Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why teach?

Hope you had a merry Christmas. I wish you all a happy New Year! Here's the conclusion to the making disciples series. Hope you enjoyed it.

5. Discipleship involves teaching God’s Word for the purpose of obedience out of love

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
Luke 10:27

The teaching of God’s Word was for the purpose of obedience which is to be motivated and driven by love for God. What good is sound doctrine if it is not acted out? God wanted His people (Hebrews in the Old Testament and Christians in the New Testament) to love Him with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength and love their neighbor as themselves. This guided everything Jesus did and taught. Loving God and others is at the center of what the Bible teaches. Everything hinges on this command. The principles Jesus used for making disciples focused on getting others to love God and neighbor. This love for God and neighbor led to obedience.

How do we implement this principle in our churches? A proper understanding of what the motivation behind our obedience to God should be is required. Here are several passages that could help with this.

§ Studying the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is a great starting point for understanding why God wants us to love Him with our hearts. This sermon of Jesus focuses on the heart (which is where action comes from).

§ Studying the Greek word for love (Agape) is another tool that can teach us about how God wants us to love Him. Tracing the use of this word through the Scriptures gives a great picture of how our love for God should look.

Another great way to implement this principle is by making sure our teaching in the church focuses on action and practical application. If we are just learning cognitively about God’s Word and not putting any of it into practice our faith is dead (James 2:17). The teachings and curriculums used in our churches might need to be evaluated for content and application. Do we offer ways to put into practice God’s Word? If not, we are not teaching in the way the Great Commission asks us to.

By studying Scripture to uncover principles rather than methodology we can successfully continue making disciples. The principles for disciple-making teach us there is no “cookie cutter” pattern for making disciples. God uses various ways to disciple us all. We must be careful not to make discipleship practices so dogmatic that we box ourselves in. Discipleship is not limited to the five principles I have highlighted from the Great Commission. Scripture offers many more principles to be found beyond what we have discovered in the Great Commission, but all contribute to its fulfillment.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here He comes!

The final Sunday of Advent approaches. The Psalm for this coming Sunday reads:

1-2 God claims Earth and everything in it,
God claims World and all who live on it.
He built it on Ocean foundations,
laid it out on River girders.

3-4 Who can climb Mount God?
Who can scale the holy north-face?
Only the clean-handed,
only the pure-hearted;
Men who won't cheat,
women who won't seduce.

5-6 God is at their side;
with God's help they make it.
This, Jacob, is what happens
to God-seekers, God-questers.

7 Wake up, you sleepyhead city!
Wake up, you sleepyhead people!
King-Glory is ready to enter.
8 Who is this King-Glory?
God, armed
and battle-ready.
9 Wake up, you sleepyhead city!
Wake up, you sleepyhead people!
King-Glory is ready to enter.
10 Who is this King-Glory?
he is King-Glory.
(The Message)

It’s a very appropriate Psalm for Christmas. The Psalm concludes (vv. 7-10) with Yahweh entering the Temple to be with His people. Christmas concludes with Yahweh entering a stable, taking on human flesh, to be with His people.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Relationships and why they are so important (part 14)

The next principle for making disciples from the Great Commission is...

4. Discipleship involves a growing relationship with Jesus
The fact that we are baptized into the Father, Son, and Spirit teaches us the importance of relationships. Real belief in God draws us into a relationship with the three Persons of the trinity that boggles my mind. The picture of this relationship with God is compared to family, husband and wife, and friend. These earthly relationships all require growth and commitment to stay healthy. Should our relationship with God be any different?

Jesus’ relationship with those following Him as a disciple reveals several things. Jesus wanted His disciples to:

Follow Him – When Jesus called others to discipleship He called them to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The priority of a disciple is to follow and seek after Jesus. He is God’s revelation of Himself to us. Every person follows and seeks after something. Whether it is selfish desires, material things, false gods, people, or relationships, people follow something. Jesus asks us to seek and follow after Him. We must be mindful in pointing out to others who we follow.

Learn from Him – Jesus asks us to take His yoke upon ourselves and learn from Him. Jesus was always teaching. He taught most about the kingdom of God. He taught in parables and through real life examples. He made the kingdom of God a concrete concept that could be grasped by all willing to listen. Jesus’ followers had to place themselves under His teachings. Learning requires a submissive attitude.

Obey Him – Jesus commands obedience out of love. He stated, “If you love me you will do what I command.” He was constantly asking for obedience from His followers. He made this one of the distinguishing marks of His disciples.

Love Him – Loving God drives us to obey Him. Romans 5:8 says God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We know how to love God and others because He first loved us.

Abide in Him – Abiding in Jesus means we walk with Him daily (1 John 1:7). Jesus reminds us in John 15:15 that if we abide in Him we will bear fruit, but apart from Him we can do nothing.

We cannot have a relationship with God until we repent and believe in His Son. The Scriptures make it clear that we are sinners who choose selfishly. The Jews defined a sinner as one who disregards or breaks the law. The law was what made them who they were; it gave them their identity as a nation. The law helped them understand how God expected them to live. God’s chosen people (the Jews) lived as God’s people by obedience to the law. However, the law through tradition and cold hearts, transpired into outward dos and don’ts. Because of this, the law became all about externals (e.g., what you do and don’t do), which caused a lot of people to fall into the classification of sinners. Thank goodness Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. He showed up to set things right and give all sinners hope. What was their hope? That they could have a relationship with the God of the universe. Another glorious reason to celebrate Christmas.

A cup of cheer to you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The deeds of Jesus

This coming Sunday will be the third Sunday of Advent. One of the Gospel readings for this Sunday comes to us from Matthew 11:1-10. Jesus’ cousin John has been thrown in prison. However, John is still able to hear about Jesus’ activities. John, curious about what is going on, sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him if He is the expected Messiah. N.T. Wright in his Matthew for Everyone commentary makes some interesting suggestions about why John would ask such a question.

Wright suggests:
- That John expected the Messiah to be like Elijah. More specifically, he expected Jesus to confront the powers of His day with shock and awe. If people didn’t believe or receive Him as king, they would be destroyed like the Baal worshippers in Elijah’s day when he called down fire from heaven.
- That Jesus would confront Herod and put an end to his kingship and rule. Then Jesus would take over as the true king with John close by His side.

Wright goes on to say that Jesus is one step ahead of John’s preconceived story line. John thinks Jesus should be ushering in judgment, but instead all he hears about is mercy.

What do you think?
­ Why was John so confused?
­ Did he have a right to be confused?
­ How might we, like John the Baptist, confuse the church’s mission?
­ Should Jesus’ ministry be reflected in how the church ministers?
­ How does this relate to what the church should be doing today?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Making Disciple (Part 13)

I attended the funeral of my great grandma yesterday. She was a wonderful grandma and I'm going to miss her. Christmas just won't be the same. She was a great example of how to love God and others with all your heart.

The next principle for making disciples from the Great Commission is...

3. Discipleship involves God’s people going to others

One of the first participles we encounter in the Great Commission is the verb “go”. Churches across the world have been charged by God to take His message to the world/others/sinners. How good is your church at going to the lost? There are many ways to implement this ministry in your local church. Here are several to spark your own ideas and get you thinking creatively.

§ Ministry to others – Talk to members of your church and see if they know of someone in the community who has needs that need met. For example, someone in your church may have an elderly friend in need of having their house repainted. Organize a team and go and do this. Don’t go at this half-hearted, buy the best materials and make sure the job is done properly. Work as if God is watching. Again, there are probably people just waiting to be asked to do some type of ministry like this. You may have a church full of gifted painters, carpenters, roofers, landscapers, welders, electricians, construction workers, or other types of workers willing to lend a hand to the needy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

§ Blessing ministries – This is a chance for your church to do something good to others without expecting anything in return. A youth group could pass out water at a local park to those playing basketball. Cups of hot coffee could be handed out downtown during the winter season to those traveling by foot. The blessing ministry is limited to how much money your church or people want to spend. You could offer to buy $20.00 worth of groceries to several people outside of Wal-Mart or the local grocery store. You could secretly pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant. The blessing ministry is bound only to imagination and amount of money one or the church is willing to spend.

§ Servant ministries – This is a simple ministry that asks God’s sons and daughters to serve others. Shovel snow from your neighbor’s drive. Rake leaves in the fall. Another idea is to take a group from church to someone’s house to clean it. Just make sure you have adequate supplies and servants with the right attitudes for whatever you do.

§ Prayer ministries – This ministry might be somewhat aggressive and awkward, but if we believe in the power of prayer we have nothing to fear because we know God answers. This ministry asks members of the church to go and ask people in the community if they can pray for them. It would be a good idea for members to keep track of prayers and answers to them.
Again, I believe the ministry of going to others is of primary importance. This is a part of the discipleship process we cannot neglect. The fact of the matter is, people are not coming in droves to our churches. We must go to them. Whatever we can do as a church to bring Jesus to others, in hopes of making them disciples, should be done. This may lead to some uncomfortable changes and less time in our pretty stain-glassed buildings, but the results are worth it. God has a heart for the lost and they matter to Him. The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and the prodigal son give us a glimpse into the Father’s heart. He deeply loves His creation. Every person is made in the image and likeness of God. Is this motivation enough for us to go to others?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Something to look forward to...

We now begin the second week of Advent. This week’s Old Testament scripture reading comes to us from Isaiah 11:1-10. Verses 2-5 offer a comforting picture of the coming Messiah who will take away the sins of the world. Isaiah describes Him as,

- One who lives in the Spirit (God’s Spirit resting upon Him)
- One who knows what to do in any given circumstance (wise)
- One who can show sympathy as well as empathy (understanding)
- One who can advise (counsel)
- One who can rule above all others (power)
- One who knows intimately and accurately what God the Father is like (knowledge and fear of God)
- One who looks at the heart (doesn’t judge or decide by appearance)
- One who is completely right in everything He does (righteous)
- One who sets wrongs right (justice)
- One who is committed to those He loves (faithful)

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to celebrate the birth of such a wonderful Person!