I do not belong: John 17.16

“They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world.”

John 17.16

In his prayer to the Father, Jesus mentions this truth as the basis for much of his petition. Our Lord came to this world, but was not a part of it. The world sought independence from God; Jesus sought to do his will.

As the Lord’s people, how does not belonging to the world, but to God, define our motives, thoughts and actions? What makes us different?

#votd #John #discipleship

But first: Luke 9.61

“Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.'”

Luke 9.61

Luke is all about discipleship. Jesus tells us the cost of following him up front. Some want to follow him, but desire to continue their lives normally. Some people are good at prolonged goodbyes.

What conditions do people try impose on the Lord when he calls them to follow? Is there something you want to do “first” before taking discipleship seriously?

#discipleship #excuses #VOTD

Like the Lord

I think this was written sometime around my birthday, last week. It appears not to have been posted anywhere, so here it is for the appreciation of those who love the art of poetry.

With love in the heart, we’re like the Lord:
His patience working powerfully in us,
His faith is ours, in the fullness of God,
His tender touch our gentle tool—
This Man of men, bringer of mercy.

#poetry #love #discipleship

About to go: Luke 10.1 VOTD

“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him two by two into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”

Luke 10.1

Jesus prepared his disciples for their future work of proclaiming the gospel and prepared the peoples who would soon be blessed with his presence as he proclaimed the kingdom of God in Israel.

How do Christians today prepare people ahead of time for Jesus’ appearing?

#mission #discipleship #VOTD

Following Jesus means imitating Jesus

Tonight we studied with a wonderful couple of new converts. Our conversation dealt with what it means to follow Jesus. A big part of that is imitating Jesus.

We mentioned that Jesus himself instructed us to imitate him, in John 13. There are so many areas in which this principle is applied. We read specifically about one, using the text of 1 Corinthians 10.23-11.1. (This chapter division is one of the worst, ever.)

People here have a tendency to put distance between ourselves and the Lord. After all, he was the only perfect human being, without sin. One brother even announced before the congregation that no one should follow his example.

But when it comes to limiting one’s personal liberty in order to please others, that they might be saved, Paul tells us to follow his example, because he follows Christ’s.

Everyone should be able to say that.

#discipleship #imitation-of-Christ #example

Have love: John 13.35 VOTD

“Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

John 13.35

Jesus established the badge of discipleship to the world as mutual love. God’s great distinguishing characteristic is love.

Love is how spiritual relationships are developed and deepened. It is the essence of what the Way is all about. How does love act?

#discipleship #love #VOTD

Hate: Luke 14.26 VOTD

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14.26

In his gospel Luke focuses on discipleship and its cost. The kingdom is open to all, Lk 14.15-24, at a price, for God is eager to welcome the lost, Lk 15.1-32.

Jesus uses the word “hate.” Why does he do that?

#discipleship #gospel-of-Luke #VOTD

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. Continue reading

#cross-of-christ, #discipleship, #self-denial

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)

#discipleship, #evangelism, #impressions

Another step forward for this 7-year-old effort

progress-balloon

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

#anniversaries, #attitude, #corollaries, #discipleship, #government

Striking the right note

piano-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. Continue reading

#books, #corollaries, #discipleship, #leadership, #love-of-god, #prayer, #servanthood

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)

#discipleship, #jesus

Prayer and the Holiness of God

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.

#accountability, #discipleship, #holiness, #prayer

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

broken-easter-egg

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

#discipleship, #easter, #faithfulness, #false-religion, #ritualism

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.

#discipleship, #forgiveness-of-sin, #prayer, #repentance