executed in Jerusalem, a man that the official’s passenger said had risen from the dead and was God’s Messiah. As the official listened, he learned that immersion in water was part of joining the Messiah’s cause. He noticed a body of water nearby. “Look, here is water,” he said, “what hinders me from being baptized?” After the chariot stopped, he and his passenger went down into the water and the passenger baptized him. Afterwards, the passenger left him, the official went on his way rejoicing (see Acts 8:36-39).

    The official was not unique in his experience of post-conversion joy. A prison guard, awakened by an earthquake that he was sure had freed all his prisoners, learned from two of his prisoners (all had remained in the prison) about this same Messiah, Jesus. After cleansing his prisoners’ wounds, he too was baptized. Then “the jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34).

    The Apostle Paul wrote to converts in Thessalonica and recalled, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1Thessalonians 1:6). This passage makes clear that this joy would continue, but that it would not erase suffering. Christians would still encounter difficulties, some because they had confessed Jesus as Lord, but they would retain hope because of their newfound capacity for joy.

    Galatians 5:22-25 identifies joy among the fruit of the Spirit that identifies those who keep in step with the Spirit because they remain faithful to Christ. Life as a disciple of Jesus may become difficult sometimes because we forget our baptism and the joy we felt as someone brought us up from the water, cleansed from guilt, forgiven of sin, and added by God to Christ’s church. Like the government official, the jailer, Paul and the Thessalonian Christians, remember your baptism. Imitate Christ and faithful Christians. As Paul wrote to another congregation in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-6).

  • Michael Summers 11:18 pm on 2013-06-15 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , discipleship, , , ,   

    How Well Do We Listen (Especially When We Are Paid Talkers)? 

    Decades ago (never mind how many), I took a vacation from the congregation where I preached to visit relatives in the Midwest. On Sunday morning, as is my custom, I worshiped with the saints, assembling with the congregation where my father’s sister went. After the service, my aunt paid me a most unexpected, and at the time confusing, compliment. This daughter of an elder and sister of a preacher observed, “You listen to other preachers’ sermons better than any preacher I ever saw.” As I said, this confused me, for I knew my weaknesses as a listener well. Yet it also troubled me and provoked the question with which I entitled this entry. How well do we listen when we hear others preach, when we read blogs, when we sit as students in Bible classes that we might teach better (emphasis on might)? It is difficult to hear when one is accustomed to being the authority. David experienced this phenomenon when the prophet Nathan confronted him with the implications of his adultery and murder.(2 Samuel 12:1-14). Peter the Rock must have struggled within when Paul the former persecutor challenged his unethical behavior in Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). Why do we find it hard to listen? Perhaps after-service plans or on-going problems distract us. We may have preconceived notions about the speaker and assume (because he has too little education or too much, because he stutters, because he uses a different Bible translation or writes for the wrong magazine) that he has nothing to say to me. We may assume that our role is to judge the competence and soundness of the speaker, not to learn from the message. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminded his readers that God’s word cuts to the heart. When Christ stood at the door and knocked (Revelation 3:19,20), he asked for Christians to respond. When I manage to overcome competition for my attention and listen to preaching half as well as my aunt thought I did, I do so because I realize that I too need the nourishment of the Word. When a speaker’s words offend me or I question his interpretation, I pause to consider whether it is his error or my sin that causes my negative reaction. I try, no matter how much experience or education I have attained, to remain a student of God’s word. I try to hear God’s Word when it is proclaimed, for I need it. How well do we listen? May we learn to listen better so that we may learn to teach better.

  • TFRStaff 12:40 pm on 2013-05-25 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: discipleship, ,   

    Buried with Christ 

    As we have been emphasizing the JG characteristic, evangelism, this month, it will do us good to review a message or two gleaned from Romans 6. As we evangelize, we never need to lose sight of the thoughts implied in this passage.

    §Folks are saved by the grace of God (v. 1). We do not save people, we prayerfully strive to lead them to salvation made available by God (Titus 2:11). Our work is but an extension of the blessings God has provided us. We are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

    §We are not just trying to baptize people. We are trying to lead them to newness of life (v. 4). It is not the number baptized that is important. It is the number saved and faithful to the end. Jesus taught us this in the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20. We are to “make disciples” (the proper translation where the KJV has “teach”) by baptizing souls and teaching them to continue in faithfulness by “observing all things” God has commanded.

    §The new Christian (and the old) has renounced sin in order to become a new creature. We are “dead to sin” (v. 2). We should not serve sin (v. 6). We should consider ourselves to be “dead indeed to sin” (v. 11). We must not allow sin to “reign in your mortal body” (v. 12). We are not to obey the lustful desires of the flesh (v. 12). Sin must not have dominion over us (v. 14) because we are under grace.

    §We and those we teach must have indelibly imprinted on our hearts that freedom from sin is the result of obedience from the heart (v. 16-17).

    §Dear teacher, we must ever remind people that the wages of sin is death (v. 23), but there is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

    —Mike Glenn

  • Michael Summers 11:15 pm on 2013-05-11 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: discipleship, , Spiritual Formation   

    My Spiritual Matriarchs 

    The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5). A grandmother and mother ignited and nourished Timothy’s faith in God. Mentoring by Paul focused Timothy’s faith, but it began in his family of origin.
    Like Timothy, my faith took root and grew because of the influence of faithful Christian women in my family. My great-grandmother, Nora Ennis Taylor, widow of a gospel preacher, taught me that illness and age need not handicap one’s obedience to Christ. She also taught me to know what I believe, and to defend it, even when others disagree or attempt to place words in my mouth. I will always remember her sitting in our living room with her Bible in her lap. My father’s mother, Bertha Summers, took corporate worship seriously. She expected singing when that was appropriate, and reverent silence during prayer and sermons. During a night service at Bonner Church of Christ in McMinnville, Tennessee, I opened my eyes to discover that, should God’s all-seeing eye not be watching me, Grandma Summers’ eyes definitely were. My mother’s stepmother, Edna Taylor, taught me to love reading. When I attended a seminar to learn to conduct a series of classes called “Adventures in Christian Living,” the instructor told of an elderly Christian woman who had attended a recent session in another state. Despite her advanced age, she had inspired the rest of the class with her enthusiasm and faith. Yes, the instructor confirmed to me later when I asked, my suspicions were correct. Her name was Edna Taylor. My mother, Rosemary, demonstrated faith and passion in living for Christ. She impressed numerous young women as a camp counselor and a speaker at “Ladies Inspiration Days” and the Freed-Hardeman Bible Lectureship. The night before I preached my first two sermons at age sixteen, she made me rehearse both sermons to her until she was satisfied that I knew them. Even now, in her eighties, she goes with others to visit “shut-ins” who can’t make it to church services because of illness. These four spiritual matriarchs lived a sincere faith which survives in me.

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