Intimacy with God Leads to Ministry

•July 7, 2017 • 2 Comments

I heard it said recently that ministry is a natural overflow of intimacy with God.  In other words, it becomes more important for us to focus on growing more in our relationship with God, becoming more intimate with Him that to focus on ministry and service.  The premise is that our growing intimacy with God will naturally lead to more service and ministry as the presence and power of God fills us and then overflows out from us.  It certainly made me think.

Can it be that God cares more about me knowing Him and relating to Him than He cares about what I do for Him or in His name?  As I began to research and study the question, I came across a passage I had never really seen in this light- “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” [Matthew 7:21-23]

May God help us all to know Him, to truly know Him intimately, that we may be found faithful to Him always.  May the knowledge of Him fill us to overflow in works that are pleasing to Him: not because we seek to please Him by our works but because He fills us so much with Himself that His works are done through us.  To Him be all glory forever, amen.

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Papa Joe’s Legacy

•June 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A friend of mine hosts a site called “Manly Training” and he’s currently running a series with articles from a number of contributors about our fathers’ legacy.  You can read the one I contributed at https://manlytraining.com/2017/06/09/papa-joes-legacy/ and would enjoy your feedback or comments.  To God belongs the glory and praise for al things.  Grace 

Whose Side Are You On?

•June 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Matthew chapter twelve and verse thirty in the New Living Translation of the Bible says “”Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.”  That’s a significant statement.  Jesus teaches us the principle so many of us forget when we move passively through life.  For example, a husband who does not actively engage in strengthening his marriage is actually working to weaken his marriage.  A worker who is not intentionally seeking to improve his performance and thus strengthen the company for which he or she works may be detracting from the company’s bottom line and potentially undermining his or her own job security.  The principle Jesus teaches in this powerful statement (Matthew 12:30) is particularly important for churches engaged in building and growing.  A modern proverb that communicates much the same message says, “one bad apple spoils the bunch”.  In other words, one voice of murmuring and complaining in a local church can weaken and undermine the efforts of the whole church.  One voice spreading discord and division can weaken the resolve of many.

As I think about the principle Jesus taught in Matthew 12:30, I am resolved to be intentional in working and speaking to strengthen the cause of Christ.  I want to be an agent for good in my marriage.  I want to be a positive contributor to the organizations of which I am a part, especially God’s church.  What about you?  Whose side are you on?

Two Words and Three Circles

•May 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Make Disciples.  Two simple words.  My understanding is in Greek there is one word- an imperative command which translates into the two English words “make disciples”.  It is the imperative Jesus gives to those who follow Him.  When Jesus invited a couple of fishermen to follow Him, Jesus said He would make them fishers of men.  Jesus taught the men who followed Him to call others to follow as well.  Jesus still calls us to follow Him and when we do, when our lives are transformed by an encounter with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are to become fishers of men.  We are to make disciples.

The challenge is so many of us offer excuses for failing in our responsibility to make disciples.  We say that we don’t know how.  We say it is too hard to memorize a bunch of bible verses and then recall them in sequence when we are engaged in a conversation inviting others to follow Christ.  The good news is that someone has come up with a simple, down to earth presentation of the gospel that any of us can use, if we just will!  Check out the information when you google for “three circles gospel”.  You’ll find a very simple way to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to broken people (and we’re all broken at some point because we are all sinners) without using terms many today do not even understand (for example, the concept of “getting saved” is completely foreign to many people outside our church culture).

Basically, the three circles gospel enables us to use three circles to pictorially show the gospel.  One circle is labeled “God’s Design” and we use it to talk about God’s plan in creating man for relationship with and the glory of his Creator.  A simple line from that circle to the next circle shows how we tend to drift or depart from God’s Design.  We can label that line “sin” and use the line to talk about how the path away from God’s design leads to the second circle labeled “Brokenness”.  We use this second circle to describe what brokenness is like (it’s emptiness, life without purpose, disappointment and discouragement, etc.).  Then, we draw two or three short, crooked lines away from the second circle and talk about how we all try to find an answer for brokenness until we finally realize the answer we need is not within ourselves.  That’s when we draw the third circle labeled “Gospel”.  Here, we talk about the bible’s word for good news and explain that what we could not do for ourselves (i.e., fix our brokenness) God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  We talk about how Jesus, God in the flesh, came down to earth to die for our sins and then rose again to give us eternal life and restore our connection to the God who created us.  To finish the gospel presentation, we draw a line from the second circle (brokenness) to the third (the Gospel) and we write “repent” and “believe” above and below the line, explaining how repent means we turn from our own path and choose to follow Christ.  We invite the listener to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again to give us life.  Finally, on the line between the Gospel and the first circle (God’s design), we write “recover & pursue”.  Then we explain that as a follower of Christ we are empowered to recover and pursue God’s plan for our life which is to grow in our relationship with Christ and Go back to those who are broken and invite them to follow Christ as well.  Simple, isn’t it?  Why not try it today!  See what God will do when you “go and make disciples”!

Facing the Final Curtain

•May 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

There is a song which says in part “and now, the end is near and I face the final curtain”.  The lyrics suggest the end of life as “the final curtain” – the last act in the drama of life.  The challenge for many is the uncertainty of what the final act in the drama of life will be.  We fear death because we are unsure of what death holds.  Of course, as a follower of Christ, a person can be confident in life after death.  Jesus Christ declared Himself to be “the Resurrection, and the Life” and He said that the one who believes in Him will never die and the one who believes in Him, though the person be dead, he shall live again (see the gospel of John 11:25-26).  Still, even followers of Christ can sometimes find themselves in dread of death – especially when the death is someone the love.

In such cases, the person who believes in Christ and is facing the death of a friend or family member can take courage from God’s instruction to Joshua when God called Joshua to lead the children of Israel into the land God had promised to give them.  In Joshua 1:9, we read “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Notice that last phrase – “your God is with you wherever you go”.  Just as God promised to be with Joshua as he obeyed God’s command and moved forward in a role and into a place where much uncertainty awaited, you and I can move confidently forward through our greatest fear even when we don’t understand what lies ahead.  Our confidence is not necessarily based on our ability to believe.  Rather, the basis of our confidence is the certainty of our God’s presence with us in all things.  Somehow, as I walk with yet another family through the valley of the death of a loved one, I am encouraged by God’s promise of His company.  Aren’t you?

Hindrance to Intimacy with God

•May 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Most of us who claim to be followers of Christ would affirm that we desire intimacy with God.  We practice disciplines we believe help us grow in our closeness with the Heavenly Father.  We pray, we read the Bible, we attend church, we even participate in small groups.  Some of us go to conferences and seminars to seek ways to grow closer to God.  Still, for many of us, that goal of knowing God in a more personal and genuinely experiential manner seems elusive and difficult to achieve.  What could make it so difficult to have intimacy with the God who has loved us so much He gave His Only Begotten Son for us so we could be in relationship with Him?

I recently ran across a statement in a daily devotional provided by Dr. Charles Stanley which said, “Animosity toward another person and intimacy with God cannot coexist in the same heart”.  Suddenly, it seemed so obvious to me that having intimacy with God while at the same time having animosity or hatred or bitterness in our spirit is like trying to merge two completely opposite passions.  God, by His very nature, is love (1 John 4:8).  To know Him intimately is to engage in connecting with His nature (love).  When I harbor feelings contrary to love within me, I have formed a barrier between my inner being and my Heavenly Father.  His love is so amazing He has demonstrated its measure when He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins while we were still enemies against God!  When God is so loving and goes to such great lengths to demonstrate His love, how can I expect to draw intimately close to Him without taking on His loving nature?

Reflecting on Dr. Stanley’s comment “nimosity toward another person and intimacy with God cannot coexist in the same heart”, I have come to realize that the intimacy I desire with God may not be as far away as I once believed.  Maybe all I need to do is simply allow God to mold me into a more loving person so that my nature no longer opposes His but joins with His loving character.  What about you?  Are thoughts of animosity, anger, bitterness and the like keeping you from the close, personal relationship with God you really desire?  Let’s seek God’s help in becoming more like Christ – loving one another as He loved us!

The Tactics of Jesus In Evangelism

•May 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As I read the account of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in the gospel of John, chapter 4, this morning, I had some thoughts about the tactics of Jesus in an evangelistic situation.  I would enjoy your feedback and thoughts as I am trying to grow in my own ability at seizing the moment when presented with a chance to present the Gospel.  I began with the thought that Jesus was INTENTIONAL about evangelism.  In John 4:1-5, we find that Jesus was at the well in the middle of the day by actions He intentionally took.  Notice the latter part of JOHN 4:5 (So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.)  I also noticed that Jesus met the woman where she was: at the well.  He did not wait for her to come to one of His teaching sessions.  He went to a place where people go to find water.  I see a tactic here that I could make us of:  going where people gather.  Perhaps we could find people at a popular hangout such as a park, a coffee bar, a book store lounge area, etc.

Question:  How INTENTIONAL are we in seeking out opportunities to encounter others who need to hear the Gospel?

Next, I noticed that Jesus INITIATED a conversation by engaging the woman about her activity.  She came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink of water (John 4:7).  My observation is that one way to begin a conversation about the Gospel would be to engage a person in conversation about their activity.  Start a conversation with them beginning with something they are already engaged in.

Another important think I noticed about the tactics of Jesus in this evangelistic opportunity is that He did not allow the woman to draw Him away from His purpose.  When the woman inquires of Jesus why He would even speak to her, let alone ask her for water, Jesus does not waver from His course.  He uses the opportunity to create interest in what He is about to do.  Notice JOHN 4:10 (10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”)  What a clever way to spark interest in spiritual matters!  Instead of entering into a conversation about inter-racial relations and bias, Jesus focuses on the more important aspect of “living water”.  How could the woman not be at least a little curious?

She is and she asks Jesus about how He is going to get this “living water” since she notices He doesn’t even have anything to draw water up from a well with.  Once again, Jesus stays on track by clearly stating the benefits of the “living water” He is about to offer in JOHN 4:13-14 (13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”)

Question:  How can we better focus our spiritual conversations on the benefits of the Gospel?

I think what happens next may be something we often miss in our attempts to share Jesus with others.  The woman asks for the living water BEFORE she realizes her need of what it offers.  In JOHN 4:15 it appears that the woman is only interested in the convenience of the living water (15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”).  Notice that Jesus first took action to help the woman see her real need by asking her to go call her husband (John 4:16).  In response, the woman admits she has no husband and Jesus uses that opportunity to reveal His knowledge of her life: a depth of knowledge that so caught her attention she perceives Jesus as a prophet!

What I think we often do is provide a memorized solution to a problem before we get the person we are sharing with to realize their depth of need and how the message of Christ can truly satisfy.  Jesus took the time here in John 4 to bring the woman to the point of asking a key question about where people should worship (JOHN 4:19-20).  That gives Jesus the opening to clearly present the challenge of becoming a person who is more concerned with TRUE WORSHIP (that is, worship in spirit and in truth) than with WHERE we go to church! (JOHN 4:21-24 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”)

Question:  How can we be more effective at getting people to realize the importance of a genuine relationship with God, TRUE WORSHIP, rather than the superficial aspects of what denomination or place of worship we join?

As you read the rest of the story about the woman in John chapter 4, you discover that she not only comes to see Jesus as the Messiah, she also goes into the village and witnesses about Him so that others go out to meet Jesus for themselves.  In short, she becomes a “disciple-making disciple” right from the start.  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as followers of Christ?  Maybe we should employ more of the tactics of Jesus!