A lesson in “why discipling”

 

There was a Man who provided a service. He was very knowledgeable, very experienced and very connected. He advertised, for how else would anyone know he even existed? He advertised in the places people would look for his services. And one day he received a distressed call. Someone who needed help. Someone let down by another “expert”. Someone who was paying the cost for the expert not being the expert he said he was.

This Man went to see the person in distress. And immediately saw why there was distress. The expert was indeed no expert at all. And the person in distress was right to be distressed. This Man listened to a tale of woe he had heard many times. He advised as he had advised many times. He took photographs as he had many times. But this Man could not make the past different. He could only make the future different. And the person in distress was no longer distressed – he was now angry – the “expert” had been proved to be no expert at all – and to put right the wrong would cost more money. The Man had also heard that anger many times.

The person in ex-distress and now ex-anger thanked the Man, and then set about researching the Man’s credentials – and found them to be good everywhere he looked. The Man indeed seemed to be the expert he claimed. So the job was agreed, and the job was done. By other Men who were indeed skilled at their different jobs. Men who had a pride in doing their different jobs to a very high standard. They were indeed good Men in the image of the Man.

The end.

 

That is a true story. The firm is a real firm. The job was a real job. And the job (done second time around) was to a very high standard.

 

It struck me that “the firm” – each person – was as good as the Man (the boss): each person had a job – each person understood their own job – each person knew the jobs of others and how all the different jobs fitted together. And I learned that each was valued by the boss, and each was necessary to the boss (and each other). Each had the skills, experience, tools and right attitude to do “the job” properly. And the pride in doing a good job was not for my benefit , not for their boss – it just “was” in each.

And the boss was absent a lot of the time. And there were no calls to reassure or enquire. He simply popped in on two occasions over one week. On both occasions his visit was not to impress me, it was to talk to his crew. The entire job was done to the very high standard, to the agreed price (including some details not included in the quote (and not charged either), and to the agreed schedule. All was as promised. And those details along the way … each was agreed as it happened. And that left a great impression.

Each of the crew was entrusted with the authority to change/adapt/amend his own bit without reference to the boss. I think it was because each had the same pride in their bit, and – as importantly – of the whole. Each knew they were part of the whole – and each worked their bit to achieve the whole. That was how they did things – it was that simple for each of them.

 

And – without any of us talking about God or no-God, church or no-church … I was given a fantastic living and real lesson in why disciples and “why discipling”.

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We are already connected

Fellowship groups … bible study groups … house groups … Sunday school … groups with one thing at their core: a desire to grow.  To grow … to change … and to journey with others.  Others who will be as vulnerable and as strong as each.  Others who will allow.  Others who will hear.  Others who want to journey.

I have such a group.

I have found myself verbalising with clarity thoughts that were only a confusion before.  I have listened to words I have never heard in church or church groups.  But more than that – I know that when I speak I am being heard by more than just those I see.  For they are hearing their inner voices as they hear my words.  “Inner voices” are part of the conversation.   And as I hear my own inner voice – so their inner voices will resonate with mine – just as mine will with theirs when they speak.

If you have never experienced it, you need a group that has.  Once experienced, it is hard to live without.  Once experienced something changes for ever.

And THAT is why these “groups” (at least for me).  That, for me, is the difference between socialising, fellowship, and discipling.  Discipling (for me) is when “ego isn’t” because “inner voices are”.   A connection of God … love … inner voice … GSHJ … whatever your name and relationship for your inner voice … it is real.

Our group lives in different continents. Physically we have never met.  But my – your – “inner voice” is not bound by geography.  Spiritual connection is not geographic.  We use Skype, a screen, a camera, a microphone, and a headset or speakers (group skype works on computers or laptops – smart phones and tablets, no)

Why this post?

I keep meeting those who struggle, as I do, with “organised religion”.  Those who seek to hear the inner voices of others.  Who seek to connect.  For in that place is power. That place is the power of love.  That is the place of love.  That is the place of change.  And that, for me, is discipling: not change as I imagine or expect change – but change as I cannot imagine and never expect.

And I want to invite you to experience that for yourself.

And you are already connected – you are reading these words and we are reading yours.  And you already have a screen (and you may already have a microphone, camera, headset/speakers, as well as skype).  If you haven’t – skype is free – and the rest is not expensive – ask any teenager.  🙂

But “the kit” is functional.  The kit is “stuff” – the kit is not it.  Connecting with “inner voices” is it – and you already have yours!

So all you need to do is listen to your own inner voice.  Because yours is no different to mine.  Mine seeks connection.  Mine seeks “disciples”.  And yours seeks the same.  I know because I have heard inner voices in others connect with the inner voice in me (and if you don’t know what I mean – ask.  Please – please – ask).

If you have already such a group: spread the word.
If you want a group like this – say so wherever and however you feel guided (and then “listen” because your inner voice will speak).
And if you are scared of “cameras” and being on screen – so are a lot of others (you are not alone).
And if the thought of this makes you nervous – well done.

Connecting has risks – so be picky – be a disciple.  It is a walk of faith.  It is journeying in a place not of geography and not of physical spaces.  It is connecting without distance.

Or why not reblog this post and just tell others you want a group like this.  Or ask others to reblog your reblog and to also say they want this.  Why not all of us get “disorganised discipling” through just connecting with others who want the same.

And the very best bit of all … ?

We are ALL already connected (if we allow).

Feel free to chat – to disagree – to ask – to tell … that is what disciples do!  🙂 

Thank you.

Paul

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Back to Basics, Part 2

(ancient art, unknown artist)
(ancient art, unknown artist)

The theme of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) is Jesus’ call to righteousness. In the commentary section of the NLT Bible, it says (emphasis mine):

“Jesus uses the term for moral behavior that conforms to God’s will. Specifically, righteousness is doing the will of God as Jesus reveals it. This ‘revelation of righteousness’ unifies the entire Sermon. Jesus reveals the will of God as it contrasts with traditions. The realization of the law in Christ means that obedience to all of his commands is the only acceptable response for his disciples.”

Jesus lays out the lifestyle and character of his followers – those who do the Father’s will – through the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). By recognizing our weaknesses, by being humble, by thirsting to do God’s will, we shine a light on the nature of God. By having pure motives and being peacemakers, we carry forward the intent of Jesus.

By doing the right thing – even when no one is looking, even if we are badgered or insulted – we are faithful to the One who saved us by His grace alone. By loving all people, we do not become children of God; we show the world we are God’s children, transformed by Christ.

We must carry the commands of Jesus in our hearts, in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions, for “whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20)

Jesus spoke strongly against anger, name-calling, adultery, lying, retribution, violence, hate and judging others. He told us in order to follow him we need to turn the other cheek, forgive, and love our neighbors. He commanded us to love our enemies, pray for them and go the extra mile for them! Significantly, Jesus told us to ask, and continue asking God for help in keeping these commands because we cannot – and in fact, have a tendency not to – do it on our own.

The apostle Paul clarifies this command beautifully:

Don’t pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord.  But, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will make him feel guilty and ashamed.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21, Deuteronomy 32:35, Proverbs 25:21-22)

How can we continue to justify chaining ourselves once again to the traditional, pharisaical Old Testament Law and revert back to blood and sacrifice when the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross ended all that forever? We have embraced exclusion and wall-building, support state-sanctioned killing and national war. We have supported class- and race-based justice. How? With our votes. With our sarcasm. With our silence.

In doing so, we allow the Gospel to be kidnapped by wolves in sheep’s clothing professing to be Christian but following an entirely different and destructive “gospel.” When we ignore His true commands, we nail Jesus to the cross all over again.

We must read and deliberate long and hard on the words of Jesus. We must consider the consequences and impact on our own eternal life when we distort his words into something he never had in mind. We must remember The Son’s words came directly from The Father he served – our Father, who desires all of us to be reconciled to Himself.

(Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996, 2004, 2007, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Il., 60188)

5 Positive Things that Occur When Disciples Leave Church

©theverybesttop10.com
©theverybesttop10.com

Numerous articles are published and posted listing reasons why Christians should go to church and the lousy excuses we make for avoiding church attendance on Sundays. We all pretty much know the reasons people leave, so I won’t list them here. Pastors and others in church leaderships make lots of assumptions about what happens to us Christians when we leave church. For their benefit, and for the benefit of those of us who do, I wanted to set the record straight.

1. We have the freedom to establish our own relationship with God without having to follow a pre-established, denominational set of rules.

In solitude, we are able to develop our listening ears for His voice without the stumbling block of anyone else telling us how we’re supposed to listen. We have the freedom to step outside of rules without the construct of an organization telling us what we’re supposed to do or not do in order to have God’s unique attention. We finally have the comfort of talking with God with ease, and telling Him everything we’ve wanted to say. We can talk and listen anytime, and simply be with Him any time of the day.

2. We ask the questions we’ve always wanted to ask.

Without being rebuffed, we have the opportunity to ask stupid questions, deep questions, and questions that relate directly to our own circumstances. We are finally at liberty to bring up questions of doubt, of contradiction, or lack of understanding and have them answered fully without regard for time. We can choose our own study Bible and look through it to help us understand God’s Word, going at our own pace.

3. We find other believers across the nation or world who are exactly where we are, establish relationships with them, and grow and mature our faith with them.

As we join in exploration of our faith together, we open our hearts and minds to different ways of perceiving and receiving the heart of God. We are able to allow more of His Spirit to work in us because we allow ourselves to know Him more deeply. We see a bigger God than we ever imagined, and begin to understand the amazing ways in which He lives and works through others across the world.

4. As we increasingly know God, we increasingly show more of Him.

Our heart and mind transforms. No longer do we live in the fear of doing the wrong thing. Instead, we live in the love of our Father’s embrace. We live in the knowledge there is no more condemnation, and nothing can separate us from the love of God as we live in Christ’s Spirit. We allow the light and love of Jesus to shine through us; this is the glory of God.

5. We begin making disciples.

The more we know God, about His heart for us and about His lavish love and grace, the more we desire to share it with others. We want to make Him known to those whose only experience of God is through those who would present Him as a God of wrath and condemnation.  The more we understand the vastness of God – that He isn’t only for one country or one denomination or one people group – the more we want to shout His name and glorify and honor the immeasurable height and width and depth of Who He is.

6. (Bonus) Some of us actually return to church.

When given the opportunity, without judgment or condemnation, to spend a season outside the confines of church walls, some of us are moved by the Spirit to come back, perhaps in the hope we can make a difference in the lives of church leadership. Perhaps we return as a way to touch the lives of people in our former church. Maybe we come back because we miss group worship or Bible study. Conceivably the Spirit has sent us back to contribute in a way our gifting will benefit the church.

Either way, returning or not, I would ask you who write about those of us who leave church to open your outlook a bit and see it from a different perspective; rather than abandonment, view it as a season of growth.

Strangers?

When Jesus called the first disciple-apostles… they probably weren’t strangers.

Esther's Petition

Ancient IsraelModern Israel

When Jesus grew up, his home town was Nazareth in Galilee. Where is that, exactly? As you can see on these maps (one of Ancient Israel and the other of Modern Israel), it’s in the northern section of the country, west of the lower part of the Sea of Galilee.

Nazareth was one of those towns occupied by a mixture of people from many different places, not well thought of by the more elite. Being close to a trade route, travelers coming and going would stop here and some settled here. Some probably even intermarried into local families. Quite a lot is known about this little sort of disreputable town, home town of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

If you’re interested in learning more about the town in Jesus’ day, click on the link, http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/nazareth.html

What interested me is how close Nazareth is to everywhere else in Israel. Now, as then…

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A Letter to New Believers

©1982KatherineBrown
©1982KatherineBrown

 

Being a new believer is joyful and exciting.

And it’s confusing. And it’s sometimes difficult.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

For the very first time, you feel an immense relief. Your burden is lifted. You feel embraced by the love of the Father. You feel the total acceptance of Jesus. You are ready to let down those old barriers and give yourself completely to The One who invited you into His family. You think you can hear the Holy Spirit leading you in truth and love…but then you begin to hear other voices.

If you feel like you are surrounded by a forest of conditions and laws and rules and you need a machete to clear the way to the Father’s heart,

If you seem to hear noisy, clanging cymbals that don’t sound like love but sound like accusations – you know, accusations like:

If you don’t go to church you’re not a Christian;

If you vote that way, you’re not a Christian;

If you do yoga you’re in partnership with the devil;

You’re just a new believer so you don’t know how we do things;

Please recognize we’re all trying to do our best. And sometimes we make big mistakes.

Sometimes we treat you as a number, a filled seat in our church.

Sometimes we consider you converted and assume you believe the way we do because you attend our church.

Sometimes we attempt to indoctrinate you into our convictions because we’ve been raised into a theology or worldview from birth, certain it’s the correct and only one and passionately want to save you from incorrect beliefs.

Sometimes, we’re so busy proclaiming our own views, we alienate the very people Jesus wants us to save.

We forget to introduce you to the heart of God, to teach you to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit so you are able to hear the unique way He speaks to you.

It is a huge responsibility, to share His love, to invite and train in discipleship – a huge distinction from making converts. I think we sometimes shirk the great responsibility Jesus left to us by doing the latter, which requires no relationship, no grace, no pouring out of God’s love.

The former is a commitment, coming from the power of the Spirit; it produces fruit which lasts and reproduces itself out of His love and grace. It forms relationship and brings someone into the family of the Jesus. It’s a joining of hands and heart in the Father’s embrace.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19) This word, make disciples, mathēteusate, means to teach or to be trained as a disciple.

God’s love is radical. His grace is provocative and socially unacceptable. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those courageous enough to pick up this cross and follow Jesus.

Your Relationship with God is Sacred

What matters is your relationship with the Father, your conversation with the Holy Spirit, your willingness to receive and give away the love and grace of Jesus.

What matters is you refining your unique journey with God because He speaks to each of us the way He created us to listen. And rest assured you responded to His invitation at the exact right time for you. He alone knew when you were ready to take His hand and walk with Him. Continue to trust His love, His guidance and His embrace.

What to Read

Before you read any theological books or current books that profess to sway you one way or another; before you read a version of the Bible someone recommends but you can’t understand, get yourself an easy-to-read study Bible. One that has lots of commentary notes and a good index (concordance).

Instead of attempting to follow a 365-day Bible reading program, read the apostle John’s Gospel and in particular the words of Jesus. Highlight them if your chosen Bible doesn’t print them in red. Also read John’s first letter (1 John), his sermon on the Gospel of love. Read it slowly, like dessert.

After that, read the other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke)along with their introductions, again paying particular attention to the words of Jesus. They write about many of the same events but from their own perspective.

Don’t be afraid to make notes in the margins or underline certain passage. Write question marks, and begin to look at the Scripture references in the inside margins. They refer to other places in your Bible where the same things are being said.

When you’ve finished, you should have a pretty clear idea of what Jesus considered important.

After that, take a look at this list of resources, then ask trusted friends for one or two books to read.

Above all, don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your own connection to God.

Talk with Him every day. And be sure to take time to listen.

He made you His beloved child for a reason.