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Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. Proverbs 22:6
leaderI’d known him for years yet we rarely got below the surface on life itself. Normally I just thought of him as being an angry old man willing to explode at any moment. When Jack (not his real name) was around it was always best to walk on eggshells.

One day, however, there was a crack in his armor. It had always amazed me how angry he’d get when talking about one of his sons who’d gone to college, gotten a business degree and has a great paying job in a distant city. At the same time, he talked proudly of his other son who went right to work out of high school and, while successful, was working at a dead end job.

The day the armor broke was shortly after the death of his mother – a mutual friend. He told me how he’d never forgiven her for forcing him to go to a particular college for a particular degree, right out of high school. He has his career plans set on a job that would have paid nicely in the agricultural area he lived in. Not a fantastic income, but a steady income doing something he loved. As we talked I realized his entire life was spent doing what he hated, missing what he loved, and all because he was ‘directed down a path’ that didn’t fit him.

Another friend of mine, I’ll call him David, was having coffee with me one day. He was very concerned, even upset with the path his daughter was taking. She was a bright kid with lots to offer. Yet her career choice was to be a tattoo artist! David, like me, grew up in a time when tattoos were only worn by people of ill repute. He was struggling with that and how to minister to his daughter.

One day, several months later, his world came crashing down. His daughter was forced to drop out of school and enter treatment. As the family worked through the treatment program, lots of painful things came to light. Like most situations, no one was completely innocent of the issues and everyone was guilty to some extent.

As David and I sat over a cup of coffee he told me how his daughter was making great progress. Then he smiled and said, “And look at this!”

He pulled up the sleeve of his shirt and displayed…HIS NEW TATTOO! David and his daughter got matching tattoos as part of the restoration process.

The two stories should help us to realize that as parents we have a huge responsibility to make sure we take into consideration our kids giftedness and dreams as we raise them. For those of us that are parents, we know there are no guarantees in life. But the odds are better if we build the foundation and let the kids build the walls of the house.

We need to teach our kids the basics of God’s Word while at the same time letting them spread their wings and let them fall a few times. Our children need to know that we love them, and God loves them and both of us will be there to help them back up after the fall. Rather than tell them about God’s love and grace, show them!

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that I’ve failed many times as a parent. I praise you for always helping me back up when I’ve failed. Help me to know the best way to show my children your love, faithfulness, patience and grace. Amen.

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the easy pathThere is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12

When I was in high school I remember leaving my girlfriend’s house and heading home. I was one of those first nice days of early spring and even though it was well past sunset, I decided to take the long road home. There was a road, well, more like a path through a section of woods that I decided to try. This path was a favorite ‘stopping point’ for high school couples. I was never plowed, so it was closed in the long winter months.

I noticed some tire tracks so I decided it must be open and turned cautiously down the road. At first, it was nothing but mud and ruts. The tire tracks stopped and it was obvious that whoever had been down this road had turned back…but not me.

As I rounded the curve I began to have second thoughts. Then my headlights showed what appeared to be clear sailing over a smooth level bed of snow. What I didn’t know, but would soon find out, is that the snow covered a thin layer of ice incapable of supporting the weight of my car. I came to a stop. There car refused to go forward or backward. I realized I was stuck so I opened the door to get out. When I did so water and chunks of ice flowed in. I closed the door, opened the window, climbed over the car and jumped to safety.

The next day we called a tow truck and had the car removed from the water and ice. I learned a valuable lesson that day. The road that looks smooth isn’t always what it appears to be. Sometimes the rugged road of ruts and mud is much safer.

Life is a lot like that road I traveled. Sometimes we struggle to get through the mud and ruts and shout with glee when the road ahead appears to offer smooth sailing. Then, we find out that smooth sailing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

It’s no wonder that Jesus warns us about tough times ahead. It’s no wonder that New Testament writers encourage us to rejoice when we go through trials. The narrow, rugged path is often best because it forces us to rely on God to see us through.

The world screams at us to look for the easy way out. The age of entitlement tells us what we deserve and it’s always good…at first. But God’s ways, even though they are hard, are always the best ways.

Be encouraged. Whatever struggle you are going through now isn’t meant to defeat you. Rather, it is brought into your life to make you stronger and to show you how strong your God really is. God’s way isn’t the easiest way, but it’s always the best way.

PRAYER: Father God. Even though it’s hard to do, I thank you for the ruts in my road because they remind me I’m much safer with you than I am on the road the world tells me is easiest. Thank you for the strength I receive through Jesus Christ and your Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 


And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 1:8

bibleThe story is told of an illegal Bible Study found out in a communist country. The soldiers who discovered the Bible Study told those in attendance that they would all be shot. Then, in a moment of false mercy, the head soldier said, “I’ll let you go if you spit on the Bible we’ve discovered. One by one people approached the Bible, spit on the open pages and left hurriedly. Then, a young girl approached the now spit covered Bible. She knelt, wiped away the spit with her dress and kissed the Bible. The soldier pointed his gun and pulled the trigger.

What a brave story of heroism and love for the Lord Jesus. This young girl looked at the situation before here and realized she could not acquiesce to the man with the gun. Perhaps she realized, more than anyone else in the room that the real power didn’t lie with the gun. The real power was in God’s word and she could not deny that.

The prophet Jeremiah encountered a somewhat similar situation. He was called to be God’s messenger during a very perilous economic, political and social time in his nation. Not only that, but God’s Word was looked down upon by many in the nation and he was but a youngster.

We live in a similar time today. We’re told by society at all levels that our message is, at best, no different than any other religious message. We are accused of being out of touch, intolerant, judgmental, and a whole litany of other adjectives. The reality is, sometimes we deserve those accusations because we use God’s word and a weapon rather than the source of love, hope and grace it was intended to be.

The question for each of us today is the same as it was for Jeremiah and for the young girl who literally had a gun pointed to her head. Will you stand for God’s word when your classmates ridicule you; when you are confronted by those antagonistic to Jesus; when it would be far easier to stay quiet, but more prudent to speak the truth in love? Jesus says you can’t serve two masters. Who will you serve today?

PRAYER: Father God, I’d like to think that I would take a bullet in the head before denying you, but I confess my weakness. While no one has pointed a gun at my head, there have been times I should have spoken up but did not. Forgive me for my fear. Help me to trust you completely. Amen.


I would be disobeying the Lord if I stopped praying for you! I will always teach you how to live right. 1 Samuel 12:23

When those around us fail, the natural inclination of our human nature is to write them off as losers. It would be nice if we could say it’s different in the church, but the reality it’s not. Sometimes we ‘graciously’ offer a grace period in which we test the guilty party to see if they are sincere, but if we are honest, we look more for opportunities to condemn than notice the small steps towards restoration.

The Israelites were notorious for having the attitude of a spoiled two-year-old. Time and again they would rebel against God’s commands, repent and enjoy God’s forgiveness and restoration, only to slip back into their old habits of self-serving, idolatrous living.

After being rescued from Egyptian slavery, miraculously provided for during their trek through the wilderness, protected from enemies more powerful than they were and established in the Promised Land, the Israelites looked around at the surrounding nations and begged Samuel for a king because ‘everyone else gets a king, why can’t we?’

In spite of constant warnings of the dangers of having a human king, God finally relented and allowed them to have a king but not without stern warning. Then the Israelites realized their sin, they repented (again) and asked for prayer (could be spelled protection?).

Samuel’s response challenges our ‘normal, human way of thinking’. He promises to continue to pray for the people out of obedience to God. There almost seems to be a bit of ‘horror’ in his words. NOT praying for the people, in Samuel’s view, would be an act of disobedience to God. But he adds another twist. Samuel didn’t just promise to pray for the rebellious Israelites, he promised to teach them in the way they should go. His actions backed up his prayers. He not only interceded for them, he promised to give them the tools to keep from falling again.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he gave the disciples a challenge for the future. He told them to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ Discipleship is building relationship. Discipleship isn’t pointing out the failures of those in our circles; it’s giving them the tools to deal this life attack. We don’t need to be told we are bad, we know that. We need to be shown how to be better.

When the Israelites realized their failure they went to God’s man and received not only prayer for protection but a promise to teach them the ways of Jehovah God. Discipleship takes time and personal interaction. Discipleship isn’t a program but a lifestyle.

When someone you know falls, Paul says to ‘gently restore’ them (Galatians 6:1). Prayer and teaching (time) are two the best ways to restore the broken soul.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you changed everyone you touched by prayer and teaching with patience. Help us to do the same to those in need around us. In your name I pray, Amen.


No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4 (NIV)

Military service is far more appealing during times of peace than in times of war. Growing up in the 1960’s, I remember the protests and controversy surrounding the Vietnam War. Every year the military drew dates for the draft. Those dates became the order in which men were required to report for military service and inevitably deployment overseas. The higher your number, the more likely you were to be chosen.

With few exceptions, there was no way out of fulfilling your requirements. Those that were called and survived left as boys and, the lucky ones, returned as men who’d seen things no man alive would want to see. But they hadn’t been called to be tourists. They were called as soldiers with a job to do.

It’s interesting that Paul makes the analogy of the servant of Christ and a soldier when he writes to his young protégé, Timothy. All those in the Mediterranean world knew about soldiers. Rome’s tight grip on the world was due to the presence of a well-trained and disciplined army. There may have been atrocities, but the main goal of the soldier was to keep Rome strong and they did very well at it for hundreds of years.

Soldiers aren’t called to live in peace, they are called to acquire and keep the peace. As soldiers for Christ we must remember that we are at war. Our main charge is not to develop strong churches and cool programs. While worship of almighty God is essential, one must never forget that we have but one command from our commander and that command is spelled out very succinctly in Matthew 28. We are to make disciples and teach them about Jesus.

Jesus didn’t make disciples from good, church-going men and women. He didn’t spend his time preaching to the choir; in fact he made it clear he was called to make disciples and followers from the sick, the destitute, and the immoral. The healthy don’t need a doctor, the sick do.

Each of us is called to be a soldier for Christ. Our primary job is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ out in a way that shows the world they can experience forgiveness and freedom from the sins and struggles that hold them captive.

Whether you are in full-time ministry or a factory worker, a teacher or a hamburger flipper, your mission is the same. Disciples aren’t made through well-designed programs or social media. Disciples are made through hand-to-hand combat.

As a soldier for Jesus, who can you touch today? Who do you know in your circles that need to feel the encouragement, forgiveness and freedom of the grace you have received through Christ? They don’t need to hear your sermons. You don’t need to have a seminary degree to show them the way. You just need to be willing to share your life with them.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you have called us to be a soldier in your army. Empower us with your Spirit to stay true to our calling so that we may win others to you. Amen.

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