Archives

A Christmas Letter to God

th-13

Dear God, 

     I’m so sorry about all the disunity among Your children right now. Humility, gentleness, patience, accepting one another in love (Your gifts) are in short supply. 

     The enemy has really done a number on us. I suppose he is working overtime because he is running out of time to steal, kill, and destroy the life You have planned for us. 

     We can’t see beyond all the hatred, bitterness, and personal attacks on each other to be able to recognize how Satan has duped us. He is our enemy, not each other.

     Those who reject You don’t understand that it is their own disbelief that condemns them. But Satan conceals that from them too.  I am so sorry that Your children don’t show more of Your love towards those who have rejected You. Satan blinds the world to the fact that Your love leads to peace and sets them free from their bondage of disbelief.

     Perhaps we could start by asking for Your help to trust You more, especially during these dark days. Help us to trust You like Mary and Joseph did when they faced the dilemma of Mary’s untimely pregnancy. Help us to quieten down, let go of the negativity all around us, and trust that You ARE in control (for we act as if You are not)!

 

Ephesians 4:2-3, “with all humility and gentleness with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with peace that binds us.”

What is accomplished by concealing the importance of discipleship in our churches? 

image_9b7df5d3-be13-4f81-807b-e8fdf9758ebc.img_7318

Some subtle alterations take place when churches fail to grasp the balance that needs to be maintained concerning conversion and discipleship. Consider these:

    Churches over-focus on evangelism while the role of discipleship fades away into confusion. Evangelism must be followed by discipleship if the church is to be filled with Christians who are growing and maturing in their faith.

Satan doesn’t shutter in fear when we become believers in Christ. It’s our being discipled that sends shivers up his spine!

image_bbe5c1b3-ead6-4677-af23-7931ce348581.img_7321

     New converts are often left to fend for themselves as they face the world and encounter life’s challenges. Without the counsel of a discipler, we fail to learn that God’s plan is to take what Satan means for bad and turn it into good. Romans 8:28

     Consider what often happens to new adult converts. Too often they are given responsibilities within the church by virtue of their physical age, not spiritual maturity. In the physical world, no one would expect an infant to teach a class of adults! No wonder many face burn out and/or disillusionment. They need to be a learner; not a teacher. Many leave the church because they were put in just such a position. 

image_20998b6d-e6af-47de-b552-5dfe3f5f3c08.img_7326

     Without discipleship, our churches are likely to be filled with immature Christians. These baby Christians, simply put, are suffering from failure to thrive. Due to their immaturity, they are easily deceived and manipulated by Satan. They haven’t been taught how to recognize the truth from a lie. Which is why fiery darts can be so deadly in these cases.

image_80ffda99-a872-4862-91aa-4321e5f1fd88.img_7315

Fiery darts of Confusion dull our understanding of these terms

Conversion births us into God’s kingdom. Discipleship means to allow God to form our lives, our real, everyday, actual practices, choices, and beliefs – to look more and more like Christ.

Conversion and Discipleship are the two parts of the whole. Conversion is all about the birth and Discipleship is all about growth after the birth.

Disciples making disciples go out into the world impacting for Christ the systems we create and participate in. (and that makes for a better world for all.)

 

What do fiery darts have to do with making disciples?

Recently I was privileged to speak to a group of ladies highlighting the connection between fiery darts and making disciples. Here’s some excerpts from my presentation:

image_e0cd94a2-91ee-495f-a44d-4233da788f56.img_7328     Satan has very cleverly devised fiery darts aimed to create confusion concerning how evangelism and making disciples work together to fulfill the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19)

image_379fd293-2f42-4c56-9422-8bfd5df73045.img_7322

     Terms Satan does not want us to understand:

Conversion which leads ultimately to salvation begins with an awareness of sins that we’ve committed, as well as the fact that we have a nature inclined to sin.

Conversion makes us a follower of Christ; not necessarily a disciple.

Discipleship is about teaching; teaching new converts how to obey the commands of Christ.

A disciple is one who learns from another disciple how to live the Christian life, then shares what they are learning to produce more disciples, who share and produce more disciples. . . (But a disciple must be a convert)

image_7d0551ea-748c-4976-8d26-a5ca5bce2500.img_7316

What is Satan up to by concealing from individuals the importance of making disciples?

His plan is to manipulate us into thinking that once we are born into God’s family, then that’s all there is. (thus concealing our need to be discipled) John 10:10a

By not being discipled our spiritual growth can be hindered thus rendering us weak and ineffective as Christians. A weakened Christian looks no different from a non-Christian. Matthew 5:13

Due to the lack of training in understanding the truths from the Bible and how those truths apply to our daily lives, our foundation lacks stability. And the assurance of our salvation becomes sketchy. John 10:28

Without discipleship, we are uninformed on how to handle life’s problems. We are doomed to be manipulated and deceived by the enemy. Ephesians 6:16

Christianity becomes something we consume for ourselves; for what we can get out of it. Bible study after Bible study, without applying those truths and sharing those truths with others, benefits no one but ourselves. Matthew 5:15

Satan doesn’t want our foundation to be established upon the Rock; no he plans for it to be formed on sinking sand (without discipleship this is a real possibility.) Matthew 7:24-27

image_f99fbf9f-5226-44a3-8084-b084c5a6f062.img_7320

 

Next time, let’s delve into what is accomplished by concealing the importance of discipleship in our churches. 

Were you discipled?

fullsizeoutput_5087

 

Do you know what Jesus’s last words were to his disciples? 

 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matthew 28:18-20

     Christ ascended in 30 AD and by 49 AD the Good News had been preached to all the known world. Imagine that! It only took 19 years for the disciples to get the word out. How do you suppose they did that?

They followed Christ’s instructions to “Go and make disciples!”

    Sounds like an oversimplification doesn’t it. But guess what? It worked! Well, at least it did for the disciples! But it doesn’t seem to be working quite as efficiently in our modern world.

So what’s the problem?

     Let’s ask ourselves (those of us who are Christians) this question. After our decision to turn from our life without God in the center of it and turn instead to a life with God in the center, what happened next? Perhaps we started attending church regularly, joined a Sunday school class, maybe even participated in some bible studies. Next question:

Did these activities equip us to live life successfully?

        Or did we find ourselves taking detours? Did we soon lose our desire to read our Bibles? Did we find ourselves succumbing to temptations? And for those of us who stayed the course, how intense was our struggle to do so? Were there times in our lives when our doubts became almost overwhelming? And, more seriously, did we reach a point where we no longer felt guilty about not living for Christ?

        The Church today stresses evangelism (that’s going out and leading people to Christ). AND that’s a wonderful thing. But what about Jesus’s last words to make disciples? Ah! Herein lies the core of our problem, I think. If we evangelize but fail to make disciples, we’ve played right into Satan’s manipulative and deceptive hands. Let’s consider this final question:

Were we discipled?

     In all likelihood, we were not. (I know I wasn’t) and I’ve been a Christian for 62 years!!!!! So, this may surprise my readers, but starting just last week I began attending my first discipleship class. It’s a small class, only 3 of us. I’m learning that’s plenty. Classes of this nature need to be small. For as we get trained then we will go out and find 2 or 3 to disciple. Then those will go out and find 2 or 3 to disciple. You get the picture, I’m sure. It’s called exponential growth. I do believe that was the same successful strategy the disciples used. 

     More on discipleship next time…

 

 

 

What to do?

Version 2

What do we do when in spite of all that we know and believe, the darkness continues to stalk us? We wait and wait but the hoped for relief remains a no show.

Instead of giving in and sinking lower and lower, try putting one foot in front of the other. Whatever we do we do not give into the hopelessness.

Instead we hold up our shield of faith and extinguish all the fiery darts of the enemy. (based on Ephesians 6:16.) One fiery dart at a time.

We replace every fiery dart thought with a Truth thought from God.

We keep moving forward, depending on God’s strength.

 

And if in spite of all of this, the darkness remains?

Remember, God’s way is the only way. There is no other way that will bring the help we need. Focus on trusting God to come through for us.

This will require faith. Maybe more than we have at the moment. Trust God to supply what we lack.

Ask for help to shut out the negative debilitating thoughts; to replace them with God’s thoughts. .

Maybe it’s been lingering far longer than we could imagine.

That doesn’t make God’s Word any less true.

Yet the stalking negativity sometimes keeps hanging around.

Then just keep putting one foot of faith in front of the other. Looking neither to the right or the left. 

Keep in mind, everyday won’t be like this. There will be better days here and there. We won’t drown in just one day. 

Hebrews 10:36, You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Seasons! some good, some not so good

 

      Each season possesses beauty unique to its time. Sometimes the beauty is obvious and a wonder to behold and experience. Some seasons, however, the beauty is less obvious. Those seasons require an extra effort on our part to experience the beauty. Nevertheless, the beauty is there; waiting to be known. 

     Life is like that too! There are seasons that present quite the challenge to discover its beauty. Seasons change. Some changes are sudden and completely upend our lives. Some changes happen slowly but inevitably. 

     These changes bring with them a most undesirable host of temptations. (I call them fiery darts, remember) Fear, doubt, discouragement, anxiety, depression, anger (just to name a few!) have the potential power to overwhelm us (even destroy us). And they will, if we face them unequipped.

     There is only one source that I would recommend that is capable of extinguishing the temptation of such powerful negative emotions. 

Consider the following:

Fear 

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7  Do not receive what has not been given to you by God.

Doubt

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:6  Without faith, fear will overwhelm us. 

Discouragement

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.Deuteronomy 31:8 God is with us and goes before us all at the same time. He can do that because He is God. He is preparing the solutions ahead of time to our problems.

Anxiety

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 Worry and anxiety are sin. But the world will tell us it’s normal. We can’t help it. Oh! but this verse wipes out such a false assumption. Do we desire peace or anxiety? It’s a choice we make! 

Depression

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalms 42:1 Without hope, depression can get the best of us. Think about God, how He loves us, the extreme measures He went to to assure us of hope. Don’t allow the enemy to steal that from us. 

Anger

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20 Anger can be brought under control. Take the measures recommended here to defuse it.

     For every fiery dart that attacks us in those not so pleasant seasons of life, there is a Truth thought that will extinguish them. Only then will we have to vision to uncover the beauty they hide. If we can but remember Romans 8:28,