Saturday, April 28, 2012

Discipleship Series - Education: Choose Wisely

In this series I've shared that a disciple is student who has chosen a specific course of study. Now I'll share thoughts on education. Education is something on the minds of every student, whether it be for career or personal development, we all seek to better ourselves in some way. With the goal in mind we set out to choose a school to achieve that desire.

Most people strive to get into the best schools to develop their skills and learn from the finest educators. I've never heard a person say, “I hope I get into the worst school in town” No, we want the best, but sometimes settle for what is available.

For the Christian, our spiritual health is affected by the church [school] we attend. It is vitally important that we are instructed properly in spiritual matters by anointed teachers. It may surprise you, but not all preachers are anointed, or let me say, appointed by the Lord to instruct His people according to His Word.

The love of God spurs many men and women with the desire to become leaders and instruct the flock in godly behavior, but few are truly gifted with the heart of a Shepherd.

A Shepherd [Pastor/Reverend] is one who fiercely guards and protects the flock from all dangers, from without and within. One example from scripture would be the Apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament.

Each of us are called as individuals to teach and instruct one another in the Word of God, if by no other means than by our love and our actions towards one another. Others are chosen as shepherds or for leadership positions over God's people, which is a far greater responsibility and accountability to God.

There are literally thousands of schools that teach people how to become a type of clergy, click here to read a brief history of Seminary. With all the education available, why are we not stronger in our faith? Why are there so many denominations? And why is there divisions among believers?

As I grow in my understanding of scripture, I see a continual pattern of behavior of how the Lord has dealt with our unregenerate minds and with the enemy. We have been given the victory through Christ, yet we fail to believe all that we have through conflicting instruction. 

This is a brief excerpt from Chapter 1

Just like enrolling in college, receiving Jesus as our savior set us on a new career path. Coming to Christ we are filled with nervous excitement about our new life. It may feel a bit overwhelming realizing that you don’t know much about Jesus or the Bible, but you take it on faith that you’ve found the right way, not considering any downside.
Having so many questions I would inquire of mature Christians about their experiences, eager to know what to expect on this journey. It is so new and wonderful that when unpleasant things happen we’re not sure if that’s a normal part of knowing Jesus. 
We’ve all had unpleasant things happen, such as suffering rejection from family and friends.As a new student we’re not sure how to handle these things. We might even wonder why anyone would feel upset with us, after all we want to share the Good News of Jesus.
After hitting a few bumps, maybe a set back or two, here we are standing in Jesus. It’s impossible for us to deny the wonderful experience knowing He lives in us. We are new and different people with others recognizing it too.
If trusting in the Word of God is not established early in your relationship this will create problems in your discipleship process. Although it is not the Lord’s will that you have trust issues, it could prevent you from reaching your full potential. Belief was the minimum amount of faith we all had to have in order to come to Jesus, now we've got to grow that belief.
We’ve all been captains of our own ship for some time. Our own instruction lead us down paths of destruction, failure, disappointment and discouragement. We followed poor instructors whose limited experience was based on their own textbook, but as we experience more of God's unconditional love we become more comfortable in relinquishing the helm of our lives to Him.
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If we listen to wrong teaching or try to discern God's Word based on our own understanding, then we find ourselves in poorly operated schools and not reaping the benefits that our spirit filled lives should produce. We need to keep  close eye on what is taught at our church, it takes effort. 

Paul was not one of the original Apostle’s of Jesus, in fact he fiercely attacked the Christians, yet he became a great hero of our faith. Why? Because he was chosen and accepted the call of the Lord to bring the Good News. As a Shepherd he protected it from all enemies within and without.

We have the benefit of the many letters Paul wrote to the churches he planted and agonized over for them to remain faithful to Jesus. Today we still reap the benefits of his instructions, his testimony and his love. 

The Lord is faithful to lead us to good schools and good instructors, but we must do our part too, by reading His Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring understanding. This is our insurance from winding up in the wrong school, under poor leadership, and not become the people we should be.

Next in the Discipleship series : Taking Notes

This book is available at Amazon in paperback and ebook

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Discipleship Series - Follow the Leader

Children love to play games. One of the all time favorites is “Follow the Leader” The child who is usually older or more adept is the leader and all the other children follow them and do exactly what they do, or they're out. Another favorite game is a form of follow the leader, called “Simon Says”

Where did this sense of following come from? I believe it is a quality created in us by God, as part of His homing device of His existence. We have an innate need for guidance and assurance as we grow. This sense is nurtured from birth and continues with us our entire lives. The Lord also set certain guidelines for parents. They must lovingly discipline their children and raise them in the fear [Reverence, Deep admiration, Awe] of the Lord.

In early childhood development, certain choices are made that determine the path in life that child will follow. We have many leaders through the course of our lives. Very few are our choice, from our parents, family members, and certain teachers. They provide information we need to make decisions between right and wrong behaviors, but they can't choose our friends.

Friends are a reflection of our inner thoughts and desires. Some friends provide comfort and acceptance, while others are outlets for experience. These are relative bonds and we choose to remain in the relationship or move on. Our choices of friendship styles change over the course of our lives.

The scriptures don't tell us much of Jesus childhood. We know that he was born in Bethlehem, lived in Egypt for a few years and grew up in Nazareth. His earthly parents followed God's guidelines for child rearing and were very faithful stewards of the gift they were given. Then the time came for His obscure life to become public.

Without a vast reputation Jesus entered the scene. He was known by many, but His credentials came from heaven. As the prophets foretold, the Son of God would be God (Isaiah 9:6-7). At Jesus' baptism, his identity was confirmed by the declaration of the prophet John the Baptist and a voice from heaven.(Matthew 3:11,13-17, Luke 3:21-22)

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from chapter 11.

Come a Response
Jesus taught by example, the disciples learned through what he did. He taught them the true meaning of scripture and what the Father expected of them. He told them about the Kingdom of Heaven and that they would experience first hand the power of God.
It had been 400 years since God had sent a prophet to the people of Israel, and their hearts were eager to hear a message. Their whole life existed around the Word of God through the Law of Moses. From childhood they were taught scriptures, having an idea of what God expected. 
Though the centuries had passed slowly, they kept an eye out for the promised savior. Many false Messiah’s had come deceiving for a short time, until John the Baptist appeared in the desert preaching repentance.
John’s words had power which pierced their hearts. People flocked from all over the countryside to hear him preach in the wilderness. They knew God was moving on their behalf, believing John’s words they began to repent receiving his baptism as a sign of repentance. 
John’s following grew and he had many disciples. He continued to remind the people that he was not the Messiah, but that he came to prepare the way for him (Matthew 3:11).
John’s ministry fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah “Listen I hear someone shouting: Make a highway for the Lord through the wilderness. Make a straight and smooth road through the desert for our God” (Isaiah 40:3-5) and the Prophecy of Malachi “Look I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to His Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming, says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:1).

We choose our friends, mates and leaders based on a series of developed criteria through experience and personal needs. Some friends are made for a lifetime and some for only a season. 

People are searching for the truth, whether they realize it or not. We find comfort in like-minded associates, but in our search for leadership, we sometimes base our loyalty on inaccurate data. 

Believing in Jesus' credentials is the first step, accepting them is yet another. Our choice of leadership will either lead us to life or death.

Next in Discipleship Series: Education – Choose wisely.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Discipleship Series – The Response

In this series of discipleship we will be looking at what a disciple is, what a disciple does, what disciplines a disciple should practice and how a disciple goes forward. I will include some excerpts from my new book, that I hope will add emphasis to this series.

The last article focused in on the definition of a disciple, as a student or a follower of a specific doctrine. In the minds of some people the word Disciple means only those who follow Jesus, but that is not true.

The world is a disciple of it's self, it's values and it's own ways, following it's lies and deceit, believing its own press. I use the term world, as those who refuse to believe and accept anything except what they can see, hear, feel, smell and taste (the five carnal senses) believing this all there is to life. However there is a whole new dimension that exists, the spiritual realm – Jesus is the physical appearance of our invisible God.

The beauty of God's design of our minds is He has given us the ability to set priorities on all the information we receive. We are bombarded literally with millions of pieces of data constantly and instantaneously we assign a value to it. We focus and retain those things that are important to us, and continue to sort other things in order of importance, finally kick out useless pieces of data, in less than a nanosecond! Quite impressive.

Try it for yourself. Listen to the evening news, what things catch your attention? Is it the weather, the economy, uprisings around the world or a sale at a local market. Things which make your ears perk up, those are the things you remember and assign a higher value.

When Jesus began his mission, he needed people to be his students. As Jesus was walking along the Galilean shore he began giving an invitation to the locals to come follow him. We find in scripture that he gained four followers right away. James and John left their father sitting in their boat on the lake and Peter and Andrew dropped what they were doing and followed him. I am always amazed when I read this account.

When they heard the voice of Jesus, nothing else mattered. They had a sense that this voice was the only voice in the world and instantly obeyed. These guys weren't perfect as we learn from scripture, but they were God fearing men. Their ears were listening for his voice

Please enjoy the following excerpt from Chapter 12

Come An Invitation

When the Lord called His disciples, He simply said, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), that was all He said. There was no further discussion about what they would do and they didn’t ask how. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, then James and John He proposed the invitation and they dropped what they were doing immediately and followed Him.
These were humble fishermen from a small fishing community. Fishing was their livelihood, if they didn’t fish, they had no other way to provide for their families. The Lord knew their situation and still called them to follow Him.
Peter, James, John and Andrew were not the only fishermen along the Shore of Galilean Sea that day. I can imagine Jesus walking along the shore, coming upon others working and making the same offer. The scriptures are silent on any other responses. I can imagine some of their replies, can you? “Who are you? And why would I want to follow you?” or “Can’t you see we are working to support our families?” or “Are you nuts, move along, quit bothering me”.
When the Lord came upon these other people, He did just as they asked, he moved on down the shoreline. He always accepts those who are willing to respond. Does that sound familiar to you? The Lord calls to us with the same invitation, “Come follow me”, but many times we say the same things, “I’m too busy” or “Why should I give up on what I’m doing to step into the unknown?” or “Religion is too complicated.”

Since the Resurrection of Jesus two thousand years ago, he continually is calling out to people to come and follow him. He is not calling to punish lay burdens on you, like the yoke of religion can do. No, he is calling out to offer new life, hope and freedom.

The world as a whole has heard of Jesus, but for various reasons, they reject His voice and teaching. Those of us who've accepted the invitation and believe what He said are are reaping the benefits of what He taught. We've been set free to grow in the truth and share that with others.

Have you accepted Jesus invitation to follow Him?

Next in this Discipleship Series – Follow the Leader

Friday, April 13, 2012

Discipleship Series – What is a Disciple?

We have all heard the term Disciple – but what exactly is a disciple? According to the World English Dictionary: (1) a follower of the doctrines of a teacher or a school of thought. (2) one of the personal followers of Christ during his earthly ministry.

Also according to Bible Dictionary: a scholar, sometimes applied to the followers of John the Baptist. A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believed his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example. (Mat. 10:24; Luke 14:26-27, 33, John 6:69).

I've reviewed several definitions, most reference the word disciple to religion, predominately Christianity. I find the definition of the Bible Dictionary second notation most applicable to the course of this series. However, the choice of discipleship begins with the person's decision which course of study they will follow, before they can believe the doctrine. (Doctrine is a fancy term for teaching or instruction).

The following is an excerpt from my new book Footsteps of Jesus – Becoming a Disciple

Chapter 1 – What is a Disciple

A disciple, plain and simple, is a student who has chosen a specific discipline or educational path under the leadership of a master/instructor. The master/instructor’s function is to develop the student to reach their full potential.
Those who have chosen to follow Jesus as their Lord have entered into this master/student relationship. The Holy Spirit is our guidance counselor; He guides us to become just like Jesus, on the outside. Through a designed plan, the Holy Spirit encourages the disciple to reach their fullest potential, yet this can only be accomplished through the willingness of the student.
We all come from different backgrounds having a particular set of weaknesses and strengths. The Lord knows us very well and His plans for us are good (Jeremiah 29:11). So our discipleship program is custom designed, unique to each individual. We are never to judge another believer because we are all works in progress.
No matter where we are in our walk with Jesus, a new relationship or walking for some time, discipleship training takes on many forms throughout the course of our lives. Yes, it's a life-long process!
Beginning with initial trust, believing Jesus is the Savior and saying it with our mouth, we received new life in Christ. As a new born again creations, we enter into a love relationship where the Holy Spirit fills us with the knowledge we are God’s own children. Seeking to know Him more, we begin to grow in knowledge and wisdom.
This reminds me of when I first enrolled in college. I was nervous about the undertaking, but excited to get on to a new career path. I began to looking into classes, trying to get feed back from other students who had taken the same courses. Upperclassmen are a great resource of information about instructors and requirements. I discovered many times you just have to take it on faith that the class you enrolled in will prove an enjoyable experience. Stuck in a lousy class for the whole semester can be disastrous.

We've followed the world's ideas and teaching, this is obvious from the amount of broken lives and relationships we are involved in or know personally. Jesus came to restore our relationship with the Father, our source of life, by destroying the power sin had over our lives and teach about the Father's love for us.

This freedom is available to everyone, but most ignore the drawing of the Holy Spirit to come to Jesus. It's only when a step of faith is taken do people discover the truth, Jesus is real.

Believing who Jesus is, is the first step of discipleship.

Next in this  Discipleship Series - The Response

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April Blog Chain

Welcome to the April edition of the Christian Writers Blog Chain. This month's topic is “Joy” I hope you will enjoy my take on this topic and be sure to visit my fellow writer's blogs listed on the right side bar.
I am thrilled to write a post about Joy, but today is also the 8th day of April, representing New Beginnings- What more fitting day to share the Joy of the Lord and what this Holy Day represents- a New Beginning for all of us!. It is my Joy and privilege to write on the holiest day of the Christian calender. Be blessed and enJoy!

He Has Risen!

Many people celebrate this day with feasts, colored eggs and parades, but these are not about the Risen Lord, it's about the Spring Equinox. For thousands of years, this event has been celebrated as a time of fertility, marking the occasion with the colors of spring and greenery.

However, today marks the greatest event in human history, the verifiable resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Nothing compares to this miracle! Nothing is as important as this day! On this day the Law of Moses was fulfilled. On this day the sin charged against humanity was erased and on this day New Life was breathed into the universe. Pretty spectacular, but nothing is impossible for God.

As we read in scripture, the disciples were horrified by the crucifixion of Jesus. Afraid for their lives, they hid from the religious leaders, trying to decide what their next move was. Very few of those believed what Jesus said about being raised from the dead on the third day-except a couple of women.

Because the religious leaders killed Jesus on the eve of a high Holy day – Passover, there was no time for His family to honor Him in burial. Basically, He was removed from the cross, wiped off and wrapped in cloth, placed in an available tomb. How humiliated His family and those who loved him must have felt, hastily disposing of the body, before honoring God with the celebration of deliverance.

I am sure as the disciples and others conducted the ritual of Passover, they didn't realize that Jesus was their Passover lamb which brought deliverance from the slavery to sin! He was the fulfillment of what the Passover represented when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt.

The horror of those days and the treatment of Jesus, was the way God knew this to happen. He spoke in explicit details to the prophet Isaiah about this event through (Isaiah 53) and also to the prophet King David through (Psalms 22) hundreds of years before.

I am always amazed at the ways God does things. He is not above great exhibitions of power, but I believe He loves to show His power to those who believe in him. That is His greatest Joy!

Hebrews 12:2 talks about persevering when things get rough, but I love this part of the verse “He [the Anointed One] was willing to die a shameful death on the cross, because of the Joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God's throne in heaven.”

What did Jesus know? Isaiah 53:11 has the answer. “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted as righteous, for he will bear all their sins”

This verse speaks of Jesus' Resurrection, because a dead person can not see the results of their actions. And how would he know of his heirs? This is written to those of us, who have believed in Jesus. We are his heirs, counted as righteous and sinless, in the sight of the Father. We are the reward of all he suffered.

The next part says “Now, he is seated in the place of honor” That means, “It's finished” Every thing he sat out to do is complete! Funny, how we tend to forget this part. There is nothing for us to do but believe what He did, and rest in Him.

Psalms 16:9-10 also speaks of his resurrection. “No wonder my heart is filled with Joy and my mouth shouts His praises! My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your godly one to rot in the grave.”

If Jesus were just an ordinary human, he could have convinced some people by the things he said and did, but there are a number of things that are beyond the power of a mere human.

He could not determine his parents, or where he was born. He could not have any authority over what was done to him on the cross or after his death. The scriptures detail many events that took place, things only God had knowledge of.

What do you believe? Has He risen and completed the purposes of God? Or is Jesus in a grave somewhere, because his disciples moved his body? That's the traditional belief of Jewish people. Search the scriptures, It's the biggest decision of your life.

As for me – Because He lives – So do I!     Hallelujah! Shout glory to His Name!

In honor of this day and the release of my new book “Footsteps of Jesus – Becoming a Disciple” Over the next few weeks, I will post excerpts from several chapters describing who a disciple is and what a disciple does.

It is my hope it will inspire you to grow in your love and understanding – sharing the Good News that He has Risen and We are Forgiven!

Have a Blessed and Peace-filled Day!