Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

First grade teacher, Linda, wrote about an interaction she had with one of her students on the first day of school. Accustomed to going home at noon in kindergarten, Ryan was getting his things ready to leave for home when he was actually supposed to be heading to lunch with the rest of the class. Linda asked him what he was doing. “I’m going home,” he replied.

Linda tried to explain that, now that he is in the first grade, he would have a longer school day. “You’ll go eat lunch now,” she said, “and then you’ll come back to the room and do some more work before you go home.” Ryan looked up at her in disbelief, hoping she was kidding. Convinced of her seriousness, Ryan then put his hands on his hips and demanded, “Who on earth signed me up for this program?”

In just over a week, the children will return to school. Whether they go to public or private schools, or should their parents take up the mantle of teaching through home school, our children will settle into routines quite different from the summer. It won’t take long before many of them will protest just like Ryan did. However, we know the value of education, and therefore, we insist that they “stay in the program.”

As believers, we can find it easy to feel a little like Ryan when we consider the Christian life. The requirements seem daunting—“Surely the Lord doesn’t expect me to forgive seventy times seven!” and “Surely He doesn’t want me to turn the other cheek when someone hurts me!” and “What does He mean, ‘take up my cross’?” Before long, we complaining, “Who on earth signed me up for this program?”

Over the last several months, God has taught me the meaning and the value of Jesus’ model of disciple-making. One clear observation we’ve made: you cannot disciple believers at arm’s length. Rather, disciple-making requires a more personal and close relationship.

Jesus discipled His followers in a small group—no more than twelve at a time. Certainly, He taught large numbers of people on occasion; however, the real disciple-making took place one-on-one, or with three, or with a half-dozen, or with the twelve.

Next week at our church, our preschoolers, children, and junior high and senior high students will “promote” to the next class for the year. This applies to Sunday morning Life Groups, choirs, and AWANA. Believing that they need faithful and maturing adults to disciple them, I want to ask you to consider serving in one of these ministries. We want to maintain the best possible student/leader ratio in all these age groups and ministries.

Will it involve a sacrifice? Probably. You may have to forego your own adult group on Sunday morning or Sunday evening or Wednesday evening. I expect that those who have children will participate in sharing the leadership at one of these times. However, do not presume that if you no longer have children participating in these ministries that you no longer need to help out. You likely have more time and certainly have much to offer in ministry to preschoolers, children, and youth. (By the way, more than half of those serving in the youth ministry have already graduated their children from high school.) You certainly have much to offer!

By the way, I believe you’ll be glad that someone “signed you up for this program.”

In his book, Embraced by the Spirit, Chuck Swindoll recalls the impact of his father’s “last words.”

“One of my most unforgettable moments happened when I was about ten years old. My father served our country during World War II in a plant in our hometown, building all sorts of interesting equipment for the massive tanks, fighter planes, and bombers that defended us in lands far away. Dad worked too long and too hard. As a result he suffered a physical breakdown. And on its heels came an emotional trauma that puzzled everyone, including the doctors.

“I was convinced in my heart that my dad was going to die. He may have had such thoughts too, because one night he called me
into his room for a somber father-son talk …. I remember leaning hard against his bed, listening carefully to a voice that was hardly more than a whisper. I thought I was hearing him for the last time. He gave me counsel on life—how I should live, how I should conduct myself as his son. The counsel wasn’t long, and then I left and went across the hall to the room that I shared with my older brother. All alone, I lay across my bed and sobbed, convinced that I would never see my dad alive again.

“That scene still haunts me. Even though my dad recovered to live … I still remember the night he talked to me. Something very significant is wrapped up in our final words. Consider the night in Jerusalem when the Lord and his disciples gathered for … what we call ‘The Last Supper.’ Less than twelve hours after [that meal], Jesus was nailed to a cross; a few hours later, he was dead. Jesus understood the significance of those moments and the importance of his last counsel. And so he gave them exactly what they would need to carry them through the rest of their days.”

Whenever we observe this important ordinance, we should consider our Savior’s words that He spoke to His disciples. His death and resurrection would forever secure salvation for them and any disciples to come. Christ conquered sin and death when He rose
from the grave. His victory secured ours as we surrender our full allegiance to Him.

We should offer the Lord’s Supper only to Christ-followers – to those who have surrendered their lives to Christ. This means more than merely believing in Him or accepting His teachings or even accepting the truths about the gospel. To where the name “Christian” truly means that an individual has surrendered his life – literally died to the old life. The apostle Paul said it like this, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).

Finding Life’s Meaning

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Not that I read this journal, but the Winter 2003 issue of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology included a study of notable quotations from famous people around the world about the meaning of life. The study analyzed the quotes of 195 men and women who lived within the past few hundred years. Allow me to offer a summary of the major themes and some of the people representing each theme:

1. Life is primarily to be enjoyed and experienced. Enjoy the moment and the journey. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Cary Grant, and Janis Joplin (best known for her lyric: “You got to get it while you can”) endorsed this theme.

2. Life is unknowable, a mystery. Bob Dylan and Stephen Hawking endorsed this theme. Hawking wrote, “If we find an answer to that (why we and the universe exist), it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we know the mind of God.”

3. Life has no meaning. Joseph Conrad, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre, and Clarence Darrow found no meaning in life. Darrow compared life to a ship that is “tossed by every wave and by every wind; a ship headed to no port and
no harbor, with no rudder, no compass, no pilot, simply floating for a time, then lost in the waves.”

4. Life is a struggle, endorsed by Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and Jonathan Swift. Swift wrote that life is a “tragedy wherein we sit as spectators for a while and then act our part in it.”

5. We are to create our own meaning of life. Carl Sagan wrote: “We live is a vast and awesome universe in which, daily, suns are made and worlds destroyed, while humanity clings to an obscure clod of rock. The significance of our lives and our fragile realm derives from our own wisdom and courage. We are custodians of life’s meaning.”

6. Life is a joke. Charlie Chaplin described life as “a tragedy when seen in close-up but a comedy in the long shot.” The rock star Lou Reed said “Life is like Sanskrit read to a pony.”

7. We are to worship God and prepare for the afterlife, a pursuit taken by Desmond Tutu, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. Desmond Tutu said, “[We should] give God glory by reflecting his beauty and his love. That is why we are here, and that is the purpose of our lives.”

What about you? Do you subscribe to one of these or do you pursue something different?

Let me assure you that finding life’s meaning in any other than a complete surrender to the Jesus Christ really makes no sense. You cannot find life’s meaning by making it happen through pursuing pleasures or by simply hoping you stumble upon it along the way. Neither will you discover life’s purpose by declaring that there’s nothing after our time on earth, so you might as well get all the enjoyment you can now.

Therefore, I urge you to listen to the Spirit of God when He speaks to you. He works to convict you of your sin because you need a Savior. Don’t try to overcome your sin with good works; you don’t stand a chance. Jesus Christ took the penalty for sin and defeated death. Surrender to Him today.

Over the past several weeks, I have been talking and writing about a biblical discipleship process. Jesus had an intentional method of disciple-making that He modeled for the disciples. For the past couple of months, our staff has been working with small groups of people to begin a transfer process of intentional disciple-making. We’re indebted to Jim Putnam, a pastor in Post Falls, Idaho, and author of Real-Life Discipleship.

First of all, Jesus made it clear that we exist to reach the world with Jesus. A disciple, then, will share Jesus. The Great Commission makes this abundantly clear. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:18-20, ESV).

Next, Jesus made it clear that every Christ-follower is a disciple. A disciple is not a “super-saint” or someone who have been endowed with special supernatural abilities. (However, the Holy Spirit does endow every believer with spiritual giftedness. These spiritual gifts must be developed.)  This meant that a disciple have received an invitation to follow Christ. Therefore, a disciple is one who follows Christ, is changed by Christ, and is committed to the mission of Christ. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he aw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the oat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them (Matthew 419-21, ESV).

We need to remember that disciple will continue to grow in maturity. I’m afraid that because we have not consistently followed Jesus’ model for disciple-making that we have unintentionally stunted the growth for many. Every Christ-follower begins his spiritual journey a babe in Christ. Ignorance will characterize the language and behavior of spiritual infants. They need spiritual nourishment from God’s Word and from godly mentors. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation (1 Peter 2:1-2, ESV). Without spiritual nourishment, a Christ-follower will not grow and will continue to act like a spiritual baby. Without someone to care for them and to nurture them, spiritual infants will remain ignorant of what they need spiritually and what the Bible says about life and life’s purpose.

As a spiritual infant grows, he becomes a stronger in his faith and becomes a spiritual child. However, the spiritual child still needs to mature. Without spiritual growth and development, a spiritual child can fall to Satan’s traps. We need help spiritual children to grow spiritually so that they may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of  doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15, ESV). I probably don’t need to tell you that a spiritual child behaves immaturely, often displaying self-centered attitudes. They often think that feelings are most important, which leads to spiritual highs and lows. They attend church and small groups for what they might receive from it. And if they don’t receive what they want, they begin to look around for something better. Could this be the reason that so many churches seem to focus on serving the needs of the members rather than serving in the cause of Christ’s mission?

The next phase of spiritual development moves the disciple to spiritual young adulthood. In this stage of growth, Christ-followers have the desire to serve for the good of others and for the glory of God. They feel responsible for how others respond to the gospel. They grow because they have moved from their self-centered outlook to ministering to others. The writer of Hebrews said, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:13-14, ESV). Believers at this stage will say things like, “I love my group, but there are others who need a group like this,” and “Bob and Mary missed our class today, so I called to see if they were all right. Mary’s mother had to be hospitalized. Let’s see if we can help them.” The focus of spiritual young adults moves them into ministry.

Jesus’ goal for disciple-making brings His followers to spiritually mature adults or as Putnam calls them, “spiritual parents.” Spiritual parents no longer depend on someone to feed them. They don’t wait for a pastor or teacher to give them spiritual nourishment each week, but rather they read and study the Word for themselves so that they can minister and disciple others. The apostle John wrote, I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:13-14, ESV). Spiritual parents will intentionally find someone else to disciple. They actively share, connect, train for ministry, and eventually release maturing Christ-followers to disciple others.

Where are you in the discipleship process? Every follower of Jesus Christ has both the privilege and responsibility to grow in Christ. We begin by giving testimony of our faith and sharing the gospel. We continue by sharing our lives in the context of ministry and disciple-making.