Discipleship. Are we changed?

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19

Why didn't Jesus say "Go and make believers of all nations?" And what is the difference?

This is something that I struggle with relatively regularly. What is discipleship and why is our calling to that instead of just believers? Or rather, why do we care so much about evangelism and so little about discipleship.

Granted, when someone chooses the Lord, they make a decision that affects their soul for all of eternity. This is a huge deal. Perhaps the biggest deal. But by stopping there its like we're saying, "The Lord has nothing to offer you in this life, but you're good, just wait till the next."

Can we really say that? How many of us mean that? How many of us genuinely believe that? I'm sad to say that I was quite far along before I began to believe that a relationship with Jesus would actually make a difference in my everyday life. That trusting in Him actually affected my daily decisions and the way my life looks.

I remember in High School one of my friends asked to put his faith in the Lord. I was thrilled, took him outside (we were at a friend's Bible study), and I stumbled through some verses in Romans that I still know far too poorly, and he prayed a prayer in the snow.
It was spectacular.

But then we were just friends. I never knew how to offer him anything different because my life didn't really look different. It might have moral in some ways, but I didn't act any different because of my relationship with the Lord, but rather just what my parents had taught me was right and wrong.

Can all of life be redeemed? Can our lives be redeemed? And if they are, do we know how they are? Do we live any differently?

We need to re-evaluate what we think of the great commission. I don't think its about numbers. It's about actual changed lives.

Before we can hope to disciple, we need to know what makes us different. We have to actually be able to articulate what Jesus brings to our everyday lives, our work, our sports, the way we spend our time, and love our families.

God has to be real to us, for us to make Him real to others, and in order to fulfill the great commission we need to disciple. Discipleship is teaching people who the Lord is, and what He brings, and how He changes us.

Do you know? Can you help me understand? I'm sad how little connection I make between these lofty ideals and my practical life.

You labor in vain.

Psalms 127:1-2
"A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."

You are completely useless. In fact, without God you can do literally nothing (John 15). Isn't that ridiculous? What's perhaps even more sad is how much we genuinely believe ourselves capable of.

Think of that successful CEO. Think of all he' accomplished. And then think about what God thinks of it... Worthless. Labor done in vain.

That is unless it is done unto the Lord. But think about what you have built? A house, a toy train, or your social network. Think about your kingdom. How often are we out to build our kingdom? And in vain.

But for some reason, to those whom He loves, God gives sleep. Rest. It all of a sudden becomes meaningful to arise early and go to bed late. Your labor will be of value and I believe this verse tells us that the Lord will even bless us with physical sleep.
Now I don't think this is a verse about overexertion. Or that ridiculous attitude we have of work work work. Yes the Lord will bless our toil and it will not be in vain, but His blessing is sleep! How many of us understand rest? Especially those of us still trying to earn His love (we all are at times, such a silly easy trap to fall into).

So turn to the Lord. Labor no longer in vain. Seek Him early in the morning and late at night. And He will give you rest.

One thing is for sure. Those who sought the Lord earnestly were not heroes of the faith by mere chance.
And the Lord gave them sleep.


A quiver full

Psalms 127:3-5
"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

I'm still young and I've not been married even 2 years yet, but for some reason I'm dying to have children. I know that having read this verse definitely has something to do with it.

I also know that until you have kids there is absolutely no way you can be ready for them. I can see that they will at once be an overwhelming blessing and also just overwhelming. The thing is, when I watch my friends who have children, I can see the joy they have in just having a son or daughter. There is a unique joy that this is yours. I long to have a child that looks and acts like me, and for their sake looks and acts even more like my wonderful wife.

I have heard again and again from parents just how much of a blessing it is to have kids. I even frequently hear older couples talk about how happy they are that they had many, or how they wished they had more.

Apart from the obvious benefits (such as the more you have the more likely one will be a doctor or a linebacker), I just cant wait to share my love for the Lord with a child. I want to watch my son or daughter discover a leaf for the first time, or bounce a bouncing ball. The physics engine (computer gaming wordage) God gave us is awesome and too few people my age really appreciate it. I want to help my kids see just how awesome their God is. I want to praise God with an awe like I did as a kid. Understanding an all powerful, all caring God much better than I do now... Oh what joy!

God knows they are a blessing. I pray your quiver be full. Pray the same for me... We cant wait to have them, we cant wait to adopt them. If I can afford to feed them I want to keep having them.

(yes I recognize that may all change as soon as I have ONE, running around like a crazy man exactly like I did...)

Oh the joy and the fear! Fill my quiver with kids who seek you Lord!

Money and You

One day I sat in a Sunday school talk on money and heard the teacher share about how we should all give at least 10 percent, "I'm not in a place where I can give ten percent," he said (seriously), "but I hope that someday I will be."

I can honestly not believe how many people genuinely believe that they will someday reach a magical income where they will all of a sudden find it easy to give. A friend some years back told me that while he doesn't give right now, he really feels he is called to give huge amounts of money. He wants his life to be about giving... But he doesn't give.

It has to be a pattern, and it really has to be developed early. My first job in high school I was making $200/paycheck and giving up that 20 bucks twice a month was just about killing me. But as I learned to enjoy giving it became more and more natural, even eventually enjoyable.

Now as a person who lives on support to do what I feel called to do, I find it particularly enjoyable to give because I know what a blessing it is to recieve.

Some suggestions, if you have never given, start by giving a little, like 5 percent, and work your way up from there. For me the most rewarding things to give to are people whom I personally know in minstry, because they send regular updates and I feel like I'm part of something significant.
I also really enjoy giving to Adopt a Child programs (check out www.foodforthehungry.com) because it doesn't take much ($25/month or so) to make a significant difference.

I have also felt compelled to give to our local church. There are a lot of things wrong with the church today, but the people there are generally doing what they can to use the money to glorify the Lord.

Giving really is a blessing. Man that sounds cheesy, but I do mean it.

Money and the Church

I have a good friend who some years back left the faith due to (among a few other things) the way he saw the church handle money.

How do we as believers maintain integrity in the area of money? When is it alright for a church to spend 3 million (and sometimes much much more) on a new building when the same amount of money could feed all the hungry in the same city for 10 years? But at the same time
where would those people in the church go to worship if a new building is not constructed? How does a board of elders decide on something like this?

I once attended a church that had 6 services every Sunday because it had grown so fast the current facilities couldn't keep up with its' people. When the new building was complete I was thrilled to hear the pastor preach a lesson that was still exciting and new to him, having
not been already delivered 5 times.
But can I justify where the money could have gone had we toughed it out for 6 services a week?

Another issue is how much to pay pastors. I've heard it said that a general rule is to pay the pastor about the same as the average person in the congregation makes. The issue is when you live in a community where the average person makes $200,000/year (or again, much much more). Is it appropriate for someone doing the Lords work to be making so much money? Is there reason that we inherently react to it, feeling as though its not? The Bible doesn't seem to say that someone in the ministry should make no more than enough to buy two Ford F150's per year.... And you certainly don't want to pay the pastor so little that he has to live three or four cities away just to be able to buy a house.
Then how will he minister to those in his congregation?

It's a tough question.

My solution is this: if you give generously then you can feel free to spend generously. The church needs to be seriously giving before it should feel free to spend the way it sometimes does. And while I think this is a relatively good principle, I also recognize this can mean a lot of different things to different people....

Athiesm and questions

Riddle me this. I genuinely wonder why atheists spend as much time as they do arguing for atheism. What is at steak? If you genuinely believe there to be no God then what is it to you if someone misguidedly follows him anyhow?

Maybe in an evangelical light you just want to awake people to what you believe to be true. In the same way Christians do.

I guess the reason for my confusion is that as believers in Christ, we genuinely believe someone's soul is at steak for all of eternity.

Should there be no God worthy of praise, necessary for salvation, all powerful, and wonderful to serve.... Then why proselytize?

If all we're missing out on is some booze or some pleasure or something, then why care that we're missing out? Why do atheist's identities get wrapped up in a negative belief system. Why not define themselves for what they are rather than what they are not (that being anything other than atheist)? And why are atheist chat rooms so full of atheists talking about a lack of a God? Do they want someone to come and prove them wrong? If you have it right that there is no God, then why spend your life arguing it? Shouldn't there be more time spent on hedonism?

While I honestly believe in a God, I also am genuinely glad that there is more than this world has to offer. As I have tasted and seen the Lord to be good I become further and further distanced from a desire to run from the creator. He knows how to live life to he fullest.... Why fight Him? Seriously... I'm downright befuddled.

Humility and Hollywood

When we watch movies ridiculous things can happen. For example Tom Cruise can stick a piece of explosive bubble gum on the windshield of a helicopter as he hangs on by a shoestring and the helicopter flies through a tunnel. That piece of gum can then proceed to blow up the helicopter and leave Tom without a scratch (or bleeding eardrums for that matter) flying through the air just fast enough for him to land safely on the trunk of a car going 90 mph.

When we watch a scene like this, most of us will simply choose to ignore the ridiculous nature of the scene for the sake of our entertainment and desire for the protagonist to survive. (My father, by contrast, would scream 'Absurd!' at the top of his lungs and ruin the moment for everyone).

This is called willing suspension of disbelief. That we all be capable of this is necessary for Hollywood to make any money.

I would like to argue that true humility is reached through similar means. When I am in the company of others I tend to talk far to much. This tends to make my wife ashamed of me. Which is acceptable because it is my pride at stake. You see, often when I'm in a crowd I genuinely believe that I am the most interesting person there. So this is what leads me to my diarrhea of the mouth.

The trick to overcome this pride is to willingly suspend my disbelief. I have to choose to believe that someone else in my company is more interesting than I am. (Even though this may be as big of a leap of faith as Tom exploding himself to safety). As I make this step of faith, the hope is that I will find that I really can enjoy what others have to say. In a similar fashion to enjoying a ridiculous scene in a film.

If I get in the habit of this, my thinking will actually change to the point where I no longer think of myself in the crowd. This is a difficult process to begin, but as long as I'm willing to suspend my disbelief I'll be okay in the end, and I'll make my wife happy.

My hope is that my father will never mature and always genuinely believe that I am the most interesting person in any conversation. Even when Tom is at our table.

Spiritual Warfare

No matter what your background you inevitably believe in spiritual warfare. You may approach it differently than someone from a more liberal or someone from a more conservative background, but you will still accept it as a reality.

That said how many of us live like its a reality?

When was the last time that I said a prayer for the spiritual wellbeing of this nation? When did I last seriously consider that my ministry depends on the interference of the Lord? I sometimes ask for salvation, but I almost always forget that its a war.

I want to be aware of the battle. I want to believe its real enough that I intercede on behalf of others. I want to wield a sword a fight like I'm called t do. But more often than not I don't.

Are you engaging the world? The supernatural realm? Or have you become so worried with other things that you have forgotten that our battle is not against flesh and blood?

And eschatology...

I've recently been in a class on the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah
through Malachi) so it has been addressing the issue of eschatology
quite a bit. There are some things related to this that I've really
been chewing on. I come from an a-millennial background, but my wife
definitely comes from a dispensational background. How do you make a
common ground on the two?

First of all, I don't think eschatology is essential to salvation by
any means. So its certainly not worth raising any substantial battles
over, but it does affect some of how we respond to the world today.

My biggest beef with a-millennialism is over the issue of of the
millennium itself. It seems to be stated pretty clearly that there
will be 1000 years at some point. So why am I willing to just assume
it's a symbolic 1000 years?
I don't know, and maybe it's just because of my upbringing, but I wish
I had a better idea....

Then my biggest beef with the dispensational outlook is really that
they see the need for a physical temple to be built again. I don't
understand how they reconcile that one. We are the temple of God now,
right? Doesn't he dwell in us? So why would he need a house of brick
or wood to dwell in?

Anyone who has a good understanding of either of these, please let me know.

Freaky deaky Russia

So Putin has pretty much freaked me out since he removed all sorts of people inpower around him, (parliment was it?). And then there was the whole poisoning of the Ukrainian dude that peopl figured Russia was in on.

Now that they kicked the British diplomats out (albiet in response to the Brits themselves... Though they had seemingly good reason), and refused to give over the poisoning dude....

Why is noone else freaked out?

In my humble opinion, if Russia gets mad in this day and age, we have good reason to freak out.
Putin has intentionally made himself the new absolute ruler, why is the media not recognizing this? Do people hate Bush enough to actually not notice?

The secret to sin

Hudson Taylor's spiritual secret is that if your eyes are focused on the Lord then sin will fade away. This is probably the most profound truth I have heard outside of salvation.

What shocks me about it is just how few people are taught this. I never heard it until after college and reading this book. My parents never taught me, and I never heard it in church.

There are two issues associated with it though. First of all what does it mean to have your eyes on the Lord?
Well first of all it means that the key to not sinning isn't trying to not sin. That just flat out wont work for anyone in the long run. Don't get me wrong. Make every effort. Its good to try. But you cant win a race by staring at the starting line and praising yourself for how long its been since you left that place. No. You have to turn around and focus on the goal.
It is the same with sin. Stop praising yourself for how long its been since you've done that particular sin. Turn to the Lord with your thoughts and your desires and you will lose the desire for those other sins altogether.

Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15), let alone conquer sin.

For me this generally looks like worship. I have to play my guitar and praise the Lord to consistently be focused on Him. My quiet times are significant. But joy in reading the word, and my joy in prayer comes and goes. Somehow playing worship to the Lord always rends my heart. I still do the other things. I also fast when necessary to get my own attention.

But find what it takes for you to focus on the Lord. Take the extra time. Drop the other habit. Have coffee to keep you awake while you read the word. Do whatever it takes. Its the ONLY way to lasting freedom.

The second issue is will this take away sin permanently?
My experience is no. Hudson Taylor claimed he experienced total freedom. I find that I am still a sinner. I can be focused on the Lord and not sin sometimes for a very long time. But in my incompetence I lose focus. And my old man is there and ready as soon as I give in just a little.

1 John 1:10 says that if we claim to be without sin then we make Him out to be a liar.
So my take on this is that we will never have full and complete freedom. But we may come close. In seeking Him I have seen some amazing freedom...

The words are there... I just never saw them.

'Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full on His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace'


Contemplating death further.

One more thought on that.

A year or two back I read about a suggested prayer program where throughout the day you stop and pray about something. I dont remember it exactly but it was something like:

6am - Praise to God
8am - Thankfulness
10am - Prayer of forgiveness for sins
12pm - Prayer for the salvation of the world. God to send out more laborers.
4pm - Prayer for friends
10pm/bedtime - Prayer about your own death.

The whole process was interesting, but really that last thing got my attention. Every night I would stop and talk to the Lord about my mortality.

It usually began with something like, 'well Lord, I guess I'm going to die someday.'

While it sounds really horrible to dwell on, I quickly found it helping me to come to terms with the fact that I will someday leave this earth for a better place. The reality of that helped me to realize the weight of the now.

It was really strange. And I don't do it anymore out of incompetence. But give it a try. I think you'll be surprised by the result.



Death.

Everyone of us will die someday and yet we always respond to it as unnatural. Is it in any way more natural for a 90 year old to die from old age than it is for a 12 year old to die from an accident?

Our argument is that the 12 year old hasn't had a chance to really live his life. The 90 year old had probably come to grips with it.

For some reason when a 90 year old dies, I dont worry as much about weather they knew the Lord. I'm a grips with the fact that people die without hearing about Him. I dont like it. But for some reason I can process it.

But yesterday a 12 year old boy fell to his death right outside a restaurant I was in. I cant begin to process that. 'Why God?' I ask.

But why does anyone have to die without the Lord. If this life is less than a moment in eternity then what does it matter if you live 3 or 105 years? Especially if you're going to the same place anyways.

I just want everyone to have heard. Why wont they listen? Why dont they want to hear? Why was there grace for me know? And not for them?

In but not of the world

How do as believers do what we're called to do to be in the world but still manage to not be of the world?

Im reading a book about engaging the youth culture so we can relate to them. The book basically advocates that we need to be watching the music that youth listen to and watching the movies they watch. Reading the books and websites they read... This way we can unerstand their culture and then someday speak to it when they need to understand the lies that are presented or recognize when they feel lonely, hopeless, and lost.

I agree. And i could listen to just about any music and not fall into sin. But there are a lot of movies out there that are just filled with straight up porn. I cant process that well. At all really. And i certainly cannot condone watching them to understand youth.

I once saw requiem for a dream. It did not make me a better person. Sure it was a grotesquely accurate portrayal of the lives of heroin addicts. Ive known many since working at a heroin rehab center in hong kong. But i didnt learn anything new by watching this movie.

I just got totally 'slimed'

Where do we draw the line? Are there some people who can watch any movie and not fall into sin in the way cursing in songs doesnt really affect me?

How do we understand the culture if engaging it leads us to sin?

Im sure there is a balance... But where?

Why do athiests have morals?

This topic came up in a craigslist forum on religion.

It reminds me of a discussion i had in college with one of my really
good friends who is an athiest. I constantly asked him why he didn't
just kill people and do drugs.

if you lack a God based worldview.
if everything around us really is an accident.
if our brain synapsis are just a piece of evolution
and if there is no objective truth.

then there is certainly no reason for morals.
if someone gets in your way, they might as well die, they're just
dust. they're no better than an ant. or even a rock for that matter.

if i lacked a christian worldview, i would lie cheat and steal till my
hearts content. the worlds consequences wouldn't matter anyhow.
drugs would be probably be the name of the day.

without a christian worldview, there genuinely is no good reason to be
moral. to have morals.

so why do they?

are you an athiest? why are you moral? help me understand.

Creation and the new covenant...

I am genuinely puzzled as to how someone can walk around God's
beautiful creation and not see His hand in it. It screams His name
everywhere. A leaf, has veins to provide water up from the ground,
breathes what we breathe out (to help cycle air), and has little
receptors that make it beautiful and green. I don't have a clue how or
why a flower comes out off of some trees and bushes. I dont understand
all the inner workings of the cell that makes it up. But someone who
truly does understand? How can they not just stand in wonder at God's
creation?

I know how complicated a watch's inner workings are, if I take one
apart. I cannot possibly believe that if you drop all of the pieces on
a table enough times that the watch will someday be put together. In
effect this is what a world without a creator is. But then you have to
imagine that the watch pieces aren't there to begin with. Nothing is
dropped. And nothing is dropped enough times to make something. Even
more, God had to create force. Before Him it couldn't even be
dropped. It would just float.

Nothingness just floated.

Just floated around long enough that eventually it became a bougainvillea.
Rediculous.

God is on people's hearts and in their minds. How can they deny Him? I
seriously do not understand.

But then what fascinates me more, is that in Jeremiah 31:31-34 when
God is talking about the new covenant he will make with the people,
and how He will write his law on people's hearts. Does this mean that
before Jesus came and fulfilled this, there wasn't an inherent
knowledge of the creator? God says they will no longer have to teach
one another about God because they will all know Him.

So people do know Him... do they really succeed in talking themselves
out of Him?

Old habits. Old hopes. Same sin.

I've recently been really surprised how much i find my thoughts going back to desiring old sin. Its like now that ive been free from some of this stuff for a long time, ive forgotten how empty it is. How dirty it made me feel. In my imagination they're always bringing satisfaction. But alcohol doesn't bring satisfaction. Why do i want to hope in it?

It makes me sad that my head goes there. Why dont i remember? Why dont i give thanks that they're gone? Why do i hope in things that i know cannot satisfy?

Things I believe before getting a degree.

(I only recently started the MDiv program).

1. Uneducated people should be allowed to teach. Not everyone, but some people.

2. God seems to bless even the very unhealthy (theologically or practically).

3. God seems to bless me, which isn't a sign that I'm doing anything right.

4. Conservative is probably a better leaning than Liberal

5. I have to be open to liberal ideas (definitely not all), and definitely new things in the christian world. Not closed off to music, etc.

6. Raising kids is not about how well you do it, or lead, or how good of a person you are. It seems to be 100% based on the Lord's grace that they will turn out well or not.  We can help, but they can still turn out funny.

7. Writing a book is one of the best ways to make a lasting impression.

8. Books can help you to fall more in love with the Lord.

9. Just because some publishing company printed it, doesn't mean its true, or even worth reading.

10. People all turn out weird. Its okay to become weird in your old age.

11. Money will wont make you happy.

12. Loving my wife is more important that my studies

13. I want my ministry to be first place before my studies

14. Taking forever to get a degree is probably a reality.

15. Having a PhD by 35 is still pretty impressive.

16. I shouldn't be concerned with how impressive it is if I ever get a PhD.

17. People with PhD's can be losers just because they have one. Dont be a loser.

18. Discipline sucks when you're developing it, but I seem to like life better when I am disciplined.

19. Children are a HUGE blessing no matter how much work they are.

20. Children are your most important disciples.

21. God's creation is fascinating, beautiful, and should be pointed out just short of the point of annoyance.

22. God has blessed me, but that doesn't mean I'm doing anything well.

23. Money still wont make me happy.