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Maturing in Christ

Paul, a man whose life story can be defined as “all in for Christ”, was very serious about what his life was about. He was a man of accomplishment. He was revered in some circles and mostly faultless in much of his life. However, with all his accomplishments and accolades and badges, he couldn’t stand the thought that any of those would be worth more to him than a life found in Christ. He speaks of this in his letter to the church in Philippi. The words that he uses like strain and pressing on, gives us an affirmation that his journey is not a easy one, but one that he works for. It’s a journey full of self sacrifice.

Spiritually speaking, Paul is far along in years. Not one of us would say that he is drinking milk as a baby would, nor would we say he is a teenager in his outlook. We would all say that he is mature. We would say that Paul has some things figured out. What is it about his life that makes him so special?

Paul had it figured out. His relationship with Christ was not just lip service, but it was something that was tangible. It was something people saw in him. In fact, I’d say, if you passed Paul on the street, you’d see more of Christ than you would of Paul. It was something he pressed forward with. While fighting against anything that would hold him down or keep him away from realizing Christ’s power in his life, he pressed on. He did not stop. It didn’t matter what people said about him, his life was found in Christ. It was Christ alone that mattered to him.

What would it take for us to take such views? What would it take for us to engage in this type of lifestyle? Sure, the more we stand up for Christ the more the world rejects us, but along the way we are planting seeds that have more power than anything we can come up.

Take a look at this passage from Philippians 3, but pay special attention to verses 15…

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

I ask, what is the mature way of living? The mature way of living is forgetting what is behind, putting your focus on Christ and moving toward him. No more living as a baby or as immature, its time to step up and take hold of which Christ has called you to.

Label vs. Lifestyle

I was challenged this past Sunday by Scott’s sermon. Are you playing to win or are you just playing not to lose? If this doesn’t draw a line in the sand, I don’t know what does. So many people slip in quietly and slip out quietly, never even considering that they have been called to so much more than just good attendance at church.

How do you measure your growth? Do you have specific times that you can names in which you know that God has moved in your life? I bet we can all mention when we first believed, many can mention their baptism, some can mention getting involved in a small group of some kind, even others can mention how they took a step of faith and served. What about you? Where have you grown?

It’s really easy to think that Christianity is more of a label then a lifestyle. We come and believe and get baptized like its one of those wrist bands you get to a concert. (the type that rip all your arm hair off when you try to remove it) We think that once the wrist band on, its all access and we don’t need to do anything else.

Now, some of you may think that you don’t need to do anything else. You preach “freedom in Christ” and its not about works. Let me just say, you’d be right. However, I assure you, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians, you are a baby. You feed off milk. While so many around you are moving on to solid foods, you are still craving strained peas.

Everything Christ called his followers to was something of action. He never called his followers to an apathetic life. When Christ told his followers they’d be witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, he was telling them that they would have to endure some big things. In fact, the word witnesses in the Greek is “martys” which is also the same word that we get “martyr”. He said they would be martyrs for His name.

Are you ready to give your life for His name? You see some of his followers were ready and willing, but some of them were harder to convince. Even Paul was stricken blind before he would follow. What will Christ need to do in your life before you are ready to follow after him?

If you are looking to take the next step in your life, there are so many opportunities. I’d love to be able to help you through that process. It’s time to get up and move.

What is a man?

If you type, “What is a man?” into a Google search, you get all sorts of answers. I was pretty surprised by this. Everyone seems to have their own definition of what manhood is. Maybe its loyalty, maybe its defined by strength, maybe its defined by order. Who really knows?

My wife and I sat behind the bench of the opponents team last night at our local Indoor Football League game. I bet if I were to ask their coach he would say he is a man. However, when I hear him throwing F-Bombs loud enough for the whole arena to hear including all the children in the crowd, I’d question his manhood. Or maybe I ask the  man who is beating his wife physically or emotionally. I bet he would say he is a man. Afterall, he is keeping order in his home. However, if you are reduced to this kind of activity to keep order, I would question his manhood as well.

Tonight we are beginning Quest for Authentic Manhood. Tonight we will begin our search for what a man is. We will soon determine who have graduated to manhood and who have not.

I look forward to this journey because I have never been told whether or not I am a man, I have just always assumed I am. Too many guys in this world have also assumed that they have achieved manhood. Are we wrong? Maybe. The important thing is that we know how to define what a man is and not just with words but also in everyday actions.

To leave you with some scripture from a someone who had to learn what it was to become a man, Paul. He says in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.” This may be the simplest definition of manhood, but its a good one.

If you want to find out what it means to be a man, please check out http://www.mensfraternity.com

A Good Conversation

Last Sunday morning, my men’s group arrived at Ephesians 5. We’ve been working our way through Paul’s letters and I would say that this week was some of the best conversation we had. Why? I am not really sure, beyond that I believe it gets close to what we as followers of Christ have been called to. It was a great conversation thought and I wanted to bring you in on it.

The title of Ephesians 5 is “Be Imitators of God”. I think its important to start with this because this will be our challenge. It’s not an easy task, nor one to take lightly, but its one to aspire to daily.

Paul opens his letter with this:

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.

It’s a challenging passage. However, its one that as a follower of Christ I am called to live this out. There are a lot of negative influences around us and by succumbing to any of those, we put ourselves in danger of withdrawing into the darkness as opposed to living in the light.

I do want to draw the attention to a very small verse in this passage. It’s one that caught my eye after reading through this a second time on Sunday morning. It’s verse 10, “and find out what pleases the Lord.”

What does please the Lord? If he were to look at my life, all parts of it, would it be pleasing to the Lord? If not, how do I find out what is pleasing to Him? Where do I look for such things? Well, the first place I know not to look would be in the darkness. I feel Paul is clear about staying away from there. I need to be looking at the illuminated things. One comment that was made was, “If you need to ask if something pleases God, then it probably doesn’t”. I think this is wise. Too often we try to stretch out what God means for our own benefit and guilty pleasure. But I believe this verse is a bit more cut and dry than that. I believe it should be clear what pleases God. We need to continue to look at His word and we need to be in tune with what He says through it.

When we shape and bend the rules, we are opening ourselves to be deceived. I have seen it many times. Too many people fall because the sin in their life leads them to believe its more about them then it is about God. It’s a lie. When I read verse 10 it leaves me with a good feeling. I don’t feel as if this is something I will be searching for forever, but its something that is clear, something that I can find.

Have you been searching for what pleases the Lord? What have you found? Have you left the darkness or are you still sitting on the edge dangling your feet in it? If you haven’t left it, now is the time.

Simple Beginnings

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

What would it be like if life were still simple? Isn’t that a question we all ask? Things would be different, no stress, no breaking sweats in mid day, no worrying about what is next. It would be easy. I think that might have been what it was like for the early church. When I read through the gospels and through the book of Acts, I feel as though Christ himself alongside with the early apostles were preparing us for something not necessarily big, but simple.

The early church didn’t make themselves so busy they could barely get a decent nights sleep, they organized their life around the church and made sure their priorities were straight. I feel as though we too easily fall into the trap of organizing our life around things that don’t last. We organize our lives around the kids basketball and volleyball games, we organize around the overtime we need to make the next round of bills.

The life that Jesus taught to His followers was a simple life. Put God first and his purposes to follow. The early church filled their schedule not with busy activities, but with opportunities to worship. They met together daily to break bread, fellowship, and worship. They spread the message of the gospel to others out of worship. They met met daily giving up of themselves and their possessions to glorify God with their whole being. They weren’t stressed about this, they did what they did becuase that was all they needed to do.

What would it be like if we could get back to that place of simplicity when all that mattered in our week was how we would worship God? If Jesus were to look at your calendar for this week, what would he say? Would he say that you are worshiping him or something else?

Take some time to think about the simple beginnings the church had and how every need was met. Wouldn’t it be nice if our every need was met?

I love A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S.!

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s always interesting to see younger people text on their phone’s and on facebook. (wow, I am making myself sound old.) It’s almost as if they are typing in codes and acronyms. Personally, I keep my acronym use simple. If it’s not BLT, BBQ, USA, GI I probably don’t use them. So, I am going to challenge myself to create a new one. It’s a long one, but I might be able to get something good out of it.

I have been thinking a lot about the relationships we create with those around us. My last few posts have revolved around the idea of being real with others. Obviously this is a key ingredient to any good relationship. So, let’s see if I can get an acronym out of RELATIONSHIP.

R – Real. Relationships are and need to be real. The authenticity of your relationships often will say a lot about you. For example if you have surface relationships, you are probably a person who doesn’t like to open up. However, the opposite is true. If your relationships run deep, then you are a person who is not afraid to be vulnerable and to be real with others.

E -Easy. I have found the more real I become with those around me, the easier my life is. If I spend all my energy trying to create a facade or to hide who I really am, I become exhausted, frustrated and really I become a person that is no longer likeable.

L – Love. Relationships are all about the love. It’s because that God loved us that we may also love. It’s one of the greatest things we have been given.

A -Accepting. This might be a harder one. I want to make a distinction accepting is not enabling. Accept the person for who they are. You don’t need to accept what they do, but any relationship is built by getting past the little things that drive us up the wall, but understand that we are all sinners in need of a savior.

T -Truth. All relationships are based on truth. You won’t last in relationship built on false realities or lies. It’s those close relationships especially which are built on the notion that I am not going to be someone other than who I really am.

I -Inspiration. A good relationship is always inspirational. Why else do we “ooh” and “awww” when we hear about an old couple celebrating 50 years of marriage. It gives us great hope in our relationships.

O -Ornery. A good relationship has much laughter in it. Someone who likes to have fun will always have a great relationship.  Laughter generates something special inside us. It gives us new light on a day and eases our spirits in hard day.

N -No. The best relationships carries can carry the weight of love. Even when that love demands you stand up to something that is bound to tear that relationship apart. It gives you the peace of mind to say no to someone who needs to hear it without breaking the relationship apart.

S -Spiritual. Relationships are spiritual. Christ came to this earth and built relationships. He came to tell the  truth, but the relationships he had could get through anything.

H -Hope. Hope brings a bright future. Relationships provide hope. It’s about knowing that those people who are closest will be there for you through anything. They bring hope when everything else seems so dark.

I -Isolation. If you have ever felt alone, a good relationship will bring you out of isolation. It gives you assurance that you are never alone. We were not meant to love in isolation and therefore we have been given a great opportunity to connect with people whom we know will always be there.

P – Perseverance. Good relationships endure just about anything. Even in Christs last moments, his followers denied him, we know that there is always forgiveness to be found. It’s satans goal to think that relationships weren’t meant to with stand pressure, but sure enough they can with stand anything.

 

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Praying for Vision and Clarity

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s always tough when you aren’t sure of what your next move is. It’s like your playing a game of chess. You know your first step, but your opponent throws you off with a move you aren’t expecting. What now? Where do I move? Do I move a pawn, my knight, my rook? What’s it going to be?

I feel like this is how it is in the church sometimes. There are moves we need to make and we are unsure of what they are. My men’s group has been reading through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The last couple of weeks our conversation has centered on a discussion of spiritual gifts and being used by God. I know God wants to use us, but how? And the biggest question to ask, am I willing to be used? Have you seen God move in such a way in your life that His next move for you was one that was a big step in faith? I find it happens more and more. I have learned one undeniable truth: If I want to grow in Christ, I need to submit to His game plan.

He’s holding the playbook and calling the shots. I just need to look to the sidelines, receive the play and make it happen. I think it’s very appropirate that my men’s group will hit 1 Corinthians 15 next week. The opening verses of the chapter go like this:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saves, if you hold firmly to the work I preached to you. Other, you have believed in vain.

The gospel is a message that saves. The gospel is a message that was not meant to be hoarded. It was meant to go out in to the world and transform lives, as it did mine.

As our church takes the next steps and determines what play Christ is calling for us to engage in, pray with us for clarity of vision and willingness to be used. Also, I pray for you. Are seeking God for the next move? Are you submitting to His game plan? Are you willing to be used by Him no matter what? Ask your self these questions. If you answer yes, hold on tight, its going to be an adventure! If you are answering no, ask why? What is holding you back from allowing God to use you? What are you afraid of?