Tag Archives: discipleship

In Community For Jesus

Have you ever seen ants work? I know it sounds ridiculous to start a lesson with that, but really, have you ever looked at ants and how work together? They work so well with each other, even without a leader, and yet they get things done, and they get them done together. The Bible actually mentions ants in Proverbs 6:6 and in 30:25. If you look real hard, they are carrying food, protecting their land, and even carrying their wounded off to safety. We try and do everything on our own without anyone’s help and along the way we’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve brought some good to the world by being independent. And the truth is, we actually need each other.

Living in Community

In Acts 20:17-38 ESV we read about Paul’s probable final meeting with the Ephesians elders. This meeting was very full of teaching the Gospel, warning and storytelling, In the final few verses it says this,

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Within this time of Christian community we see so much life, teaching, and love on the part of everyone. I know for most of us as people, we desire this. I love this is quote by Bill Clem, “A community of believers following Jesus can image God in ways that an individual simply cannot.”1 If you really pay attention to any book of the bible, most of them are full of commands and graces that are meant for listeners that in a community context rather than an individual. This word community has been distorted over the years and will probably conjure up ideas of communism or exclusive types of cults. This is not the case, God has a plan for us to work and image Him together. We must get out of our lone-ranger mentality of life and ministry.

There are marks of a Christian community worth mentioning, so that imitations can be easily pinpointed. First, a Christian community worships. This means that a Christian community loves truth, prayer and enjoys eating together. Second, there is belonging that cannot be found anywhere else in the world because there people that forgiven by Jesus, so they forgive. A beautiful picture of belonging is when Jesus washes Peter’s feet in John 13; we see the perfect example of servant leadership and refreshing friendship. And third, we image God together on mission as a witness.2 When we love the world together, more can happen then what we could ever do on our own. The real question begins to be, are you a consumer? Or are you a giver?

Common distortions when it comes to community are often caused by sin. Sometimes, difficulties in community can also stem from various ways in which certain members have experienced generous, fun or unbiblical fellowship. Four common distortions3 an slowly sneak their way into a community; therapeutic, business network, programmatic, and exclusive. I think we have all been there, therapy looks like an accountability group, networks are business meetings, programs are boring, and exclusive groups are creepy. “Community distortions prevent us from experiencing and expressing the salvation Jesus died to provide.”4

Memorize This Scripture

Mark 9:50 (ESV)

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Personal Reflections

  • Read Acts 2:42-47
    • How would it look for our church for these descriptions to be true in our setting?
    • Does this excite you? Why?
    • Does this concern you? Why?
  • What type of distortion do you see you most prone to be involved with; therapy, network, program, or exclusive?
  • Take time now and plan to go to dinner or lunch with a group and find ways to integrate each other into the rhythms of everyday life. This might seem uncomfortable, but you all are mature adults, make it happen.

Things to Pursue on Your Own

Spiritual Discipline

  • For a lot of people, the use of imagination sounds secular, though it can be secular, it doesn’t have to be. The imagination can be used5 to the glory of God when fenced in by scripture, God gave us our imagination. Spend time in prayer and worship imagining in your mind the beauty of God and joining with other faithful followers in worshiping Him. Imagine what it can look like to be faithful Christians together, and mirroring the church as described in Acts chapter 2.

Personal Study

  • Are you currently in community with other Christians, besides scheduled gatherings like Sundays or required meetings?
  • Read the beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5.
    • Could these teachings be applied to both an individual and in plurality? If so, why?
    • Look at the beatitudes, and make note in your journal how each can be applied in your personal and community life.
  • Study the scriptures laid out in table below, and evaluate if your life is bearing such fruit in your local community.6

 

Biblical Community
'One-Anothers' SCRIPTURE
Care 1 Corinthians 12:25
Forgive Colossians 3:13
Be Kind Ephesians 4:32
Submit Ephesians 5:21
Be Honest Colossians 3:9
Love John 13:35
Peace 1 Thessalonians 5:13
Hospitality 1 Peter 4:9
Serve Galatians 5:13
Instruct Romans 15:14

Action Points

  • While considering your family first, go out of your comfort zone and invite a family in your neighborhood to dinner inside your home, or out to a restaurant if you feel safer with that. I know, big step, but you’ll be surprised what doors can open when steps of kindness are pursued in the Name of Jesus.

Footnotes

COVER PHOTO Photo © Eko Adiyanto

Source: 1x


  1. Clem, Disciple, 123. 

  2. Ibid., 130. 

  3. Ibid., 141. 

  4. Ibid., 150. 

  5. Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul, 148. 

  6. Clem, Disciple, 136. 

Giving Jesus Everything

A few years ago, there was a documentary on TV about a group of medical volunteers helping the citizens with cataracts problems, as well as taking cameras into the country of North Korea to examine the country and its declining social climate.1 Toward the end of the documentary it revealed some interesting insights into the human response to ideas, situations, people, and things when it comes to worship and adoration. Surprisingly, the medical team that came to help many North Korean citizens were not the ones receiving gratitude from the individuals being able to see again. Watching in amazement you see hundreds of people praising, crying, raising hands, jumping, kneeling, screaming in gratitude to a person they don’t know, but only have a picture of, their dictator Kim Jong-Il. These beautiful people seemed to have a glimpse of what it looks like to give something or someone everything they have.

The fact is, is that we offer the same worship, if not more, to ideas, situations, people and things. We consume our life with things that don’t bring honor and glory to God. Think about how many people would throw their own bodies out of a building because they lost all their savings and retirement, or the person who may feel worthless because the person they have been idolizing doesn’t want to be their friend anymore. We have repackaged all of our idols in so many ways, and what is required is this,2

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”

Worshipers

We must deconstruct a bit of what we think worship actually is. Most of us think of worship as merely a time on a Sunday morning with music and a little bit of preaching and everything has been checked off and no more ‘work’ is required of us. The very idea of ‘work’ must first have its proverbial ‘legs’ broken for us to get to the heart of worship. We worship because He is God, and the ‘work’ has already been done on the cross (Rom. 4:1-10), and there is nothing more we can add to what has already been for us.

We were born to worship, you can see every human response, we desire to give praise to something. Just as I mentioned in the previous section, the people of North Korea celebrated their joy and ‘had’ to give their adoration to something for their healing, they had a distorted response, much like we give distorted responses because our hearts are prone to wander. In Jeremiah 19 it says,3

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

We need guidance, and the Word of God is light against the darkness of our hearts. God requires that we worship in both spirit and truth as proclaimed by Jesus (Jn. 4:19-24). Spirit essentially means that we worship with everything we have, our whole being. This includes our affection, posture of our heart, and love in giving God what we have to offer, ourselves. Truth means that we give God our minds (Col. 3:2) in acknowledging that He, the God of Abraham Isaac, Jacob, Paul and Peter is the only One worthy of worship both in distant past and coming future. “The minute you try to manage God, juggling him with anything else as a priority, you have ceased to recognize his weightiness (kabod) and His excellence (doxa)”.4 When you put spirit and truth together, you really begin to understand the humility in worshiping our king with your head (truth) and with your heart (spirit).

Idols

We are all idolaters. That simple statement may offend you, if it does, you’re probably an idolater. There are many things around us, especially our flesh, which will increase this propensity toward idol worship. The root of this problem which is in the heart of evil men, is pride. Pride is what threw the devil out of the place where God was (Isa. 14:12–21). This story should incline us to understand that God is a jealous God (Exod. 20:5), and that anything, including ourselves, should not be idolized and worshiped. There are three major gateways to pride5 and can be known as the three P’s: pleasure, power, and people. When it comes to pleasure, “The bombardment of such subtle messages of self-centeredness takes a toll, and we start to believe that our pleasure is not an indulgence, but an entitlement”.6

We can’t try and re-shape God into our image, He is who He is. We think we’re powerful when we try to control everything, and think that we are to think for our own accomplishments. This sort of thinking can often be associated with the American dream. You can hear the mantra as you read this, “I worked hard, so I deserve this”. The fear of people and their approval can truly handicap your life and what God wants to accomplish for you. We see a clear example of this in the gospel of Mark 13:27-33. The Pharisees had such an appetite for approval of the people that they couldn’t even answer Jesus’ simple question about who they thought Jesus was.

A quick survey you can take of your life to find your idols can be as simple as asking, “what makes me angry?” or “what frightens me?”7 This will give a good clue as to what may be more important in your life than God. Everything in our lives must be in submission to Jesus.

Memorize This Scripture

Matthew 22:37-38 (ESV)

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”

Personal Reflections

  • What parts of our lives can be masked as not being idolatrous?
    • Children?
    • Spouse?
    • ________________ ?
  • What makes you angry?
    • Take 5 minutes to journal and come back to the group to discuss your idols you are comfortable speaking about publicly.
  • What scares and frightens you?
    • Take 5 minutes to journal and come back to the group to discuss your idols you are comfortable speaking about publicly.

Things to Pursue on Your Own

Spiritual Discipline

  • Use this time to journal as a prayer medium, it can be a beneficial way to communicate with as it can temper our conversations with God. Use your journal time as a means of praise and worship as well, it will fill your heart with joy to worship God in this way.

Personal Study

  • Read Jeremiah Chapter 2
    • What were Israel’s sins toward God?
    • Are there things mentioned in this passage that are being paralleled in your own life?

Action Points

  • Ask a Christian spouse or a Christian best friend if there are blind-spots in your life that are idolatrous that you don’t notice. Be humble, listen, and repent. Consider what they have to say, they are people that love God and love you.

Footnotes


  1. National Geographic – Inside North Korea (National Geographic Video, 2007) 

  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 22:37–38). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Je 17:9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

  4. Clem, Disciple, 103. 

  5. Ibid., 109. 

  6. Ibid., 110. 

  7. Ibid., 116. 

Who We Are

Who am I? That seems to be the age old question, right?

“Left to themselves, humans never reach right answers to the question, “Why am I here?”1

Jesus had a lot to say about trying to figure things out apart from Him, Jesus says2

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

It is imperative we look to scripture to find meaning, truth and purpose for ourselves.

Image Bearers

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”3

In reading scripture, especially as leaders, we must view it as truth. And the truth explained here is simply this, we as humans are all made in the image of God, with dignity and value. In Genesis 9:6 it is repeated in a universal context when God speaks of His creation of man.4

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

This following commentary explains this verse well,5

“It is true that image has been injured by the fall, but it is not lost. In this view, a high value is attached to the life of every man, even the poorest and humblest, and an awful criminality is involved in the destruction of it.”

In addition to this understanding of human value, we must realize that we have blown it, and we find ourselves in desperate need of redemption, and the redeemer is Jesus.

Jesus is always the hero, and history and all of its scenes point back to Him. In Colossians 3:9-106 it explains the need for the Holy Spirit’s power to renew our minds back to our image in God as Christians. It reads:

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Without Jesus, how we are imaging God is radically distorted by sin,7 and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed daily if we are in Christ.

The Bible says that His law is light (Psalms 119:105), and to image Him without distortion means to obey Him and follow His instruction to have life. A working definition of imaging God is clearly defined by Pastor Bill Clem, a Pastor at Mars Hill Church Ballard, he states,8

“Imaging God is the human capacity to declare God as your ultimate value through a life of worship, loving others, and bearing the fruit of being transformed by God.”

Memorize This Scripture

Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Personal Reflections

  • This may take a while, but take time to journal and consider these following distortions of imaging God, and confess what distortion you may be mirroring in your own life to another friend. Please note the parenthetical scripture following each statement; it is the scriptural rebuttal to the preceding distortion.
    • I am what I do or whether I fail or succeed (Col. 3:12-14)
    • I am what’s been done to me (Phil. 3:8-10)
    • I am my relationships , roles and responsibilities (Matt. 7:24-27)
    • I am my roles and responsibilities (Phil. 4:11-13)
    • Sin as a noun (1 John 2:1-2)
  • What does imaging God look like and mean for us as leaders in our families and work-places?

Things to Pursue on Your Own

Spiritual Discipline

  • Lectio Divina is an ancient spiritual discipline that is still being practiced today by many faithful Christians. Based on your answer with the group questions of pinpointing your common identity distortion, practice with a lectio divina format using the proceeding scripture next to the distortion that you pinpointed with the group. The following set of stages and/or movements is the standard in lectio divina as described in Dr. Bruce Demarest’s book, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality.9
    • Read (read the scripture slowly)
    • Meditate (think and ponder on the words of the scripture that jumped out to you)
    • Pray (ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand and be transformed, talk with God and worship Him)
    • Contemplate (just remain in His presence as He does His work, this may mean remaining silent for a while)

Personal Study

  • Do a study on Zachaeus in Luke 19
    • What was Zachaeus’ profession?
    • What was his identity distortion?
    • How did he understand this new gospel identity?

Action Points

  • Take out your spouse or best friend out to dinner and share with them how God is working in your life and how important that person is to you. Ask each other questions as to how you can image the gospel and a grace filled life to people around you, and how as Christians, you can image God together.

Footnotes


  1. Easley, K. H. (2002). Holman QuickSource guide to understanding the Bible (130). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers. 

  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 15:5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ge 1:26-27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

  4. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ge 9:6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

  5. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ge 9:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc 

  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Col 3:9–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

  7. Clem, Disciple

  8. Ibid. 

  9. Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality (NavPress, 1999), 320. 

All For God and His Story

If you look at the picture attached to this post, you can see my family is pretty amazing. Everyday I look at my talented and gorgeous wife (I don’t even know how I snagged her), every moment of my 3 child’s lives, I do my best to capture somehow that exact moment in time so I can never forget it. As a family, we haven’t been able to avoid life’s difficulties either. Over the last few years God has really shaped me and helped me understand more of who He is and how He changes the way we react to life’s challenges.

The situations in our life are sometimes so hard to understand; death, divorce, miscarriage, abuse, slavery, greed. I can’t answer some of those questions as I have asked them myself. The way we feel can also be very a very valid emotion. So, why does He allow hardship to happen so often? A lot of questions can stem out of a confusion of who God is, why He has put us here, and then, what we’re supposed to do while we’re here. It’s really all about Him. Oh I know, that seems to be the mantra of everything you here when going to a religious conference or even within the fellowship that you are in. Well, I’m going to say the same thing, it’s all about Him, we just get to play a part in His story. We have an important role too, we are made is His image, that’s a big deal. This idea that we made in His image should cause us to see every human being with immeasurable value.

We might ask, ‘OK, what is the story then?’, well let’s dive in and look at some parallels between history past and the future to come to help give us a wider perspective of time itself rather than only our particular piece in history.

Story Summary

The story begins with God creating the Earth and being beautiful and good (Gen. 1). He creates Adam and Adam sins (Gen. 3), so sin enters the world, and is the place in history where death enters the picture. Abraham is promised a nation (Gen. 12). Moses is called by God to be involved in His story where people are liberated, and is given The Law (Exod. 3, 12, 20) . David reigns as king over Israel (2 Sam. 2). Prophets speak of a coming messiah (Isa. 53:4-6), and then 400 years of silence. King Jesus arrives and everything changes, and He makes all things right. Jesus is as the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45–49) and defeats sin by His death. Jesus is the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Jesus fulfills the law (Matt. 5:17) given to Moses. Jesus is the King (Matt.1:1) and infinitely greater than David and at the cross defeats the reign of death (2 Tim. 1:10). Who is the hero of the story? Jesus.1

So what’s the big take-away? The story of God has never been at risk, because Jesus is the hero of every scene along the way. A humbling part of it all is that we can be included as He places us right in there as part of the action, even if we get to play just a tiny part. The real question is not whether we’re in the story or not, it’s whether we’re going to be ready to acknowledge for ourselves that Jesus is the hero of the story, and whatever role we get to play we are content because it is for His glory!

Every week there will be memory verses to memorize to etch on your heart, discussion starters for the group, spiritual disciplines to practice, as well as homework for your leader to take note of your comprehension of these biblical concepts of discipleship. Remember, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you insights that you do not understand. The goal is for you to be transformed by God, not merely informed.

Memorize This Scripture

Hebrews 12:2

“. . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. “

Personal Reflections

* What part are you playing in a church within God’s story?

* Share with your group (any group of close friends) what part of your journey of where you are at. Share nuggets of information you assume most people know like when you came to know God for real and what role your faith plays in everyday life.

* What part of Jesus being the hero of the story inspires you the most?

Things to Pursue on Your Own

Spiritual Discipline

* During your prayer time, try setting aside 10 minutes reading Hebrews 12:2 over and over again. While reading, paint a picture in your mind and visualize God rescuing humanity with wisdom and strength.

Personal Study

* Look at the table below called “God’s Unshakable Design”2 after the lesson and journal about how it impacts your view of God’s sovereign plan for His story and glory. Read Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, as well as Revelation 21. Journal about your exploration of creation and new creation.

Action Points

* This week, ask a close friend or family member that you really respect as a Christian, to share with you how their journey has played a role in the bigger story of God and how Jesus has been their hero. Journal about your findings.

God's Unshakable Design
GENESIS 1 REVELATION 21
Original Creation New Creation
God is Creator / Designer God is Creator / Designer
Humans are image bearers Humans are sons of God (image bearers)
We are designed to love We are called the bride of God
We are designed to worship We declare the glory of God
We are designed for life There will be no more death

Footnotes


  1. Bill Clem, Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus (Crossway, 2011). 

  2. Ibid.