Saturday, November 30, 2013

No Success Without Wisdom!

If the iron is blunt, and he does not sharpen the edge, then must he use more strength: but wisdom helps one to succeed. (Ecclesiastes 10:10) 

I don't know of a hotter subject today than success. Magazine articles, books, seminars, and sermons promote it. But success is seldom linked with wisdom. Chances are good that if we would pick up last Sunday's paper and read it through, we'd come across twenty or more references to success, yet find nothing added regarding wisdom. In today's hype about success, wisdom is conspicuous by its absence. Outside of biblical literature and biblically based books, we hardly even come across the word...

[Wisdom] may not give us great popularity and wealth and it may not mean that we will be the most respected in our field or that we will have the most significant voice in the company, but ultimately, as God gauges it, we will be successful.

                                                                 Living on the Ragged Edge 

My dear friends. This short devotional is an amazing revelation! What this devotional reveals to me and I hope and pray reveals to you that it is one thing to experience worldly success and it is an entirely different matter to experience success while apply godly wisdom. A specific verse comes to mind when I think about success of any kind without God's wisdom, guidance, and intervention. 

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own life? (Mark 8:36) 

The pursuit of success is a noble endeavor because many of us have the earnest desire (as Christians) to be a blessing to those that we end up collaborating with. The gravest danger in the pursuit of success is the strong likelihood that some of our essential relationships, values, and principles will be taken for granted and eventually forsaken. 

I want you (the reader) to think long and hard about the following question:

Once you have come to the realization that worldly success without godly wisdom will corrupt you and potentially negatively impact everything and everyone that is essential to you and your daily living, what will YOU do differently? 

Thank you so much for reading this far friends! May God continue to bless you and keep you as you join me in this amazing journey on the path of GODLY WISDOM. JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!!!...:-).

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wisdom For The Way - Wise Words For Busy People!

Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. 27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove your foot from evil. (Prov. 4:26-27) 

We have not even begun to live if we lack the wisdom God wants to give to us. That wisdom is ours, simply for the asking, and it brings us into a whole new and exciting world! Like birth, it will take time and it may be a painful process. But when it comes, you'll be amazed how clearly things will come into focus. You'll begin to feel like a new creature. No wonder Jesus referred to it as being "born again." 

When we operate in the sphere of the wisdom of God, when it is at work in our minds and in our lives, we look at life through lenses of perception, and we respond to it in calm confidence. There's a remarkable absence of fear. We are not seized with panic. We can either lose our jobs or we can be promoted in our work, and neither will derail us. Why? Because we see it with God-given objectivity. And we handle it in His wisdom. 

We can dip into an unexpected valley or we can soar to the pinnacle of prosperity, and we can cope with both extremes. His wisdom provides us the necessary objectivity and stability. This is not some dreamland fantasy. It is reality. It is the ability to live above the drag of human opinion and horizontal  perspective. It is what happens within us when wisdom goes to work. 

The wisdom of God gives us balance, strength, and insight. None of these is a natural trait, each is a by-product of wisdom. We don't get these things just because were human beings. They must come from God.

But the more we glean God's wisdom, the more strength we gain to live with questions and tension. He doesn't issue rules and regulations for every moment. He provides some overall guidelines and principles, then He allows us to make the decisions. Why? By doing this the wisdom of God goes to work, and we begin to learn how to walk through life---which is often full of subtle and unseen "land mines." His wisdom provides the sixth sense we need. It matures us so that we can press on in spite of the unanswered questions. 

The good news is that such wisdom is ours to claim through an intimate relationship with God's Son, Jesus. He is the channel through which wisdom comes to us. In coming by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given open access to the wisdom of God. With the Son of God comes the wisdom of God. It's all part of the package.

                                                                         Charles R. Swindoll

My dear friends, in the days, weeks, and months to come, we are going to talk a long walk on the trail of God's wisdom. I have had tons of prayer requests via email. One of the most prominent requests is in the area of wisdom. Without God's wisdom, we would be hopelessly lost. Humanistic philosophies have served as guide to many people, Christian and non-Christian alike. My hope and prayer from this very lengthy series is that your perspective on not only seeking God's wisdom, but abiding in God's in His wisdom will be forever changed in your life and in the lives of those that God has placed around you.

Because of the volume of posts involved in this series on wisdom, many, if not all the posts in this series will be dramatically shorter with a short personal thought at the end of each post. Thanks again for reading this far friends! May God continue to bless you and keep you in your journey to find God's wisdom in your journey! JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!!!...:-).  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - Living Purposefully (Afterward)!

See then that you walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)

Living Purposefully 

Writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul said: "Live purposefully and worthily and accurately...making the very most of the time---buying up each opportunity---because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:15-16). The admonition is no less appropriate for us, especially in view of the commission of Christ to disciple the nations. 

Our Lord's command is a summons to live with the same sense of purpose that directed His steps. He has given us in His lifestyle a personal example of what the mandate involves, while the Acts of the Apostles relates that pattern in His church. Though the principles must be clothed with relevant applications in our contemporary situation, they offer us some guidelines to follow. If they are true, then we are obligated to implement them. When we move from ideas to action, the rubber meets the road. 

Finding ways to put the concepts into practice, however, will not be easy. Christians, like other people, tend to get into ruts that meander with the path of least resistance. The exacting work of making disciples may require not only renewed dedication, but also a reorientation of our philosophy of ministry; and some persons, content with the status quo, will not understand, saying that they have never done it this way before. Change will come slowly and not without struggle. Spiritual formation in the church is much like raising a family. Bringing children to maturity takes a lot of patience on the part of the parents, as well as some good plans for training. Not everything believed beneficial will work. There is one thing about it though: If we take stock of our failures, there is no end to what we learn. The determined leader will not be denied ultimate success.

Receive the Power 

The Holy Spirit puts it all together. What God administers as the Father and reveals as the Son, He accomplishes as the Third Member of the Trinity. So the mission of Christ through His church becomes the acts of the Spirit. He lifts up the Word, and as Jesus is glorified, men and women are drawn unto the Father. Here is the secret of the Great Commission. It is finally God's work, not ours. We are merely the channel through which the Spirit of Christ makes disciples.

He it is who gives the vision of the Kingdom and enables us to project plans to reach our world with the Gospel. The Spirit draws out disciples, planting in their hearts to learn; our part is to respond to His initiative. He forms the body of believers, giving unity and love to the fellowship. The indwelling Counselor calls the church to ministry and dispenses gifts for service. Through His strength faith comes alive in obedience, and by His impartation of grace, we are conformed to the character of our Lord.

Everything, then, depends upon the Spirit's possession of the sent ones, the church. Just as those first disciples were told to tarry until they received the promised power, so must we. The spiritual endowment of Pentecost, by whatever name it is called,  must be a reality in our lives, not as a distant memory, but as a present experience of the reigning Christ. Hindrances that obstruct His dominion need to be confessed, and our hearts need to be cleansed so that the Spirit of holiness can fill us with the love of God. Though we can never contain Him, He wants all of us---to love Him and adore Him with all that we are and all that we hope to be. This is the challenge before the church of the Great Commission. How we respond will largely determine the impact of our witness upon eternity. While the ultimate dimensions of the coming Kingdom are not yet visible, we know that when the Son of Man appears, then we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, and every knee shall bow before Him and every tongue declare to the glory of the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The Power To Become!

But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) 

Enabling Power 

Jesus knew that His work on earth could never be done by human striving, however determined the effort. Power to be His witnesses could only come through the Spirit of God (1:8). So before He left the disciples, He told them to wait for "the promise of the Father," for they would "be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (1:4-5). In fact, they were instructed not to leave Jerusalem until they had received this promised heavenly endowment (Luke 24:49). Anticipating the outpouring, even as He authorized their mission, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). 

Clearly the power for witnessing was not in themselves, but in the Eternal Spirit, the enabling Agent of the Kingdom, communicating and effecting the will of God. By His creative power the worlds were made and the stars hung in place (Gen. 1:2). The Spirit fashioned man in the divine image, then breathed upon him, and he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7; Job 33:4). When the creature turned to his own way, it was this same Spirit who sought to bring the rebel back and effect reconciliation with God. All through the Old Testament He can be seen at work with chosen people, at special times and places, making a nation to be His witness in a fallen world (Isa. 43:10; 44:8; 49:6). Though the Spirit's power only rested upon a few people in the unfolding drama of salvation, a day was envisioned when He would come upon One in absolute and permanent majesty (Isa. 11:1-2; 32:18), and through that One the Kingdom age would dawn and the mighty power of the Most High would be poured forth upon all flesh (Isa. 32:15; cf. Joel 2:28-32). 

In the fullness of time the creating Person of the Trinity planted the seed of the Father in the womb of the virgin, so that she conceived and gave birth to the only begotten Son of God (Matt. 1:18, 20; Lk. 1:35). Thereafter, the Spirit directed Jesus during the days of His incarnate life (Lk. 4:1, 14). Everything He said and did was in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. He anointed Him to preach and to heal (10:38; Lk. 4:18-19). He empowered Him to cast out demons (Matt. 12:28). He sustained Him in suffering. At last, He brought the Son to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (Heb. 9:14); then, in death-rending triumph, He raised Him from the grave (Rom. 8:11). Make no mistake, God's work, whatever the form, is accomplished only through the Holy Spirit.

Application Today 

Living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit is as much the privilege of Christians today as it was of those first disciples. Nothing about the "power from on high" is restricted to the apostolic church. "For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off" (2:39).

The guarantee is the power to become what God has called us to be. It is not a doctrine to cherish, but a reality to experience. To the degree that we take His Word to heart and make Christ Lord of our lives, we can expect to do His work. Here is where the issue rests. For the Spirit will use any life that is surrendered to the Savior. It remains for us only to remove every known barrier in His way and by faith receive the promise. Though our vessel be small, still He will fill to capacity what we offer Him. 

Better still, we can experience increasingly more of His holiness as we grow in understanding of Christ and ourselves. There is always more beyond. The freshness of His Presence is new every morning. Special anointings will be needed as work demands require greater sensitivity and strength. Yet we can be confident that, however difficult the task to which we are called, the Spirit is ever present to help, and His grace is all-sufficient.

In time we transmit what we are to those about us. The closer the association, the more powerful our witness becomes in shaping the lives of others, either for good or ill. What a staggering responsibility! Whether or not we like it, the very fact that we live in such a society calls us to a life of sainthood. Any compromise in our dedication to Christ invariably has adverse repercussions upon others. By the same criterion, we have in our fellowship the awesome opportunity to give an exemplary testimony to the transforming power of the Gospel.

Persons near us will come to know our failings and weaknesses, of course. But let them also see the readiness with which confession is made when we become aware of our sin. From the brokenness of heart occasioned by the knowledge of dishonoring God and the sincerity with which we seek to make amends for the error of our ways, observing people will learn that Christ-likeness is the supreme quest of our life. The fact that all of us come woefully short of the perfection of our Lord need be no refutation of our witness, if there is a transparent commitment to walk as best we can in the steps of Jesus.

We can lead even in our weakness when it is clear that a pure motive governs our actions and that, despite our shortcomings, we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and that we love neighbor as ourselves. In this devotion everything written in the law and the prophets finds fulfillment (Matt. 22:37-40). This is holiness as can be experienced by every child of grace. It is the bond by which the whole church can live in perfect harmony (Col. 3:14). 

How desperately the world needs this demonstration today---the undaunted witness of holy love in the lifestyle of men and women filled with the Spirit of Christ. To this character other qualities can be added, but without it everything else lacks the ring of truth. God is making a people in His own image, a kingdom of priests who will serve Him forever. Those who have entered this reign participate in His program to make disciples of all nations. He is our Way. He is our Truth. He is our Life. In the measure that we partake of His Spirit we shall fulfill His destiny for the church.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The Discipline To Keep!

And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7) 

Living Faith 

Pagan religions of the ancient world usually separated belief and conduct in a fashion unknown to first-century Christianity. The priests and priestesses of the ancient idols did not insist on a change of behavior; rather devotees of the pagan religions could live much as they pleased.

In contrast, coming to Christ in the early church constituted an engagement of one's total personality and lifestyle. Those who believed were persons "obedient to the faith" (6:7). God gave His spiritual powers "to them that obey him" (5:32; cf. 5:36-37). Clearly faith involved far more than an intellectual assent to the historical validity of Christ's work; as Jesus has said, it was a commitment to follow Him---to walk in His steps (10:43; 13:12, 39, 48; 15:11; 17:12; 28:24). Appropriately, then, Christianity came to be described as "the Way" (9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; cf. 16:17; 18:25). 

Followers of this Way were called disciples. They were recognized by their devotion to the Master, evidenced by obedience to His precept and example. That is why they were ever growing in grace and knowledge. Disciples  are teachable because they want to learn. It is no accident that believers in the Book of Acts, as well as the Gospels, are often identified by this term. Of course, they also came to be called Christians (11:26), which was not strange, since persons inevitably take on the character of the One they follow. 

Facilitating the learning process was discipline, a quality inherent in discipleship. In fact, both words are derived from the same root. Sincere disciples of Christ accept His rules of conduct, as in a school, bringing every thought into obedience to their Master. Apart from this subjection of mind and body, there would be little development in Christian character. 

Application Today 

We dare not obscure the altar of sacrifice, where consecration to God is complete. If we try to circumvent the cross, we assure our own ultimate defeat, for we cut the nerve of obedience and kill the lifestyle of the Great Commission. No one will take seriously the command to make disciples who has not taken up the cross.

Strangely, today we hear little about self-denial and suffering in all the talk about church growth. Is this because most of what has been said to date has come out of the Western world, where affluence abounds and church affiliation is a mark of social acceptance, if not good politics? Unwittingly, I am afraid, Christian discipleship has often been squeezed into this world's mold, so that prosperity and success are more cherished than radical obedience. But it will not stand the test of time. When the standards of church membership are set by popular demand, eventually the church becomes so much like the world that there is no reason for the world to change. The very effort of the church to appease fleshly expectations makes her unattractive. 

Already this may be happening. The church as a whole in North America is barely keeping pace with the increase in population. In Western Europe there is a steady decline. To see significant growth, more likely than not we will need to go beyond the easygoing, self-indulgent religious life of the West. It is the church living under oppression and poverty, usually in underdeveloped countries of the world, where the most thrilling growth is happening today. I am not suggesting that all of these non-Western lands have vibrant churches, any more than that all congregations in the West lack vitality, but a general pattern can be observed. It is interesting, too, that for the most part, the people in these growing segments of the Third World Christian community have had little, if any, opportunity to receive extensive formal training or even attend a church-growth seminar. Obviously, sophisticated theological education, with all its assumed expertise in churchmanship, does not produce the lifestyle of Jesus.

Have the opulence and freedoms of the Western world, though wrought with great potential for good, lulled a complacent church into mediocrity? If that is the case, any circumstance that removes these artificial supports from us should be seen as an act of mercy. Our Lord is more interested in developing  our character than in preserving our comfort. Whatever it takes, we must get back to basic Christianity, align our wills with the way God has set for us, and move out to disciple the nations. In many instances, church membership standards must be raised, reflecting higher expectations of commitment and disciplined living. The congregation may be slow to understand, but those in positions of authority can lead the way for others to follow and show by their example what it means to be true witnesses of Christ. 

Yet obedience alone can become brittle and weary in well-doing. There must be an inner dynamic motivating and empowering life with love, an actual partaking of the divine nature. To bring this truth into focus, one final principle must be stressed, apart from which everything else written thus far would be sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The Ministry To Give!

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20) 

A Ministering Community 

The first-century church body existed for ministry. Every member of the community shared the servant role of their Lord and, in the way He appointed, continued His mission on earth. As Paul expressed it, they were ambassadors of Christ, ministering in His stead (2 Cor. 5:20). 

In the sense of being sent into the world on a mission, all believers became successors to the apostles or "sent ones." This does not depreciate the special apostolic gift; it merely underscores a basic Christian obligation to perpetuate the apostolic witness (2:42). The early church recognized their inherent responsibility and accepted it with gladness. That some in the fellowship might be excused from service does not even occur as an option. All saw themselves as workers together with Christ in reconciling the world to God. It was the mobilization of this growing force of laborers that made the apostolic community so mighty in outreach. 

Application Today 

A church that brings this sense of mission into the everyday life of her people will change the world for good, for more and more redeemed sinners will live by the values of the world to come. Merely restructuring social programs without changing the perverted lifestyle of persons who participate in them does not produce righteousness or give people real peace and joy. The ultimate need of a lost society cannot be met apart from supernatural grace and the discipling of men and women in the narrow way of Christ. 

At this most basic level of human need the fellowship of believers share a common ministry. Everyone according to his or her gifts has a part in changing the course of history. Those in institutional leadership positions may have more influence in setting policy, but no more authority in making disciples. The Great Commission is a personal matter. How the programs of the church prepare members for this servanthood is the measure of their relevance. Meetings, committees, crusades, retreats, training sessions, parties, schools, service projects---everything must contribute to the mission for which we are sent into the world or it is an exercise in futility. 

If this criterion were applied to our present religious activity, I wonder how much of it would be worth the effort. Somewhere in our rush of services, I am afraid that we have substituted institutional programs for our own priesthood. Pomp and ceremony all too often have stifled creativity and individual expression. Tradition has taken precedence over the guidelines of Scripture. We must get back to the apostolic norm of ministry and mobilize the whole body of Christ for action. 

This is how the Gospel of the Kingdom will reach the ends of the earth. But the work will not be completed without personal sacrifices. To appreciate what this means, it is necessary to understand another vital principle in the life of the victorious church. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The People To Win!

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. (Acts 4:26) 

Earth's Misfits 

Apostolic Christians had no illusions about the task at hand. They knew the rulers of the earth "were gathered together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed" (4:26; cf. 13:27). Everywhere there were "despisers" of Christ (13:41), persons "filled with jealousy" and hatred (13:45), who scorned the things of God. It was indeed a "crooked generation," insatiated with perversion and immorality (2:40), and "evil affected against the brethren" (14:2).

In such a society, not surprisingly, the church was hard pressed. The Romans, though generally tolerant of religious beliefs, looked upon the Christians as a deviant, antisocial cult. Persons who confessed Jesus as Lord would not bow down to pagan gods or take part in the customary imperial worship, which caused them to be commonly branded as atheistic and unpatriotic. Strangely, too, the loving relationships developed among the Christians, together with their secret observance of the Eucharist, led the rabble to charge them with lust and even cannibalism. We may wonder how slanderous accusations could be sustained, but then misguided persons who feel threatened seldom bother to look for facts to correct embittered notions. Making the Christian lifestyle even more challenging was their austere ethic of purity, which stood in judgment upon the immorality of their day. Believers, for example, would not attend the popular gladiatorial games, or take part in the trade-guild feasts, which included the practice of temple prostitution. Such puritans easily were misfits in the sensate culture about them. 

What invoked more consternation was the message proclaimed by the disciples. They claimed that a man crucified as a convicted criminal was none other than the eternal God, Creator, and Ruler of the universe. Could anything be more preposterous? Having died for the world, they claimed that He came from the dead and ascended to reign at the throne of heaven, from which He will return to judge the nations. As if this was not enough, these followers of the lowly Nazarene dared to call upright citizens to repentance and faith in their Lord, a mandate that they said must be applied to every class of people on earth. To the idealistic Greeks, no less than to the power-oriented Romans, this message seemed utterly ridiculous. How could learned and sophisticated worldlings show anything but disdain for the Gospel? 

Application Today 

Here is the opportunity we have every day for fulfilling the Great Commission. When we pray for God to raise up laborers, we can believe that He will answer. We must look for them. Likely they will be among those persons who feel comfortable with us, perhaps coming from the same background, with similar interests and traits. Affinities in personality and temperament may also be apparent. In some instances, however, there may be no natural ties, and we will have to create an environment of trust. Almost any barrier can be overcome as long as one has a teachable spirit.  

This places a special responsibility upon encouraging the spiritual inclinations of our families and friends, as well as those with whom we regularly meet. In a very real sense, we should accept these natural relationships as providentially arranged by God.

In terms of the church outreach, it behooves us to understand the spiritual aspirations of the community. Where do people sense their need of help, including the hunger of the soul for God? Groups that are found more open to the Gospel should receive priority attention. We must not only locate these people, but build bridges of understanding and love with them. The same pertains to the missionary thrust on a global scale.

Even in penetrating unreached peoples the principle applies. Ministry to the larger community will disclose those sensitive to the message of Christ. These persons then can receive more cultivation and teaching, until they embrace the Gospel and become the evangelizers of their people group. Usually it is not the foreign missionary who wins the multitudes of a newly reached tribe. Rather the great harvest is reaped by those persons within the culture having natural identity with the people. 

The strategy of evangelizing in any situation hinges upon men and women who will lead their followers to Christ. This places a premium upon reaching persons already with an evident following. However, if such persons are not within our present circle of influence, then let us begin where we are and develop the potential leadership of those few learners God has opened to our instruction. One does not have to be a superstar to impact the world for God. Anyone willing to follow Christ can become an effective leader of others. 

But how do these budding disciplers learn the way of the Messiah? Where will they get proper training? To answer this question, we need to focus on another principle in the apostolic church.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The Fellowship To Cherish!

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28) 

Body Life 

In the Book of Acts, those who responded to the Gospel invitation were brought immediately into association with other persons of like faith. This fellowship of kindred spirits constituted "the church of the Lord" (20:28), those called out from the world to follow Christ.

This fellowship of kindred spirits became the primary means by which disciples were trained. Just as Jesus had lived closely with His followers, so now the gathered community of believers formed an ongoing communion with His Spirit.

In a visible, present sense, the church filled the role of Christ's body in the world (1 Cor. 12:27). Christ was the head (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18; 2:19), with the redeemed functioning as vital members of the body and thereby "severally members one of another" (Rom. 12:5; cf. 12:4; 1 Cor. 12:20). Not all the believers had the same office (Rom. 12:4), but "according to the grace that was given" (Rom. 12:6), all served in some useful way the work of the body (Eph. 4:11-12). Within this ministering fellowship, as followers of their Lord, they helped one another grow and mature in "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).

It was like a loving family. God was their Father (Rom.4:11; Gal. 3:26), and as His sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 3:26), they shared equally the inheritance of Christ (Rom. 8:17). Quite appropriately, then, members addressed one another as "brother" and refer to themselves as "brethren." Such love among themselves, a quality derived from their Lord, became the seal of their witness to the world. Christ had said: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). 

Application Today 

The implications of this upon the life of the church today dare not be missed. In our stress upon carefully ordered public services and organized campaigns, we may overlook the basic apostolic ingredient of fellowship. Times have become more complex with the passing centuries, surely, but the principle of association never changes. 

However structured, we must relate closely with one another. There are ways this can be encouraged in the regular worship services, even in formal, sacramental settings. Auxiliary meetings offer other opportunities for fellowship, especially in small-group gatherings. In this connection the Sunday School provides many options. Emphasis must be given to the home and family in the program. Through it all, personal relationships need continual cultivation in the ongoing discipling process. 

This is crucial in helping new believers get established. In their first steps of faith, they are particularly vulnerable to doubts and temptations and need someone with them to give counsel. How fortunate when this person can be a more mature Christian with whom they already have some identity. That the church has often neglected such guardian care explains why so many converts fall away or at least never seem to grow in the likeness of their Lord. 

Maturing in Christ takes time. There is no way that children can be raised in a hurry. To try to get it over quickly can only lead to frustration. The hectic way that churches have tried to force this into a few weeks of confirmation classes, if they had done it all, is entirely inadequate. Disciples must have devoted Christian friends to follow, and this can only be facilitated by being together over a period of time.

This establishes the foundation for dynamic learning. But it must not be isolated from a caring ministry to the world. To bring this aspect of the Great Commission into focus, we must study another principle of discipleship.    

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The Vision To Fulfill!

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9) 

An Upward Look 

As the Book of Acts opens, Christ's disciples are looking upward, watching intently as the Lord ascends into heaven. Then "a cloud received him out of their sight" (1:9).

In the Bible a cloud often suggests an enveloping glory of the divine Presence. At the time of Moses a cloud hovered over the Tabernacle, signifying God's presence, and during the ministry of Christ on earth, a cloud overshadowed Him on the Mount of Transfiguration.

The cloud also had a prophetic impact. When Jesus described His glorious return to His disciples, He told them that they would see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven.

What a fitting way to begin the Acts of the Apostles. As the men still looked up, two white-clothed angels stood by them and said: "This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going to heaven" (1:11). That announcement reaffirms the promise of the final triumph of the church at the end of the age, when the Kingdom of God shall come in all its glory, and every knee shall bow before Christ and every tongue confess that He is Lord (cf. Phil. 2:10).

Successors to the apostles always lived with this upward look. The church militant can never be separated from her destiny in the plan of God. What we may view as failures or successes in the work are only sequences in the sovereign will of Him who has determined the end from the beginning (cf. 2:23, 4:28). The past and future are eternally present in His mind. To comprehend the scope of evangelism, then, we must focus on the fulfillment of the Great Commission, a reality already celebrated in heaven around the throne of God (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). 

Here, in the councils of eternity, we get perspective  on earth's priorities: The movement of history reaches its conclusion; the pieces of the puzzle fit together. At the feet of Jesus, permanence dispels the passing contingencies of time, and we know even as we are known. Though now we only see vaguely the outline of that Kingdom, we know that it is certain and that someday Jesus Christ shall reign, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 11:15; 17:14; 19:6).

Application Today 

Time change, of course. Nothing in our society is ever stationary. But the command to reach the world for Christ remains the same. The Book of Acts makes clear that bringing the Gospel to every creature is God's program, and it can be accomplished.

World evangelization, considered in its full spiritual dimension, complements vital Christianity. Indeed, it is part of the Kingdom vision. Here is a divinely ordered goal for every Christian. Not only is it attainable; it is inevitable. Whether or not we believe it, someday the Gospel of the Kingdom will be heard to the ends of the earth (Matt. 24:14). The God of the universe will not be defeated in His purpose. Any activity not in step with His design for human destiny is an exercise in futility. The sooner we realize this and align our way with His, the sooner we will be relevant to eternity.

How critically the church needs the Kingdom vision----a vision born of the Word of God and the reality of His will for humankind. Too easily we have settled for less, letting the world set our agenda, while the priorities of heaven are ignored. All the while the aimless multitudes drift ever nearer to destruction, without a song to sing or a cause to espouse.

In this light, is it not appropriate to ask ourselves, "What is God's aspiration for our lives?" Only after we have determined where our Lord wants us to go can we make plans to get there. 

The issue turns on our view of God and His Gospel to the world. If we are assured that the King of Glory, having taken our sins away and shattered death in conquest of the grave, will save unto the uttermost all who come to Him, then we cannot sit idly by while men and women perish without hope. We dare not show unconcern for the world God loves and for which He gave His beloved. The good news of salvation must be heralded to the ends of the earth. Jesus is Lord! He reigns on high and is coming again in majesty and power. Just the thought makes the heart almost miss a beat in wonder! We may not amount to much, but we have a great Savior, and His Kingdom is forever. 

Here is where we begin. How this vision will be realized, however, brings us to consideration of another principle in the unfolding drama of redemption.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - Intro!

And he said unto them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mk. 16:15) 

The Great Commission 

Discipling men and women is the priority around which our lives should be oriented. 

Why do we say this? Because Jesus Christ Himself said it in His final words before His Ascension into heaven.

Matthew's account sums it up: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you..." (Matt. 28:19,20). Significantly, in the original text, "go," "baptizing," and "teaching" are participles. This means that these responsibilities derive their direction from the leading verb, "make disciples," or as it might be translated, "make learners of Christ."

It shouldn't seem strange that our Lord would place such a high priority on discipling. After all, Jesus was simply asking His followers to do what He had done with them. That is why they could understand it. As they had freely received, now they were to transmit what they had learned to other seekers of truth. The mandate was the articulation of the rule by which Christ had directed His ministry. Through slow, and not accomplished without great sacrifice, He knew His way would succeed. For as individuals learn of Him and follow the pattern of His life, they will invariably become disciplers, and as their disciples in turn do the same, someday through multiplication the world will come to know Him whom to know aright is life everlasting. 

A Personal Yearning 

At the outset, let me state that I do not have all the answers. At best I only see through the glass darkly, as doubtless many of my readers will heartily agree. Many questions remain unresolved unresolved in my mind. But I believe that in His Word God has given us sufficient revelation to move forward. The Bible makes no mistakes. What I fail to understand in its inerrant message does not concern me nearly as much as what I do understand.

The more I have probed the dynamic of those first-century disciples, the more I am made aware of my own impotency. It is like comparing a river at flood stage with a trickling creek. The contrast leaves me convicted. J.B. Phillips, introducing his translation of Acts, expressed the feeling when he said "to turn from the vitality of these pages to almost any other current Christian writing, be it a theological book or a church periodical, is to bring tears to Christian eyes."

Yet how invigorating is the change of outlook! Getting into the Book of Acts is like opening a window in a stuffy room. The wind of the Spirit blows through it. Here is reality. Feeling its emerging freshness, we should neither try to excuse our spiritual ineptness, nor relegate it's vitality to a bygone era. The apostolic church, not the prevailing mediocrity of our religious community, sets the norm. Where we perceive our shortcomings, in all honesty, we should seek to bring our lives into conformity with the New Testament standard.

Thank you so much for reading this far friends! This is only part one of what will eventually be an eight part series. My hope and prayer is that everyone that takes the time to read through this series will also take the time to help me spread the word out to everyone that you know who will benefit from this series and any of the other posts that have been written before this one. May God continue to bless you and keep you in Jesus' mighty name friends and always remember that JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!!!...:-)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Sword Of The Spirit!

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Eph. 6:17) 

There's no doubt that the Word of God is the most important tool in our arsenal in our defense of the Gospel. In my previous post, I pointed out that it's important that we well armed as Satan attempts to destroy us both spiritually and physically. In this post, I want to place an emphasis on the controversy of the most popular bible translation to date, the NIV.

The NIV among many other modern translations have literally taken over our churches powerpoint screens on every single Sunday. There are very few churches out there that have stuck with the original KJV for their illustrations. As convenient as it is for pastors to use the NIV or any of the other post-modern translations due to the ease of language and being able to understand the bible dramatically easier, there are still many holes in that translation and a serious cause for concern in regards to how defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God in general. 

The controversy behind the NIV and any other post-modern bible out there is the very fact that so many words have been omitted. For example, the NIV is missing over 64,000 words. You read that correctly friends, 64,000 WORDS. This brings up a very valid question. Isn't there a portion in scripture that points out that we shall not add nor subtract from God's Word? I'm an avid book reader. If I were to go ahead and grab a book that was written by someone else and go through with violating the copyright laws by re-writing the contents of the book by subtracting and adding on to what the original had intended to relay to his or her audience, I can only imagine the outrage that would result from that author's family, friends, and anyone else that is a faithful follower of that person's writings.

My friends, that is exactly what has been done with God's Word. Upon doing some research, Jesus' name has been omitted from the NIV over 75 times. An omission of Jesus' name has also been made in the NKJV
only one time. If you were to be a soldier in the medieval times when your commanding officer gave you a flawed sword, would you take it to use in battle? Of course not! You would most likely demand that you be given a more reliable sword to fight more effectively against the enemy that opposes you. The bible you use is no different. If you happen to read a bible that has either excluded or added on too many things, you will end up being vulnerable to enemy attack. This observation begs another valid question. How can you possibly remember a scripture verse or any of the prayers written in the bible if it has be altered in any way, shape, or form?

I'm just barely scratching the surface of this subject. If I were to dig very deep into this subject, many of my readers would easily forget what has been written in this post unless it's revisited. My dear friends, don't just make sure that you have a sharp sword. Make sure that it is weighted properly so that your arm doesn't fatigue too quickly. Also make sure that not too much has been either added on or taken off as well. Having an effectively working sword is the difference between spiritual life and death. Here's one last question. 

Will you give someone you know an ineffective sword? 

Thank you so much for reading this far my friends! May God continue to bless you and keep you in Jesus' mighty name! JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!!!...:-)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Armor Of God!

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6:11) 

Satan is an adversary that we can never take for granted. In order for us to be able to stand our ground and stand firm against the enemy of our souls, we must really get to know the armor that God has provided to us. So let's get started!

My dear friends! The reality of spiritual warfare is all around us. Spiritual warfare has costed millions of lives throughout human history. The spiritual warfare began in the Garden of Eden when Eve was tempted by Satan in the form of a serpent. The spiritual warfare continued throughout the rest of human history in various forms from the first martyr Stephen to global persecution of Christians all around the globe today.

Spiritual warfare has a million different faces. It can range from outright diabolical to as incredibly subtle as simply being indifferent about what is happening in the world around us. Spiritual warfare can happen in our churches, at home, even in our workplaces. It happens everywhere. Even though the reality that Satan is capable of intruding in the affairs wherever human beings interact at work and at home is definitely a concern. The most often overlooked place where spiritual warfare is most pertinent is in our churches. 

Throughout my entire childhood, I had grown up being taught that the safest place for us to be is in our churches because everyone is a Christian and truly loves the Lord and the people they fellowship with. It was not until my teenage/young adults years that I began to realize the erroneous way of thinking of so many people that obviously meant well, but were also gullible, naive, and in denial that Satan and his demons also move in the midst of a lukewarm church. The even crazier reality is that Satan only needs one church in the community that is spiritually corrupted to the core to eventually negatively impact the rest of the community.

I happen to live in Vineland,NJ. It was in Vineland,NJ that a city-wide revival broke out in the late 1800's. Thousands upon thousands of people from all over the region and potentially the country came to Vineland,NJ to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and lives transformed in Landis Park. Today, we will be lucky to be able to get a few hundred people to show up to similar events at the same park. Evidently, the mode of transportation in the late 1800's was basically horse and buggy, while most walked, and those who were wealthy enough to have a car, drove to the event. The spiritual climate of those years in contrast to the spiritual climate of today has to really sadden God in such a manner that He is consistently knocking on the hearts of those individuals who truly have a heart for evangelism and win souls for Christ in Spirit and in Truth.  

My dear friends, the corruption of biblical values and principals is not only isolated in Vineland, NJ, but in the entire world, especially those parts of the world that have all the modern conveniences that God has blessed us with today. I must admit friends, there have been numerous occasions where I have thought about falling away from the faith. There was only moment in my life when I turned my back on Christ to engage and participate in Freemasonry. God has had His hand upon me the entire time and as a result delivered me from the hands of the enemy. 

Be encouraged my friends! No matter what kind of attack you face and where you confront that attack, God is by your side and will be there for you every step of the way. Always keep in mind the importance of have your ENTIRE armor well kept and properly prepared to not only confront Satan and his minions, but to experience victory at the end of the war.   

Thank you so much for reading this far my friends! May God continue to bless you and keep you in Jesus' mighty name! JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!!!...:-)