Friday, October 31, 2008

Treasure in Heaven

Read Mt 6.19-34
Matthew 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

Jesus promotes an eternal perspective on the spiritual versus material.

A person who is Kingdom Focused does not see the material things of this world as gain but as leverage (Lk 16.8-9). Disciples use what God has given us in the way of physical gifts to translate them into spiritual gifts for His sake. My house does not belong to me. It’s on loan for the sake of the Kingdom. I drive a car because its transportation for the sake of the Kingdom. Everything I have has been entrusted to me for God’s uses and I am to be a responsible steward. In turn, I store up riches for myself in heaven. This kind of investment never loses its value, it is eternal. What are we modeling in the area of material things? Are we free and open as we use these things for advancing the gospel? Or have we built fences, turned locks, and set rules to keep them solely to ourselves? Are we living in light of the fact that it will all burn. Encourage the disciples through your example of charity, generosity, and hospitality (2 Cor 9.6-7)

· Are you giving extravagantly?
· Is there anything you own that you wouldn’t share?
· Are you living beyond your means?
· Are there any missionaries who benefit from your generosity?
· Have you said no to something to help someone?
· Before you purchase do you ask, “How will this impact the Kingdom?”


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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beware of Being a Spiritual Exhibitionist

Read Mt 6.1-18
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:1)

Jesus warns His listeners not to practice their spirituality in front of people to gain the honor of men. If they do, their reward will be the earthly applause from men rather than God’s reward.

Jesus is not telling us that spiritual disciplines are bad because they produce pride. No, spiritual arrogance is bad not the disciplines. Don’t ever mix the two. Secondly, this problem has more to do with motive than the action. Notice the reason for the exhibition in Jesus’ story was “to be honored by men” (vs2). But in Matthew 5.16 Jesus turns the teaching around and commands them to exhibit their good deeds. And for what purpose? To glorify the Father in Heaven. These are two different motives for practicing spirituality in front of men.

With proficiency comes the possibility of pride and spiritual proficiency is no different. Disciplemaking is very tricky in this area because we want people to become effective in the spiritual disciplines but there is always a risk of spiritual pride. But, as tricky as it may be to measure the heart, Jesus gives warnings to help us with our spiritual practices. The first place we need to go to help young disciples is to our very own hearts. Do we practice the spiritual disciplines to win men’s praise? Are we modeling and giving ample explanation (like Jesus did) in order to curb hypocrisy? The second place we need to go is to the heart of the one we are discipling. This is one of the most difficult components of discipleship (Jer 17.9, Prov 20.5) and yet Jesus spoke of heart issues often (Mt 15:18, Mk 12:30, Luk 6:45, Joh 14:27). At times, working on heart issues takes the finesse of a surgeon and others times the blunt force trauma of a baseball bat (Mt 11.21-22, Mt 23.15).

Here’s a tip: start with the scalpel! It would be a huge mistake to accuse someone of wrong motives. We need to gently explore with questions that would allow for self discovery and ownership. A reflective statement with a “Why” question is usually a good place to start. For example; “When you were quoting verses in the group, why did you feel the need to quote so many?” If the person is struggling with spiritual pride and answers the question with integrity, the door has been opened for further dialogue. On the other hand, a person may have very good reasons for their actions and just needs to be aware of how they are perceived by others.

A word on zeal. Often times zeal is mistaken for pride or legalism. Being zealous is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. Be very careful not to throw a wet blanket on a budding disciple’s passion. You may be quenching the Spirit (1 Thes 5.19). Often, it’s a matter of teaching social skills and helping them manage their zeal in order to have greater impact on those around them. On the other hand, we cannot “dumb down” a person’s zeal for Christ so that others feel better about their mediocrity (Rev 3.15-16). Food for thought, your comments are welcome.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Goal is Reaching Readers in All 50 States

Help get the word out to new readers from these states:

West Virginia
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New Mexico

Shout out to all the readers from the United Kingdom!

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Raising the Bar

Read Mt 5.21-48
"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:48)

Jesus makes the intent of the Law clear by equating real righteousness with outward action and inward motivations. He also describes the righteous requirements of God.

The kind of people who are committed to reading this type of material are usually looking to improve themselves. We are conscientious and determined to progress. But we can also become choleric in our approach to spiritually and start checking blocks. We want to make sure that we have colored within the lines and all mistakes quickly erased. But the fact of the matter is that the best we can do is clean up the outside and conceal the inside. We make sure that our deviant thoughts are tucked away in the back rooms of our hearts like misbehaving children. Having these thoughts and desires lurking in the darkness is a problem, but the bigger problem is when we don’t acknowledge them and act as though they aren’t there. We begin to give the impression that we really are holy and pure in ourselves. But we all know that if a TV screen were hooked to our brains and revealed our inner most thoughts to those around us we could not endure the embarrassment.

In this passage Jesus is digging deep into this predicament. We managed to clean up what people see and yet the heart still clings to the stuff of the old nature. Jesus describes a kind of righteousness that goes beyond show. He talks about holiness in our thoughts, intent, and motives. And quite frankly, the realization that God is holding me accountable for even my thoughts could be discouraging. Jesus just made it impossible for me to completely clean up my act. “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

I think that was the intent of His message. He raised the bar so high, no one would be able to ascend to such heights. He showed us we need a Savior. We need someone who would rescue us and make us righteousness. One who would see our absolute failure and provide grace and mercy for the errors but add the perfection (holiness, Rom 3.23) that is required to commune with God. This is what’s so amazing about our salvation. Jesus’ death on the cross did not only bring us to zero by canceling our debt but He imputes His righteousness to us bringing us to 100%. He makes us perfect. (Rom 3.21-24, Rom 10.3-4, 1 Cor 1.30, 2 Cor 5.21, Phil 3.9)

And this is not only good medicine for us but for those we are bringing up in the faith. A true follower of Jesus Christ would never look at this wonderful gift as a pass to live contrary to the Father’s desires. They would feel compelled to return in obedience such a love even though they knew they could never repay the debt. They would see the relationship as a great privilege and not as an opportunity to cash in on some cosmic benefit. Therefore, we continue to clean both inside and outside, not to earn our salvation, but to prove our gratefulness to the one who purchased it (1 Cor 6.20). FJ80

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Testimony 2: Jesus is Watching You

Chapter 2

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.
(Proverbs 15:3)

As we moved around the country following my dad in his Army career, I encountered other events that would shape my spiritual awareness. Some of them were not as positive as the first. My mother had left my brothers and me when Dad was in Vietnam. When my dad returned to the United States, there was no way he could take care of us by himself, with Army life being what it was at the time. So we were enrolled in the Southwestern Christian Children’s Home. It was as close to going to a parochial school as you can get without being Roman Catholic. We were required to attend chapel, devotionals, prayer times (that seemed to last forever) and church on Sundays. But the most vivid memory I have of that place was a picture of Jesus on front wall of the study hall. This wasn’t your nice, loving Sunday School kind of picture of Jesus. Oh, no. This was a “Jesus on steroids” kind of picture. He looked like he had really had enough of kids for that century and was about to blow a fuse (the picture probably didn’t look anything like that, but that’s how I remember feeling as a kid). The worst part of the picture, though, was His eyes. The painter had done a fantastic job on the eyes. They were penetrating and seemed to follow you everywhere you went in the room. You didn’t goof off in study hall because “JESUS WAS WATCHING YOU.” So this experience wasn’t the most positive, but God would use it to His benefit in the future.

Chapter 1: The Beginning
Chapter 2: Jesus is Watching You
Chapter 3: Paratrooper Religion

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Monday, October 27, 2008

The Pursuit of Righteousness in God’s Economy of Grace

Read Mt 5.17-20

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
(Matthew 5:17)

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets

This passage can be very confusion and even the scholars admit the complexities of untangling the theological aspects of Jesus’ statements. This is how I have arranged the passage in my mind;

1. Jesus fulfilled the Law (He was perfect and this made Him a worthy sacrifice; 2 Cor 5.21, Heb 4.15, 7.26, 1 Pet 2.22-23)
2. The Law is good and eternal (Rom 7.13, Isa 40:8, 1 Pet 1:23, Lk 16:17)
3. The Law will accomplish its intent (to be a tutor to bring us to Christ; Gal 3.19-22, Rom 5.20, Gal 3.24-25)
4. Obedience is expected in the Kingdom of God (although our obedience in itself would never be enough to gain entrance into the Kingdom; Mt 7.24, Mt 28.20, Jm 1.22)
5. To enter the Kingdom one must be more righteous then the Scribes and Pharisees (1 Pet 1.16, Mt 5.48; Jesus is alluding to the righteousness that comes only through Him in justification. This is grace; Rom 4.6, 2 Cor 5.21, Rom 4.22-25, Heb 7.26-27)

The implications of what Jesus says for disciplemaking are huge. We must completely embrace the gift of grace while at the same time shoulder the responsibility of obedience. This causes us to live in a tricky tension that, although we may not completely understand, we accept as truth. Communicating these truths to young disciples takes time and clarification through study, explanation, and experience. FJ79

If you have other cross-references that would fit into these categories, please send them to me. I’d love to include them as an edit to this devo.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Illustration - 6 Obstacles to Truth

Many times I see young disciples getting deflected by lesser things. Sometime even the good gets in the way of the best. This is a devotional I use to illustrate the obstacles to truth. Ultimately, I want these disciples to major on the Word of God as it points to the person of Jesus Christ who is Truth.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Salt and Light - Being Radically Different

Read Mt 5.13-16

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:16)

Jesus preaches that we are to be salt and light in the world.

The admonition to be salt and light comes in the context of the Sermon on the Mount and in particular right after the beatitudes. Our saltiness is tasted by the world because we are seasoned with the goodness of God. Our shining light is a reflection like a full moon which can’t go unnoticed in the darkness. The lifestyle of Jesus’ way is so radically different we stand out. We are the reflection of Jesus Christ and that is not often seen in this world.

And this is the goal of discipleship, helping men and women be like Christ. As they become like Jesus, their words and deeds are so radically different from the culture, they cannot hide. They are intentionally shining that light for God and man’s sake alike (Mt 5.16). As Disciplemakers we model what it means to be salt and light in the world. But somehow we are missing this in our witnessing. I often see Christians using intimidation or manipulation to try and convert people. But in the context of the beatitudes I see that light and salt, the difference, is not anger or pride but love and humility. We need to teach and model that lost people need to be approached with the love of Christ rather than my theological arrogance. Do they need to hear the truth of sin and judgment, you bet. But a “Turn or Burn” placard doesn’t seem to communicate Jesus’ love very effectively. In fact, I think it’s a pretty cowardly way to share the gospel. Jesus meant His disciples to be on the offense but not necessarily offensive. How do I teach a young disciple to be this kind loving living witness? Answer: By witnessing the way Jesus did. (Note: there’s a big difference in the way Jesus spoke to the common people and the way He spoke to self-righteous religious leaders, do not confuse the two)FJ78

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blessed are Those who Swim Against the Current

Read Mt 5.3-12, Lk 6.20-26

He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
(Matthew 5:2)

Jesus preaches the beatitudes to the people.

Can you imagine what the people were thinking when Jesus preached this sermon. Sure you can. What were you thinking the first time you heard or read this. I’m not talking about all the times since that you have glossed over it, thinking well that’s just Jesus. No, I’m talking about the first time you let these words impact your logic and registered with your emotions. “Wait a minute Jesus, are you serious?” I believe He is. His ways are so counter-cultural, so un-natural you are jolted by His expectations for real spirituality. He is looking for these attributes in His disciples; poor in spirit, mourning, gentleness, hunger and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaking, enduring persecution. What? You’re not there yet? You are in good company my friend. We all are in process but the process is real. He does have expectations of us but there is no way we could ever pull this off in the flesh. We are desperate for help if we are going to live our lives in keeping with the beatitudes. We need His Word, His example, His Spirit living powerfully within us. I think prayer and fellowship with likeminded people also play a huge role in swimming against the current of the world. If this weren’t hard enough, I believe this is part of making disciples. We are not only to live the beatitudes ourselves, we are supposed to help others do the same.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Testimony 1: In the Beginning

The Testimony of Chaplain (Retired) Chuck Wood

Chapter 1

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; Your right hand will hold me fast. (PSALM 139:7-10)

But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
(Matthew 19:14)

As long as I can remember I've always known there was a God. Even when I went through the throes of rebellion during a season of my life, I could not deny that there was Something, Someone watching over us. I was less than three years old living in California. It was a bright sunny day and I was playing in the backyard. My dart gun had malfunctioned (I always knew I'd be a soldier as well) and the spring was lost somewhere in the tall grass. Dart guns are pretty important to little boys and I couldn't have a full and productive life without one. I panicked and searched frantically for this tiny spring in (what I thought at the time was) a huge backyard. I don't know how I thought to pray about this tragedy, but I did. And through tears of my little eyes, I found the missing spring. Coincidence? That's just the beginning. It was my first recollection of praying and (more importantly) thinking that there must be a God.

Testimony 1: In the Beginning
Testimony 2: Jesus is Watching You
Testimony 3: Paratrooper Religion
Testimony 4: Afraid of being Left Behind
Testimony 5: The Geographical Solution
Testimony 6: The Geographical Solution Fails
Testimony 7: The Seed is Planted
Testimony 8: Spiritual Melee
Testimony 9: Seeing the Light
Testimony 10: Receiving God's Plan for My Life
Testimony 11: A New Creature
Testimony 12: What about You?
Testimony 13: A Little Miracle
Testimony 14: An Apostle to the Soldier
Testimony 15: First Steps toward Growth
Testimony 16: Being Discipled

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Orbit Illustration (My Relationship with the World)

I use this illustration to help men to understand their relationship to the world and the dangers of being isolated verses insulated from the world.

Get too close to the world and your burn in. Get too far, you become so heavenly minded you're no earthly good.

It takes some calculations to get the right distance and achieve orbit.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Methods in Disciplemaking

Mt 5.1-2, Lk 6.12-19

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon,
(Luke 6:12-17)

Jesus prays all night and in the morning chooses 12 to appoint as apostles from a large crowd of His disciples.

There are three distinct groups of people in this passage; the 12, the large crowd of disciples, and great throng of people from the extended region. Since this is a study in discipleship, we need make a few observations and ask a couple of questions. Observations: First, the 12 were disciples before there were appointed as apostles. Second, they were chosen for a large crowd of disciples. Questions: How did Jesus get so many disciples and what was His primary method for making these disciples?

This passage gives us a good picture of how Jesus made disciples. The 12 were not set apart to be made into disciples, they were already followers of Jesus. Jesus had been making disciples for at least a year to this point. Some, Jesus asked to follow Him and others took the initiative and requested to be His disciple (Jn 1.35-51, Lk 9.47-52). There were disciples who followed Him everywhere and those who were more static. There were disciples who quit following Jesus (Jn 6.66) and secret disciples (Jn 19.38).

The fact of the matter is that Jesus had made many more disciples than the 12. You may be wondering why I am belaboring this point. I think some people are under the impression that the only way to make a disciple is to do what Jesus did with the 12 (others have gone as far as to say one on one is the only way to make disciples). Not according to Jesus’ methods. On the other hand, in modern American Christianity we are trying to make disciples by preaching at them and anyone with integrity would have to assess this method as a dismal failure in most Christian’s lives. They are not following Christ as a result of the myriad of messages they have heard. In fact they have become inoculated to the message. In order to make disciples we need to take a closer look at Jesus’ objective. The object should always drive the method, not the method the objective. His primary method was to invite people to follow Him. His objective was to help people get to know and become like Him (Mt 10.24-25a, Lk 6.60, 1 Jn 2.6). These men and women became disciples by listening to His preaching, watching His ministry, discussing Him in their communities, and seeing His miraculous signs. The main issue is not necessarily the method but the outcome. They were following Jesus, getting to know Him, and becoming like Him. That is the objective (Lk 6.40, 1 Jn 2.6, Mt 28.18-20).

If preaching alone was helping people become vibrant passionate followers of Christ, then I would practice this method more zealously. But the facts are that preaching, although a healthy component of the discipleship process, usually falls woefully short of accomplishing the objective when it is the only component of discipleship. The proof is in the pudding. Preaching was a part Jesus’ strategy for making disciple, but His methods were much more comprehensive than a sermon Sunday morning. This is where Sunday School, Music, Small Groups, One on One, and so many other methods we practice are so important. They are all components (methods) used in order to accomplish the overall objective. So here’s the question for us and modern American Christianity; do we believe Jesus has commanded us to produce His disciples? Do we see passionate followers of Jesus Christ coming out of our ministries? Are we in fact accomplishing this objective? If not, we may need to take a closer look at our methods. FJ76

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Choosing the 12 (Part 6) – Failure

Read Mk 3.13-19, Lk 6.12-16

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,
(Mark 3:14)

Jesus appointed 12 fallible men as Apostles

Jesus appointed men whom He knew would fail Him. Judas is the most obvious example but the 11 also failed, not only during the hours surrounding the crucifixion, but in the months and years that led to the cross. They tried to stop crucial ministry from happening (Mk 9.38-39, Mt 19.13-14), they lacked faith and the prayer life to perform certain types of ministry (Mt 17.14-21), they failed to understand and apply Jesus’ teaching (Mt 15.16, Mk 8.17). Ultimately, their failure would manifest itself in abandonment and betrayal. They failed and yet Jesus chose them in spite of their failures which He knew before hand (Jn 6.64; 17.12, Mt 26.31, Lk 22.31-32) . Failure was an option under Jesus’ leadership.

We don’t need divine insight in order to know that people will fail. It is in our DNA. And we don’t have to go any further than the mirror to prove it. This is a huge part of discipleship. First, we must expect and accept failure. It is a reality and how we respond to a disciple’s failure will often determine how effective the mentoring relationship will be in the future. Both truth and grace must be administered in these situations. Secondly, where there is no room for failure there is no room for self discovery (which by the way is 100 times more valuable than our preaching). People need room to try and fail. But if we control every situation or leave no room to fail, the disciple may fail to try. When we leave room for failure, we leave room for initiative and creativity. As a discipler, I expect failure. This is especially true of young laborers and leaders. Third, I can’t let failure go unnoticed. Although I expect failure, I have the responsibility to both correct and encourage proper actions. I am a safe place to express failure but I am also part of the solution for their success in the future. Finally, I am not the prefect Son of God. I am failing right along with the younger disciple. When I express these failures it does not undermine the relationship, it actually strengthens it. I need to have integrity in ministry and express my strengths as well weaknesses. When I fail to express my failure I potentially discourage the young follower of Jesus and put on the same mask worn by the Pharisees. Failure is an Option.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Choosing the 12 (Part 5) – Apostolic Leadership

Read Mk 3.13-19, Lk 6.12-16

And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
(Luke 6:13)

Jesus appointed the 12 as Apostles.

Apostolic leadership was Jesus’ aim for these 12 men. He would teach them, model for them and ultimately die for them in order to launch the Church. The Church would need leaders who were mobile, versatile, global, and authoritative. Jesus poured His life into these men and taught them the meaning of apostolic leadership through His own example (Jn 17.18, Heb 3.1). And He began to imprint the apostolic trade mark on them as “sent ones” when He first invited them to follow Him (Mt 4.19). He continues to infuse this vision throughout His ministry up to His death (Jn 17.18). And after the resurrection, He again emphasizes sending them into the world through the Great Commission (Mt 28.18-20, Act 1.8). From the time He chose them until the day He commissioned them to reach the world, He was training them to be “sent out.”

By definition an apostle is “one who is sent.” (I do believe the word apostle can be biblically defined in a broader manner but I’ll save that for another article) Not all disciples will function as apostles but I do believe all disciples are “sent” into the world. They may not be mobile, versatile, global, and authoritative. But they can go to their families, neighborhoods, work places, and yes, even their churches to have an impact for Christ. As a part of the disciplemaking process we should be raising people to be “sent” into the world armed with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus started instilling this vision from the very beginning. He always emphasized an outward focus. He constantly reminded them of their responsibilities to their fellow man. We need to train men and women in the same manner. We need to get them out of our Christian bunkers and on the front lines. We need to send them out to personally advance the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. FJ74

If you'd like me to write more about the definition and roles of an Apostle, drop me a line.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Choosing the 12 (Part 4) – With Him

Read Mk 3.13-19, Lk 6.12-16

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,
(Mark 3:14)

Jesus chose them to be with Him.

Life on life, that was Jesus’ strategy for developing these men as leaders. He wanted to get men so close they couldn’t miss His example. They were with Him 24/7. They saw Him in times of stress and times of rest. They watched how He ministered to the crowds and individuals. They saw the Son of God in all His glory and the Son of Man in His deepest humility. These 12 men were given a front row seat to the model of love. Jesus intentionally chose them to be saturated with His example.

The power of proximity. Most teachers tell their students what to do, Jesus showed His men how to do it. I have found that this principle, the “with him principle,” is one of the most effective tools in our kit bag and yet one of the most neglected. The lessons are so much clearer when they are seen in action. But what would keep us from practicing this principle. Certainly, our circumstances are not the same as Jesus. Jesus was not married, have kids, or have a job. With these three things alone, it makes it significantly harder to bring the disciples with you everywhere. But we can still practice the “with him principle” on a smaller scale. When I’m discipling men I have them spend time with me in different situations, especially when I’m ministering to others. But it’s not just ministry that I want to model for these men. It’s real life. They are in my home, riding with me to Home Depot, helping me fix the sink, watching me coach my sons, they are with me as much as my schedule allows. We are trying to live life together. In recent years we had the men that I am training live in the home. This has increased my ability to model 100 times.
But perhaps you are a beginner at the “with him principle” and moving dudes in your home seems a little radical. Where do you start? I try to get the guys around me at least 4 times a week. Here’s a practical list that will help you start small and increase as you go.

· Sit together in church
· Invite him to your small group Bible study
· Ask him to your home for dinner
· Schedule lunch or breakfast once a week
· Have him help you with routine chores
· Play together (sports, games, hunting, hobbies)
· Take him on a road trip
· Have him spend the weekend for concerted training
· Take a family vacation together
· Live in the same neighborhood
· Move him in your home

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Visitors to the Site from the US

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Choosing the 12 (Part 3) – Appointment

Read Mk 3.13-19, Lk 6.12-16

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,
(Mark 3:14)

And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
(Luke 6:13)

Jesus chooses 12 men from among all His disciples and appoints them as Apostles.

I find this act of choosing leadership completely counter to contemporary philosophies of leadership development. Jesus puts all His chips on men that are virtually untested. In fact as we watch the 12 closely throughout the Gospels, we continually see character traits that should eliminate them from leadership. We see pettiness, greed, pride, competition, and impulsiveness. They lacked wisdom, endurance, foresight, discretion, and the list goes on. On the other hand these men had shown qualities that had great potential. Characteristics like loyalty, commitment, integrity, and humility were evident in the 12. But Jesus appointed these men after concerted prayer. He did not choose them merely on what He saw but on what the Father saw in them. And they were by no means qualified for the promotion. Their apostolic authority would not be affectively used until after the ascension. Jesus chose them for what they would become.

I believe this is the key to developing Kingdom leaders. We take a man or woman under tutelage based on God’s calling for us to help people become what God desires rather than what they are. These disciples do not come prepackaged. Of course you may size up the raw material before investing, but God sees the end-state. He is not necessarily looking for the brightest, strongest, fastest, and most beautiful. But He is looking for heart. And I would suggest that we as Disciplemakers, should line up our criteria for selection with God’s criteria. But who among us is 100% on evaluating the heart. This brings us right back to prayer. God is fully aware of what is in a man or woman’s heart (1 Sam 16.7). He sees what they will become.

But praying does not eliminate all risk. God does not always give us clear guidance. He often allows us to choose for ourselves. He acts as a wise parent developing a child’s decision making process. Hence, we will make mistakes. And so did the Apostles. This brings another component of leadership development into the picture. The principle of self-selection. The Apostles were volunteers and Jesus treated them that way. He did not force or manipulate them. He set the table and it was up to them to eat. He gave them plenty of opportunities to leave the team. We need to remember that ultimately the decision to follow Christ or be a Kingdom Leader rests squarely on the shoulders of the person we are training. In a sense, they are choosing us. (There is so much more to say in this area…) FJ72

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Goal: Subscribers from every State in the US

I'm praying about getting subscribers and visitors from every state in the Union. Can you help me out by passing the website on to your friends in the following States;

North Dakota



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Choosing the 12 (Part 2) – Prayer

Read Mk 3.13-19, Lk 6.12-16

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
(Luke 6:12-13)

Before choosing the 12 Apostles, Jesus prayed all night.

When we read this passage, we often talk about the need for wise selection but very seldom focus on the fact that Jesus prayed all night. Granted, Jesus was choosing the future leadership of the Church but He also had a very strong conviction that men came from the Father (Jn 6.44, 17.6). Jesus left nothing to chance. He depended on the Father to guide Him to the men He would invest in for the Kingdom’s sake.

Are you spending concerted time in prayer before choosing men to train? How are your resources? Do you have the time and energy to invest in people whom you know will do nothing for the Kingdom in exchange? Of course you will never know that for sure, but God does. How often do we charge into a disciplemaking relationship without ever praying? Jesus used every resource available, including those that were made available by the Father. We probably will not be faced with many situations where we need to pray intensely about those whom we should help (although we would be wise to be prayed up in this area as well). But when it comes to training men in ministry there is a huge need for God’s guidance before we lay hands on a man and invest so much of our time and energy. We ought to pray, Jesus did. FJ71

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Choosing the 12 (Part 1) - Why?

Read Mk 3.13-19, Lk 6.12-16

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,
(Mark 3:14)

Jesus spends a night in prayer and from the many disciples he already has following Him He selects 12.

A little over a year into Jesus’ ministry it was quite evident that He had captured the people’s attention. They were flocking to Him “from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan” (Mt 4:25). After developing this following, Jesus makes a strategic move in His ministry. He chooses 12 men from among a great crowd of disciples (Lk 6.17) and appoints them as apostles. The question is why did Jesus do this? Isn’t there the risk of alienating many of His followers by culling out a hand full and giving them a “superior status” above the rest of the disciples? I see three main reasons for Jesus’ selection of the 12.

Logistics – I’ve said before that Jesus elected to be confined to time, space, and energy in His humanity. He chose to be human in order to model humanity. This affected every area of His life including His ministry. Jesus’ ministry had grown beyond His human capabilities and there was no way He could meet the needs of all these people. He was one man. But multiplication is the answer to logistical problems. If a farmer could not milk all his cows, he would train some hands to help him. Multiply the laboring force, increase productivity. Jesus was multiplying His ministry by enlisting leaders that could help Him shepherd the flock. And remember that Jesus’ interests lay in reaching the world with the gospel of the Kingdom. It will take many skilled hands to make disciples of the nations.

Leadership – These men were not only being groomed to share the gospel and make disciples. A disciple can make another disciple. These men were being groomed to be the future leadership of the church, apostles. More about that later.

Longevity – The Apostles were chosen to insure the next generation. The future of the Church was contingent upon these men knowing and being like Christ. They would be the reflection of the Master. Jesus knew that in order to create this kind of reflection of Himself, He had to bring them in close, let them see and imitate and be trained to impact the next generation. The generations rise and fall on leadership and Jesus understood and capitalized on this fact. His plan has succeeded some 2000 years.

Application to Disciplemaking: Although most of us are not making apostles we are making disciples and we are faced with the same logistical, leadership, and longevity challenges Jesus faced. Aren’t we confined to a limited amount of resources? Aren’t we trying to help people become spiritual leaders in their families, work place, and communities? Don’t we see the urgency of developing men and woman into the kind of disciples that can carry the Gospel to the next generation? To train these kinds of men and women we will need to give them concerted time and attention. We will have to operate within the confines of effectiveness and not be lured away by the attraction of numbers. We are compelled to use Jesus’ strategy of focusing on a few while ministering to the many. FJ70

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Choosing the 12

Read Mk 3.13-19, Lk 6.12-16

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,
(Mark 3:14)

Over the next few days I'd like to camp out on the Choosing of the 12. This is a significant part of Jesus’ ministry strategy that goes beyond disciplemaking and there is much confusion and consternation over the concept of selection. Hopefully I can bring some clarity to the reasons and methods of selection. There are seven components of the Choosing of the 12 that I’d like to address;
· Why?
· Prayer
· Appointment
· With Him
· Future Responsibilities
· Apostolic Leadership
· Failure

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Snuffed Out or Broken Off

Read Mt 12.16-21

(Matthew 12:18-21)

"A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice."
(Isaiah 42:3)

Jesus’ ministry is characterized in the Old Testament prophecy as one of gentleness and compassion toward the weak and sick. He didn’t break the bruised or snuff out the smoldering.

If you look closely at Jesus’ style of discipleship, He does not bypass the slow, ugly, weak, sick, poor, or broken. In fact He probably saw everyone through this lens so He treated all men the same (unless of course you were self-righteous and didn’t see yourself as one of the infirmed). I believe He saw the whole of sinful humanity as a broken mess in desperate need of a Savior.

Do we see the world through Jesus’ eyes or have we bought into what our pop American culture would describe as “investing in the people of value?” Are we just looking for the smart, the beautiful, strong, healthy, and rich? On the other hand, do we practice reverse spiritual discrimination and only minister to what our culture would define as the “less fortunate.” Do we see all men (including ourselves) as broken as the rest and, like Jesus, we are “not partial to anyone” (Mt 22.16). Do a quick demographic study of your disciplemaking ministry. Can anyone who wants to follow Jesus make their way into your fellowship without being snuffed out or broken off? The fact of the matter is that no one comes prepackaged spiritually and we are in the business of nurturing back to health all who would seek the Great Physician.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Creating Space

Read Mt 12.15, Mk 3.7-12

And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him;
(Mark 3:9)

The number of people trying to hear Jesus was growing so large it was hard to control. In order to keep from being crushed He creates space between Him and the crowd.

Jesus demonstrates His humanity in ministry once again. He could have done something crazy with His deity like set up a force field or hover over the crowd but instead He leaves us an example we can follow. Jesus confined Himself to time, space, and energy in order to provide a model of ministry that we could follow. In this instance it was space. He knew the crowds could get out of hand and practically smother Him. So Jesus uses water to put a boundary between Him and the people. He sat in the boat and taught the people from an affective distance.

Anyone who practices the art of disciplemaking would do well to learn from Jesus’ example of creating space. Whether it’s one person or a hundred, everyone will need space. For example; we have men living in our home for ministry training. We intentionally bought a home where the bedrooms are on one side of the house and the master bedroom is on the other. Or the times when you can tell the young disciple is “full” and needs a little time and space to digest what they have learned from you. Or you could be developing a few apostolic leaders and you need some time alone with them. An easy way to do that is by taking them a road trip. You put space between them and the flock so you can concentrate on your leaders. When we do not create space we start to experience fatigue or even burn-out if we allow people to smother us. How much space we need is dependent on our circumstances and personalities but we all need it. Think about your ministry. Is there a place to create space? FJ68

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Never bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

Read Mt 12.9-14, Mk 3.1-6, Lk 6.6-11

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.
(Luke 6:6-7)

The religious leaders were watching Jesus to see if He would violate the “Traditions of the Elders” by healing on the Sabbath. Jesus calls them out by healing a man with a withered hand.

Generally speaking it is not smart to walk into an ambush on purpose. Unless of course, you have the fire power you need to take such a risk. The religious leaders were looking for solid evidence that Jesus was doing something wrong on the Sabbath. But their standards of right and wrong were based on a faulty premise. Instead of a correct interpretation the Word of God, the religious leaders went to their traditions. There’s an old saying, “Never bring a knife to a gun fight.” The religious leaders had no grounds for their accusations because their traditions carried no authority. Nowhere in the Law does it prohibit healing on the Sabbath (or doing any essential good deed for that matter) and Jesus knew it. The Word of God reigns supreme over all other writings or thought. To top it off, their poor judgment on the application of the Sabbath laws (Ex. 20: 8-11; 23:12-17; Deut. 5:12-15) prevented them from doing what God would naturally applaud. Their religious rules prevented them from loving people and that ticks God off! (Mk 3.5)

This event underscores the need for a Disciplemaker to draw his authority from the Word of God first before any other source (2 Tim 2.15; 3.16-17, 2 Pet 1.20-21). The man or woman who disciples another by primarily using sources other than the Bible is in grave danger. All truth is God’s truth but let’s make sure it’s truth. The Word of God is truth (Jn 17.17). I often see people studying books about the Bible more than the Bible itself. The Disciplemaker must be saturated in the Word. The only way to make disciples of Jesus is to know who He is. The way to know Him is to read the Gospels and the rest of the scripture through the lens of Jesus. Secondary sources are good but never trump the Word of God. FJ67

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Intent vs Technique

Read Mat 12.1-8, Mk 2.23-28, Lk 6.1-5

"But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent.
(Matthew 12:7)

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees about their legalistic practices of the Sabbath.

A very important part of discipleship is to recognize God’s intent for His commands. The Pharisees had “improved” on the commands of God and actually negated the intent. The Father established the Sabbath as a time of rest and spiritual focus. In order to enforce this spirituality the Pharisees attached additional rules for the sake of clarification and ended up muddying the water. They actually made the Sabbath a burden for the people.

Two thoughts; First, a disciple that has to be forced to follow is no disciple at all and Second, the principles are commanded not the techniques. Let me illustrate them both. If a person has to be forced to get into the Word, you as a disciplemaker are getting exactly what you are propagating, a person that has to be forced to follow Jesus. I’m not looking for men that I have to whip to follow Jesus; I’m looking for men who want to follow Jesus. On the other hand, there are many ways to get into the Word. To demand that a person get into the Word the way I do, is going beyond the principle and elevating technique above the command. Now don’t get me wrong, technique can be very helpful, but when they are demanded by the disciplemaker there is a real danger of missing God’s original intent. Take a close look at your ministry. Are people conforming to a set of traditions and to the way you do things? Or are they being transformed into the likeness of Christ? Is there room to be different or does everyone have to be in step? Is the goal being like “me” or to be like Jesus? FJ66

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Living the Sermon

Read Mat 12.1-8, Mk 2.23-28, Lk 6.1-5

Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain.
(Luke 6:1)

Why were the disciples eating grain as they went? Was this a snack or a meal? Clues are in the text. This was not just one disciple who casually picks the head of grain as a between meal snack. Several disciples were engaged in eating. It mentions that they were hungry (Mt 12.1). And lastly, Jesus chided the Pharisees for not having compassion (Mt 12.7). It doesn’t seem to be wise to risk offending the Pharisees or potentially violating the Sabbath for a snack. The main point of this event is that Jesus knows what a violation of the Sabbath would be because He instituted it. But this also gives us a rare look at the poverty of the evangelistic team. They were in a foraging mode. They were living out Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 6 where He instructed His followers not to worry about their food. God would provide for those who sought the Kingdom first. For Jesus, the sermon was only half of the lesson. The second half was to live it before the congregation. Modeling is a key component to disciplemaking.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Time Management

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