Fri, Jul 31st - 12:58PM
Beloved, let's continue this study about discipleship by scrutinizing the reasons for consecration as found in Luke 14:28-32. In this passage Christ uses two illustrations to show why consecration is such an exacting concern of discipleship:
Building - From verse 28 the question is put to us as to who among us considers the cost of being a disciple. Is it man? No, it is the Lord who has already considered what it takes for someone to give single devotion to Him. Did I consider what the cost would be to become Christ's disciple? No, I didn't. No one does. If any of us wishes to become a disciple we must choose to become consecrated.
Fighting - In verse 31 we read about how kings will first consider whether or not they are strong enough to defeat their foe, before they go out to fight. If not strong enough, then they would send out a diplomatic team to sue for peace. That cannot actually happen between us and God. We cannot sue for peace with God, we either accept His terms for peace or else we remain in conflict with the Holy One of Israel. Of course, there are many today who refuse to accept these terms of peace and reconciliation with God preferring to live as they see fit. Have they sat down to calculate whether or not they are strong enough to defeat God? I think not.
So Christ described why the terms were so exact, why there was only one kind of person who could be His disciple. It is because Christ looks for people who are good "disciple-soldiers" and "disciple-builders," who are willing to seriously count the cost of discipleship and then act.
Perhaps a good exercise at this point is to reread Luke 14:25-35 and ask yourself the usual "reporters questions." These are "who, what, where, when, why, and how." Disecting this passage in this fashion will enable us to gain a proper understanding of its message. Write down your answers to these questions in your notebook.
I have directed you to look at three terms of consecration. They involved yielding to God our personal relationships, personal desires, and personal possessions. How about comparing your life to this scale of yielding? How does your relationship with God compare to the following relationships?
Father Mother Brother/s Sister/s
Spouse Children Your own life
How do your life's desires compare to God's desires for your life? Are you all focused in upon your next family trip to Orlando, or King's Dominion, or Six Flags? Or perhaps it is a motorhome? That is what your attention is dialed in upon obtaining? Perhaps it is something else. Is it what Christ really wants you to be focusing all of your energy and money upon? When God calls upon you to give freely to a missionary couple who visit your church, will you be able to? See, you may very well desire to, but will you be able to do so?
At this point you could write down a list of all of your possessions. Circle the ones that you have already consecrated to God. Now consider those uncircled ones. Are they worth giving over to God? If so, why not do it now? You have reached, hopefully, a point where you need to answer the question: Am I willing to present my body as a living sacrifice?
Next time I shall look into how we can stimulate others who are disciples of ours. Until then, consider dedicating your life to Christ. Turn everything that you have over to Him. You will be surprised at what happens when you do. You just might become content with your circumstances, whatever they may be, or become.
Thu, Jul 30th - 8:00PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Now we have reached the third division: the promise of the Spirit to be poured out upon the people in the last days.
Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest (32:15).
Here we need to be attentive to the development of prophecy in the Word of God. When will the Spirit be poured out? During Isaiah’s day? During Peter’s day? Yes, at Pentecost God poured His Spirit out upon that particular group of disciples of His Son. But this verse says that the wilderness will be transformed into a fruitful field and that did not happen during the time of the Apostles. From our study of Revelation we can remember that the Spirit of God shall be with all believers during the millennial kingdom of Christ. In the book of Joel is mentioned this point:
Peter, in Acts 2; 15-21, quotes Joel and explains this passage. He did not say that Pentecost was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel but that it was similar to what Joel described. What happened at Pentecost is similar to what will take place at the time of the millennial kingdom’s ushering in events.
Joel’s prediction was of tremendous phenomena:
Notice that Joel’s prediction reports that the young will prophesy, and the elderly shall dream dreams. As any of you know, that is not happening during our time. But it is a time that I look forward to eagerly! What a glorious day that will be when these things begin to happen! “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28-29). “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel 2:30-31). Friends, these events have not taken place yet. They are future events.
Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remains in the fruitful field.
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; (32:16-18)
See what is the evidence and effect of the pouring out of the Spirit upon any soul; it is thereby made fruitful, and has its fruit unto holiness. Three things go to make these times happy: — (1.) Judgment and righteousness, verse 16. When the Spirit is poured out upon a land, then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and turn it into a fruitful field, and righteousness shall remain in the fruitful field and make it yet more fruitful. Ministers shall expound the law and magistrates execute it, and both so judiciously and faithfully that by both the bad shall be made good and the good made better. Among all sorts of people, the poor and low and unlearned, that are neglected as the wilderness, and the rich and great and learned, that are valued as the fruitful field, there shall be right thoughts of things, good principles commanding, and conscience made of good and evil, sin and duty. Or in all parts of the land, both open and enclosed, country and city, the ruder parts and those that are more cultivated and refined, justice shall be duly administered. The law of Christ introduces a judgment or rule by which we must be governed, and the gospel of Christ a righteousness by which we must be saved; and, wherever the Spirit is poured out, both these dwell and remain as an everlasting righteousness. (2.) Peace and quietness, verses 17, 18. The peace here promised is of two kinds: — [1.] Inward peace, verse 17. This follows upon the indwelling of righteousness, verse 16. Those in whom that work is wrought shall experience this blessed product of it. It is itself peace, and the effect of it is quietness and assurance for ever, that is, a holy serenity and security of mind, by which the soul enjoys itself and enjoys its God, and it is not in the power of this world to disturb it in those enjoyments. Note, peace, and quietness, and everlasting assurance may be expected, and shall be found, in the way and work of righteousness. True satisfaction is to be had only in true religion, and there it is to be had without fail. Those are the quiet and peaceable lives that are spent in all godliness and honesty, 1 Timothy 2:2. First, even the work of righteousness shall be peace. In the doing of our duty we shall find abundance of true pleasure, a present great reward of obedience in obedience. Though the work of righteousness may be toilsome and costly, and expose us to contempt, yet it is peace, such peace as is sufficient to bear our charges. Secondly, the effect of righteousness shall be quietness and assurance, not only to the end of time, of our time, and in the end, but to the endless ages of eternity. Real holiness is real happiness now and shall be perfect happiness, that is, perfect holiness, for ever. [2.] Outward peace, verse 18. It is a great mercy when those who by the grace of God have quiet and peaceable spirits are by the providence of God made to dwell in quiet and peaceable habitations, not disturbed in their houses or solemn assemblies. When the terror of Sennacherib’s invasion was over, the people, no doubt, were more sensible than ever of the mercy of a quiet habitation, not disturbed with the alarms of war. Let every family study to keep itself quiet from strifesand struggles within, not two against three and three against two in the house, and then put itself under God’s protection to dwell safely, and to be quiet from the fear of evil without. Jerusalem shall be a peaceable habitation; compare with chapter 33:20.
When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.
Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass (32:19-20).
Even when it shall hail, and there shall be a violent battering storm coming down on the forest that lies bleak, then shall Jerusalem be a quiet resting-place, for the city shall be low in a low place, under the wind, not exposed (as those cities are that stand high) to the fury of the storm, but sheltered by the mountains that are round about Jerusalem, Palm. 125:2. The high forts and towers are brought down (verse 14), but the city that lies low shall be a quiet resting-place. Those are most safe, and may dwell most at ease, that are humble, and are willing to dwell low, verse 19. Those that would dwell in a peaceable habitation must be willing to dwell low, and in a low place. Some think here is an allusion to the preservation of the land of Goshen from the plague of hail, which made great destruction in the land of Egypt. (3.) Plenty and abundance. There shall be such good crops gathered in every where, and every year, that the husbandmen shall be commended, and though happy, who sow beside all water (verse 20), who sow all the grounds that are fit for seed, who cast their bread, or bread-corn, upon the water, Ecclesisastes. 11:1. God will give the increase, but then the husbandman must be industrious, and mind his business, and sow beside all waters; and, if he do this, the corn shall come up so thick and rank that he shall turn in his cattle, even the ox and the ass, to
eat the tops of it and keep it under. This is applicable, [1.] To the preaching of the word. Some think it points at the ministry of the apostles, who, as husbandmen, went forth to sow their seed (Matthew 13:3); they sowed beside all waters; they preached the gospel wherever they came. Waters signify people, and they preached to multitudes. Wherever they found men’s hearts softened, and moistened, and disposed to receive the word, they cast in the good seed. And whereas, by the law of Moses, the Jews were forbidden to plough with an ox and an ass together (Deuteronomy 22:10), which intimated that Jews and Gentiles should not intermix, now that distinction shall be taken away, and both the ox and the ass, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be employed in, and enjoy the benefit of, the gospel husbandry. [2.] To works of charity. When God sends these happy times blessed are those that improve them in doing good with what they have, that sow beside all waters, that embrace all opportunities of relieving the necessitous; for in due season they shall reap.
That concludes our study of chapter 32. Next we shall look into chapter 33 which brings to our attention the final “woe” which is pronounced on all who spoil God’s people and land. Until then, may God bless you and keep you.
Tue, Jul 28th - 9:59PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Rise up, you women that are at ease, hear My voice, you careless daughters; give ear unto My speech 32:9).
Why is God giving Isaiah these words to speak to the people? Would it not make sense to address those who are more sensitive than men? Do not most women sense danger before a man does? Every man who contemplates going into a business partnership ought to let his wife meet the person who is going to be his partner. She just might give him a true evaluation of that man’s nature and character. The best thing that I have learned through the many years of my marriage is to trust my wife’s judgment of other people’s character. Now here God, speaking through Isaiah, says that in the days prior to the Tribulation Period women will become so insensible that they will not recognize the danger that is coming.
Many days and years shall you be troubled, you careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come (32:10).
The prophet tells them that the country where they had their tents and dainties should shortly be laid waste: "The vintage shall fail, and then what will you do for wine to make merry with? The gatheringof fruit shall not come, for there shall be none to be gathered, and you will find the want of them.
Tremble, you women that are at ease; be troubled, you careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins.
They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine (32:11-12).
You will want the teats, the good milk from the cows, the pleasant fields and their products:’’ the useful fields that are serviceable to human life are the pleasant ones. "You will want the fruitful vine, and the grapes it used to yield you.’’ The abuse of plenty is justly punished with scarcity; and those deserve to be deprived of the supports of life that make them the food and fuel of lust and prepare them for Baal. If God blesses us with bounty and we squander it, do not save anything, then when He brings testing into our lives we will flounder for we have nothing to sustain us. We might just as well strip and wear burlap cloth around our loins.
Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city:
Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, and a pasture of flocks ;( 32:13-14)
That the cities too, the cities of Judah, where they lived at ease, spent their rents, and made themselves merry with their dainties, should be laid waste: Briers and thorns, the fruits of sin and the curse, shall come up, not only upon the land of my people, which shall lie uncultivated, but upon all the houses of joy —the play-houses, the gaming-houses, the taverns— in the joyous cities. When a foreign army was ravaging the country the houses of joy, no doubt, became houses of mourning; then the palaces, or noblemen’s houses, were forsaken by their owners, who perhaps fled to Egypt for refuge; the multitude of the city were left by their leaders to shift for themselves. Then the stately houses shall be for dens for ever, which had been as forts and towers for strength and magnificence. They shall be abandoned; the owners shall never return to them; every body shall look upon them to be like Jericho, so that, even when peace returns, they shall not be rebuilt.
This intimates not only that when the calamity comes they shall thus be made to tremble and be forced to strip themselves, that then God’s judgments would strip them and make them bare but that the best prevention of the trouble would be to repent and humble themselves for their sin, and lie in the dust before God in true remorse and godly sorrow, which would be the lengthening out of their tranquility. This is meeting God in the way of His judgments, and saving a correction by correcting our own mistakes. Those only shall break that will not bend. That the best preparation for the trouble would be to deny themselves and live a life of mortification, and to ignore all the delights of sense. Those that have already by a holy contempt of this world stripped themselves can easily bear to be stripped when trouble and death come. While there was still a remnant that kept their integrity they had reason to hope for good times at length and such times the prophet here gives them a pleasant prospect of. Such times they saw in the latter end of the reign of Hezekiah; but the prophecy may well be supposed to look further, to the days of the Messiah, who is King of righteousness and King of peace, and to whom all the prophets bear witness.
That is all for tonight my friends. Next time, God willing, I will continue with verses 15-20 which will complete this chapter of Isaiah. We will be reading about the time when God pours His Spirit out upon the people. Until next time, grace and peace be yours.
Mon, Jul 27th - 1:12PM
The Cost of Discipleship...Consecration
Personal consecration is one of the most exacting ingredients of the Christian life that brings about changed lives. What is consecration? It can mean to make something sacred to the worship of God; it can mean to induct a person into a permanent office with a religious rite. I would say that it is the cost of discipleship. Let us read what is written in Luke:
"And there went great multitudes with Him: and He turned, and said unto them,
If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot by My disciple"(Luke 14:25-27).
Wow! Those are pretty exacting words spoken by Christ concerning discipleship! We can see that there were lots of people going along with Christ, just as there are today. Christ's penetrating comments thinned the crowds as many became aware of the difference between casual observers and obedient disciples. They were made aware of the difference between someone who is merely seeking sensationalism and emotionalism versus someone who is searching for a way to be with the God of Creation in an intimate relationship. That difference: consecration, commitment, loyal invovlement to the point of personal sacrifice. The young rich man went away bitterly upset because he was told by Christ that he must be willing to sacrifice all of his possessions. Obviously he found in his heart that he could not do so. Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves for Christ's presence and love?
Setting the Stage Jesus Christ's ministry had been growing in popularity. Throngs of people had begun to align themselves with Him because of the wrong reasons: some liked having their stomachs filled up, others enjoyed watching Him perform miracles. All around Him could be found public excitement because He did that which was new and different. Christ observed this reaction for a period of time, and then He informed people that they had to make a decision.
What are the Terms of Consecration?
In His speech to the multitude Jesus dealt with three situations which would prevent someone from being His disciple. Each defined this issue of consecration:
Personal realtionships - This is found in verse 26. Christ is not declaring that we are to be malicious or hateful to our relatives. Instead, He is pointing out the very real possibility of competition in loyalty involving others in comparison to Himself. He is speaking of priority, saying to all of us that He must be first.
Personal desires - This is found in verse 27. Is Christ meaning that we must carry a heavy piece of wood upon which we are to be crucified? Or is He speaking an analogy of death to self? The cross was an emblem of death. In essence Christ was saying that if a person wants to consecrate his life as a disciple of His, then he had to say "no" to himself and his planned out life goals, saying "yes" to Christ. Paul in Romans 12:1-2 said this: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but you be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Here are three questions we all must ask ourselves to determine where we stand with God in reference to our own desires:
#1. Have I honestly and objectively taken my life's goals before the Lord for His approval?
#2. Do my goals feed my ego more than they honor the Lord?
#3. Am I willing to change my goals if God began showing me that I should?
Personal Possessions - This is found further on in verse 33. On the surface this appears to tell us that we are not to own anything. But the context implies that we are not to own anything of material value that keeps us from being His disciple and doing His will. That includes such things as: automobile, home, yard, boat, summer cottage, work, reputation, people, occupation, hobby, television, computer, stereo system. A disciple must hold all things loosely. Any time that we hold onto something too tightly, too possessively, it instantly becomes an anchor that holds us away from being an available, teachable, attentive, loyal follower of Christ Jesus. This makes me take pause and review my personal choices as to how I spend my time each day, and I end up not being very happy to find that I spend too much time (I feel) doing things with material possessions, for material possessions, or to maintain material possessions. I am thankful that I do not lust after more material possessions. But what possessions I have drain valuable time away from Christ. Some possessions are there to make my wife happy, or to make my grandsons better students, or to make my grandsons happy, or to provide us with fresh vegetables to eat during a goodly part of each year, or to prevent our two small dogs from running rampant all over the neighborhood. Each may have good reasons for needing my time, but they all drain time away from a finite total that is available each and every day for me to praise and worship my Lord and Savior. This saddens me and forces me to determine how to make some corrections with this issue. I am fully aware that it is impossible to eliminate all time stealers that are tied to possessions. My vehicle must be repaired and maintained so that my family and I may visit with members of our church. My house must be maintained to keep my family safe and dry. My garden must be worked diligently if it is to produce abundance and feed my family. Weeds cannot be tolerated in the garden, just as sins cannot be tolerated in my life. One overtakes and chokes out my garden while the other overakes and chokes out my life for Christ. Weeds do not surrender to one-and-done efforts and neither does sin. If we are to become real disciples of Christ then we must sit ourselves down and begin to count the cost, count the cost and decide whether or not we are willing to sacrifice ourselves in order to follow where He beckons us to go. I have decided. I will go where He beckons me to follow. I made that choice the night that He saved me from my sins and stupidity. Sometimes I have remained somewhat stubborn, other times I have clearly seen what He wanted me to do for Him. Today, I know in my heart that Christ wants me and my wife to be there to raise our adoptive son and our two grandsons. To help save that which was lost and broken. To help heal what was broken and dedicate them to Christ. Thus far, both grandsons have accepted Christ into their hearts, been baptized, attend church, VBS, and summer bible camp. Is the effort over? Not by any means. It was the same way with our oldest son. Today He attends church, listens to sermons on his iPod, and married a Christian woman. As we follow Christ as disciples we must keep our eyes upon the goal. The goal may be years away and may require years of praying and daily physical effort. It may require that you sacrifice your personal plans and take a detour, and follow where Christ beckons. But Christ has promised us that He will bless us with all things necessary to accomplish His plans in our lives. We simply need to trust Him.
That is all for today my friends. Next time we shall continue on in this study and look at the reasons for consecration. Until then, may Christ abundantly bless you and your family.
Sat, Jul 25th - 8:25PM
Book of Isaiah Study
For the vile person will speak villainy, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.
The instruments also of the churl are evil: he devises wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaks right.
But the liberal devises liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand (32:6-8).
As we were studying what a liberal and a churl were, here we continue along that line. A “churl” is someone who is rude and ill-bred; a stingy morose person. They are vulgar, marked by a lack of civility or graciousness, and can be intractable. Vile persons (as Antiochus is called, Daniel 11:21); when they are advanced they are called liberal and bountiful; but it shall not always be so; when the world grows wiser men shall be preferred according to their merit, and honor (which was never thought seemly for a fool, Proverbs 26:1) shall no longer be thrown away upon such. Bad men shall no more be held in high esteem among the people, nor vice disguised with the colors of virtue. It shall no more be said to Nabal, Thou art Nadib (so the words are); such a covetous muck-worm as Nabal was, a fool but for his money, shall not be complimented with the title of a gentleman or a prince; nor shall they call a churl, that minds none but himself, does no good with what he has, but is an unprofitable burden of the earth, My lord; or, rather, they shall not say of him, He is rich; for so the word signifies. Those only are to be reckoned rich that are rich in good works; not those that have abundance, but those that use it well. In short, it is well with a people when men are generally valued by their virtue, and usefulness, and beneficence to mankind, and not by their wealth or titles of honor. Oh, that it could be so in our world today! How few members of our respective governments are valued by their virtue, their usefulness, and beneficence to their fellowman? Titles are coveted; chairmanships are fiercely sought and held at the cost of the public welfare.
Whether this was fulfilled in the reign of Hezekiah, and how far it refers to the kingdom of Christ (in which we are sure men are judged of by what they are, not by what they have, nor is any man’s character mistaken), I will not say; but it prescribes an excellent rule both to prince and people, to respect men according to their personal merit. To enforce this rule, here is a description both of the vile person and of the liberal. A vile person and a churl will do mischief and the more if he be preferred and have power in his hand; his honors will make him worse and not better. See the character of these self-serving wicked men. First, they are always plotting some unjust thing or other, designing ill either to particular persons or to the public, and contriving how to bring it about; and so many silly provocations they have to gratify, and mean revenges, that there appears not in them the least spark of generosity. As thoughts are words to God, so designs are works in His account. See what pains sinners take in sin. They labor at it; their hearts are intent upon it, and with a great deal of art and application they work iniquity. They devise wicked devices, they with all the subtlety of the old serpent and a great deal of deliberation, which makes the sin exceedingly sinful; and the more there is of plot and management in a sin the more there is of Satan in it. Secondly, they carry on their plots by trick and dissimulation. They practice hypocrisy, feign themselves just men, Luke 20:20. The most abominable mischiefs shall be disguised with the most plausible pretences of devotion to God, regard to man, and concern for some common good. Those are the vilest of men that intend the worst mischiefs when they speak fair.
The vile and the churl affront God, who is a righteous God and loves righteousness: They utter error against the Lord, and therein they practice profaneness; for so the word which we translate hypocrisy signifies. They give an unjust sentence, and then profanely make use of the name of God for the ratification of it; as if, because the judgment is God’s (Deuteronomy 1:17), therefore their false and unjust judgment was His. This is uttering error against the Lord; under pretence of uttering truth and justice for Him; and nothing can be more impudently done against God than to use His name to patronize wickedness. They abuse mankind, those particularly whom they are bound to protect and relieve. Instead of supplying the wants of the poor, they impoverish them, make empty the souls of the hungry, either taking away the food they have, or, which is almost equivalent, denying the supply which they want and which they have to give. Instead of advocating the poor, when they appeal to their judgment, they contrive to destroy the poor, to ruin them in their courts of justice with lying words in favor of the rich, to whom they are plainly partial; yes, though the needy speak right, though the evidence be ever so full for them to make out the equity of their cause, it is the bribe that governs them, not the right. As much as these words were true in Isaiah’s time, they are even more true today in this world that we live in. Those with sufficient wealth are able to manipulate the court system to obtain the goals of their personal agendas. Those who do not have money are unable to do very much once they are brought before the judge even if they speak absolute truth in the matter. The vile devise plans to entrap the less fortunate in our world. They devise ways to deprive people of their homes, their jobs, their savings, their retirement funds. They even devise ways to take away their spouses and families. The vile devise ways to destroy the fabric of society, for they care not one wit for rules or laws so long as they avoid being caught. Chaos serves them quite well.
That is all for today my friends. God willing, I will next cover verses 9-14 when we gather here. God bless you. Grace and peace be yours.
Fri, Jul 24th - 1:02PM
Illustrations of Discipleship Training
1. Matthew 8:23-27 - Christ exhibited faith and calmness of spirit in this passage, and through their intimate association with Him the disciples learned faith.
2. John 2:1-11 - Being faced with an apparantly insurmountable situation(no wine at the wedding feast), the disciples observed the miracle He performed in their presence. The end result: they believed in Him.
3. John 6:1-13 - After having watched Him feed five thousand men with the lunch brought by a young boy, the disciples stood holding twelve baskets of leftovers that served as further instruction: with God, nothing is impossible. Christ is God, God is Christ. Believe in Christ and nothing is impossible.
Here is a truism. Rub shoulders with someone who exhibits faith in action and two things shall happen: first, a lasting impression of faith becomes branded in your memory; and second, a lasting appreciation for that person's life.
Some realities accompanying association
No one is disciplined from a distance. So do not think that I can disciple you over the internet. I can teach, I can advise over the internet but I cannot associate with you unless we are face to face. The discipler must allow his disciple in, must keep him near, must give him attention on a regular basis. This might hurt at times, it may very well cause inconvenience. All of which brings us to some conclusions that ought not to be forgotten:
a. Association has threatening moments.
b. Association calls for sacrifice: time, privacy, and schedule.
c. Association requires total honesty.
d. Association is a test of love and loyalty.
Therefore many are called today, but few accept discipleship due to sacrifices required. Discipleship is refused due to having to be totally honest in all aspects of one's life. It also requires love(just like Christ's) and loyalty, things which are in short supply in today's world. Too many leaders today are claiming that they desire to lead their congregations back to the ways of the New Testament church, yet they do not disciple anyone as was done in the New Ttestament. Perhaps this is a prime reason for pastor burnout? They do not "see" the necessity of discipling people so that they can then assume some leadership and thus relieve the burden upon the pastor. Don't train anyone and you must do everything all of the time! Christ knew that He was not going to be around in physical form to do everything that the Father wanted done. So He discipled some men to the point where they were ready to receive His Holy Spirit at the appointed time. These men were then enabled to reproduce this entire process over and over. I do believe that we need to get back to this process today in order for the Church to continue to grow.
We no longer have that eye-to-eye communication with Christ that His twelve men had. But, He did tell us, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine"(John 8:31). So one of our best illustrations of associating with a discipler is our need to abide in Christ Jesus. The focal point scripturally is John 15:1-10. Here "abiding" is laid out in precise terms for us. Read this passage slowly, and jot down in your notebook thoughts about abiding. Then try to translate these thoughts into concepts concerning associating with a discipler.
It was Mark Twain who said, "We are all like the moon. We have a dark side we don't want anybody to see." Discipleship requires us to reveal our "dark side." We must face up to this dark side personally before we can move forward. Of course, before we can reveal something we must first become "aware" of its existance. Ever given yourself an objective examination? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? What strengths can you pass along to others? Are there any "cracks" in your life? Cracks very easily lead to deep chasms which end up shattering your life, pieces scattered everywhere. So take a few minutes and make a list of your strengths and of your weaknesses. Maybe you could ask someone who knows you really well for help with this, but be prepared for honest answers!
That is all for today, beloved. God willing, I will begin to cover the cost of discipleship next time. If you thought that you could do this without it costing anything you were mistaken. Everything costs something. Choosing to not believe in Christ costs something. Choosing to accept Christ costs something. Choosing to be honest costs something. Every choice costs us something my friends, we just do not pay close enough attention to notice.
I pray Christ richly bless you this day beyond imagination.
Wed, Jul 22nd - 9:54PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.
And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land (32:1-2).
Verse one projects us into the kingdom age of our future. This king is none other than Christ Jesus and the character of His reign is righteousness. This is a kingdom that our world has yet to see. But our Lord is not only King. He is also a Savior-King. Verse two speaks of a man who is a hiding place from the winds, and the tempest. A man who is able to provide relief just as a great rock out in a desert can provide shade to the weary traveler from the excessive heat of the sun. This man is a river of living water for those of us who live in the “dry places” of this world. It can be said that Christ bore the winds and tempest of our sin for us. He is a Rock for our own protection. In Isaiah 26:4 He was set before us as the Rock of ages. Here we are given another aspect of His ministry under this figure of the rock. Do you need a place of hiding, of refuge? Is life closing in upon you? Then you need to find Christ, you need the relief that can be found in the shadow of the Rock of all ages.
And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.
The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly (32:3-4).
Spiritual understanding shall be given to all of God’s people. We ought to recall the words of I Corinthians 13:12. True spiritual values will be ascertained and made obvious. That which should have top priority shall have top priority. Today moral values have eroded to the point of non-relevance. Probably the greatest problem in our world today is the loss of any sense of moral values. For decades American schools have been teaching children that we are animals and are here by accident. There is no morality involved in the precept. To advocate law and order and a high state of morality requires an unchanging standard for self-measurement. Fewer and fewer people want this, more and more people want the freedom to do what they want, when they want. The big news in these verses is that the “old fashioned” morality is coming back, and it will never leave our lives ever again.
The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful (32:5).
Don’t you just love this verse? Today we always hear about how great the liberal people are and how the conservative people are intolerant, obsolete, and racist. Today the vile person is called a liberal. It is simply a matter of political correctness, semantics. If I do not like how people think of me then I can change the meaning of words so that I combat their perception of me. When Christ returns the liberal will be seen for what they really are: a vile person. A liberal is a villain, and his heart will work iniquity. The human heart is desperately wicked and deceitful. Who can know what lies within the heart of anyone? God can. Everything in the future will be revealed in its true colors. There will be no possibility of “putting on masks” and pretending to be something that one is not.
I pray that there will be few who become offended at what I have posted here. But I am constrained to write what is the truth, and not to “tickle the ears” of people to gain their approval.
God willing we shall meet again to continue this study. May Christ bless you beyond your wildest imagination!
Tue, Jul 21st - 12:43PM
This part of our study will focus upon the basic method used by Jesus Christ in training His men. That method is association. When Christ chose His disciples they came to Him. None of them joined a "program" nor spent more time at the synagogue, they merely became associated with Christ who associated Himself with them. Let's not forget those four character qualities from the very beginning of this study as we move deeper into this section.
That Which Followed Selection
The initial encounter: "Come to Me." How simpler can it get? One sentence was uttered, a promise was given (Mark 1:17). Did any of them tell Christ that they must tie up some loose ends at home, tell their parents they were off to follow someone, take time to sell their business? No. Mark relates to us that "they immediately left the nets and followed Him"(Mark 1:18). Of course, this recounts what happened with four of the twelve. But it establishes the pattern employed by God. Christ did not carry books with Him as He walked along dusty paths. No notebooks were used. No CD's or DVDs were around. Christ simply put it as "You associate with Me because in Me there is truth and you will discover it with the passing of time as we are together." John got this messae, he used the exact same approach with two of his own disciples (John 1:39).
Method of Training: "Learn from Me." Christ our Lord trained His disciples by living with them. Their association was so close that for the rest of their lives they could not separate the truth they preached from the life that He had lived in their presence. In essence, Christ "infected" them with the truth. The truth became linked with His life. What was true about this relationship at the beginning remained true even at the end. Just days prior to Christ's death upon the cross, John wrote these words: "Jesus therefore no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away...to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples"(John 11:54). As time passed in their relationship indications are that Christ increased the amount of time that He spent with His disciples. As He ministered He entrenched Himself deeper and deeper into their lives.
Principle of Training This is to be found in Matthew 11:28-29. It is basically two steps: "Come to Me and Learn from Me." Boiled down to its bare essence this is discipleship. As a disciple of Christ you and I are to become imbued with the truth of God, make it such an intimate part of our lives and being that we can then "build" into the lives of others and assist them in reproducing this same process.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time, God willing, I will give some illustrations of training principles from scripture. Until then, beware the traps and deceptions Satan lays in your path each and every day. Learn to "see" them and become adept at sidestepping them rather than walking into them and having to deal with the aftermath of poor decisions and giving in to temptation. May Christ richly bless you with spiritual blessings more numerous than our imagination can picture.
Sat, Jul 18th - 8:36PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Yet He also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back His words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out His hand, both he that helps shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall down, and they all shall fail together (31:2-3).
This is the last of four chapters together that begin with woe; and they are all woes to the sinners that were found among the professing people of God, to the drunkards of Ephraim (chapter 28:1), to Ariel (chapter 29:1), to the rebellious children (chapter 30:1), and here to those that go down to Egypt for help; for men’s relation to the church will not secure them from divine woes if they live in contempt of divine laws. The same thing applies to all of us today. If we live in contempt of God’s divine laws it matters not how frequently we attend church services, nor how much money we give each week in the offering plate. Do we think that we are wiser than God’s written Word? Are we wiser than the Author of the Bible?
Would not infinite wisdom, engaged on their side, stand them in more stead than all the policies of Egypt? They are at the pains of going down to Egypt, a tedious journey, when they might have had better advice, and better help, by looking up to heaven, and would not. But, if they will not court God’s wisdom to act for them, they shall find it act against them. He is wise, too wise for them to outwit, and He will bring evil upon those who thus affront Him. He will not call back His words as men do (because they are fickle and foolish), but He will arise against the house of the evil-doers, this cabal of them that go down to Egypt; God will appear to their confusion, according to the word that He has spoken, and will oppose the help they think to bring in from the workers of iniquity. Some think the Egyptians made it one condition of their coming into an alliance with him that they should worship the gods of Egypt, and they consented to it, and therefore they are both called evil-doers and workers of iniquity. Let them know that the Egyptians, whom they depend so much upon, are men and not God. As it is good for men to know themselves to be but men (Psalm 9:20), so it is good for us to consider that those we love and trust to are but men. They therefore can do nothing without God, nothing against Him, nothing in comparison with Him. They are men, and therefore fickle and foolish, mutable and mortal, here to day and gone to morrow; they are men, and therefore let us not make gods of them, by making them our hope and confidence, and expecting that in them which is to be found in God only; they are not God, they cannot do that for us which God can do, and will, if we trust in Him. Let us not then neglect Him, to seek to them; let us not forsake the rock of ages for broken reeds, nor the fountain of living waters for broken cisterns. The Egyptians indeed have horses that are very strong; but they are flesh and not spirit, and therefore, strong as they are, they may be wearied with a long march, and become unserviceable, or be wounded and slain in battle, and leave their riders to be ridden over. Every one knows this, that the Egyptians are not God and their horses are not spirit; but those that seek to them for help do not consider it, else they would not put such confidence in them. Sinners may be convicted of folly by the plainest and most self-evident truths, which they cannot deny, but will not believe. Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helps shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall down, and they all shall fail together
For thus has the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.
As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it; and passing over He will preserve it (31:4-5).
A practical distrust of God’s all-sufficiency is at the bottom of all our sinful departures from Him to the creature. The prophet tells them he had it from God’s own mouth: Thus hath the Lord spoken to me. They might depend upon it that God would appear against Jerusalem’s enemies with the boldness of a lion over his prey. When the lion comes out to seize his prey a multitude of shepherds come out against him; for it becomes neighbors to help one another when persons or goods are in danger. These shepherds dare not come near the lion; all they can do is to make a noise, and with that they think to frighten him off. But does he regard it? No: he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself so far as to be in the least moved by it either to quit his prey or to make any more haste than otherwise he would do in seizing it. Thus will the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, with such an unshaken undaunted resolution not to be moved by any opposition; and He will as easily and irresistibly destroy the Assyrian army as a lion tears a lamb in pieces. Whoever appear against God, they are but like a multitude of poor simple shepherds shouting at a lion, who scorns to take notice of them or so much as to alter his pace for them. Surely those that have such a protector need not go to Egypt for help? Surely today, we that have such a protector do not need to go find an “Egypt” for any help? And yet we do.
God ended up defending and preserving Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah, as shall be seen. But once Hezekiah died and went to be with his fathers the judgment of God fell upon all who remained and turned back to idolatry.
Turn you unto Him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.
For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.
Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited.
And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, says the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem (31:6-9).
Similarly to when the angel of death passed over the Hebrews their final night in Egyptian captivity, now an angel of death would pass over them and destroy the armies of the Assyrians. The Assyrian army was to be routed by a destroying angel, who should pass over Jerusalem, though that deserved to be destroyed, and draw his sword only against the besiegers. They shall be slain by the pestilence, but none of the besieged shall take the infection. Thus he will again pass over the houses of his people and secure them. In that day every man shall cast away his idols, in obedience to Hezekiah’s orders, which, till they were alarmed by the Assyrian invasion, many refused to do. That is a happy fright which frightens us from our sins. It shall be a general reformation: every man shall cast away his own idols, shall begin with them before he undertakes to demolish other people’s idols, which there will be no need of when every man reforms himself. It shall be a thorough reformation; for they shall part with their idolatry, their beloved sin, with their idols of silver and gold, their idols that they are most fond of. Many make an idol of their silver and gold, and by the love of that idol are drawn to revolt from God; but those that turn to God cast that away out of their hearts and will be ready to part with it when God calls.
Sin is the work of our own hands, but in working it we have been working our own ruin, and therefore we must cast it away; and those are strangely wedded to it who will not be prevailed upon to cast it away when they see that otherwise they themselves will be castaways. Some make this to be only a prediction that those who trust in idols, when they find they stand them in no stead, will cast them away in indignation. But it agrees so exactly with chapter 30:22 that I rather take it as a promise of a sincere reformation. When they have cast away their idols, then shall the Assyrian fall, verse 8, 9. The army of the Assyrians shall be laid dead upon the spot by the sword, not of a mighty man, nor of a mean man, not of any man at all, either Israelite or Egyptian, not forcibly by the sword of a mighty man nor surreptitiously by the sword of a mean man, but by the sword of an angel, who strikes more strongly than a mighty man and yet more secretly than a mean man, by the sword of the Lord, and His power and wrath in the hand of the angel. Thus the young men of the army shall melt, and be discomfited, and become tributaries to death. When God has work to do against the enemies of His church we expect it must be done by mighty men and mean men, officers and common soldiers; whereas God can, if He please, do it without either. He needs not armies of men who has legions of angels at command, Matthew 26:53.
The message for all of us here, I believe, is that we are not to attempt to make ourselves so mighty that we end up deceiving ourselves into thinking that we can repel any enemy who might come up against us in life. The other part of the message for us today is this: God will not come to our aid until we decide in our hearts to turn away from our idols and begin an end to our sin. Once we do that, God does His part and comes to our defense and preservation.
That finishes up chapter 31 and leads us on to chapter 32 where we shall come to have the person of the King of kings before us again. Since there has been reference made to the Final Conflict with the Assyrian in the last chapter there should be no real surprise that we find mention of the Millennium or the blessings to flow when Christ comes again.
Blessings and peace be with you all.
Fri, Jul 17th - 7:47PM
Book of Isaiah Study
We now come to the declaration that God will deal with the “final” Assyrian.
For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.
And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.
For Tophet is ordained of old; yes, for the king it is prepared; he has made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breathe of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, does kindle it (30:31-33).
The Assyrian here is the final enemy of God during the Great Tribulation for it is then that God’s voice will be the “sword” that slays mankind. During Isaiah’s time it was a more conventional means that God utilized to defeat the Assyrian hosts.
“Tophet” was a place in the valley of the son of Hinnom where the ugliest idolatries were practiced. Little children were offered as sacrifices by being forced to walk through the fires that were burning there.
“The king” mentioned here represents the beast and the false prophet of the End Times. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)”
The Assyrian had been himself a rod in God’s hand for the chastising of His people, and had smitten them, chapter 10:5. That was a transient rod; but against the Assyrian shall go forth a grounded staff, that shall give a steady blow, shall stick close to him and strike home, so as to leave an impression upon him. It is a staff with a foundation, founded upon the enemies’ deserts and God’s determinate counsel. It is a consumption determined (chapter 10:23), and therefore there is no escaping it, no getting out of the reach of it; it shall pass every place where an Assyrian is found, and the Lord shall lay it upon him, and cause it to rest, verse 32. Such is the woeful case of those that persist in enmity to God: the wrath of God abides on them.
That completes our study of chapter 30. Now we move on to the next chapter where we are to find God warning His people once more not to turn to Egypt for help but to trust the Lord God Almighty to defend Jerusalem. So evident is the likelihood of the Israelites turning to Egypt that Isaiah continues to warn Judah of the utter futility of such a choice. What’s worse, Israel in the distant future will turn to the wrong ally when they choose to accept the Antichrist and his treaty of peace and protection. God will judge those who turn to outside help instead of turning to Him.
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!(31:1)
This is the fifth woe. Pronouncement is upon all those Israelites who go down to seek help from Egypt against the Assyrians.
This also has a message for you and me, beloved. Woe to you and me when we turn away from Christ and turn to some materialistic or human help. God expects you and me to be reasonable. But He wants top priority when it comes time for receiving help with our problems. Where do we automatically go for help? Our banker? Our preacher? Our boss? Our close non-Christian friends? See, we should automatically turn to Christ for help with everything, first. We need to remember Psalm 20:7.
Materialistic philosophy says to put our trust in the stock market or your other investments, that it is a smart thing to look to “Egypt” for financial security. Most of us have some “Egypt” that we depend upon for help with something. Israel’s and our own, actual source of difficulty was/is that they/we did/do not look to God, nor seek God. Since we do not trust Christ implicitly, we turn desperately to some other outside source of help. This applies to physical help, financial help, emotional help, mental help, family therapy, and individual therapy. All of these sources should not be the primary source that we turn to in our times of need. That first source must be Christ.
That is all for today my friends. Next time, God willing, we shall finish up the remaining eight verses of this very short chapter. May Christ abundantly fulfill your wildest wishes and dreams.
Fri, Jul 17th - 12:27PM
Here are some ways to begin this process of discipleship:
Wish to disciple others?
1. Begin a personal study of Jesus Christ's ministry with His disciples.
2. Spend some time in prayer every day about this desire.
a. Pray about the approach to take, even the exact words to say to someone.
b. Pray about whom He would have you select.
c. Ask God for a sensitive spirit with others.
d. Ask God for ability to discern character needs in others.
Important note: Take this step very slowly. Select disciples much like you would select a home or a close friend.
3. Keep this group small, and keep it quiet.
4. Begin to meet on a regular basis.
Wish to be discipled by another person?
1. Pray that God will raise up someone to work with you personally.
2. Communicate that desire to people whom you respect in Christ.
3. Stay alert. Be sensitive to God's leading.
As can easily be seen alot of prayer is involved on both sides of this issue. It also means that you and I cannot remain aloof from other Christians if we seriously wish to grow as saints in Christ. Let me ask you this question: Can you honestly say you're in touch with another human being in the Body of Christ in any kind of significant way outside your circle of chosen friends? If your answer is "no" then this study is meant for you.
It may not be God's timing at this time, but you must begin preparing through prayer in order to be sensitive to God's leading when the time is right. Remember the four character qualities? We must remain available, flexible, teachable, and dependable. I freely admit that it can be very hard to work with a small group of people over an extended period of time. It can even be thankless at times. But we need to do it because of unconditional love for these individuals just like Christ did. And we need to be praying seriously about this activity daily.
One suggestion I offer you is to begin a personal study of Christ's ministry with His disciples. It is not simply an assignment, it is a lifelong work! Begin by looking at the context of the selection of these individuals. In a notebook, or journal, create the following chart:
____________________THE SELECTION OF THE DISCIPLES__________________
MATTHEW 4_________MARK 3___________LUKE 6__________JOHN 1_________
Read through each chapter, one at a time, and write down your observations that relate to the process of selection and discipleship. Include to the left of the observations verse references. You can make this a two-step process by skimming each chapter and then go back and read each chapter more slowly for further details. Write down all of your thoughts in a coherent order so that you can follow what your developing thinking on this becomes.
Have you started considering discipleship in your personal life? If so, then you need to rate yourself on those four character qualities needed. Rate where you fit on a scale of one to five where one means "Not me!" and five means "That's me!" After doing this for all four qualities you should gain a fair picture of where you stand. Which of the qualities are you weakest in? Perhaps you should take a few minutes right now and jot down some thoughts on how to make that weakness stronger?
Well that is all for today on this topic. Later today I hope to post more in my Isaiah study, so be on the lookout! Grace and peace be yours this day!
Thu, Jul 16th - 12:44PM
The Seventh Day
"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11).
Do we accept, and believe, that this is the truth? Is it solidly in our spiritual bank? Why is it important to accept this as being factually true? God's Word is omnipotent and He could just as easily have created a fully populated world and universe, fully functional, in an instant of time as easily as He did create it in six days. But He decided to create it in six days with a seventh day set aside for rest and remembrance of what He had done. It is one reason why we still have weeks consisting of seven days today. An area of frustration for many centers around which day of the week to rest and worship God.
Our text was inscribed with "the finger of God" on a table of stone (Exodus 31:18), settling once and for all the ancient question of the age of the universe, at least for those believers who totally trust the Word of God. God precisely equated the six days of man's work week with the six days of His own work week, He then pronounced it all as being "very good" and "sanctified" the seventh day (Genesis 1:31, 2:3). It is unthinkable that God would be so deceitful if there were at that time a great big graveyard containing the fossil remains of dead animals, a mile deep and extending around the world. These fossils must be dated as post-Eden, after human sin and God's curse brought death into the entire world, not just to people (Romans 5:12).
Those today who claim to believe in God must also believe in creation as worded in Genesis, otherwise they do not believe that God speaks the truth in all matters. We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing what parts of the Bible that we choose to believe or not believe. It is an all or nothing package offered out to us sinners. Christ did not change this approach. He did not allow people to pick and choose what they believed about Him. Either He spoke the truth, or He was a liar, or a fool. He could not be a great teacher without also being a liar. Creation is true and we must remember that fact. This beginning fact reminds all of us that we live in a place that was created for us by Jehovah. He intended for us to be the stewards of this creation. We got to name everything living. So, we need to observe every seventh day as a day of rest and hopefully worship. In doing so we honor Christ, our Creator, who has now also become our Redeemer and who will soon come again to reign as eternal King, beginning here on earth as a one thousand year millennium of peace and prosperity never, ever seen before. Each person must determine, and become convinced in their heart, which day is to be their sabbath day and rest and worship on that day each week. I will leave you with this question for pondering: Which day of the week is one of rest and worship for any pastor or priest?
Wed, Jul 15th - 12:42PM
All through the ages, God has always done His most significant work through a remnant of people, never a majority, never through masses of humanity. In the past 100 years alone we have witnessed one crash program after another come and go. We have witnessed fads and gimmicks of every sort, crowd-gathering programs, and manipulative techniques tried, but rarely have we seen the simple method Christ Jesus employed that resulted in a "world turned upside down." My interest here is directed to the first major step that joins us to that method of ministry that will ultimately lead us and others to spiritual maturity. Now, you may be saying, "Eric, I feel quite mature right now, thank you." That is not spiritual maturity necessarily.
Selection to be a Disciple
If we study Luke 6:12-19 we can see that before Christ ever performed one single miracle, addressed a large public gathering, or became a well-known figure, He gave priority number one to calling out from the land of Palestine twelve men who would one day significantly impact the world. Even though He focused upon them, He never ignored/overlooked the masses of people all around Him. He was known as the One who healed the sick, cast out demons, took care of lepers, and had compassion on the lost. He faithfully preached to the masses. However, the great emphasis of His ministry fell upon the time spent with a small group of average men who came to be known as His disciples.
Prior to Selection (veerses 12-13). Christ did two things: He got alone and He prayed. He invested considerable time and energy in these two aspects of His ministry.
During the Selection (verse 13). Here again, He did two things. He called them to Him (Mark 3:14) and He named them apostles. This term means "one sent forth, messenger." Christ chose certain ones who had the qualities which suited His plan. He very likely communicated something of His plan, in order to begin training them to be His eventual messengers of grace.
Basis of being Selected (Acts 4:13). Checking the Gospel accounts with Acts 4:13 it can be seen that Christ chose these men because of the following characteristics:
1. They were available (Matthew 4:18, Luke 5:27-28). When Christ invited them to follow Him they did. They dropped what they were doing and followed. Christ did not entice, plead, bargain, or use gimmicks; He simply promised to make them "fishers of men."
2. They were flexible. Being tired of the religious system of their culture, they weren't afraid to consider change and give their lives to something new.
3. They were teachable. They seemingly longed for someone to build into their lives. Their "pride factor" was low.
4. They were dependable (John 6:66-69). They showed up and faithfully stayed with Him throughout those times of training; some of which were difficult.
Initially, this group of disciples looked both rugged and lacking in any finesse. But they had the character qualities that actually counted the most. Someone may lack education but have exactly what it takes to become a disciple of Christ. How do you measure up against these four characteristics?
That is all for today. Next time, God willing, I will put down some practical suggestions for starting to act as a discipler. These will be things that can be begun on a small scale and then ramped up as time goes on, or not. Suggestions will be given to you if you wish to be discipled by someone else. In reality, we all fall into either of these two categories once we become believers in Christ, once we have answered the "call."
Grace and peace of Christ be yours today. May Christ richly bless you and your family this day.
Mon, Jul 13th - 12:44PM
We have arrived at looking at the flow of movement in the Barnabas - Paul relationship.
Barnabas discipled Saul(Paul). The two of them made many disciples in Derbe (Acts 14:20-21). In Lystra Paul took Timothy under his wing (Acts 16:1-4). In Corinth Paul drew another man alongside of himself, a man named Aquila, and worked with him and his wife, Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3). This couple went with him to Ephesus, but when Paul went on to Caesarea, he left them behind (Acts 18:18-21). In turn, Priscilla and Aquila found Apollos, an Alexandrian, and taught him in his faith (Acts 18:24-26). Then, this gifted young man moved from Ephesus, where he had been discipled, on to Corinth (Acts 18:27-28). And in Acts 19:1 we can find that Paul, traveling through Corinth, met some of Apollos' disciples. It is at this point that we complete an entire cycle of discipleship. I wish to point out here that if one does a close study of the development of the early Church it reveals that the public ministry of the Word did not cease or give in to the activity of discipleship. The one did not nullify the other; both were equally necessary. Discipleship is enhanced by the proclamation of the Gospel.
Beloved, can you perceive the flow of discipleship? It ought to be a neverending process that continually touches peoples' lives and assists them in growing into mature believers that can then replicate the entire process all over again.
Benefits that Arise from Discipleship
Here is a list that is far from complete, but it can provide all of us with a good starting point for evaluating this vital ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ.
* Discipleship reinforces the ministry of the Word by personalizing it.
* Discipleship translates biblical truth into practical living.
* Discipleship develops character qualities in the lives of Christians.
* Discipleship is not limited. It can happen any day, any time, by anyone.
* Discipleship is not structured. It is spontaneous, fresh.
* Discipleship is not a program. It is a relationship that provides identity.
In II Timothy 2:2 can be found perhaps the single most concise summary of this process. The excitement of building "into" others' lives is clearly explained in what is a ministry of multiplication.
* Try to compare this verse in as many different bible versions as you can. As you read this verse make notes of the rendering that speaks most significantly to you. Write down why it speaks more meaningfully to you than all of the other versions. Why not memorize this verse? Listen for God to speak to you during this time of study and reflection.
Can you visualize the above verse relating to your life? If not, then perhaps it will be easier to do so by doing this:
* Think about this verse in relation to your life and fill in the verse with appropriate names from your personal experience.
"And the things which Eric has heard from Chip, these entrust to Mary who will teach Cecelia also."
* If the names come easily to you, spend some time pondering further back in your lifetime and then further ahead in this process. Who discipled the one who discipled you? Has your disciple discipled others, who are in turn teaching others? Personally, I flunked these questions and that has caused me to choose to make some changes. If we cannot construct a spiritual "Family Tree" then we are not doing what Christ commanded us to do. We must reproduce our faith in the lives of others. My wife and I are involved in discipling our son and his wife. They are not our exclusive disciples but whenever we get together we talk about spiritual matters, trying to pass along truth and inspiration. Encouraging them to remain strong in their conviction to love Christ and to follow Him. I am actively involved in attempting to pass on spiritual truth on the internet, to reach a broader audience of who I probably will not see their faces until we all reach heaven and then we will instantly know each other. That brings a smile to my face! That is so cool!
That is all for today, my friends. Next we shall look at the very beginnings of discipleship. God willing we shall meet here again to continue our study of God's Word. Grace and peace be yours today.
Sun, Jul 12th - 11:36AM
Book of Isaiah Study
And the LORD shall cause His glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of His arm, with the indignation of His anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones(30:30).
One of our first questions should be: How frequently has God used fire and hailstones to conduct judgment? Is this something that He has used 10 or 20 times throughout history? No? So it ought to help us narrow down the possible applications. Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone, and it is the form of judgment yet to come in the End Times. Psalm 11:6 speaks of judgment being in this form. Luke 17:29 covers Lot’s departure from the twin cities of sin. The remaining three occurrences of this phrase are to be found in the book of Revelation and they talk of the final judgment of God upon the wicked and unbelievers. We can also find plenty of references about times when God has sent down fire from heaven to either execute His judgment or to showcase His authority/power as being supreme. In Exodus 9:23 is the example of the plague in Egypt, in Exodus 24:17 we are shown that the glory of Jehovah is like a devouring fire, and in Leviticus 9:24 fire came down from heaven from God and all of the people saw it and fell to the ground. In Numbers 11:1 the fire of God devoured all of the murmurers among the Israelites gathered. Numbers 16:35 tells of 250 men being consumed by the fire from God. Deuteronomy 4:24 confirms to us that Jehovah is a devouring fire, He is a jealous God. He demands us to be faithful to Him, put nothing else before Him. Deuteronomy 32:22 speaks of the final Judgment at the end of days. II Samuel 22:9 talks about the fire of God; I Kings 18:24 relates the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal. II Chronicles 7:1,3 we find again how the fire from heaven represents the presence of the glory of Jehovah, the Shekinah glory. The last two references that I will give to you here are Job 1:16, 18:15 and Psalm 18:8, 12,13. I do not wish to digress, simply to point out that our God is a devouring fire of those who refuse Him, who mock Him, who depend upon their own thoughts rather than include Him in their daily lives. Jehovah shall destroy this sin filled world by an all consuming fire that shall come out of His mouth via His spoken words. It is coming, it is out there on the horizon coming closer day by day.
As in the days of the Israelites, when they camped at the foot of Mount Horeb, we shall hear the voice of the Living God even though we shall not immediately see Him anywhere. People everywhere shall fall down on the ground and prostrate themselves before His awesome display of power and sovereignty. They may not profess belief in His Son, Jesus Christ, but they most certainly will acknowledge God is real.
That is all for this first day of a new week. I hope that you take time to praise and worship our God today. Thank Him for all that He has blessed you with. Ask Him to forgive you for your shortcomings, ask for Him to enable you to become a better disciple of Christ. God willing we shall meet again here. Grace and peace of Christ be yours this day.
Sat, Jul 11th - 1:37PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Behold, the name of the LORD comes from far, burning with His anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire:
And His breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err
You shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goes with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel (30:27-29).
This terrible prediction of the ruin of the Assyrian army is part of the promise to the Israel of God, that God would not only punish the Assyrians for the mischief they had done to the Israel of God, but would disable and deter them from doing it again; and this prediction, which would now shortly be accomplished, would ratify and confirm the foregoing promises, which should be accomplished in the latter days. Here is God Almighty angry, and coming forth in anger against the Assyrians. He is here introduced in all the power and all the terror of His wrath, verse 27. The name of Jehovah, which the Assyrians disdain and set at a distance from them, as if they were out of its reach and it could do them no harm, behold, it comes from far. God’s lips are full of indignation at the blasphemy of Rabshakeh, who compared the God of Israel with the gods of the heathen; His tongue is as a devouring fire, for He can speak His proud enemies to ruin; His very breath comes with as much force as an overflowing stream, and with it He shall slay the wicked. Just as in those days God’s lips were full of indignation they still are today. He reserves His indignation for those who blaspheme His holy name. His tongue still speaks with power and authority today. The saints of Christ need to remember this aspect of God, we must not ever trifle with the holiness of God.
He shall cause His glorious voice to be heard when He proclaims war with an enemy that sets Him at defiance. He shall display the indignation of His anger, anger in the highest degree; it shall be as the flame of a devouring fire, which carries and consumes all before it, with lightning or dissipation, and with tempest and hailstones, all which are the formidable phenomena of nature, and therefore expressive of the terror of the Almighty God of nature. The execution done by this anger of the Lord can be seen. Men are often angry when they can only threaten and talk big; but when God causes His glorious voice to be heard that shall not be all: He will show the lighting down of His arm too, verse 30. The operations of His providence shall accomplish the menaces of His word. Those that would not see the lifting up of His arm (chapter 26:11) shall feel the lighting down of it, and find, to their cost, that the burden thereof is heavy (verse 27), so heavy that they cannot bear it, nor bear up against it, but must unavoidably sink and be crushed under it. Who knows the power of His anger or imagines what an offended God can do? Five things are prepared for the execution:—1. Here is an overflowing stream, that shall reach to the midst of the neck, shall quite overwhelm the whole body of the army, and Sennacherib only, the head of it, shall keep above water and escape this stroke, while yet he is reserved for another in the house of Nisroch his god. The Assyrian army had been to Judah as an overflowing stream, reaching even to the neck (chapter 8:7, 8), and now the breath of God’s wrath will be so to it. 2. Here is a sieve of vanity, with which God would sift those nations of which the Assyrian army was composed, verse 28. The great God can sift nations, for they are all before Him as the small dust of the balance; He will sift them, not to gather out of them any that should be preserved, but so as to shake them one against another, put them into great consternation, and shake them all away at last; for it is a sieve of vanity (which retains nothing) that they are shaken with, and they are found all chaff. 3. Here is a bridle, which God has in their jaws, to curb and restrain them from doing the mischief they would do, and to force and constrain them to serve His purposes against their own will, chapter 10:7. God particularly says of Sennacherib (chapter 37:29) that He will put a hook in his nose and a bridle in his lips. It is a bridle causing them to err, forcing them to such methods as will certainly be destructive to themselves and their interest and in which they will be infatuated. God with a word guides His people into the right way (verse 21), but with a bridle He turns His enemies headlong upon their own ruin. 4. Here is a rod and a staff, even the voice of the Lord, His word giving orders concerning it, with which the Assyrian shall be beaten down, verse 31. The Assyrian had been himself a rod in God’s hand for the chastising of His people, and had struck them, chapter 10:5. That was a temporary rod; but against the Assyrian shall go forth a grounded staff, that shall give a steady blow, shall stick close to him and strike home, so as to leave an impression upon him. It is a staff with a foundation, founded upon the enemies’ deserts and God’s determinate counsel. It is a consumption determined (chapter 10:23), and therefore there is no escaping it, no getting out of the reach of it; it shall pass in every place where an Assyrian is found, and the Lord shall lay it upon him, and cause it to rest. Such is the woeful case of those that persist in enmity to God: the wrath of God abides on them. 5. Here is Tophet ordained and prepared for them. The great joy which this should occasion to the people of God. The Assyrian’s fall is Jerusalem’s triumph (verse 29): You shall have a song as in the night, a psalm of praise such as those sing who by night stand in the house of the Lord, and sing to His glory who gives songs in the night. It shall not be a song of vain mirth, but a sacred song, such as was sung when a holy solemnity was kept in a grave and religious manner. Our joy in the fall of the church’s enemies must be a holy joy, gladness of heart, as when one goes, with a pipe (such as the sons of the prophets used when they prophesied, 1 Samuel 10:5), to the mountain of the Lord, there to celebrate the praises of the Mighty One of Israel. In every place where the divine vengeance shall pursue the Assyrians they shall not only fall unlamented, but all their neighbors shall attend their fall with tabrets and harps, pleased to see how God, in battles of shaking, such as shake them out of the world, fights with them.
This passage of scripture deals primarily with the Assyrians of that time period. Previous chapters in Isaiah have dealt with this issue and have provided us with a fairly solid picture of what was going on in this area of history. Yet we can also find evidence of this scripture speaking to a time in the distant future (of Isaiah) when the “final Assyrian” shall be dealt with in similar fashion during the End Times. We shall see next time that God fully intends to deal with the End Times Assyrian. God willing, we will meet once more here to study His Word. Grace and peace of God be yours.
Fri, Jul 10th - 1:00PM
So, in Luke 9:23 it is seen that a disciple is the person who adjusts his/her life to fit a new pattern; he/she gives up their own willfulness for the will of God; they live a life of daily spiritual sacrifice for the glory of Christ; and they live a life of constant obedience. The natural question is then what is the biblical precedent for claiming discipleship?
Evidence that supports discipleship.
Throughout the New Testament evidence can be found which shows that this is something to be put into practice:
From Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20), "Go...make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..." The one imperative given is to make disciples. How to accomplish this is contained in, and revolves around, baptizing and teaching. Now some people believe that this command was specifically for those disciples that He spoke these words to and not for anyone else. But we shall see that this commandment was binding upon those who weren't among the original 11 disciples.
From Luke (Acts 14:20-21). While writing about Paul, Luke explains, "...While the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city. And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch". Paul and Barnabas had not physically been with Christ before He left the earth, but they took the command seriously and went and made disciples of believers in Christ.
From the Apostle Paul (II Timothy 2:2), "...The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." In speaking to Timothy, Paul uttered perhaps the most familiar words on this subject of discipleship. They picture for us the flow of this entire process.
The word entrust is a financial term, it means "to set aside something of value, to deposit into a trust." In discipleship one person makes a deposit into another person's life, and it is away from the public eye. A discipler ministers in a very personal way to others in the same way he or she would deposit money into a bank account. Each of us needs to have others deposit spiritual things into us and we in turn deposit spiritual things into others.
The early church grew rapidly, almost exponentially. What caused such growth? Discipleship?
Background Info (Acts 9:1-26) The most notorious man in Palestine in the view of the Church, Saul of Tarsus, was met by Christ while traveling to Damascus. Before this he had worked against the cause of Christ in a fearless, aggresive, brilliant, and extremely hostile fashion. The news of his conversion spread throughout the Christian community and was met with surprise and skepticism. They thought that it was some sort of ploy to catch them off guard.
Contact Made (Acts 9:27, 11:20-26) Barnabas pushed aside any fears and reached out to Paul, taking him under his wing, so to speak. The revival in Antioch was so great that it was more than one man could to handle. Barnabas discipled Paul, worked with him, and used him to help in numerous ministeries in that area. In this way Paul caught that vision of discipleship, and everywhere he went it spread with him.
That is all for today, my friends. I hope that you will take time to read these passages fully and see that what I have posted is accurate. Consider how they relate to you today. God willing, we will meet here again. May you experience the grace and peace of Christ today.
Wed, Jul 8th - 12:43PM
All that we have considered thus far relates, by and large, to Christ's original twelve. We have written about them, now it is time for each of us. Here are questions we must ask ourselves:
* Am I a Christian?
* Where am I in that comparison of the two groups that call them selves Christians?
* Do I really want to be a disciple?
* Am I genuinely willing to say "no" to myself and obediently do God's will rather than simply please myself?
* Am I willing to live like that every day?
* If this means changing habits---or my whole course of life---am I willing to do so?
* Is there something that is keeping me from becoming Christ's disciple right now?
As the saying goes, "This is where the rubber meets the road." Am I going to change? Am I going to submit myself to Christ, and do things His way? Or am I going to be stubborn and stiffnecked, refusing to accept Christ's will for my life? You see, we have reached the inevitable crossroad. We must choose one way, or the other.
Here is Study #1:
As could be seen, there is a distinctive difference between believers and disciples. We become a believer by grace through faith, but discipleship goes much further than this initial step.
Look at Luke 9:23 "And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." We can see three ingredients of discipleship imbedded in this verse. Take some time, use a concordance, software on a PC, and find other scriptural references that support each of the three ingredients. You very well may wish to begin a notebook to jot your findings down in. Or perhaps you want to jot the references in the margins of your bible at this point in the book of Luke.
Here is Study #2:
Here you need to answer the following questions honestly and objectively.
* Are you a Christian? Write down the circumstances surrounding your conversion to Christ; what, if anything, changed immediately in your life?
* Where are you in relation to those two groups of followers of Christ; the believers and the disciples?
* Do you want to be a disciple of Christ?
* Are you willing to deny yourself?
* Are you willing to commit yourself to this every day?
* Are you willing to make the necessary changes within yourself?
* What is it that keeps you from becoming Christ's disciple, write it down. Is it worth what you are missing?
* Would you like to start as Christ's disciple right now? Express your thoughts to God at this time, write them down.
Is Discipleship Biblical?
It is immensely important for Christians to discover what God has to say to them about personal ministry among other believers, saints. This is what has been termed discipleship. It is what maturity requires of us. It is what obedience also requires of us. Next time we shall dig into this aspect of the study more deeply. May Christ bless you abundantly.
Tue, Jul 7th - 9:51PM
Book of Isaiah Study
If God gives us not only the word, but the hearing ear, not only the means of grace, but a heart to make a good use of those means, we have reason to say, He is very gracious to us, and reason to hope He has yet further mercy in store for us.
You shall defile also the covering of your graven images of silver, and the ornament of your molten images of gold: you shall cast them away as a menstruous cloth; you shall say unto it, Get you hence (30:22).
The deliverance God shall work for us shall convince us that it is in our interest, as well as duty, to serve Him only; and we shall admit that, as our trouble was brought upon us for our idolatries, so it was removed upon condition that we should not return to them. This is also the good effect of our seeing our teachers and hearing the word behind them; by this it shall appear that we are the better for the means of grace we enjoy—we shall break off from our best-beloved sin. These people had graven images of silver, and molten images of gold, and, though gold needs no painting, they had coverings and ornaments on these; they spared no cost in doing honor to their idols. Oh, but what a holy indignation they conceived against them in the day of their repentance. They not only degraded their images, but defaced them, not only defaced them, but defiled them; they not only spoiled the shape of them, but in a pious fury threw away the gold and silver they were made of, though otherwise valuable and convertible to a good use. They could not find in their hearts to make any vessel of honor of them
Then shall He give the rain of your seed, that you shall sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall your cattle feed in large pastures (30:23).
When He gives them their teachers, and they give Him their hearts, so that they begin to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof, then all other things shall be added to them Matthew 6:33. And when the people are brought to praise God then shall the earth yield her increase, and with it God, even our own God, shall bless us, Psalm 67:5, 6. So it follows here: "When you shall have abandoned your idols, then shall God give the rain of your seed,’’ verse 23. Here we find the same truth applies to our lives today, beloved. When we listen to our spiritual teachers and give Christ our hearts, we begin to seek after the kingdom of God and it is at that time that God adds all other things to our account. We achieve access to unlimited bounty once we abandon our idols.
the oxen likewise and the young asses that till the ground shall eat savory provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fork.
And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall (30:24-25).
We remember that we are reading of the immediate prophecy of what would happen after the Assyrians were defeated by God. We must also keep in the back of our mind the thought that this is also a prophecy which gains full fulfillment at the end of time when the millennium is ushered in by Christ. At that time there shall be abundance of pasture, and tillage, and of all sorts of food for animals and people alike. This happens in the day of the great slaughter that should be made by the angel in the camp of the Assyrians, when the towers and batteries they had erected for the carrying on of the siege of Jerusalem, the army being slain, should fall of course.
Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the breach of His people, and heals the stroke of their wound (30:26).
We find here reference to the celestial bodies that we know so well becoming quite noticeably brighter. It would seem that nighttime will be not exist at this time and that daytime will be brilliant. It is concurrently with these celestial events that Christ binds and heals that organic breach in people, their sin nature. Each of us has been wounded deeply by sin, we normally do not even perceive that we are wounded. A man’s strength is twisted, distorted by the sin while a woman’s femininity is warped, and even lost by the sin. We are left with individuals who are in conflict with themselves and each other. Individuals who do not know who they really are deep down inside of their souls. And our adversary, Satan, does not want any of us to discover this important truth, for truth sets one free of captivity.
That is all for today, my friends. May Christ richly bless you in all that you attempt. May you boldly step out in faith, allowing Christ to enable you to do what He desires you to do for Him.
Sun, Jul 5th - 9:54PM
Take up your cross daily-In the times that Jesus spoke these words, the cross was a very familiar item to His listeners. Just outside of Jerusalem's walls was the infamous Place of the Skull (Golgotha or Calvary), where people were routinely crucified for capital crimes. When citizens witnessed a person dragging a horizontal cross beam through their streets, they knew full well he was soon to die a horrible death. This was the context in which Christ spoke these words. Bottom line, He was saying, "If you want to be My disciple, spiritually you must die to self. You must prefer My will to your will and must give up what you want to do with your life, allowing Me to become your predominant focal point."
Follow Me-At the very core of these two words is the thought of obedience, obeying Christ and emulating His words and actions.
Illustration of Discipleship
Each of us must understand exactly where we are in relation to Christ our Savior.
Here is a chart borrowed from Chuck Swindoll that should help clarify where each of us is at:
Condtion of the
To become a believer
he must pass
through the cross…
…into this family
By grace through faith
I John 5:12
It is safe to say that the majority of people who engage in this sort of study fall somewhere in the larger group of individuals representing the family of God. We are not concerning ourselves with those who consider themselves to be believers in Christ, rather we are focusing in upon that smaller group of persons who represent disciples in Christ. It is safe to say that from the very beginning God's desire was for the smaller and larger groups become identical in nature. All believers ought to become disciples in Christ, but that is not the reality in practice. The vast majority of believers have not adjusted their lives to the specific principles of discipleship: Deny themselves; Take up their cross daily; and Follow Christ. They are contented, and comfortable, knowing that they are safe and secure in the arms of Christ, but they draw a line that they refuse to cross when it comes to saying "no" to themselves and to their rights. In America it is difficult for people to do this for they feel this is undemocratic. And they are certainly correct in their assessment. But they must deny self in order to become a disciple of Christ.
Disciples Are Chosen
Twelve men were initially chosen by Christ to comprise the circle of His most intimate followers. They were not chosen carelessly or at random. It was not by chance that they were called out by Christ. One by one Christ called them to follow Him. He approached each one personally, and He was looking at their inner character for each was a future disciple. Education, family background, charisma, and career choice were not important to Jesus Christ. He focused in upon their quality of life, observing their potential for personal growth, spiritually.
Disciples Were Cultivated
Here is what is revealed upon further study of the Gospels:
1. He concentrated upon the few, not on the throngs.
2. He did not hurry in that selection nor in later growth.
3. He did not use spectacular motivational gimmicks to attract a crowd or to encourage a following.
4. He did not suggest they become involved in open, dynamic public ministry. He drew them to be around Him in order to spend large amounts of time with them.
That is all for today, beloved. Take time to check out what I have posted. Make sure that I am not making any of this up. I assure you I am not intending to discourage anyone from finding Christ. The above four points ought to be the blueprint for each congregational leader to use in creating deacons and elders to assist him in administration of the church. There should be a small group of individuals who are being given consistent food for thought, and spiritual growth, from their pastor, priest, minister, or whomever. It should be lowkey, no theatrics needed. These people ought not to be asked to head up community outreach ministeries. They are to be taught about Christ, about how to lead their spouses, their families, their classrooms, etc.. They are to be taught how to pray, why prayer is necessary, why it is so powerful a tool. They are to learn that the real enemy each day is Satan and his dominions. They are to learn about intercessory prayer and why it is so important for the health of the church and its members. They are to learn the truth about giving so that they are living examples for the entire church. I could go on and on with more points but I think that you get the idea. Christ is our role model and we have to mimic Him.
Next time I will lay out discipleship in application. Then I will outline two short studies that can be done by anyone. Until then, may Christ bless you abundantly. God willing, we shall meet here once more.
Fri, Jul 3rd - 12:48PM
Book of Isaiah Study
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: you shall weep no more: He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry; when He shall hear it, He will answer you.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not your teachers be removed into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your teachers:
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left (30:19-21).
The prophet, having shown that those who made Egypt their confidence would be ashamed of it, here shows that those who sat still and made God alone their confidence would have the comfort of it. It is matter of comfort to the people of God, when the times are very bad, that all will be well yet, well with those that fear God, when we say to the wicked, It shall be ill with you. God will be gracious to us and will have mercy on us. This is the foundation of all good. If we find favor with God, and He have mercy upon us, we shall have comfort according to the time that we have been afflicted. He will wait to be gracious (verse 18); He will wait till you return to Him and seek His face, and then He will be ready to meet you with mercy. He will wait, that He may do it in the best and fittest time, when it will be most for His glory, when it will come to you with the most pleasing surprise. He will continually follow you with His favors, and not let slip any opportunity of being gracious to you. It would seem that we are reading a prophecy of a duel nature: that of the return from captivity to live again in Jerusalem in peace, and ultimately of believers living in peace in Jerusalem during the Millennium.
Therefore all those are blessed who wait for Him, who not only wait on Him with their prayers, but wait for Him with their hopes, who will not take any indirect course to extricate themselves out of their troubles, or anticipate their deliverance, but patiently expect God’s appearances for them in His own way and time. Because God is infinitely wise, those are truly happy who refer their cause to Him. They shall not again know the want of the means of grace, verse 20, 21. It is supposed that they might be brought into straits and troubles after this deliverance was wrought for them. It was promised (verse 19), that they should weep no more and that God would be gracious to them; and yet here it is taken for granted that God may give them the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, prisoners’ fare (1 Kings 22:27), coarse and sorry food, such as the poor use. When one trouble is over we do not know how soon another may come; and we may have an interest in the favor of God. Let us therefore not judge of love or hatred by what is before us.
It is promised that their eyes should see their teachers, that is, that they should have faithful teachers among them, and should have hearts to regard them and not slight them as they had done; and then they might the better be reconciled to the bread of adversity and the water of affliction. It was a common saying among the old Puritans, Brown bread and the gospel are good fare. A famine of bread is not so great a judgment as a famine of the word of God, Amos 8:11, 12. It seems that their teachers had been removed into corners (probably being forced to shift for their safety in the reign of Ahaz), but it shall be so no more. Veritas non quaerit angulos—Truth seeks no corners for concealment. But the teachers of truth may sometimes be driven into corners for shelter even today; and it goes ill with the church when it is so, when the woman with her crown of twelve stars is forced to flee into the wilderness (Revelation 12:6), when the prophets are hidden by fifty in a cave, 1 Kings 18:4. But God will find a time to call the teachers out of their corners again in order to speak the truth to all of the people. To all that love God and their own souls this return of faithful teachers out of their corners, especially with a promise that they shall not be removed into corners any more, is the most acceptable part of any deliverance, and has comfort enough in it to sweeten even the bread of adversity and the water of affliction. But this is not all: It is promised that they shall have the benefit, not only of the public ministry, but of private and particular admonition and advice (verse 21): "Thy ears shall hear a word behind thee, calling after thee as a man calls after a traveller that he sees going the wrong way.
This word shall come—from behind you, from some one whom you do not see, but who sees you. Your eyes see your teachers; but this is a teacher out of sight, it is your own conscience responding to the Holy Spirit, which shall now by the grace of God be awakened to do its office. What the word shall be: "This is the way, walk you in it.” When you are doubting, conscience shall direct you to the way of duty; when you are dull and trifling, conscience shall quicken you in that way.’’ As God has not left Himself without witness, so He has not left us without guides to show us our way. If we turn to the left or to the right we are to continue walking in the way. We are not to deviate from the path of righteousness for anything or anyone.
That is all for today, beloved. I hope, again, that everyone has a wonderful Independence Day and weekend! May God bless you and keep you.
Thu, Jul 2nd - 12:01PM
Am I giving, or sowing?
"But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully, shall reap also bountifully"(II Corinthians 9:6).
When we contribute of our financial gain to the work of the Lord we are, in essence, sowing for it is considered by the Lord of the harvest as seed sown in the soil of the hearts of men.
And a rule of the harvest is that other things being equal, the more seed planted, the more will be harvested. He/she who is deficient in planting seed must of necessity anticipate a tiny crop.
Of course, an abundant harvest assumes not only abundance of seed, but also good soil, properly prepared, watered, and cultivated. It does no good to give money to anyone or any cause, any more more than it is good simply to throw seed on stony soil or city streets or weed-infested yards. One is responsible to give where God's Word is honored; not just to give, but to give responsibly.
Additionally, even though an abundant harvest is promised, the reason in giving is also important. The harvest is souls; not gold. "God loves a cheerful giver" and not a conditional giver comes from this same passage. In Romans 12:8 we can read "He that gives, let him do it with simplicity." There is to be no complex formula used to figure out what to give and when to give it. Keep it simple. Many times God does bring financial blessing to a believer who has proved faithful in the grace of giving, but this is so he can give still more and so lay up still more treasure in heaven. "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required"(Luke 12:48). "Therefore," said Paul, "see that you abound in this grace also"(II Corinthians 8:7).
As we give, we must never forget that Christ has given much more: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor"(II Corinthians 8:9). We can never outgive God. Each and every time that we give to Him He turns right around and gives us more than before. Of course, He requires more of us in return. So, beloved, are we planting enough seed for an abundant harvest? I know from assessing my garden yesterday that I did not plant enough winter squash seed to guarentee an abundant harvest this fall of storable squash. My bad. But it reminded me of this spiritual truth and caused me to pause. Am I doing everything that I could possibly do to reach out to people all around me? The answer was no, I am not. Due to family needs I may never be able do all that I could possibly do, I must strike a balance between the two for meeting the needs of my family is a responsibility laid upon me by Christ Jesus. I cannot shirk my duty to my family in order to do more in another area of God's work. This requires constant assessment to find what I can, and can't do. It is a hard work.
Well, that is all for today my friends. I am unsure if I will be posting again before Independence Day here in America, so I wish all a very happy, and safe, holiday weekend! May Christ be with you.
Wed, Jul 1st - 8:23PM
Book of Isaiah Study
And He shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; He shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
For thus said the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. And you would not (30:14-15)
The organic “breach” of their wall brought on an utter ruin, universal and irreparable: "You and all your confidences shall be not only weak as the potter’s clay (ch. 29:16), but broken to pieces as the potter’s vessel. He that has the rod of iron shall break it (Psalm 2:9) and He shall not spare, shall not have any regard to it, nor be in care to preserve or keep whole any part of it. But, when once it is broken so as to be unfit for use, let it be dashed, let it be crushed, all to pieces, so that there may not remain one shard big enough to take up a little fire or water’’ —two things we have daily need of, and which poor people commonly fetch in a piece of a broken pitcher. They shall not only be as a bowing wall (Psalm 62:3), but as a broken mug or glass, which is good for nothing, nor can ever be made whole again. Sinners shall be like this upon judgment from God. Their lives shall never be whole again, their livelihoods shall be gone, their properties shall be gone, their influence shall be gone.
Look at the method God put them into for salvation and strength. The God that knew them, and knew what was proper for them, and desired their welfare, gave them this prescription; and it is recommended to us all. Would we be saved from the evil of every calamity, guarded against the temptation of it and secured from the curse of it, which are the only evil things in it? It must be in returning and rest, in returning to God and reposing in Him as our rest. Let us return from our evil ways, into which we have gone aside, and rest and settle in the way of God and duty, and that is the way to be saved. In returning (in the thorough reformation of our hearts and lives) and in rest (in an entire submission of our souls to God and a complacency in Him) you shall be saved.’’ Would we be strengthened to do what is required of us and to bear what is laid upon us? It must be in quietness and in confidence; we must keep our spirits calm and sedate by a continual dependence upon God, and His power and goodness; we must retire into ourselves with a holy quietness, suppressing all turbulent and tumultuous passions, and keeping the peace in our own minds. And we must rely upon God with a holy confidence that He can do what He will and will do what is best for His people. And this will be our strength; it will inspire us with such a holy fortitude as will carry us with ease and courage through all the difficulties we may meet with.
But you said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall you flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall you flee: till you be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him (30:16-18).
The people decided, they said no way are we going to follow God. They thought that they could run away, so don’t people today. Lots of people think that they can run away and leave their troubles behind them, start over with a blank slate someplace else. It doesn’t work out that way since we drag baggage along with us where ever we go.
These people thought that to sit still was certain death, so they fled from the Assyrians. The conquerors protected those that sat still, but pursued those that made their escape; and so that very plan by which they hoped to save themselves was justly their ruin and the most guilty suffered most.
Verse 18 is a clarion call to every believer today. The Lord will wait so that He may have mercy upon each of us, He desires to wait patiently so that we will have time to repent and return to Him. Be not mistaken into believing that Christ will not judge you, He is a God of judgment and has always been that. We ought not to be in a hurry. We ought not to try to rush God into doing anything. God says, “Let Me work this out. I have not given you any dates.” We must learn to wait upon Christ and not become impatient and try to solve things ourselves. The northern kingdom refused to wait upon God and be saved so they paid the price of captivity. This matter of looking for Christ Jesus to come to take His own out of the world is a matter of waiting. And we are told that they who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. We cannot rush God. Maybe things are not working out the way we think they should; maybe we would like to rearrange them, but we need to let God work them out. When we get in step with God’s plan life is much easier for us down here on planet earth.
That is all for today, beloved. Let all of us practice waiting patiently upon Christ for all of our needs. We cannot push Him out of our decision making and expect good results. Begin the day asking Him to keep Satan out of our minds’ and end the day thankful for doing so. May Christ bless you and your loved ones, may He become your horn of plenty, of abundance.
Wed, Jul 1st - 10:06AM
I wish to begin a series of posts that deals with discipleship. It is important for Christ told the apostles to educate those that become born again in what they need to know about God and how to live their lives. So that is my desire with this series, to help point people into those passages of the Bible that they need to study for themselves, and provide some answers along the way.
We need a jumping off point, and this point is John 1:35-51. This passage speaks of the disciples and of how they were called from out of the people all around them. What does discipleship actually mean, what does it involve, and how does it get carried out? We need to clarify what is meant by being called a "disciple." It would seem from our reference scripture that it involves consecration, or a setting apart for a holy purpose, at the beginning. So, one begins as a believer, set apart by God for His purpose, but it does not end there. For no one is able to reproduce disciples if they are not themselves disciples of Christ. As God painstakingly points out to us in the Bible, like produces like, committed people produce committed people, and thus disciples breed disciples. The goal of this series of posts will be to create thoughts in each of us which shall lead to deeper commitment to Christ Jesus.
Basics of Christianity
What are the four basic foundational facts related to Christian faith?
a. Its Founder---The living, resurrected Christ Jesus.
b. His Purpose---To change individuals and to bring repentance within their hearts.
c. His Method---Salvation. No external change here, but an act of divine redemption made possible through the shed blood of Christ upon the cross. This affects every area of a person's life.
d. His Means---Discipleship. God uses committed, consecrated, dedicated Christians to carry out His plan: develop committed practioners of the faith.
Basics of Discipleship
In Luke 9:23 we find a general outline and some specific details. Our model becomes Christ's relationship to His group of twelve men that He called out from the rest of the world.
General Observations Made
In Luke 9:18 we find the words of Christ. These words were directed toward those following Him everywhere. Christ pointedly referred to "all" and "anyone" to remove any confusion on this matter. These words did not pertain to salvation as all were believers. Christ was asking them for a decision, a personal decision, as to what their desire was. Christ spoke to them concerning following after Him. Christ also identified the basics of discipleship.
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
1. Deny himself/herself. Here is a decision being made at the deepest levels of one's will. This term means "to say 'no' to something," and sometimes "to refuse someone." This is the word used to describe what Peter did to Christ in John 13:38. But this is a small part of the total meaning of the word. In the bigger sense it means "in every moment of life to say 'no' to myself and 'yes' to Christ; it means to dethrone self and enthrone Christ." Constant self-denial must be the life of constant assent to God. It means that we must give in and submit to Christ daily.
I will stop right there for today, beloved. Ponder these words, seek to apply them to your life today just as I am striving to do the same. May Christ bless you abundantly in all that you ask of Him.
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