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Just Do It!

July 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Continuing with our look at Spiritual Discipleship

The second chapter in Sander’s book is “Conditions of Discipleship.”

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:27 (ESV)

Oswald opens this chapter discussing how Jesus seems to be “intent on alienating [the crowd’s] interest and actually discouraging them from following him.” He goes on to say, “The line Jesus took with the impressionable crowd was the exact opposite of much evangelism today.” Rather than focusing on the benefits of following him as a disciple, he spoke of the “difficulties and dangers” and “sacrifices.” Jesus was not interested in the number of people who followed him; he was interested in the quality of those who chose to make the necessary sacrifice to be disciples (pp. 19-21).

We must challenge not only ourselves, but also those around us to “bear [our] own cross” and be true disciples of Jesus Christ. It will be difficult. It may be dangerous. It will definitely demand sacrifice. However, as Oswald writes, “following Christ is not a joyless experience” (p. 24). True joy and happiness come to those who follow Jesus Christ. And if that is not incentive enough, try following the popular directive, “Just do it!”

Holy Bible. (2001). English standard version. Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society.

Sanders, J. O. (1990). Spiritual discipleship: Principles of following Christ for every believer. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute.

A Reflection on “Controlling the Tongue and the Wallet: James”

April 7, 2007 Leave a comment

Two things from this article spoke to me. The first was the section, “The Calls to Patient Endurance and Sharing.” I have always wondered at the meaning of James 4:17 which says, “So then, if you know the good you ought to do and don’t do it, you sin.” I got the gist of the meaning, but now that I have had time to reflect on it I understand it’s meaning in a fuller measure.

Davids writes in his article, “Thus sharing is not an optional part of Christian discipleship; persons who withhold the sharing of their goods with the poor show that they have not been grasped by the faith at all, though they may know all of its propositions (2:18-19).” And then later he writes, “Now in 4:17 charity is the difference between living in sin and proper behavior.”[1] Now I get it. When Peter writes if you don’t do it, you sin he is referring to how we show our works by taking care of the needs of others. In other words, if I know of a need and have the ability to meet that need and don’t do it, I am sinning. I am sinning because I am not exhibiting my faith by meeting that specific need. I may have the resources to meet that need, but instead I am worried about my financial well being and keep the resources to myself. In essence, I am saying I do not trust in God.

The second thing was in the application of James in today’s ministry. David writes, “People who adopt a lifestyle of worldly values while mouthing the orthodox confessions are only deceiving themselves.”[2] The thought that occurred to me was how we spend so much time and energy planning for the future. Only today my wife and I were discussing our retirement plans. James says in 4:15-16, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” We need to be wise stewards of our money, but not worry about it so much. Instead we need to trust God and live our lives in a way that brings glory and honor to Him. We need to be single-minded, not double-minded trying to live in this world on one hand while claiming to have faith in God on the other. “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (4:4b) “Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (4:8b, 10)

Thanks to God for His Word.

[1] Peter H. Davids, “Controlling the Tongue and the Wallet: Discipleship in James.” In Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans), 236.
[2] Ibid., 244.

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My Daily Prayer

February 4, 2007 Leave a comment
Over the past few weeks, God has been working in me and teaching me through His Word like I have never experienced before. I have a hunger for His Word that cannot be satisfied. I am reading and digesting books by the score. My passion for prayer has been rekindled. My time with Him has become the dominate activity of my day and I praise God for all of this as I can feel His presence growing ever stronger in me.
This last week, I have spent much of my time reading about the regeneration we experience as we come to know our Lord. I have also been reading about the power of prayer as seen by E.M. Bounds. These thoughts were on my mind as I read the third chapter of Colossians this morning. I have probably read through it a dozen times or more over the years; but this morning it took me an hour to get through these 25 verses. I read it as a prayer to God to continue my regeneration as I mature in His love.
I have taken the liberty of writing out the 3rd chapter in such a way as to make it my daily prayer, and I want to share it with you so that it may be a blessing to you as well.
Since I have been raised with Christ, set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set my mind on things above, not on earthly things. For I died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is my life, appears, then I also will appear with him in glory.
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Since I have been raised with Christ, set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand with You, God. Set my mind on things above, not on earthly things. For I died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in You. When Christ, who is my life, appears, then I also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to my earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, Your wrath is coming. I used to walk in these ways, in the life I once lived. But now I must also rid myself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from my lips. Do not lie to others, since I have taken off my old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of you, its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as your chosen one, holy and dearly loved, clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with others and forgive others if I have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the You forgave me. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, since as a member of one body I was called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell in me richly as I teach and admonish others with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to You with gratitude in my heart. And whatever I do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to You the Father through him

Love my wife and do not be harsh with her. Do not embitter my children, or they will become discouraged

Obey my earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on me and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever I do, work at it with all my heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since I know that I will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ I am serving. Those who do wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Col 3:1-25 (TNIV)
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The remarkable thing about God’s Word is how it speaks to us concerning the present circumstances in our lives. We may have read a particular passage a dozen times, but because of something going on in our life at this particular time, it can speak right to the heart of the matter. God’s Word applies to us everyday.
My prayer is if you are not spending time with God through His Word, that you would begin to do so. And if you are already doing so, take a little extra time and allow the Holy Spirit to bless you even more. I know for me, it has changed my life, and will continue to do so.
Blessings to you!

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Resurrected Life

January 25, 2007 Leave a comment
Jesus’ life, from front cover to back cover, including the dust jacket, is a life shaped by the Jesus Creed. He learned the Shema from his father and mother; he amended it for his followers in the shape of the Jesus Creed. Most importantly, he lived it. We are called to participate in that very life, for is it that resurrected life that can form our lives.
-p. 292, The Jesus Creed, by Scot McKnight.
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When I Mention the Word "Vocation"

January 4, 2007 Leave a comment

When I mention the word “vocation”, what comes to mind? Your job. Your career. I know that’s the way I would have answered. But today in my morning quiet time, I ran across this word twice. I am reading Scot McKnight’s book, “The Jesus Creed,” and finishing a second book by Lewis Sperry Chafer, “He that is Spiritual.” In both books the word, “vocation” came up.

In McKnight’s book, it came up during a discussion of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. “Every vocation is tested by God.” McKnight goes on to use the word two more times in the next two sentences. He uses it in describing the vocation of believers, and the vocation of Jesus. Chafer quotes scripture in which the word comes up. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Ephesians 4:1 KJV) When I read the second reference to this word, I stopped and wrote it down with the intention of looking it up.

Here are some of the definitions I found:

1. A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified.
2. A particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.

These were the definitions I expected to find. In other words, this is what I always thought of when I read the word “vocation”. But here are a couple of other definitions:

1. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
2. An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, especially a religious career; a calling.

Now this got me to thinking. The first definition begged the question, do I consider my calling a vocation? In other words, do I take my calling as serious as my job? I think many of us should stop and ponder that. The second definition made me stop and question how I look at my calling. Do I consider my calling as a response to a summons from God? Or, even further, do I look at my calling as a certain kind of work? Or do I just look at my calling as something I do on Sundays, and live my life the rest of the week as most of the world does? Things that make you go hmm…

I will spend the rest of the day pondering these things and taking a serious look at how I view my calling. My prayer is this has the same effect on you.

Note: These definitions are from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vocation

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We Need to Pray Together as a Body of Believers

October 29, 2006 Leave a comment

I woke up at 2:20 this morning with a prompting from the Holy Spirit telling me that we need to pray for our church and community. Now, as some of you know, I began seminary this fall and it has absolutely consumed my time. One of the ironic things is with all of the study I have been doing on proper biblical interpretation, the history and culture of Old Testament times, and the writings of the Gospels, my quite time with God is not what it should be. There is a huge difference between studying the historical context and literary structure of scripture, and just spending time with our Father in His word. Well, I am here today to confess that although I may be a bit more educated in the circumstances surrounding the who, what, where, why, and how the scriptures have been written, I am seriously lacking spending time with the One I am spending so much time studying about.

Why do I tell you this? I don’t know except to say that I feel I have neglected my worship, my church, and fellowship with my brothers and sisters and ask your forgiveness. I also vow to spend more time with our Father each day; not just learning about Him, but experiencing Him through prayer and devotion.

But, as I said in the beginning, I woke up this morning from the urging of the Holy Spirit telling me to come together as a church body and pray. So this is my calling to all of my church family to join me on Sunday morning in prayer, and again on Wednesday morning before going off to our busy day in the marketplace. The Spirit was very clear to me that this is to be a time of pray for our church as a body.

One thing I have learned during this first semester at seminary, is most of what Jesus taught us in scripture is not for us individually, but rather for us as a body. Over the last century we as believers have taken the words of Christ and the Apostles to be written to us individually; but this is not always the case. Much of what Jesus taught along with what Paul and the other Apostles wrote was meant to be understood as a church, not as individuals. This is part of what we are to fight against, individualism. We are called as Christians to live and serve one another as a body. In the specific instance of the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is telling us as a church to put on the armor of God to protect us from the Evil one. I included it for you here:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:10-18, ESV)

There is a perfect illustration of this very thing in the movie “Gladiator”. In the opening scene when the Roman army is about to confront the pagans of old Germany we see the soldiers strapping on their equipment. But when they stand to fight, they stand together interlocking their shields to form an impenetrable wall against the fiery darts, arrows and spears of the enemy. This is exactly the picture Paul writes of in Ephesians. We should all strap on the armor of God, but only when we stand together can we defeat Satan and the fiery darts he throws at us.

So, here’s what I sense God is telling me, and why I am writing this. I will be at Cornerstone at 7 AM on Sunday mornings to pray for our Pastors, our ministry leaders, our Sunday school teachers, and for the people who come to worship with us. I will also be there at 6:30 on Wednesday morning to pray for the same but also for the community of Windsor, and all of the surrounding areas. My intention is not to spend this time praying for each other’s personal needs, but rather for the needs of the body. Having said that, one thing I want to be very intentional of is allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us where he may. I encourage any of you who feel as I do to join with me in this commitment to our church and our Lord.

In His service,

-jim

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It’s Not What You Do, but How You Do It

July 31, 2006 Leave a comment

In the book, “He that is Spiritual”, Lewis Sperry Chafer writes:

True spirituality…is a divine output of the life, rather than a mere cessation of things which are called “worldly.” True spirituality does not consist in what one does not do, it is rather what one does. It is not suppression: it is expression.

He goes on to say…

The world and “worldly” Christians turn to so-called “worldly” things because they discover in them an anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life. Little is gained toward true spirituality when would-be soul doctors have succeeded in persuading the afflicted to get on without the anesthetic. If these instructors do not present the reality of consolation and filling for heart and life which God has provided, the condition will not be improved.

Now, I know this is talking about how the Holy Spirit fills us, but it got me to thinking. My initial thought was how so many of us struggle with what God wants us to do with our life; and through this many of us end up with a feeling of frustration that leads to a sense of emptiness. In order to fill that emptiness, we look for ways to escape by turning to “worldly” things or activities. But as I reflected on this I came to the conclusion that the frustration may not be so much “what” God wants us to do, but rather “how” God wants us to do it.

In other words, instead of allowing God to use us in the way He designed us, we allow ourselves to be influenced to doing things the way someone else deems we should (albeit with good intentions). Typically this comes from someone in authority or in a leadership position who has influence with believers.

I have heard of pastors (or would-be soul doctors as Chafer refers to them) who convince people to give up things that may be considered “worldly” without realizing how much joy and fulfillment it brings to their life. It may be something as simple as playing softball in a men’s league. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to witness to friends and teammates, the pastor has convinced the person to give it up “for God” in order to serve the church in some way. The person who follows this advice may end up with a feeling of emptiness. They love the competition of playing softball, but now find themselves doing something that is completely unnatural to them.

A person in this situation may find himself turning to other things to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life. Instead of playing softball they may turn to something as innocent as getting lost in a book instead of dealing with what is bothering him. On the surface this may not be a bad thing; but if it consumes them to the point that they shut out the world and accomplish nothing, it can be very damaging. I’m sure you can think of other habits which may be more damaging. Whatever the habit, it is only a way to lessen the pain of giving up something that brought so much joy. Only when a person deals with the root cause of why they turn to this “worldly” habit will they turn away from it and fill that void by serving God in the unique way they were designed to.

Chafer writes, “How misleading is the theory that to be spiritual one must abandon play, diversion, and helpful amusement!” He goes on to write:

It is a device of Satan to make the blessings of God seem abhorrent to young people who are overflowing with physical life and energy. It is to be regretted that there are those who in blindness are so emphasizing the negatives of the Truth that the impression is created that spirituality is opposed to joy, liberty and naturalness of expression in thought and life in the Spirit.

The bottom line is when we are saved, it doesn’t mean we have to give up everything that brings us joy, but now we must use those things to bring glory to God. Perhaps you like to play golf on Saturday morning with a group of friends. Or maybe you like to ride your motorcycle in the mountains and stop for a cool drink at a place that may be viewed as inappropriate to most Christians. Both of these activities can be opportunities to share the Good News with others who may not otherwise hear it, while at the same time fulfill your heart and life.

Chafer concludes with, “God has provided that our joy shall be full.” We need to be assured that it is okay to live life in the way we were made. It’s okay to do what God has called us to do in the way He made us. When we do this, our heart and life will be so full of joy we won’t need any “worldly” habits to nullify the emptiness. We will be completely fulfilled and filled with the Spirit.

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