Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bon Appétit

I enjoy eating a good meal.  Recently I was sitting at a high top table across from my bride of 30 years and enjoying some fantastic Fish and Chips at a local Irish Pub, yum.  The Irish Pub reminds me of eating a great Shepherd's Pie at a Pub in London called, Sherlock Holmes.  I remember feasting on a Lebonese meal made of green beans, lamb and long grain rice that my Grandma used to make.  My moms meat loaf makes my mouth water.  Debbie and I have a fav restaurant in Long Beach, Ca. called Shendendoah's Cafe where we enjoy a Riverwalk Steak or Free Range Chicken and the apple fritters - OMG!  And then there is anything that my wife cooks, bakes or BBQ's.  She is an amazing 'chef'.  
Eating food is energizing, relaxing and the conversations that take place around food is most often as satisfying and fulfilling as the food itself.  Relationships are deepened over a good meal and life is encouraged to move forward.  Eating is certainly good for us.
Our souls also need to be filled and satisfied.  Our souls need to eat and there are some fantastic meals available for us in the Word of God.  This morning I was feasting on Psalm 8 and 34.  I can sense my soul wanting more even now.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."  Psalm 34:8
The Word of God invites us to sit down and feast at the table of true soul food.  If we will sit long enough to sample, to taste, we will discover that the Lord is good and our lives will be blessed.  There are so many amazing meals prepared for us in the Word.  Here are a few hor dourves from the Word of God.
I love the 'joy' that Philippians feeds to our souls.  The book of Ephesians is a wonderful letter about the church, her power, prestige in God's eyes and purpose.  The four Gospels are full of Jesus stories that will be sure to stir your soul and challenge your life.  There is wonderful poetry throughout the Old Testament but especially in the Psalms.  Reading the Psalms is like going to a huge smorgesbord.  There is such a variety of topics covered that you will surely find something to satisfy your hungry soul after spending some time there.  If courage is something you are craving for, take a look at 1 & 2 Samuel.  The list could go on and on and on.
Enjoy food for your body and your soul every day.  You'll grow strong bones and muscles that will provide you with health for your whole life.
Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What Does it Take to Make a Disciple?

What does it take to make a disciple? Just before Jesus took off from earth to heaven, He gave the charge of a lifetime to eleven men who walked with Him for 3 1/2 years. Here is what Jesus told them; 16 "Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 How this is to be done is not said in this passage. I think they were to take all that Jesus had done for them and how He discipled them and pass it all along to other people. Those people should then take the same way of living and information and pass it along to the next spiritual generation - and so and so one. That seems like quite a lot for a bunch of nobodies to accomplish. They had no text book, just what they had experienced...and yet...these eleven ordinary men did exactly what Jesus told them to do. But they had some help. About 50 days after Jesus flew off to heaven about 120 followers of Jesus were gathered together in a upstairs room waiting for what - they just were not sure - but Jesus told them to go there and simply wait. Here is what He said to them; 4 "Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5 What did they understand when Jesus said just go and wait until you are baptized with the Holy Spirit? They probably were not sure, but I guessing it was a focal point of many conversations around the table in that room during those 50 days. Once the Holy Spirit fell upon them, everything changed. Now these very ordinary people were very super ordinary! Now they were empowered by God Himself to go and make disciples everywhere they went. We learn in Acts 2:38-39 that the Holy Spirit that they had received in Acts 2:1-4 is available to every generation of people who choose to follow the ways of Jesus. What this means is that every single believer from the moment they are part of God's kingdom is capable (competent 2 Cor. 3:6) to effectively find people who need Jesus, lead them to receive Jesus and help them to rely upon Jesus for everything they need. This is what making a disciple is in essence. The relationship, apparently, is to continue so that you can impart to this new follower (disciple) of Jesus everything that Jesus has taught you. This would include teaching them how to learn from Jesus themselves. My desire in writing this is encourage you to know that you are able to make disciples just as well as the first eleven disciples did. How can I say that? Because you have the same equipment that they had, the Holy Spirit. Maybe you have never 'discipled' anyone, now is a great time to start obeying what Jesus has told us to do. Because He told (commanded) us to be doing this, I assume it should be an intentional action for every believer to accomplish throughout their life time. Next time I'll share a tool that use to accomplish this disciple making task that Jesus has given to each us.

Who are You a Following?

Do people recognize you as having spent time with Jesus? For most believers, I think this is what they would like to be true about them. At least they know it should be true about them. It was true for Peter and John. "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognized them as having been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 Many might think that of course Peter and John would be recognized for being with Jesus, after all, they were Jesus' disciples. We often think that people like Peter and John are somehow different than we are. We think they are somehow more able to be just a touch more holy than we could ever be or just a little more powerful than God would allow us to be. If you have ever thought that, were do you get such ideas? We know from Acts 2:38-39 that we have the same Holy Spirit that Peter and John had. We also know that Jesus told Peter, John and others to teach everyone everything that Jesus taught them. In other words, if there were any secrets that Peter and John knew about being a good follower of Christ, they were commanded to cough up the goods. Well, the 'goods' is the Holy Spirit. The difference, I would say, is my and your submission to Him. Just how hungry are you for Jesus anyway? Ok, so any believer can be recognized as having been with Jesus as they cooperate with the Holy Spirit and invest time and humility into the process. We can all be super saints but only if you are close, or getting close to the source which is Jesus Christ. And that is the key. We must each be a disciple of Jesus Christ Himself. We should not be disciples of another man. When we read words like "...go and make disciples of all the nations..." we might read that we are to make disciples of ourselves but this would be wrong. We are to be helping people become disciples of Jesus. Just think, if Matthew was a disciple of Jesus and then Samuel was a disciple of Matthew and Marian was a disciple of Samuel and Gomer was a disciple of Marian...and on and on, you and I wouldn't even know who the original was. We would be a highly diluted imitation of what Jesus wants us to be. We must each be pointing people who want to be a disciple back to the source, Jesus Christ Himself. Then each copy has the potential to the as powerful as they are willing to invest their life into following Jesus. So how about you? How close to Jesus are you? How close do you want to be? What stops you from getting that close to Him? Who is there around you who can help point you back to Jesus? I know for certain that Jesus is calling you to be more and more like Him. "My sheep hear my voice and follow Me." That is what Jesus tells us. share that we should be disciples of Jesus and when we make disciples it is not disciples of us - that is only a week copy of the original - we should be making people disciples of Christ - it is enough that a student becomes like his teacher.

How Serious are You Taking this Task?

I'm on a discipleship kick - hopefully for life!  I have a lot of thoughts about discipleship rolling around in my head like marbles bouncing around a room with hardwood floors.  As I begin to think about discipleship, the word is really awkward to me.  I mean, what is a disciple?  In the business world synonyms for disciple or discipleship would be mentor or life coach, business coach or something like that.  We do know that Jesus had disciples.  Some were really close to Him (Peter, James and John along with the rest of the 12 Apostles) and some were a somewhat removed (the 70 mentioned in Luke 10:1).  
We know that just before Jesus ascended into heaven that He told us that making disciples (passing on our faith to others) is to be a focus of our life.  Some of the things that Jesus said were involved with making disciples are; to be baptizing folks who want to follow Jesus and teaching people to obey everything Jesus said (we should know and obey those things for ourselves).  Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 2:2 that we should be passing on to 'faithful' people everything that we have learned and observed and heard from our mentors/life coaches/disciplers.  We are also to instruct the folks we teach about following Jesus to pass it along so the ball keeps moving forward.
If you think about making disciples and what it entails (baptizing, teaching them to obey everything Jesus said and helping the learn to pass it along to faithful people who will in turn pass it along too), this is a life long job description.  This making disciples business cannot be done on the fly or in passing or be caught by osmosis.  It doesn't just happen.  I appears that Jesus and Paul intended this process to be intentional.  Jesus, Paul and others were deeply serious about our role in passing on our faith in ways that will strengthen people to pass it on as well.  Every believer should be taking this task very seriously.
How serious are you taking this task?
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"  Matthew 16:24-25
Making disciples is serious business.  If you are a follower of Jesus, it is a business that you should be involved in!  More on this next week....