Friday, August 29, 2008

Following Jesus Equals Ministry

And He *said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)

The natural outcome of following Jesus is that these disciples would become fishers of men. They would see how Jesus brought people to the Father and they would learn to do the same. The Master trained men this way. He turned fish into fishermen, sheep into shepherds, and people into priests.

How can a person be a follower of Jesus Christ and not give his life to impacting other people for the Kingdom of God? It is impossible! If a person has dedicated his or her life to becoming like Jesus they will be swept into the currents of compassion for the weak and the lost. Jesus was compelled to reveal the Father to the people. He modeled not only His feelings but His actions to save them. How is it that in modern American Christianity this privilege of loving people into the Kingdom has been relegated to the professional? It is a sign that people really are not following Jesus. He never intended His true disciples to sit idle enjoying His lavish love while watching the rest of humanity to slip into Hell. Are we the ones who call ourselves “followers of Christ?” The proof is not in our morality, it’s in our ministry. FJ47

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Intentionality in Ministry

And He *said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus had a plan for these men’s lives. The result of following His example would be that they would become like Him in bringing people to the Father. But He would make them fishers of men. He would practice the art of intentional disciplemaking.

As Jesus set out to “make” these young disciples ‘fishers of men” we see that He had a plan, a recipe. Just as a woman would put ingredients together and bake a cake, so Jesus would bring the principles of spiritual living together and bake them into the character of these men. I’ve heard it said that having an agenda or program in discipleship is wrong. My friends disciples do not just happen, they are made. Certainly, methods and tools can be abused but it is just as certain that Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. We are actually commanded to be intentional in ministry as Jesus was. As He “made” disciples, we are commanded to “make” disciples in the Great Commission. (Mt 28.18-20) A key verse that commands us to fellowship with one another gives us the objective of “spurring one another on to love and good deeds.” (Heb 10.24-25) This same verse begins with “let us consider.” In other words before we meet in fellowship we supposed to “think” about how we are going to spur one another on. We are to have a premeditated plan to facilitate disciplemaking. It’s being intentional about helping men and women become lovers of people just like Jesus. FJ46

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Discipleship – Becoming like Jesus

Read Mt 4.18-22, Mk 1.16-20, Lk 5.1-11

And He *said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
(Matthew 4:19)

Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him. He doesn’t mean this strictly as a mode of travel from point A to point B. This kind of following has the idea of observing and then imitating an action. Jesus is calling His disciples to watch Him and then imitate His life. He is our model.

All those who profess Jesus as Lord have one objective; to become like Him. In doing so we will glorify God. It is the easiest way to explain what it means to be a Christian. Following Jesus. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:6) This is also where we obtain our guidance for disciplemaking. It’s not really about getting people to do spiritual things like reading the scriptures, praying, or even practicing grace. I could have all these things and miss the One most important. (Jn 14.6) The Pharisees had become experts in spirituality and completely missed the way to the Father (Jn 5.39, Mt 6.5, Mt 23.15) Our job as disciplers is to continually point people to Jesus Christ. Initially they will watch our example and we explain that we are following the model Jesus set for us (1 Cor 11.1). Ultimately, we want to wean a person off of us and primarily to Christ. That is why it’s important for the disciples to personally get into the Word to see Jesus. That is why the young disciple needs to pray for themselves in order to personally relate to the Father the way Jesus did. Every spiritual discipline, every action, every thought revolves around the one goal of becoming like Him. (Col 1.28,Gal 4.19) At the end of the day I must ask this question; “Are the men and women I disciple becoming more like Jesus?” FJ45

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Looking for Leaders

Read Mt 4.18-22, Mk 1.16-20, Lk 5.1-11

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He *said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
(Matthew 4:18-19)

We know from the Gospel of John chapter 1 that Jesus already knew these two brothers. Andrew was introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist. And in turn Andrew introduces his brother Peter to Jesus. These early relationships would be crucial on three separate occasions. This was the first. A formal call to follow the rabbi.

You never know where a relationship will end up. Some are casual and remain so. Others may change the world. As we are ministering to people our objective is help them grow in their relationship with Christ. But some people will be future leaders for the Kingdom. There is a big difference between laborers and leaders. Laborers are in the business of helping people the way Jesus did and leaders are in the business of training laborers the way Jesus did. If you are not looking for potential leaders as a disciplemaker you will ultimately run out of resources and will be constrained to a ministry of addition. The chances of the ministry living beyond your generation are slim. Leaders, not only multiply laborers but future generations of leaders. As you are involved in helping people, keep your eyes open for those who are willing and able to lead. Give them special attention in their development and multiply yourself for the next generation. As you labor keep looking for leaders. If you want to be a leader in the Kingdom, get trained by someone you know is able to produce laborers and leaders for Christ. (Heb 13.7)

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Low Hanging Fruit

Read Mt 4.13-16

…and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.
(Matthew 4:13)

After being rejected in His home town of Nazareth, Jesus left and made His headquarters in Capernaum. This was not only a fulfillment of a major prophecy but it was a ministry strategy that He practiced. He would later instruct the 12 to do the same as they went into the cities with the gospel message. (Mt 10.11-14) When people received the message, He stayed. When they rejected Him, He pressed on to the next town. His basic strategy could be boiled down to a simple formula: Find those who will listen.

Witnessing tactics vary based on who you talk to but I learned one in 2003 that has increased my fruitfulness in helping people find Jesus. Instead of just zeroing in on one individual and jamming the gospel down their throat, find the hungry. Start by asking very simple questions. “Would you like to come to Bible study?” Would you like to come to church?” “Tell me about your spiritual journey.” Simple questions that can spark very natural conversations and lead you to those who are hungry. Those who are interested in talking about spiritual things will let you know. If they are not interested, press on. I’m not suggesting that we don’t develop evangelistic relationships with a neighbor or co-worker that we naturally spend time with. But I am suggesting that we work a little broader and be open to the hungry strangers that are all around us. Aggressively initiate discussions that will give you a read on the hunger level of a person. When you find someone who is hungry, focus on that person. To me, it’s like picking the low hanging fruit.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

From Hero to Zero

Read Lk 4.16-31a

And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?"
(Luke 4:22)

And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things;
(Luke 4:28)

Jesus was teaching His hometown crowd in Nazareth and He had them eating out of His hand. Suddenly, He aims His message at their hearts. He cuts to the chase by describing how they will respond when He tells them the truth. He uses the example of Old Testament Gentiles being more receptive to God’s message than the Jews. The Prophet’s prediction is immediately fulfilled. The comparison pushes His audience over the edge and within minutes they go from admiration to rage.

Why did Jesus do that? Didn’t He know that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar? Maybe He wasn’t trying to catch flies! Jesus certainly knew what He was doing. He was always calculated in His teaching. This audience would have stayed in a superficial state of religion had Jesus not stirred things up. He wanted them to be real and expose their innermost attitudes. The truth (Jesus) always has that effect. The light blazes into the darkness of our hearts and there is nowhere to hide.

This is actually the toughest part of disciplemaking for me. I would rather be liked than to help a person see their error. How selfish. If the integrity bridge is out in a man’s heart, how will he avoid spiritual disaster unless I warn him? Disciplemakers do the loving thing by telling the truth. Sometimes it’s gently and other times it comes with blunt force trauma. Truth should always be told in love with the object to heal but the truth must be told none the less. The truth and people’s relationship with Jesus must always be more important than our reputations. Disciplemakers must be willing to go from hero to zero for the sake of the flock. FJ42

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Looking for a Sign

Read Jn 4.46-54

When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe."
(John 4:47-48)

It seems like a pretty harsh response to a panicked request. The official was begging Jesus to keep his son alive and at first glance, Jesus appears to turn the plea into a theology class. “People do not believe without signs and wonders.” I don’t think Jesus was trying to be smug or condescending. I think He was simply stating this as a matter of fact. Because He does heal the man’s son and the man does believe and the scriptures do record this as Jesus’ second sign (vs 54).

It’s not necessarily bad for people to look for clues, evidence, data, or authentication. I think it’s wrong when we ignore the signs and wonders that have already been given. Case in point. I watched a fascinating documentary where Rick Larson uses the scriptures and an astronomy computer program to reveal evidence that the stars did point to the birth of Christ. It was convincing, compelling, and pegged out my faith meter. He basically authenticates the whole of scripture, the life of Christ, the creation of the universe, and the sovereignty of God by looking at astronomy (not astrology). Pretty powerful stuff.

The next morning I was up before the sun so I went out to look at the stars. Full of renewed faith and thankfulness, I marveled at the signs and wonders that have been churning in the sky since the beginning of time. The skies have been pointing to God and the Word of God predicted it. (Ps 97:6) It was right in front of my eyes and I missed it until Rick explained it to me. There is evidence of God all around us. Are we astute enough to point it out to young disciples? Do we know the scriptures well enough to recognize the signs? Are we helping those around us to see the majesty of God in His Word, creation, life, and circumstances? The signs and wonders are all around us we just need to open our eyes.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)


Rick Larson –
Documentary DVD – The Star of Bethlehem

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reluctant to Preach Repentance?

Read Mt 4.17, Mk 1.14b-15, Lk 4.14b-15

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
(Mark 1:14-15)

When Jesus preached He included the component of repentance. Repentance means “to turn from sin.” Jesus sees this attitude and action as a necessary part of embracing the Kingdom of His Father. The Apostle Paul brings an even greater degree of understanding as he explains real repentance will lead us to salvation but simple remorse is not enough (2 Cor. 7:9-10).

Sometimes we are reluctant to include repentance as a part of the gospel because we are afraid it sounds like we are saying “good works” are being added. And since salvation is not by works (Eph 2.8-9, Titus 3.5), we feel like turning from ones sins in order receive salvation means that a person had to do something to “earn it.” I see two grave errors in this thinking.

The first is a failure to recognize Jesus as the absolute authority in the Doctrine of Salvation (Heb 12.2). If this is what He preached, then this is what I should be preaching. It was what the Apostles understood as an implied part of their preaching when they were sent out (Mk 6.12). Jesus’ example should be good enough.

The second is rooted in confusion about God’s grace and my responsibility. The Father is the one who brings repentance into my life (Act 11.18, Rom 2.4). God sovereignty leads us to turn from our sins, that is grace. But I have a responsibility to respond to His kindness and change my attitudes and actions. So in my freewill, I repent (Act 26.20). My actions demonstrate the sovereign will of the Father that brings me into this right relationship with Him (Jn 6.44).

Repentance is both a gift and a responsibility. It is present in every true believer and it is a key component of disciplemaking. Preach it! FJ40

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Monday, August 18, 2008

After 10 Years of Swordpoints it's time for a change

If you have been reading Swordpoint for a while you may have noticed a change in the way I’m writing. Swordpoint was my attempt to provide a very brief and simple military example (usually from my own experience) with a spiritual application. I have 365 of these little devotionals now and they will soon go to print. The books will be given to soldiers at no cost.

But now I’d like to shift gears in my writings and focus more on Jesus and what it means to be His disciple and how to disciple others. I’m simply calling it “Following Jesus.” I’ll be going through a Harmony of the Gospels and giving both commentary and practical tips on how disciple others. Although it will have a definite ministry slant, I’m sure you will glean things that will help you personally.

You won’t have to do anything but you will see some changes on the page. I probably won’t be able to write daily but I will try to make 3-5 entries a week. If you have friends who are interested in being Jesus’ disciple or discipling others, please encourage them to subscribe to the blog.

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The Discipler in Action

Read Jn 4.43-45

So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast.
(John 4:45)

The Galileans were at the feast in Jerusalem at the same time Jesus taught and worked many miracles. Seeing Him in action helped bolster their faith in Him. And when He returned to Galilee they received Him with open arms.

Jesus was always in the business of showing people how to live life. He was in a constant demonstration mode. I’ve found that in modern American Christianity we tell people what to do rather than show them how to do it. Modeling shows the disciple not only that it can be done but how it is done. For Jesus, the whole of life was the classroom. Class was always in session. But there is a cost. The price tag on such a ministry is that you must live life with your students. More time equals more the influence. They get to see you living for Christ in all kinds of circumstances. I try to get around the guys I’m discipling at least four times a week (or even better, I move him into my spear bedroom). By spending so much time together you can’t help but have real life interrupt your canned lessons. Life lessons are lasting lessons. FJ39

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Feed Tray

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…

The trick to getting the old M60 machinegun to fire correctly was making sure the ammo was placed in the feed tray correctly. If you placed the belted ammo in just slightly off, you would turn your machinegun into a 21 pound sniper rifle (and not a very good one at that). A machinegun is designed to spit out a bunch of bullets not just one. You know, God kind of designed you like a machinegun. We put the Word of Christ in us and teachings and admonitions come spiting out. A properly loaded Christian just can’t help it; it’s what he or she was designed to do. But remember, spaying a lot of bullets doesn’t make a good gunner. Hitting the target makes a good gunner. Practice makes perfect. SP325

Application: Try this…write this verse on a 3x5 and begin to memorize it. Then ask a friend (Christian or non) to test you. You will be loading and firing in no time.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Break in Contact

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands… (Isaiah 49:15,16)

Some of the most dreaded words heard in Ranger School. In the midst of struggling up the heavily forested mountain in the middle of the night, the words would be whispered up the line, Break in Contact! We have left a man behind. And since Rangers do not leave their own behind, that means you go all the way back and get them (no matter how hard it will be to recover the lost ground). And normally you would find your Ranger Buddy sweetly curled up next to a tree dreaming of sugar plums dancing in his head because he had drifted off to sleep during a halt (not a happy moment). As committed as a Ranger may be to his buddy, or a mother to her child, nothing compares to God’s commitment to His own children. SP324

Application: Knowing that Jesus is this committed to you, should move you to deep gratitude. Write down one way to express this gratitude to Christ for His commitment to you. (I will invite one of His children to dinner to encourage them.)

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Thursday, August 14, 2008


Read John 4.39-42

and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world."
(John 4:42)

The Samaritan Woman had provided the initial data about Jesus and the people believed. But it is interesting that after hearing Jesus for themselves, they declare their independence. They no longer believe because of the testimony of the woman but it is Jesus’ own words that were most important to them. As a result, a stronger faith is forged and they announce “this One is indeed the Savior of the world."

I was meeting with a young man for dinner and as I was getting to know him it became very evident that he had an extraordinary love for his father. Probing deeper, I wanted to turn this into a teaching opportunity. I said, “You have an unusually high admiration for your dad. What makes you love him so much?” Obviously proud that I had noticed he was bragging on his father he said, “well my dad and I spent a lot of time together. Occasionally he’d even take me out of school and we’d go fishing together. He made me a priority in his life.” This was my opportunity. I responded, “If I told you that I loved your dad as much as you do based on your story, would you believe me?” A bit thrown off by the question he replied, “No way!” “Of course not” I said, “because I haven’t been fishing with your dad.” I then proceeded to explain how to make the most of a daily devotional time with God.

You know most people are relating to the Father based on someone else’s fishing stories. They haven’t made the relationship personal by getting in the Word and praying on a regular basis to really own the relationship. Most of what they know about God has been related to them by another. In order to really own a personal relationship with the Father we need to spend consistent personal time with Him. Our job as disciplers is not to just tell others about our fishing trips with the Father, but to teach other how discover the joy of fishing with Dad for themselves. FJ38

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

“Come and See”

Read John 4.27-42

"Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?"
(John 4:29)

It’s so easy it’s brilliant. The Woman at the Well becomes the Evangelist of the Town by giving a simple invitation. Anyone who had a religious bone in their body showed up that afternoon to see if this “Messiah” was in fact the one they had heard about. They probably came for all kinds of reasons but the bottom line is they came and heard the words of Jesus. (Jn 4.41) The result was many believed and made the profession of faith, “we believe.” (Jn 4.42) All the woman had to do is issue the invitation.

I was standing in line at a local restaurant waiting to order. I commented to man in front of me that we had this great worship service and he ought to check it out. I mentioned the time and place and that was the end of the conversation. Low and behold, he showed up the next Sunday with his family in tow. He has been attending the service for four years and both he and his wife have committed their lives to Christ. This is not an isolated story that I chose because it has the best ending. Actually, we see dozens of men and women come to Christ through a very aggressive lifestyle of simple invitations. We have printed up some business cards with the time and place of our chapel and Bible study and hand them out like candy. With all the folks in the ministry doing this we invite hundreds of people a week. And they come. I usually have 4-8 non-Christians in my Bible study every week. But it doesn’t stop there. Once they get to the Bible study or chapel service we sit in the back pin pointing the new folks and form a community net for new fish now swimming in the our pool. We invite them to a meal or some fun activity. We ask them about their spiritual journey. We begin to find out how we can love and serve them. We invite them to study the Bible with us and discover who Jesus is. As they are swimming in this environment of grace and truth, we consistently see people surrender their lives to Jesus. And it all started with a simple invitation. Want to learn how to do this simple method of evangelism? Come and see. FJ37

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Fruit for Eternal Life

Read John 4.27-38

"Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together."
(John 4:36)

It must have been quite a sight. One woman’s testimony about Jesus brings a flood of Samaritans to the well where He had just confronted her with the good news. They wanted to see for themselves, this man, she claimed “told [her] all things she had done, this is not the Christ, is it?” (Jn 4.29) This inquisitive throng of people becomes Jesus’ object lesson for the disciples as He refers to them as the “fields white unto harvest.” (Jn 4.35) This was the fruit of eternal life. The saving work that had previously been done in the woman’s life was now being multiplied in others through her testimony and Jesus’ word. They believed and became the fruit for eternal life. (Jn 4.41-42)

As disciples we are to bear much fruit because it glorifies God and it is the stamp of authentication that we truly are His followers. (Jn 15.8) But more often than not, I see Christians settling for the fruit of morality minus the fruit of ministry. Don’t get me wrong. Our conduct is a prime concern of Jesus (Lk 6.43-45, Gal 5.22-23) but He has commanded us to be involved in the disciple making process as well. Are we bearing the people fruit? Is our morality counting for more than just being “a good person?” Most Christians are not bearing the fruit for eternal life. Why? Maybe they don’t know that they are commanded to share Jesus with others? (Mt 28.18-20) Maybe they have tried the latest fad in evangelism and failed? (Lk 8.15) Or maybe they are only hanging out with the “sanctified” and never rubbing elbows with the lost? (Mk 2.17) If we want to become like Jesus, we need to start laboring in the “field that is white unto harvest.” Not sure how to get started or tried sharing Jesus with others and got discouraged with the results? Stay tuned for the next FJ devotional, “Come and See.” FJ36

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So Right But So Wrong

While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."
(Luke 11:27-28)

That’s a great idea Ranger, under normal circumstances, except for the fact that you are all ready poised to attack the enemy’s rear. To flank them in this situation, would be attacking their strongest point… Aggressive actions, poor judgment. So right but so wrong. Has that ever happened to you spiritually? Have you ever thought; surely God thinks this way or that. Only to discover, oops, I need to do a 180 on that one. (I remember as a baby Christian, praying that God would give me more iniquity until I discovered what the word meant.) The key is a constant, progressive, thorough reading of God’s Word so we can really get to know Him better. This could save us from some very embarrassing circumstances. SP323

Application: If you have trouble being consistent in your daily Bible reading, try this: Go to the shortest book in the New Testament, read one chapter daily (the shortest is only one chapter!) Then go to the next shortest and so on. When you finish the New Testament email me and I’ll give you a strategy for the Old Testament.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Doing the Will of the Father, Obedience

“for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (John 16:27)

““He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.””
(John 14.21)

The way to love the Father is to love the Son. And the way you love the Son is by doing His will. We need to be Jesus' disciple and follow Him.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? I'm not asking if you prayed a prayer to invite Him into your life. I'm asking "Are you actively following Him, Obeying Him, Becoming like Him?" That's what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. When Jesus ascended to the Father, He left this command with His disciples;

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20)

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The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”( Jeremiah 31:3 )

Bunched up so one grenade could kill them all, it happened with out fail. As the Ranger Students would cross the objective during a cold winter’s raid, they would invariably end up some where near the fire. The OPFOR always had a fire on the objective to illuminate (makes it easier for the Rangers to find) and for warmth. Violating the principle of dispersion the light and heat was just too much for these frozen Hooahs to resist. Life is the same. It’s cold out there and it can be bitter to the bone sometimes. But the light and warmth of God’s love is irresistible. Come in out of the cold. SP322

Application: Share the love of God with one person this week. Invite them to church, Bible study, or a fellowship activity. Tell them what Jesus has done in your life. Or share a passage of encouraging scripture with them.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008


"Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
(Matthew 9:17)

I love new Privates. They come into your squad or platoon all bright eyed, anxious to learn, ready to be molded into a part of the team (I feel the same way about brand new LTs). They are raw, a blank slate just waiting for you to make that lasting impression. As we start the New Year, let’s present ourselves as new privates to God, ready and willing to learn new things, affectively integrating ourselves into a Kingdom oriented team, eager to follow the next command. SP321

Application: Pray that God will give you a fresh desire to love and serve Him.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Help Me in My Unbelief

Read Mt 17.14-20, Mk 9.14-29, Lk 9.37-43

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" And He *said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
(Matthew 17:19-20)

The disciples were trying to cast a demon out of the young man and it wasn’t going so well. Jesus fresh off the mount of transfiguration asks “What’s up?” The father explains that the disciples had tried to cast out the demon and failed. Jesus’ immediate diagnosis for the situation is they lacked faith; “O unbelieving generation…”(Mk 9.19) But wait. The disciples were at least trying to cast this demon out. But apparently with too little faith. Even dad had to be confronted on in his lack of faith when he says, “If you can…” (Mk 9.23) Jesus mirrors his subpar statement back with His obvious disappointment; “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mk 9.24)
At this point I’m hanging my head low with dad and the disciples. Yup, you caught me, I lack faith. And we say along with dad, “I do believe, help me in my unbelief!” Most of us are stuck in no man’s land. Between being a faithless hostile pagan who wouldn’t give Jesus the time of day and having enough faith to acquire God’s healing power. But being stuck in the middle is not good enough. Jesus is quite clear here, it was a lack of faith; “Because of the littleness of your faith…” (Mt 17.20)
Being like Jesus is a process. Jesus had the faith to successfully cast out the demon where the disciples did not. The disciples did not make excuses or change their theology. They kept exercising their faith until they were exercising demons. I know that God does not intend to rescue every person from their sickness or trials. I know that sometimes we are called to endure the suffering. (Heb 11.35-40) But to heal no one?! I’m going to stay in the fight for faith and continue to pray that Jesus would allow me help people the way He did. Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Worshiping in Spirit and Truth

"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. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
(John 4:23-24)

The practice of worship made a major shift when the Messiah inaugurated His Kingdom. Worshiping in truth had always been the desire of God for his people. This is revealed in God’s attitude toward the people in the Old Testament when their worship lacked integrity (Amos 5.21-24). And Jesus emphasized worshiping in truth several times (Jn 2.15,16; Mt 15.7-9; Lk 4.7-8). But worshiping in spirit was new. The Samaritan woman questioned Jesus about a physical place “…in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem…” But Jesus ushers in the new mode of worship completely independent of any physical props. The reason He can make such a statement is because He is the fulfillment of all the symbolism pictured in physical. The temple, the sacrificial system, the law, and even the Jewish people were all created to point to the person of Jesus Christ. They were a mere shadow of him who was to come. Now our focus is on the fulfillment of all these things, Jesus.

So what does this have to do with helping people follow Jesus today? Well, I can still hear the Samaritan woman’s statements in people’s words and attitudes, “you guys worship with that style and we worship with this.” These kinds of statements are very revealing as to our understanding of what worship really is. It boils worship down to an event rather than a lifestyle. We have to help young disciples get beyond the forms and focused on Jesus. It’s not about a style, a building, a denomination or organization, or a ministry technique. It’s about Jesus. Why am I so emphatic about this? Where’s the harm? Because I find people worshiping the form or style more than Christ all the time. This is not an isolated problem; it is prevalent in modern American Christianity today. It’s a subtle tactic of the enemy. If we get focused on our religion, soon our relationship with Jesus will be choked out. Teach people not to elevate the physical trappings above the person of Christ and worship in spirit. FJ34

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Tactical Withdraw

Read Mat 4.12, Mk 1.14, Lk 4.14

Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;
(Matthew 4:12)

Some call it a retreating and others call it a tactical withdraw. When John the Baptist had been taken into custody it put Jesus ministry at risk in Judea. The people and the leaders were worked into an emotional frenzy with John’s arrest and the emotion of the moment could have cause collateral damage to Jesus’ efforts. Jesus had work to do and the cross would have been premature at this time. So He withdraws back to Galilee.

One of the skills a disciplemaker must possess is the ability to back off. He is not trying to win the war in a day. Frequently, saying or doing the right thing at the wrong time can be counterproductive. A good disciplemaker is watching for the teachable moments and those moments may not have come yet. You cannot rush the “becoming like Jesus” process. You may need to “Just stand there and Don’t do something.” Jesus knew He was headed for the cross but it would be at the right time. He was not interested winning a few battles, He won the war. We are not interested in getting people to say or do something, we are interested in helping them become like Christ (Lk 6.40). FJ33

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

To Top it all Off

But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison.
(Luke 3:19-20)

It seems as though Herod had a pretty complete list of sins. But Luke makes the point that he added one last thing to his list of wickedness to top it off. He threw John the Baptist in jail. It was a bad thing to mistreat spiritual authority then and it’s a bad thing to mistreat them now. I was a pastor at a local church for five years and I was amazed at how poorly I was treated. It was almost as though I was the punching bag for all the frustrations that had accumulated over the last week. I heard more whining and complaining about the most trivial things. In fact, as a result of those days, I decide that if I wasn’t part of the solution, I would never approach the pastor or chaplain with the complaint.

Let me encourage you to encourage your pastor. The next time he preaches a sermon with an application, write it down and then do it. Come back next week and let him know that you did what he told you to do. He might have a heart attack so have those defibrillating paddles handy. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Add encouragement rather than disrespect to the top of your list. It will go a lot better for you. (Heb 13.7,27) FJ32

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Baptism is Not Just for the Hired Gun

Read John 4.1-4

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were),
(John 4:1-2)

I find it interesting that Jesus was not baptizing the people but it was his disciples. I have long believed that all believers should be practicing the Great Commission, all of it. Disciplemakers ought to be baptizing the ones they are discipling. We will quickly say that every believer needs to practice the Great Commission. But only two of the three components for making a disciple can be practiced by the common believer; Going and Teaching. Why not baptizing? Why must a person be ordained before they baptize someone they are bringing along in the faith? I firmly believe this is a “priesthood of the believer” issue that we protestants hold so dear. Yet we do not allow the unordained to fully practice the Great Commission (Mt 28.18-20).

A Word to Congregants: Hopefully you have placed yourself under the authority of a spiritual leader. Before you run off and start baptizing the flock, check in with the pastor or chaplain and find out what his views are in this area. Perhaps he will let you baptize the folks you are discipling with certain parameters. There are dangers in just running around and dunking people without knowing what you are doing. Get permission and get trained.

A Word to Pastors: Are you tired of everyone looking to you to do all the ministry? When you ask people to share their faith do they respond by saying “Oh no Pastor, that what we pay you to do.” Perhaps you have inadvertently sent the message that you are the only one qualified to do such things. You have shot yourself in the foot by doing things that every Christian can do (and should do). If you are training leaders to disciple others, train them to baptize others as well. If your leaders frown on letting your congregants baptize, get them in the water to help you. Two people can baptize one person just fine. This will send a strong message to your congregation about their roles in the ministry. I know we have some cultural obstacles to overcome but sense when does culture trump the Word of God. Every man a disciplemaker! FJ31

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Faith Evokes Obedience

"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
(John 3:36)

John the Baptist couples faith and obedience. I don’t think that the two should ever be separated. I agree with James, “faith without works is dead.” (Jam 2.17) and Paul, “walk in a manner worthy of your calling.” (Eph 4.1) It’s like throwing a live grenade into a room full of soldiers. If they believe it is a real grenade, they will respond. Now I’m not going to get into the business of evaluating how fast they moved. That’s another part of the Christian life called zeal. But the fact is they moved! This demonstrates they truly believe it was a grenade. Faith is Jesus should evoke us to action. Obedience is a product of true faith. Where we get into trouble is when a person says “I only need to believe,” insinuating that because they have obtained the data on Jesus somehow that saves them. The demons in Hell have the data (Jam 2.19). Or the opposite is just as dangerous; “I’m going to Heaven because I’m a good person.” We couldn’t be good enough in a million years (Eph 2.8-9). So it is faith in Christ. That same faith moves us to obey Him or it isn’t really faith at all. (2 Cor 13.5) FJ30

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Who’s disciple is he becoming?

"He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

Who’s disciple is he becoming? A disciplemaker’s chief question. I must constantly asking myself, “Is he becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ or a disciple of Chuck Wood?” In the beginning a young disciple may be very appreciative of the attention and time we are lavishing on them. He will be enamored with our deeds and words. This is a natural byproduct of love, one of the key ingredients in ministry. But as normal as it may be, the relationship cannot remain in this state. If he is becoming a disciple of Jesus, his loyalties and affections will begin to shift. There will be tension between him and me. He will ask questions that make me feel awkward and inadequate. He will start holding the Word of God and Jesus in higher esteem. Jesus will increase and I will decrease. As a disciplemaker, I am intentional in facilitating this process. How do you help a young disciple focus on Christ? One way is by sharing you sins and weaknesses with him. This will not only demonstrate the superiority of following Jesus but it will give him a sense of comfort that even his teacher is a “work in progress.” My second way of helping a guy make the shift is by talking about Jesus more than myself. This should seem obvious to a disciplemaker trying to make a disciple of Jesus, but it is often neglected. I always make sure the Jesus is the focus of the discussion. When talking to others, how often does the name of Jesus cross your lips? FJ29

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