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The Authenticity of Disciple Making

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You Have Permission

You have Permission

One of the central themes of my Pastoral Ministry is the empowering of believers. I do not wish to control that which takes place in my church, and really pause to call it “my church.” I am called to be the under shepherd, which is rife with responsibility, but I am not called to be LORD. (that job is taken)

My pastoral calling is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12),”and that is a task I celebrate. There are numerous other ways to define the Pastor’s job, but it really comes down Ephesians 4:12. I celebrate the beauty of the church. I marvel at the creativity found in God’s people. I grieve over those with so much potential who are walking in idleness. I am amazed at the joy people find in liberty.

Of the many messages I feel compelled to share with my church, one message seems to come up in most every conversation concerning ministry. A spirit filled believer has permission from the Lord to serve in whichever way God leads them. Confirmation can come through the church ministry and pastoral counseling, especially in times of uncertainty, but God is always leading His people to serve this world. The details of ministry responsibility are not the responsibility of the Pastor, but rather the Christ follower. The message is simple: You have permission.

You have permission to chase after God’s ministry calling in your life. You have permission to find His blessing for your ministry. You have permission to do that which God placed in your heart. You have permission, but the permission does not come from your pastor. You have been given permission by God as he called you to serve. You have been given permission as he shapes your heart and life. A Pastor is to give believers the tools necessary to accomplish the calling God has placed in a believer’s life. If permission is what someone needs, then the answer is ‘Yes.’

You do not need permission from a pastor to serve your savior. You may need direction, you may need discipleship, you may need advice, but you don’t need permission. Confirmation will come through unity.

Serve humbly. Serve completely. Serve Jesus!

Let your light shine before men

Let your light shine before men.

                  In a time of uncertainty and strife, John Lennon writes a song called “Happy Christmas.” He writes: “So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun.” There is a somber tone to a song with a happy title, but reality demands the truth. If all we see is that we have spun the odometer one more time, and accomplished another year, then we are missing the joy of the season. Lennon was attempting to write a song celebrating peace, but we are certain that the only source for peace is in Christ alone. The Prince of Peace came to earth, God in flesh dwelling among us. That is a miraculous, life giving truth that gives us the HAPPY season of Christmas, but for all the right reasons.

The Christmas season brings a joy and spirit that causes grown men to become like children, mom’s and dad’s to sacrifice in order to give, and children to wonder in amazement. There is a special feeling in the air throughout the community and people begin to think of others. It is a special time! The cynic in me might explain these acts of kindness as individuals reverting back to the “naughty/nice” conditioning they learned as a child, but realistically there is something else to it.

When we love others, it becomes more natural and easier to love more. When we serve the Lord, it becomes natural to find things to do to serve and do things for the kingdom. When we become accustomed to things that we were created to do in the first place, we find ourselves happy, joyous, and fulfilled. I think that is what is happening at Christmas. We are called by Holy God to serve our community, and to give gifts to our family and community. It is who God intends for us to be. The generosity may not always look like a wrapped package, but it is a gift nonetheless. We do what we are created to do…and it makes us happy. Go figure.

Jesus said, “Let you light shine before all men, that they may see your good works and praise your father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) This Christmas and every day beyond, do what you have been called to do. Let your light shine, and let the Lord use you for His glory. Be a gift to this world, and get the gift of fulfillment and joy. God is AMAZING in the way he brings peace and blessing.  Let the light he has given you SHINE forth and bring blessing to the world.

 

God IS Love

God IS Love

There are many concepts in scripture that I would classify as “Big Picture.” These concepts sometimes become cliché and we forget the depth of meaning behind the statement. We can get so familiar with the words that we fail to recognize the awesome God the words are describing. For instance, we often say “God is Love”, which is a big picture concept of awesome magnitude, but we are so accustomed to the words that we fail to realize the depth of the message God is giving us with those words.

The three little words, found in 1 John chapter 4, cause me to tremble at their weight. These are three words that confound the skeptics and the faithful alike. Three words that describe the awesomeness of God reaching into the most intimate need of a person’s life and consuming it. Only 9 letters make up these three words, and they can bring a grown man to his knees in tears and worship. Three short words that describe the most amazing of biblical concepts, GOD truly IS LOVE.

The point of every message that is preached could come back around to this truth. Even a discussion of God’s wrath must include a presentation of His grace, which is an outward demonstration of His love. The God of the Bible defines the concept we refer to as love, and we could not know what love was without God. God defines love with His actions towards men. To say that LOVE defines GOD is a misstatement, because GOD chose the definition of LOVE.

Sometimes Bible students yearn for the deep truths of scripture that helps us to discover the great nuggets and jewels of the faith. We continually dig deeper and deeper as we mine for the more valuable truths in scripture. I would like for us to tap the breaks for just a moment and realize that this concept may not sound deep, yet it will go deeper than any nugget we find.

If we dig deep into scripture we will discover jewels of truth and nuggets of theology, and when we find those things in the deep places of our study, we will find them resting on the bedrock which is the concept, “God is LOVE.”

 

1 John 4:8 (ESV) Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

Big picture concepts in scripture seem to lose a little meaning as we overuse some of the terms, but GRACE should not be one of them. I am reminded of the GRACE of God every day as I walk through this life. I am reminded of my need for the Savior with every breath. It is by God’s grace that I am saved, but it is also by His grace that I breathe. It is only by the GRACE of GOD that I am called HIS CHILD, but it is also only by the GRACE of GOD that I am alive today.

Grace is defined by Merrian/Webster as:

a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

b : a virtue coming from God

c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

 

It has been said that reading the original Webster’s dictionary could lead someone to faith in Christ, and with definitions such as this it may be true. Grace is so special that we are prompted through the transformation process every step of the way. Grace is something that we discuss often, we sing about often, but something I have never gotten over. I am amazed by his GRACE!

I tremble as I write these simple words concerning GRACE. I find myself more dependent on His GRACE the more I realize the ugliness of my own sin. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This little amazing word in the original language is χάρις (charis), and it has as much impact as any word ever uttered. The word can be expanded to charisma as we bring in the “gift” element of grace. Christians have charisma (the gift of grace) by the grace (charis) of God. I love thinking about and dwelling upon the concept of GRACE.

The bottom line about GRACE is the fact that I do not deserve it, but God gives it freely. I am gifted by HIS Grace and God’ has truly amazed me. After I experienced Grace, I knew I would never be the same. I am changed…by HIS AMAZING GRACE.

Abide

Abide…

I love this word. I dwell upon the meaning of this word. I think about the significance of this word. I long for the church to accept this word. I desire to live out the truth of this word. Abide is a special word. If you want to look at this word in the original language, here it is: μείνῃ. I hope that helps you out. Sometimes we go to the Greek to get further understanding of the English translation, but in this case we find the word to be profound no matter the language. The pronunciation of the Greek word in this form is ‘meine’ and is pretty straightforward but with a long ‘e’ sound at the end. The root form is ‘meno’ and can be found in various forms throughout scripture. The translation of this word in the New American Standard Bible breaks down like this: abide (16), abides (22), abiding (4), await (1), continue (4), continues (1), endures (3), enduring (1), lasting (2), lives (1), living (1), remain (20), remained (6), remaining (1), remains (8), stand (1), stay (11), stayed (11), staying (3), waiting (1).

All of that to say, this simple and easily definable word has completely rocked my world. We remain, reside, await, endure, live, and stay IN CHRIST. This is not simply hanging out with our best buddy, Jesus-dude, this is living in HIS HOLY presence. We find security in this word. We find hope in this word. We find our location in this word. We find our peace in this word. I am no longer wrestling with the flesh and blood of this earth, because I live, remain, stay, and endure in the very presence of Christ.

I was justified in a moment, but I grow daily in my embrace of God’s grace. The closer I abide with Christ, the more I appreciate His miraculous sacrificial death. The substitionary sacrifice of Christ gave me the privilege of being associated with Him for eternity. I am a resident of that place in which Christ dwells. I abide with Christ.

Die to Self: Part 2

Die to Self: Part 2

The call heard from Christ: Die to self. After hearing that cry, the believer in Christ would then ponder the question, why? Jesus goes on to explain that if we desire to save our life, we will lose it, but whoever loses his life for HIS sake will find it. This is a concept that is read and affirmed by many who are a part of the church, but I don’t believe it is understood by most.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Today the cross is an accepted symbol of love and sacrifice. But in that day the cross was a horrible means of capital punishment. The Romans would not mention the cross in polite society. In fact, no Roman citizen could be crucified; this terrible death was reserved for their enemies. Jesus had not yet specifically stated that He would be crucified (He did this in Matt. 20:17–19). But His words that follow emphasize the cross.”

This episode is not about passing away peacefully in your sleep. It is about giving your very life and breath for the sake of the message of the gospel. We may die in this battle, but battle on we must! The reward is fantastic, but for the believer it’s not about the reward, there happens to be no other option. If we are believers in Christ we will take up our cross and follow Him and find LIFE. If we are not believers, we will serve ourselves and live for the flesh and find separation from Christ’s fellowship.

The options don’t really seem like options, more like statements of fact. This teaching strategy of Christ, under closer scrutiny, is not really giving us the choice to do one or the other, but rather stating that we will or will not based upon who we truly are. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits His soul?

 

Matthew 16:24-26

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would 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 shall a man give in return for his soul?

Luke 9:23-26

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Mark 8:34-38

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Die to Self: Part 1

Die to Self: Part 1

The prevailing theological concept in my strategy to disciple believers and revitalize the church is the concept of Spiritual Rebirth. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that he must be born again to experience the kingdom of God. The funny thing about that response is that Nicodemus did not ask anything about the kingdom of God. Nic was asking about the signs and wonders Jesus was performing. He was asking about the rumors that were spreading amongst the people. Nic was not knowingly asking about the KINGDOM of GOD, but Jesus understood the root of the question even if Nicodemus did not.

Do you want to experience the kingdom of God? You must be born again. Do you want to experience joy in life? Become subject to the sovereign King that sits on the throne. The concept goes deeper in the further teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus tells His disciples that they must deny himself and take up his cross. This would have been difficult to understand for the disciples, but they did understand partially. The disciples would have seen crucifixion, but they would not have fully understood the message Christ was communicating.

To take up ones own cross would have been a crazy, foreign concept. Noone went willingly to the cross…that is…except Jesus. The challenge Christ is giving the men who knew Him best is to deny self, and die. The cross meant death, punishment, and the wrath of man. So, the call heard from Christ: Die to self.

 

Matthew 16:24-26

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would 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 shall a man give in return for his soul?

Luke 9:23-26

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Mark 8:34-38

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The Cute Meter

The Cute Meter

Something is so ugly its cute. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE! It doesn’t work in any other area of life. You could never say, “That tastes so bad that its GOOD!” You would never say, “You actions were so wrong, they turned out to be right!” But for a dog…that is really ugly…its not cute…its really just really ugly.

The cute meter sounds like a round dial type of meter that starts out at 12 o’clock with CUTE, then slips to UGLY at 6 o’clock. After hitting ugly, things just get uglier at about 9 o’clock, but by the time things get back around to 12 o’clock its cute again.

I think we treat our sin this way at times, but it doesn’t work that way. Our sin is never cute, and though we try to dress it up from time to time, it will never be cute. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that is pretty serious. That is the most serious thing any person has ever done. Jesus gave His life, and we sometimes forget that it was because of our sin problem. We love to celebrate the special salvation we enjoy, but we often don’t like to be reminded of our little pet sin that we keep around.

That little pet sin that you keep around is ugly. It is not honoring to God. It hinders your walk with God. But His GRACE is sufficient. Christ gives Great Grace to us, and I am changed by it.

Romans 6:1-14

1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self1 was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free2 from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

The Say it OUT LOUD Test

The say it out loud test

When you say something out loud, your ears have the opportunity to assist you in the decision making process. Sometimes we fail to allow our ears the opportunity to assist, and it causes us to make bad choices. Many times when someone has done something stupid I don’t even have to wonder if they practiced the wisdom of the say it out loud test. It’s obvious. They didn’t.

I should have practiced the say it out loud test more often in my life, but no one gets it right all the time. One of the large and more epic of fails in my life could have been prevented if it were for the say it out loud test. One day I thought it would be awesome to honor my wife with a new pet. I bought her a cat.

There is was. I hope you didn’t miss it. I paid money for a cat. Every third sign that I drive past in neighborhoods is a hand written thing on a piece of cardboard, or spray painted on a car hood (yeah, I live in Texas) with the words…FREE KITTENS. But I purchased a cat for my wife. Had I said it out loud, it would have been prevented.

There are many areas of our Christian life that could be assisted with this test:

“I love Jesus but don’t love the church.” Say it out loud test should determine that to be impossible. The Church is the body of Christ.

“I just don’t feel connected to the church.” Ummm, if you are saved, you ARE connected to the church, no matter your emotion of the day. You may not be connected to the church because you have not gotten involved in the vital ministry of the church. Try going on a team to knock on doors and share the gospel. You will connect.

“I’m not going to that church because I don’t know or like these new songs they sing.” This is usually said by the same people that say, “We need to reach young people.” SAY IT OUT LOUD FOLKS! IF YOU DON’T GET THIS ONE, I CAN’T HELP YOU!

Amen, and Amen.

The Body of Christ

The Body of Christ 1

Early on in my ministry I began to study the concept of the BODY OF CHRIST, His church. Paul deals with the subject exhaustively and clearly, with anticipation of the reader understanding the responsibility given to the church. Peter refers to the church with great reverence, reminding the body that they are now the people of God! Luke tells the story of the church in Acts with all of the necessary details of hardship and sacrifice. The BODY OF CHRIST is a special designation for the church and comes with much blessing.

Just think of it, we are HIS body! We serve as the hands and feet of Christ as we walk this earth. Through the event of salvation, and the process of sanctification, we find ourselves doing the work Christ called us to do, but not in our own strength! Christ called us and compelled us, but he also filled us with HIS SPIRIT for this work. When we entered into salvation, we entered into the BODY OF CHRIST.

Paul writes to the Romans and reminds them of the humility one should have as a member of the body. Romans 12:3-5 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” The clear reminder to the Roman church and the church of today is that the church forms one body, though there are many members. There is one general purpose with individuals serving in many different functions.

One person may function as a scholar, while another functions as a shepherd. These are two different functions that work for the larger purpose of Christ. The scholar should learn some shepherding tendencies, and the shepherd should study and learn, but the purpose is to fulfill one’s calling faithfully. The pragmatic side of me far outweighs the idealistic, and reminds me to see what actually works and elevate that concept. A believer should discover that which they are called to do, and jump into to service in the body of Christ wherever they can fulfill that call. A servant of the Lord will find His or her role in ministry and serve there. Realistically, we should expect people to demonstrate what is in their heart by the outward actions.

Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” This is a huge concept for the church today! Don’t make excuses, get involved in the work! You were once outside, now you are inside. You were once a foreigner, now you are a citizen. You are now a part of the PEOPLE of GOD, yet not worthy of this calling!

Now, as you are getting your mind around that concept, go and serve the Lord and figure out your spot along the way. God will direct you.

 

 

1 Corinthians 10:31-33
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God- 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Ephesians 1:18-23
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 5:25-32
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Colossians 1:17-20
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 3:14-16
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Ephesians 2:19-22 
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

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