March 19, 2015
by Floyd
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New Book!

Carl Medearis is an international expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations.
He acts as a catalyst for a number of current movements in the Middle East to promote peace-making, as well as cultural, political and religious dialog leading toward reconciliation. Carl, his wife Chris, and three kids lived in Beirut, Lebanon for 12 years. Through their unique and strategic approach around the Arab world, they encourage university students, business professionals and political leaders to live their lives by the principles and teachings of Jesus in order to change their societies and nations. He is the author of the acclaimed book on these issues, ‘Muslims, Christians and Jesus’.

Carl is a brilliant author and a good friend and I am excited about his new book titled ‘Adventures In Saying Yes – A Journey From Fear To Faith

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To check it out, just click here

 

March 17, 2015
by Floyd
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Love Never Ends: A Meditation…

The following is a piece written by BRIAN ZAHND.  If you would like to see the original post or read more from Brian please click on the link to view his blog site –  Brian’s blog

 

Why is there something instead of nothing?
The only answer I can imagine is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God…
But why would God say, “Let there be light” and initiate Creation?
The only answer I can imagine is God is love.

What is light? God’s love in the form of photons.
What is water? A liquid expression of God’s love.
What is a mountain? God’s love in granite, so much older than human sorrow.
What is a tree? God’s love growing up from the ground.
What is a bull moose? God’s love sporting spectacular antlers.
What is a whale? Fifty tons of God’s love swimming in the ocean.

As we learn to see Creation as goodness flowing from God’s own love—
We begin to see the sacredness of all things.
As Dylan and Dostoevsky say, in every grain of sand.
All of creation is a gift — a gift flowing from the self-giving love of God.

Why is there light and oceans and trees and moose and whales and every grain of sand?
Because God is love — love seeking expression in self-giving creativity.
Unless we understand this we’ll misunderstand everything and misspend our lives.
In our misunderstanding and misspent lives we harm Creation—
Including our sisters and brothers, all of whom bear the image of God.

Love never ends.
At the end of all things there is love. Love abides. Love endures.
When the last star burns out, God’s love will be there for whatever comes after.
In the end it all adds up to love. So when you are calculating the meaning of life—
If it doesn’t add up to love, recalculate, because you’ve made a serious mistake!

Existence only makes sense when seen through the lens of love.
At the beginning of time there is love.
At the bottom of the universe there is love.
It’s in God’s ocean of endless love that we live and move and have our being.

Admittedly freedom allows for other things too (from cancer cells to atomic bombs)—
But at the bottom of the universe it’s love all the way down.
Cancer cells and atomic bombs will not have the final say.
Love alone has the last word.

“Unless you love, your life will flash by.”
(Thank you, Terrence Malick.)
Love alone gives meaning to our fleeting fourscore sojourn.
Why? Because everything else returns to dust. It’s love alone that never ends.
It’s love alone that is greater than the grave. Death severs all save love.
We remain connected to our departed loved ones by the un-severable bond of love.

Love remembers.
God’s love is great enough to remember all and to re-member all.
If Creation is an explosion (or rapid expansion) of God’s love (and I believe it is)—
New Creation (or resurrection) is the triumph of God’s endless love over death.
This is the question: Which is endless, Love or Death? The answer is Love.

If God is love and if love never ends and if the meaning of being is love…
And if Jesus is the supreme incarnation of God’s eternal love…
Then that should tell us something about what it looks like to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus is a journey toward perfection in the love of God.
It’s a journey that will take us a lifetime, and perhaps longer.
But the trajectory is clear: We are always moving toward the way of love.

If what we’re doing, praying, preaching, saying, isn’t moving us toward love…
Then it’s not the true way of following the love of God who is Jesus Christ.
This needs to be said, because it is too easily forgotten.
Loveless orthodoxy is death.

We’ve all seen those who in the name of Jesus have perfected meanness.
The iconic and tragic-comic example would be the Westboro Baptist folk…
But there are plenty of other less egregious, but still tragic, examples.

The journey of faith almost always begins as somewhat elitist (I’m saved!)—
But it always move toward becoming egalitarian. (Peter learning Gentiles are accepted by God.)
Love triggers the divine and deep (but often repressed) instinct that all things belong.
(All God has created is good. Sin is the corruption, the hole, in the fabric of God’s goodness.)

You too belong. You too are accepted. I will make room for you.
Over time, as we are properly formed, love will elicit this kind of language.
Love is open. Love is expansive. There is a largeness to love.
Sin is mean, petty, and small.
The whole world of Hell in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce was no bigger than a grain of sand.
Selah.

If Creation comes from the explosive expansion of God’s love—
Then I find it significant that we live in an ever expanding universe.
The universe is not shrinking, it’s not static, it’s expanding…at the speed of light!

God is love. God is light. God’s love is expanding at the speed of light.
And what is the wrath of God? The love of God wrongly received.
Either we go with the grain of love or we suffer the shards of self-inflicted harm.
(And that you “did it to yourself” by resisting God’s love makes it no less of a judgment.)

What about the borders of your love? Are they shrinking? Static? Expanding?
Who are you embracing in love. Fewer people? The same people? More people?
I’m not worried about having borders of love that are too broad.
Loving too many people will hardly be a crime at the judgment seat of Christ.

In my earliest days of following Jesus I had an air of triumphalism. (I’m on the winning team!)
But as I mature I find triumphalism shrinking and love expanding.
Today I find it much easier to love people who are very different from me.

I’ve learned to genuinely love people of other religions. (And still confess Jesus is Lord.)
Jews…Muslims…Hindus…Buddhists…Atheists.
I’m thinking of specific people…friends.
But will they be saved?!
That’s not my business. My business is to love and point to Jesus.
(I do believe that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.)

Back to the question about our borders of love…
Why would our borders of love shrink and not expand? Only one answer: Fear.
As I observe the world — politically, socially, economically, religiously…
I observe there really are only two forces that move people: Fear and Love.

So when you observe the events that make news (especially if there’s controversy)—
Ask this simple question: What’s at work here? Fear or Love?
Then ask yourself another question: What’s moving me? Fear or Love?
Finally, make the decision to move with love and refuse to respond to fear.
You can afford to make that risky move because…
God is love and love never ends.

March 16, 2015
by Floyd
0 comments

How I Pray Each Morning

I believe we can live victoriously every day. I believe we can enjoy the grace of God in difficult circumstances and when we are down emotionally. Personally, I need time with the Lord every day, or my emotional and spiritual well runs dry. When that happens, my faith level goes down and I start listening to the lies of the enemy.

On a practical level, I love variety, so I change my ‘quiet time’ routine every few months. If I don’t, it gets boring and I lose interest. Sally is the exact opposite to me. She follows the same approach every morning, in the same chair, at the same time.

But I need variety. I think it’s a personality thing. I like variety in how I relate to Sally or any of my friends. I like to do different things with them. See a movie, go for a walk, play golf, take a hike in the mountains…the point is to hang out together but do things we enjoy at the same time.

But, with the variety and change, I also need consistency in my times with the Lord. There are certain aspects of my relationship with God that never change.

I thought I would share ‘a tool’ with you that has helped me spend meaningful time with the Lord. I use this tool in the mornings, and any time in the day for that matter. A friend passed it on to me many years ago, and I like it a lot. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that it contains elements of truth that should be part of how we relate to the Lord every day.

It’s really simple. This model of prayer, if you want to call it that, is so easy you can memorize and follow it any time of the day. You can do it while you are driving to work, going for a walk, etc. Yet it has lots of opportunity for substance and going deeper with the Lord as well. When I lack direction or my mind wanders, I know what to do to get going. If you like this tool and find it helpful, you may want to write down the seven headings on a 3×5 card and keep it with you as a reminder.

It’s based on the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. I encourage you get a diagram of the Tabernacle from your Bible or borrow one from a friend who has a study Bible so you can visualize it.

It will be easier for you to remember it that way, too. The Lord gave the design for the tabernacle to Moses in Exodus 25-31. Different features of the tabernacle were representative of how the people of Israel were to relate to God. For example, as the priests entered the tabernacle, they went first to the altar of burnt offerings, or altar of sacrifice, as it is sometimes called. They did that as a sacrifice for their sins. The altar of sacrifice is symbolical of Christ’s death on the cross.

If each station of the tabernacle was important to the people of God in those days, they are just as important to us today. I am so convinced of this truth, that no matter how I rearrange my quite times, I include these seven elements in my times of connecting with God. They are as follows:

  1. Altar of Sacrifice – It is vital that we ‘die daily’ to sin, i.e., confess our sins each day and receive God’s forgiveness. The Altar of Sacrifice was where burnt offerings and sacrifices were offered to God for the sins of the people. Jesus is our sacrifice. Paul says in Romans 6:11 that we should consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God because of Jesus’ death for us. It is powerful thing to daily confess our sins and sorrows, and then receive His forgiveness and grace. See Galatians 5:24, Philippians 1:21, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6, 2 Corinthians 1:9
  1. Bronze Laver – We have an invitation from God: we can receive the washing of our minds and hearts each day if we simply ask and receive by faith. The bronze laver in the tabernacle was the place of cleansing. It was a bowl that contained water for cleansing. The bronze laver symbolized the need of the priests to be clean from sin as they came into the presence of God. John 13:6, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26
  1. Golden Lampstand – We need to consciously ask for and receive the fullness of the Spirit every day: God invites us to ask for the fruit and the power of the Holy Spirit each day, and to ask Him to give us wisdom for the decisions we must make. On the Golden Lampstand stood a candlestick, or menorah. The Lampstand provided light for the priests as they entered the ‘holy place’. It symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us as we live our lives each day in the ‘holy place’ of our work and family life. It also represents Jesus, the light of the world. This part of the tabernacle reminds us to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18, Acts 4:8, 31, 9:17, Acts 5:32
  1. Table of Showbread – We need the word of God, both written and spoken, to feed our hearts and keep us alive spiritually. Each week twelve fresh loaves of bread were placed on a table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The Showbread symbolized that God sustained the people of Israel. In the same way, we are sustained by the word of God. It is bread to our souls. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that precedes from the mouth of God.” Deuteronomy 8:3, Psalm 119:9-11, Romans 12:2. Acts 4:31, 13:5, Romans 10:17, 2 Corinthians 2:17, 4:2, Ephesians 6:17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 4:12
  1. Altar of Incense – Jesus longs to receive our worship by the choices we make, the thoughts we think, and the words of praise we offer Him in adoration. The Altar of Incense was symbolical of worship. Our lives are to be incense to the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:14). He never grows tired of our worship. Worship allows intimacy to grow between the Lord and us. It is the love language of the heart. Genesis 22:5, Deuteronomy 11:16, Psalm 67:1-4, Psalm 86:9, John 4:21-24, Romans 12:1, Revelation 5:9-10,
  1. Mercy Seat – Ark of the Covenant – The mercy seat symbolizes the mercy of God that covers our lives and it represents God’s invitation to us to offer prayers and intercessions for others. The mercy seat was the lid that went over the ark, where the stone tablets of the law were contained. The priests sprinkled the blood of sacrificed animals on the mercy seat. An intercessor stands before God and asks for His mercy to be given on behalf of other people. Such an invitation should not be ignored or turned down! Acts 6:4, 12:5, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, James 5:15, Mark 11:24, 13:33, 14:38, 1 Thessalonians 5:25,
  1. Outer Court – When we marry our passions for life with our calling to tell others about Jesus, our worlds come together. We don’t have to live fragmented lives. After the priest ministered to the Lord on behalf of the people, he went to the outer court of the tabernacle and ministered to the people on behalf of the Lord. As followers of Jesus, we are commissioned to go into the world on His behalf. We each have a sphere of influence that God gives us to tell people about Jesus. When this happens, we find deep fulfillment and the satisfaction of living whole-heartedly for God. Genesis 1:28, 12:1-3, Psalm 67:1-4, Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20

There you have it: seven aspects of our relationship with Jesus. My prayer for you is that you will grow in your desire to spend time with Jesus each day. He loves you and longs to be with you!

The Tabernacle Model of Prayer and the Lord’s prayer are linked in that they both describe essential ingredients of our walk with the Lord:

Adorationv –  Our Father in heaven  –  Altar of Incense 

Consecration  –  Holy be Your name  –  Altar of Sacrifice/Burnt Offerings 

Intercession  –  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven  –  Mercy Seat/Ark of the Covenant 

Infilling and personal supplication  –  Give us this day our daily bread  –  Table of Showbread & Golden Lampstand 

Cleansing and forgiveness  –  Forgive us our sins, As we forgive those who have sinned against us  –  Bronze Laver 

Spiritual warfare  –  Lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one  –  Outer Court 

Worship and declaration  –  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever!  –  Altar of Incense 

March 11, 2015
by Floyd
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Whose Side Is God On? by Greg Albrecht

The following is an excerpt from Spiritual Soup for the Hungry Soul Vol. 2 © Copyright 2013 by Greg Albrecht, published by Plain Truth Ministries, Pasadena, CA, USA.   Used by permission.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” – Joshua 5:13-14

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Have you ever noticed how many individual Christians and incorporated religious institutions assume that God is exclusively on their side? Many seem to think that God is a member-in-good-standing of their denomination. Many seem to assume that God carries the same national passport they do and that He always supports their country in any military altercation. Some even act and talk as if God supports their favorite athletic team and their particular political party.

But if you think about the whole idea of God being polarized and politicized for about three seconds, it really doesn’t make any sense, does it? After all the Bible clearly teaches that God loves all mankind equally. The man in our keynote passage who appeared to Joshua could have been an angel of the Lord, or this incident could have been yet another example of a theophany, an appearance of God himself. Whether it was the Lord or an angel of the Lord is really not all that important – what is important is the message given to Joshua and the context of that message.

As the book of Joshua begins, the nation of Israel (after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness) is poised to inherit the land God promised to them. Joshua has taken over for Moses as the national leader. As he is preparing for war against Jericho, the first city-state that he and the nation of Israel will conquer, Joshua has a visitor. In the midst of Joshua’s military preparations the Lord (or His angel) appeared with a drawn sword. As the commander-in-chief of Israel’s army, Joshua’s first question is natural: “Are you for us or against us? Are you a friend or foe?”

The answer is profound. In effect God says to Joshua: “Whether I am on your side is not the real issue. The most important question is whether you are on my side. You follow my directions and decisions – not the other way around.” If you are an American, I presume you know that the words “God bless America” are not in the Bible.  If you are a citizen of another country you probably understand that “God bless Canada” or “God bless England or Nigeria or Germany or Afghanistan or India or China or Indonesia” does not appear in the Bible either.

I love my country. I tear up when I hear the stories of those who have sacrificed for the freedoms we Americans enjoy. I sing the Star Spangled Banner and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with respect. I am thankful I have been given the opportunity to live in the United States. For that matter, I recognize and give thanks for the blessings of friends and family, and spiritual brothers and sisters who experience life within any democracy, in a country where freedom of thought, assembly and worship is given. And there are many such places in our world today.

My wife and I lived in the United Kingdom for a number of years, and enjoyed the blessings of life in such an environment. As an American, I am deeply moved by the beneficial work of Americans as they help people both within our country and abroad. But I am not blind to the sins of our country. I am not blind to the fact that no country or any political system is without sin. I am not blind to the fact that many wars are contested by countries and nations that are both wrong in their motives for fighting and killing.

I do not worship my country any more than I worship a church or a religion. I worship Jesus alone. When all is said and done, when we read history carefully, we find out that warfare is a dirty and corrupt business, and that there have been few times when one side is absolutely clean and righteous in their motivation for fighting and in the way they have prosecuted and carried out warfare. It is important for Christians to maintain their focus on Jesus Christ, rather than falling into the ditch of nationalism.

John 3:16, the most often quoted and memorized verse in the entire Bible, tells us that God loves the entire world. Romans 2:11 tells us that God does not show favoritism. God loves us all, and that all-encompassing, all-embracing love is one of the things that makes Him God. He does not have favorites. He is not partisan or political. He is above the kind of petty squabbles and conflicts that we humans get into. God is not involved in the struggles that often define us and consume us. He is truly above it all – He doesn’t take sides!

And that’s exactly how God replied to Joshua’s inquiry as to whether He was on Joshua’s side or on the side of Joshua’s enemies. God (or the angel who conveyed God’s message) said neither. The ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark records a fascinating story from Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ disciples came to Him and told Him about a man who was driving demons out of people, in Jesus’ name. The disciples told Jesus that they had told him to stop healing people, because, as Mark records them saying to Jesus, he was not one of us  (Mark 9:38).

“He or she is not one of us!” How often has that been said, over the centuries, in those exact words or something similar, by those who thought they were faithfully following Jesus? Some within Christendom become so confident in their creeds, doctrines, dogmas, practices, ceremonies and beliefs that they actually believe their position is one and the same as God’s position. Pride and arrogance are not far behind.

And, of course, pride and arrogance produces intolerance and condemnation. Sometimes those who say they are following God become physically abusive to anyone who disagrees with them – for after all, “those” people are disagreeing with God, aren’t they?

When we get caught up in thinking that God is on our side and when we start making critical comments about those who do not seem to be one of us, we are not reconcilers – we are not peacemakers – but instead we become divisive – we become angry and hostile to others. When our focus leaves Jesus, the Prince of peace, we cease to be connected with others, whatever their beliefs may be. The love of our own interests, our own nation, culture, religion and values turns us away from the love that God has for all humanity.

We make judgments that “God is on our side” and “those other people are not one of us” because we are living out of fear. Fear, along with shame and guilt, is a product of Christ-less religion. In Mark 9, when the disciples complained about someone who seemed to be healing and helping people, in Jesus’ name, but someone who wasn’t in their club, someone they didn’t know, someone who didn’t appear to be “one of us” – what did Jesus say?

Jesus said, Do not stop him  (Mark 9:39). Please excuse my paraphrase, as I put words in Jesus’ mouth, but is seems to me that He was telling His disciples something like this:

“Listen up guys. The gospel is not about whether God is on your side – it’s about the decision you make to be on His side. The gospel is not about whether someone is one of you – it’s about the incredible news that God is for all of us – not just you guys – but everyone. Taking sides is not part of God’s grace. That’s not how His love and grace work.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the end of the eye-for-aneye response, a response which, of course, makes everyone blind (Matthew 5:38-42). Christ-less religion often squelches the gospel, with fever-pitched cries for vindication, politically or militarily. May God forgive us when pulpits of Christian churches are used to cry out for bloodshed. The kingdom of heaven is a multi-ethnic, international, irreligious kingdom – it most certainly is not a war-mongering, nationalistic kingdom.

One of the major lessons of the book of Revelation is that religion and the state often combine as enemies of the true gospel, so much so that Revelation 18:4 calls to the people of God, who follow Christ alone, to “Come out of her, my people.”

The book of Revelation provides a warning and a chronicle of what happens when those who profess Christ jump into bed with either Christ-less religion or the idolatry of Caesar worship – the worship of a nationalistic human empire – or a combination of both. Just as there have been religious institutions in the past that were merely pawns of a nationalistic state worship, so too religious institutions today fall into the same idolatrous worship. They fly the flag of Christ, but they are no more part of Him than those who do not even claim to be followers of Jesus. It’s so easy to respond to martial music and join the crusade of demanding an eye for an eye, but we are clearly told that our citizenship primarily lies in heaven:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…  (Philippians 3:20). Our true, eternal citizenship is in heaven. As Christ followers may we realize that as we live here on this earth, wherever we may live, and under whatever form of government, that we, as Christians, refuse to bow down and worship our country just as Daniel refused to worship the golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had formed and fashioned.

As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we worship no golden idols here on earth. We bow the knee to the Prince of peace, not to any god of war. Our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven is based on God’s incredible love, which flows into our hearts and our lives by His grace.

In Luke chapter 9 we read that when the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus and His disciples, James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume these enemies of the gospel. How dare they stand in the way of truth?

But Jesus rebuked James and John—and then, in the very next chapter, on the heels of His rejection by the Samaritans, Jesus chose a Samaritan as the good guy of His parable about the love of God—a parable we call the parable of the Good Samaritan!

The life of Christ involves turning the other cheek to the enemy who wrongs us, blessing the enemy who curses us and praying for those who abuse us. That is the radical grace and love of the kingdom of heaven.

Whose Side Is God On?  He’s on your side and on my side. God is on the side of our next-door neighbors whose dogs bark and bother us, the neighbors who never mow their lawn and who have loud parties. He’s on the side of people who don’t attend your church – or people who don’t attend any church – or people who are not even Christians. God’s love is big enough – there’s enough of it to go around, even for people who don’t even believe in Him – at least not yet.

Whose Side Is God On?  He’s on the side of people who live outside of our borders and boundaries, who speak languages we don’t understand and practice and love a culture we don’t know or appreciate. God does not take sides as humans do. He is not against anyone. He doesn’t have favorites. The real question for you and me is whether we are on God’s side.

 

 

February 27, 2015
by Floyd
0 comments

How Jesus Related to People

Part Two… 

2.  Community

From the crowds, came the seekers.  One senses in reading the Gospels that there were people in and out of Jesus’ life who were actively seeking to know more.  Some of them are made known to us in the gospel accounts, like Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, or the Roman centurion.  There must have been many more who were actively interested in hearing His teachings.  They were people who had listened to Jesus speaking, seen Him perform miracles, or had heard about Him and wanted to know more.  Different people had different reasons for seeking Jesus: some were sincere, others wanted to find fault with Him, and still others were motivated by curiosity.  Some were desperate for help.  Jesus’ response to seekers was very different from His response to large crowds.  He was more personal, but not always more friendly.  He was probing, questioning, and He almost always asked or demanded something costly from seekers.  Jesus tested them, but in a pro-active and loving kind of way.  He would give them something to do, a step to take, to show they were prepared to pay the price necessary to actually follow Him.  Jesus did not continually dispense truth to seekers if they did not show that they were willing to obey what He had already taught them.

Jesus modeled for us how to arouse the interest of people through telling stories and doing miracles.  But we also learn from Him how to ask seekers to go beyond spiritual curiosity or the miracle they have experienced, to hearing and obeying His teachings.  If they took one step, Jesus led them to the next.  Because we have the advantage of knowing the parable of the Sower, the seed and the soil, we know that Jesus understood that the hearts of people were all different.  Some were hard, some were responsive; and of those that were responsive, not all were genuine or lasting.

There are many examples in the Gospels of Jesus’ interaction with this group of the not-yet-committed as He invites them to be obedient disciples:

  • Matthew 8:18-22
  • John 6:60-66
  • Luke 5:4-5, 27-28
  • Luke 8:19-21
  • Luke 14:25-33

For Jesus, evangelism was disciple-making.

Personal Application

Our ‘community’ is people we have personal contact with.  They are people who show spiritual interest, or who will show interest, if we pray for them and take time for them.  Make a list of people who you know personally who don’t know Jesus.  Those are the ‘seekers’ God has placed in your life that comprise your ‘community’.

3.  Core group disciples 

The core group disciples were those who were attracted to Jesus, who subsequently crossed a threshold in their lives and decided to trust Jesus.  Understanding grew gradually in the hearts of the disciples of what it meant to obey Jesus.  Jesus deliberately selected some of His followers for more responsibility.  It says in Luke 6: 12 that from those who were with Him, He chose twelve for apostolic responsibility; that is, to be set aside, fully ready to obey Jesus.

At this point terminology can fail us.  There seem to have been many of Jesus’ disciples who were not fully in or fully out.  Jesus left it purposefully that way.  He did not draw up a list of rules like the Pharisees of His day, and decide – based on strict adherence to His ‘rules and regulations’ of discipleship – who was ‘in’ or ‘out’.  Jesus invited people to be His disciples by drawing them to Himself, rather than by establishing an ‘in or out’ closed society.  But there was no question about whether He wanted obedience from His core team – that had to be absolute, because He stood at the centre of the new community He was creating.  There were people who were called disciples, but who had not counted the cost of following Jesus all the way – “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66).  Jesus asked the twelve whom He had appointed to share leadership responsibility with Him if they, too, wanted to leave Him.  Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Personal application 

Understanding the paradoxes of discipleship is crucial to this process of moving from crowds, to a community of seekers, to a core group of disciples.  This is not a hard and fast method, but a process to follow in order to find people in whom we can invest our lives.

Sharing Jesus is partly about discerning the ‘crowd’ in our lives, building relationships with a ‘community of seekers’ and then selecting a core group of potential disciples to invest in.  Sharing Jesus – what we typically refer to as evangelism – cannot be separated from a process of finding those who are responsive to Jesus.

Jesus taught and modeled the way in which to discern how open people are to the good news (Luke 8:4 and following).  He respected people, but also challenged them to go further in their search for God.  In the parable of the Sower, Jesus compared the good news to seed sown into the soil of people’s hearts.  The ‘soil’ represented four different types of people’s readiness to hear His message.  Jesus told this story to His disciples to help them to discern the soil condition of people’s hearts.  In Luke 8:11, Jesus explained to them that the ‘seed’ is the message from God to people.  Luke begins chapter 8 by saying that “Jesus. . . began a tour of the nearby cities and villages to announce the Good News concerning the Kingdom of God. . .”  In His parable, the ‘sower’ of the seed is the disciples themselves.

 

February 25, 2015
by Floyd
0 comments

How Jesus Related To People

This is Part One of an exerpt from my book ‘Follow’…

We can discover the answer to the question of what evangelism is, in looking at how Jesus related to people.  In my study of the gospels, I have found it very helpful to realize that there were patterns of how Jesus related to three different categories of people: the crowds, seekers who approached Him to learn more, and those He invited to be His disciples.  I summarize these three groups in this way:

  1. Crowds  –  those that gathered spontaneously or at Jesus’ instigation.
  2. Community  –  seekers and followers who responded to Jesus – some out of curiosity and some who were sincere.
  3. Core group  –  disciples who chose to follow Jesus – those Jesus invited to follow Him and learn from His way.

Let’s go over these three groups in a little more detail, because each of us as a follower of Jesus has the same three groups of people in our lives. 

  1. Crowds

We may not heal people like Jesus did, but we all have a good sized group of people we know and interact with, including neighbors, people at work, family, etc.  Those people are our ‘crowd’.  Just as Jesus did good deeds and shared good news with all those He encountered, so can we.  On a ‘crowd’ level, Jesus did not try to accomplish what could be done only through personal relationship; He did reach out to people in order to influence them and was intentional about reaching people – but with distinctly different approaches.  My estimate is that He spent far more time interacting with small groups and individuals than He did with crowds, perhaps spending 75 percent of His time with His disciples.  I think Jesus saw interaction with the crowds as a way of ‘planting a seed’ in people’s hearts (Luke 8:4-18); a way of arousing spiritual interest, and also a way of finding potential spiritual seekers and disciples to teach.

In every instance where Jesus interacts with large groups of people, He responds in one of seven ways:

  1. He taught them and shared the good news with them – usually by speaking loudly so the entire group could hear Him.
  2. He had compassion on them.
  3. He healed scores of them.
  4. He fed them – He didn’t hand out the food Himself, but He found a way for them to receive food.
  5. He brought certain ones to life who were dead among them.
  6. He defended them from the religious leaders who mislead them.
  7. He inspired people to imagine life the way God intended it to be.

If you made a list of everyone you have in your cell phone and email list, those are all people you have connected with.  From this group of people, God wants to give you a few that you relate to more personally.

The one thing Jesus consistently did not do in all His interactions with large groups of people was that He did not pressure them to become one of His disciples.  He did not invite people to join Him as one of His close-up followers – He did that one-on-one.  He did try to arouse the spiritual interest of people.  He did speak to stir up their dreams and expectations for what could come from their lives if they sought after God and we should do the same.

From a big-picture point of view, Jesus was aware and intentional about making sure that the people in certain regions knew about Him.  He sent His disciples ahead of Him to all the towns and cities He planned to visit (see Luke 10:1).  That is not an uncommon phrase or sentiment in the gospels.  These verses are examples of the deliberate attempt by Jesus to spread the good news of His Kingdom far and wide:

  • Mark 1:38
  • Matthew 9:35
  • Mark 6:6
  • Luke 13:22

One thrust of the great commission that Jesus gave to His disciples was to take the good news everywhere.  He told them to “go into all the world”, and to “make disciples of all nations”.

Personal application 

How do you apply the ‘crowd’ idea to your life situation?  Jesus wants every person in your sphere of influence, in your relational and family network and in your geographical setting, to hear the good news.  He especially wants you to be aware of those around you who suffer.  That does not mean you are personally responsible for each of them, but you will never fully know your part in taking Jesus to the people in your ‘crowd’ if you are not praying for them to hear about and experience the love and mercy of God, found in Jesus.  That includes those at your place of work, your university, your neighborhood, your village, and in nearby disadvantaged communities.  God has placed you where He has placed you for a reason.  You become that person by being a listening ear, someone to debrief with after a hard day, a safe person to talk to when burdened with life.  Visit neighbors, walk around during coffee breaks at work, or take time to hang out with fellow students in your school, college or university.  Jesus wants to reach each person in your ‘crowd’ – through you.

‘Community’ and ‘Core Group’ to follow in Part Two

February 23, 2015
by Floyd
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Jesus Started a Church

Perhaps the most radical thing Jesus did while on earth, besides taking the punishment for our sins on the cross, was starting a church. There is generally agreement amongst Bible scholars and theologians that what Jesus did with His disciples was not a church.

But I disagree. Jesus said He would build His church – not just after His ascension into heaven. He started His church while He lived on earth, planning for it to multiply to the ends of the earth.

He and His band of followers did all the things we agree are essential to function as a church. They functioned as a spiritual family doing life together, pursuing relationship with the Father, and serving the world around them. They fulfilled the qualifications for doing church the way we see it modeled in the book of Acts.

The disciples learned the new way of being a covenant community from their Master. After His ascension, they realized He had given them a model to follow – and they followed it. It was more than a model, in fact, it was a way to live intentionally together.

Jesus didn’t add a lot of frills to His church. In fact, He subtracted from the Old Testament way of doing things: He took away the uniforms, He got rid of the barriers between men and women and Jews and Gentiles, and He empowered everyone to be a priest. He didn’t ask for their money, organize a choir, or choose one particular day over another to gather for worship.

No holy day, no holy priests, and no holy meeting place. When you stop to think about it, it was a radical model of simplicity and mission: worship and prayer, community and care, and reaching out as a way of life.

He taught them how to be leaders by serving. He walked beside His followers, not above them. Yet, He was clearly the leader.

He bridged the dualism of the Old Testament, calling for a radical new kind of spirituality. He taught spirituality of the heart, not outward behavior. Every person who followed Him was treated with equal value and given equal responsibility. Yet, with this new emphasis on being a spiritual family, He recognized and modeled the need for servant leadership.

I love how Jesus did church. He only mentions church twice in His teachings, and it is interesting to note it was Matthew, the most Jewish of the gospel writers, who records Jesus’ teaching on the “new church” way of being God’s people.

In Matthew 16 and 18 Jesus teaches about church…but that is for another blog post and another day….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 16, 2015
by Floyd
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How To Get Vision For Your Life

Vision for our lives is a clear mental picture of what could be. A vision for our lives is an inspiring picture of what could happen through our service to God and to others.

Vision is also an inner longing for something you have not yet experienced but believe God wants to see happen through you.

Vision is not limited to those who serve as ministers or missionaries. God has a specific vision for every person who follows Jesus.

On December 17, 1903 Orville Wright flew the first sustained airplane flight from level ground. He flew 37 meters for 12 seconds. The Wright brothers had a clear mental picture of what could be. That picture, and the inner longing to see it happen is what motivated them to dedicate their lives to ‘flight’ becoming a reality.

Every time I step onto an airplane I marvel that the Wright brothers had such an outlandish vision. I am thankful they gave their lives for the vision to become a reality because it means that I can travel the world, fulfilling my vision.

Vision without commitment is actually just fantasy. The Wright brothers had to have commitment and endurance to go with their vision. It took years of sacrifice and rejection by friends for their vision to become a reality.

Vision precedes reality. How do you picture your life in ten years? What do you picture yourself accomplishing? Take a moment to write it down – that is your vision.

Vision is powerful because it gives significance to the mundane details and the not-so-mundane difficulties of our lives.

Without a vision people languish in mediocrity and mundaneness.

Whatever you do, get a vision for your life!

Vision weaves four things into the fabric of our lives:

  1. Passion. Vision evokes intense emotion. There is no such thing as an emotionless vision. A clear, focused vision allows us to experience ahead of time the emotions associated with our anticipated future. Passion is more than intense desire, it is the willingness to suffer and sacrifice for our desire to be fulfilled.
  1. Motivation. Vision provides inspiration. It gives us a reason to do things, to make sacrifices, to say no to other opportunities. Vision driven people are very motivated. They WANT to get things done.
  1. Direction. Vision takes us in a particular direction. It serves as a roadmap. Vision leads us to our destiny. Vision simplifies decision-making. I love sports. I loved and played basketball. But when I got a vision for my life, I did something that shocked my friends. I gave up basketball. I quit my team in the middle of season. Something more important had taken hold of my heart. I went back to basketball later in the season, but then it was a means to a far greater end goal: my God given vision.
  1. Purpose. Vision gives you a reason to do what you do. Vision gives purpose and purpose gives us momentum to move in a direction. A vision gives you the clarity of purpose to overcome barriers and make sacrifices. Another way to say this is vision gives us a reason for what we do.

The Divine Element

God has a vision for your life. You were dreamed over by God before you were born. His part was to create us with purpose and vision, and our part is to discover it. When God speaks to us He turns possibilities in our lives into a conviction and a hope for our future.  God has a mental picture of who you can be and what can be accomplished through your life. By hearing from God we begin to believe in our vision.

Knowing your vision is from God turns a possible dream into a must-do conviction. Above all things, seek God for His vision for your life… but remember, He won’t reveal it to the casual person who doesn’t care enough to ask Him and to seek him diligently.

Practically speaking, how does God use the circumstances of our lives to give us vision? 

Three ways:

  1. By seeing a need and responding to the need – doing something about it
  2. Being dissatisfied with what is happening around you in life
  3. Hearing from God that He wants to use you to make a difference

How do you discover your vision?

Take some time to LOOK…

  • Look within you – what is your passion?  What has God already spoken to you about? What strong desire is growing in you? Submit it to the Lord and if it grows, accept it as a calling, a vision from God for your life. Psalm 37:4-5
  • Look behind you – how have past lessons and experiences prepared you to pursue your vision? What experiences and people has God used to speak to you and grow certain desires and convictions in you?
  • Look around you – what’s happening around you in the circumstances and relationships of your life that God has used to stir vision in you? There are people that God has placed in your life to speak vision into your life.
  • Look ahead of you – what do you want to accomplish with your life? It may be that the desires and dreams you have for you future are God’s way of speaking to you, of giving you vision for your life.
  • Look above you – what part does God play in your life and dream? How has God spoken to you in the past? Write down the promises God has given you. If you don’t have any, ask God for them and keep your ears alert to note them when He speaks. Read the Bible with expectancy… what would God like to speak to you from His Word?
  • Look beside you – what resources are available to you? What skills and abilities do you have that you can use to make a difference in people’s lives? Use them. Offer them in service. Get involved.
  • Look alongside you – who can partner with you in this pursuit? Are you part of a community of faith? Are their great people who share your concerns and convictions? They are there for a reason.

The Vision and Calling of All Nations:

In 1993 God impressed on Sally and I this simple but huge vision: Jesus worshipped by all the nations of the earth.

So, with a few friends, we started on a journey to turn that vision into a reality. Today, All Nations works in 35 countries – and is growing. Our workers have seen tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people come to faith, discipled and gathered in communities of faith that are impacting villages, cities and nations.

Working closely with friends and co-workers in the All Nations family of churches, we defined some specific goals to turn our vision into a mission: to make disciples and train leaders to ignite church planting movements among the neglected peoples of the earth.

That is our vision… we invite you to join us to see it become a reality. But if not with us, then you live out your vision with others who share your vision. As we all live our visions for the Lord, as varied as they may be, we are in this together!

All of life is spiritual if it is lived for God! There are no secular or sacred visions. Every vision from God is sacred, is spiritual. The market place is a spiritual place to live out your vision if that is where God wants you.

Don’t be intimidated or think of yourself as less than “full time” for God if you serve Him in the market place. That is GOD’S vision for you! 

Whatever vision God has given you, wherever He has placed you to follow that vision, if it is from God, it is worth giving your life for! Go for it!

 

February 9, 2015
by Floyd
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Peddling Pictures of Jesus

Christians have many different mental pictures of what Jesus is like, but only the true Jesus of Scripture is worthy of our devotion. It is possible that the mental picture we have of Jesus is one of our own creation, a Jesus we have created in our image to serve our desires and needs.

When I was a student in university, I went door-to-door selling very large, religious prints of Jesus to make a little extra money. Whatever your idea of Jesus, I had a picture of Jesus just for you. I sold Jesus the gentle shepherd, Jesus watching over the children, Jesus knocking at the door of our hearts, and Jesus with the sacred heart.

After a while, I became embarrassed about what I was doing and stopped peddling pictures of Jesus.

Our focus should be Jesus – but much more than a picture of who we think Jesus should be. Not the Jesus of the pictures I peddled. The real Jesus.

Jesus is more than a great religious leader. In fact, Jesus did not come to start a new religion – he came to fulfill the ideals of every religion and the longings of every human heart. Jesus is for anyone who will follow Him on His terms.

Jesus is the greatest hero of history. He is the symbol and reality of sacrificial service to others. He is the smiling, laughing friend of children, and the serious consultant of leaders in every religion, drawing them from dependence on their good deeds to find Him as the source of all goodness.

How do we know the real Jesus?

We read His words, listen to the stories He told, study His actions, and then allow what we hear and see to seep down into the deepest places of our hearts. Allow Him to challenge the status quo of our already accepted ideas, and then to challenge and change our views of people, religions, enemies, and difficult neighbors.

Just Jesus. Do it for a time. Lay aside your already set ideas of the truth, and allow Jesus to be your truth. Let Him lead you to new understanding and appreciation for who He is.

 

 

February 9, 2015
by Floyd
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Leading In The Flesh

Esau: The Man Who Sold His Destiny for Momentary Gratification

Genesis 25:25 – 34

“ See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble, for by it many become defiled; see to it that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he lost out, for he found no chance, though he sought it with tears.”    Hebrews 12: 15-17

Spiritual leaders will either lead in the flesh or the Spirit.  Leaders who are impatient, demanding, rude and manipulative are men and women of the “flesh.”  God gives us our personalities and spiritual gifts, but it is our responsibility to submit them to the Lordship of Jesus.  A wise and discerning leader knows when his spiritual gifts and personality are led by the Spirit and when they are driven by the flesh.

The Bible has much to say about leading in the flesh.  Such a leader does not lead from a place of being secure in who they are in Christ.  Instead, they lead as men or women trying to prove their importance. They lead through corruption, sexual immorality, control and anger.  We either lead in the Spirit or in the flesh.  The two do not mix.

Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for momentary gratification of the flesh.  He came home from a hunting trip and was so hungry that he felt like he would starve.  He did not wait for the meal to be cooked and served to him.  He gave away his birthright in order to get what he wanted immediately.

He created a flesh legacy instead of a spiritual legacy.  He was a man of destiny, but he sold his destiny for momentary gratification.

Esau was destined to be in the lineage of kings and rulers but he chose a legacy of impatience and fleshly passion.  Through his descendants the Messiah was to come.  Instead, his decedents were the Edomites and the Amalekites…the enemies of God.  The Herods, who ruled Palestine in the time of Christ, were descendants of the Edomites and Amalekites.  Instead of Esau’s lineage producing the Messiah, it produced the man who crucified Him.

Esau was a child of God’s covenant but because he didn’t live by the spirit, he sold the blessings of the covenant to satisfy his fleshly appetite.  There was a great gulf between what Esau believed and what he lived.  He was blessed but did not enjoy the blessing God had for him.  Esau lived in the camp of his own Father but did not enjoy his father’s blessings.  The passions of the flesh cry out, “feed me” “take care of me” “comfort me” “notice me” “entertain me” and give it to me when I want it!  So it is that small decisions can have big consequences.

The flesh does not want to wait.  No wonder Paul said, “I die daily…I am crucified with Christ.”  He also said, ”…do not gratify the desires of the flesh, for the desires of the flesh are against the spirit…for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would….” Galatians 5:17

Paul the Apostle uses the word “flesh” in different ways in his letters to the young churches he planted:

  1. It can refer to the physical body
  2. It can refer to worldly, sinful passions and desires
  3. It can refer to dependence on religious duty to gain favor with God

In short, the flesh is anything we do or believe to find security, comfort and significance from any source other than Jesus.

For example:

Romans 6:19 “…because of the weakness of your flesh…”

Romans 7:5 “…in the flesh, the sinful passions which were stirred up in you…”

Romans 7:25 “…with my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh I serve the law of sin…”

Galatians 5:16 “…the flesh lusts against the Spirit…”

Living in spiritual poverty is easier than being responsible with God’s blessings!  Giving in to the flesh is easier than the daily discipline of a man or woman of diligence and faithfulness.

The choice is ours: will we choose the way of impatience, giving in to the demands of our passions and desires, or will we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit by denying the flesh and submitting to God?

We are invited to sow to the Spirit, not the flesh.  God’s word invites us to believe the promises of God about who we are as His loved sons and daughters.