Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What has God used to mature you???

First of all…..
Great Question……
Can’t answer it all in just a phone text…
Andrew M. ….one of our young guys in the ministry that is growing in leaps and bounds texted me today a question "What has God used to mature me?"
He asked me another great question- but one at time….
By far- what God has used to mature me…. is using me as His tool to disciple and train others. It has been such and exciting and challenging adventure- not always on the joyous side- or should I say happy-side. But it has definitely been the most fulfilling and growing things that God has ever done with me.
I can see the reason why it has cause me to grow so much is because when I am discipling another- when I am training another- I no longer think selfishly about myself- I am progressively growing more and more concerned about what I can do to help this other person that I am discipling grow more and more and get to a point where they are developing spiritual "OWNERSHIP" of their own relationship with God. Ownership- meaning they are taking personal responsibility to make things happen- they are no longer waiting for someone to do things- they are no longer waiting for someone to challenge them to read their bible- they are no longer waiting for someone to challenge them to find someone to help and disciple- they are doing all these things because they themselves realize that this is between them and God. THEY have to be the ones to say in

Josh 24:15 … " choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

I don’t care what anyone else does… I am going to serve Jesus Christ. Helping someone get to this point- and then helping them see how God can use them and then equipping them with the skills and confidence so that they can do that- man………. No greater feeling!!!
I had to get a point first where I had to make a decision- am I going to be a spectator Christian- or am I going to be in the trenches allowing God to use me powerfully in the lives of others. Sure God could use me- if he could use a donkey to speak to Balaam- He can use anyone and anything- but what I am talking about is making a commitment to :
1. Get training- so that I can mature and grow
2. Get training- -so that I can disciple others and train them to disciple others
So… getting to a point where Luke 9:23-24 (Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. ) was a REAL action in my life and I was sacrificing all my personal hopes and dreams to do things like become a doctor… make stupid amounts of money… all those things are literally and figuratively dying inside me as I am realizing that those are all empty pursuits and that if I REALLY wanted to help people- I needed to be involved with helping them with the ETERNITY question…. Making that commitment and allowing those ‘dreams and aspirations’ to die- that was a huge growth step for me…. A tough one… but a really huge one and fulfilling one.
So many other lessons too that I have learned as God has been using me to disciple others that is growing my relationship and dependence on Him…
One of them is how I was (am) so excited to help someone grow and/ or lead them to Christ- that I would do everything in my power to help them- but I realized that 1 Cor 3:7-11 is what the reality is:

1 Cor 3:7-11 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

So.. If I were really going to make a difference in people’s lives- I needed to work where God was already working- so that translated to committing to spend time with people who God was really tugging at their heart AND they were responding positively to that as well. God tugs at everyone’s heart- but not all of us truly respond positively- sometimes its really hard to figure out if someone is truly responding- because their words say they do… but I’ve realized that it is a person’s ACTIONS that truly determine what they are ultimately SAYING from their heart. I thought that if I simply spent enough time with someone- being their friend- they would eventually be as excited for the cause of Christ as I was- it was/is NOT true. And it cost me a year of my life figuring this out- and it almost burnt me out eternally too… all this before I was even 25 years old….
But I realized about myself is that I DO WANT to invest personally with everyone- but I just don’t have the time and energy- physical energy and emotional energy to invest with everyone- especially with someone who in the end can simply turn around and say they are really not that interested in Christ- but that they did like me as a person… which is cool- and I know God can use it to draw this person more to Him. But as a STEWARD of this body- a steward of ME- I have to use ME in the most effective way possible for the mission of Christ- and that is to invest in relationships where God is working and where that person is responding positively and aggressively toward knowing Christ and fulfilling the mission of Christ.
So… realizing this about myself and positioning myself in such a way as to allow God to "deploy" this weapon as best as He sees fit- that was a huge growing thing for me…
So much more… but I’ll end there… ask me some more…
I love talking about (writing I guess…) it all and showing how Christ is the difference in my life….

Monday, August 3, 2009

Will Real Determination please stand up?

Its been a little bit of break and I apologize.... but moving forward...

Found something that I’ve haven’t seen before in my biblestudy. I was going through 2 Peter 1 during our leaders biblestudy on Monday night. This is one of my favorite chapters in the bible and includes the ‘Pyramid Qualties’ that one of my mentors, Cecil Bean loves to share about.

2 Peter 1:3-11
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So many great points in this passage:
A few points:

God has ALREADY given us everything we NEED for life and Godliness vs. 3
It is through these PROMISES we will be able to participate Godliness and life vs.4
We must have the qualities in INCREASING measure vs.8
IF we have these qualities in increasing measure- it will prevent us from becoming useless vs.8

All great points… and I could talk about each one of these all day too…
But the one thing that I discovered differently this time came from vs. 5 ….

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge …

In doing some word study on these words- the one that was INTERESTING to me was on goodness. Many versions exchange moral excellence for goodness. When I looked up the word goodness- the word virtue came up. In delving into what the word virtue means- one of the interesting words used to describe this word virtue was valor. Valor? You know… the heroic quality of not wanting to give up- determination.
In Peter’s listing of these qualities- they are all progressive- or they build up on one another… first start with faith- next add VALOR…. Next add …. So on, and so forth….
But it is interesting Peter says to add Valor or Determination to our faith… and I think he is really on to something. The reality is that we ARE going to undergo adversity. Whether it is from the onslaught of Satan, the attacks from belligerent non-christians, our own stupid decisions, or God refining us- we are going to go through adversity. So …. Peter says that IF we are going to survive and thrive as followers of Christ- the first thing we are going to have to add to our faith is DETERMINATION.

Even Jesus says in John 16:33 … in this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart- I have overcome the world!” Jesus makes clear to the disciples and to all of us- we WILL have trouble. We can take heart that Christ has already overcome the world, but we have to be determined to live for Christ as we are still living in the world.

This determination is something I have RARELY seen in Christians nowadays. Many are beaten, depressed, fatigued… insert any other downtrodden descriptive word here. I’m not certain if it is a result of our world progressively getting worse, a symptom of broken families and abuse at home, or even a result of our modern Christianity- where toughness and grit are a thing of the past. Where beauty and intimacy with Christ are emphasized- the ideas of courage and toughness and resolve have disappeared into the past.
Oh for the days of Joshua…. Where he boldly declared to the rest of the Israelites “I don’t care what the rest of you guys do…” (Joe’s version ofcourse..) Josh 24:14 … “But as for me and my household, WE WILL serve the Lord.”

If we are going to survive and then thrive in our pursuit of Jesus Christ- we are going to have to build and aspire to this same type of determination that Godly men of the Bible have demonstrated.
We are going to have to DETERMINE to remain in the Word.
We are going to have to DETERMINE to influence others to Christ and not be influenced to other things.
We are going to have to DETERMINE to forge relationships with people who will sharpen us and not just hang out with us.
We are going to have to DETERMINE that our pursuit of Christ is priority over everything else in our lives.

DETERMINE today that you will spend quality time with Christ. DETERMINE today that you will work at your job as if working for Christ. DETERMINE today that you will share Christ with a schoolmate or co-worker. DETERMINE today that you will be part of the work in discipling others rather than standing on the sidelines...

Determing to labor with Christ along with you...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Serving up Spaghetti and Truth

We had a soldier join us at our recurring weekly outreach dinner. It was exciting particularly for one of our regular attending soldiers- who had approached this ‘new’ soldier "Bill". Bill has been in the Army for a few years and is a young infantry soldier. He said it was ‘weird’ that one of our guys approached him and talked to him about church and about Jesus Christ. Apparently, while at home on leave- some others had approached him and talked to him about Jesus Christ too. He even said while back at Ft. Campbell, he was driving down the road and someone pulled out a sign out of their car and showed him a sign- the sign read "Listen to Jesus". All he could say about it- was that it was weird. But we knew better that God was trying to get his attention- God had used these various different people while he was on leave and while he was now back at Ft. Campbell- now he was sitting at our dinner table openly discussing his thoughts about what faith in God meant.
Through the course of dinner, he asked me how I could feel secure about God since he knew someone who had said that that they had read the whole bible through- yet still was unconvinced about believing in God. He asked me if that bothered me- I responded "No- and let me share with you why… The issue is that it is NOT about data or information ABOUT God- but it is about a relationship with God- about Knowing God and Knowing Jesus Christ." (This comes from John 17:3)
After another plate of spaghetti and some cokes, we continued conversing with Bill about God and his experience with church and what he believed about God. Finally, Bill told us that he was interested in God and was open to learning more- but he was fearful. He said that he wanted to experience a "full" life but if he began pursuing a more extensive understanding about God- he wouldn’t be able to experience a "full" life. I asked Bill, "Is having a full life something that is really important to you?" He said yes. I told Bill that God was not in the business of trying to make life hard for us- but that the bible actually shows us that Christ came to give us a full life- and shared with him John 10:10…

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

In the end, Bill was still deciding on what he was going to do as far as God was concerned. I did reinforce with him that we were NOT intending him to make a decision right then or that we were NOT going to force him into doing anything- but we did make it clear to him that we were going to continue to share the Truth of the Gospel with Him if he continued spending time with us. He DID say that he would at least play some flag football with us that next Sunday afternoon and that he did enjoy hanging out with guys from the biblestudy.
During our post dinner- AAR, one of the things I challenged the guys who were regularly coming to our biblestudies is that there are going to be MORE guys like Bill out there that all have similar questions. If we are going to be involved in bringing Christ to other soldiers at Ft. Campbell- we are going to have to be ready to answers these questions. Therefore- coming up with some verses to share with guys when they ask these questions is not only a good idea- but it is THE idea to ensure we are bringing Truth from God’s Word to them rather than just our own words and reasoning. The challenge I left with the guys that night was:
  1. List 5 questions that you’ve heard soldiers as they’ve asked you about God
  2. Find 1 verse to answer each question and memorize each of these verses
The challenge that Peter leaves us in the bible is this: 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
We are urged to be ready to answer everyone for whatever they might throw in our direction. The issue is NOT about winning arguments- but there are some people who ARE sincerely trying to find out truth about Christ and God- if we are going to help them find Christ- we are going to have to be ready to share Truth with them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meeting the Living Truth Face to Face

I was with a few of our soldiers at our Thursday night biblestudy. We had a great time of fellowship in going over a particular biblestudy that we were discussing. As we continued to share about our biblestudy and our daily quiet times- one of the soldiers asked if he could share something that he recently realized and discovered. This soldier reared up quite humbly but excitedly pronounced about what he had recently read.

John 14:6 I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

What this young soldier began to excitedly proclaim to everyone at his study… was “I just realized that Jesus Christ IS truth!! Not that Jesus spoke truth- which He did… but He is the LIVING TRUTH!” I was very excited for this young soldier. He had realized that Jesus Christ is Truth and he had began an adventure in walking with Jesus Christ personally in a very new and fresh and vibrant way- realizing that not only did he have the opportunity to find out about the truth….. but he had the opportunity to personally know and experience that Truth- because He now approaches the bible as God’s living Word- God’s living Truth.

I hope to see this soldier continuing to grow in his relationship with Christ- he has started on a very exciting turn to his journey because now, he is approaching the Word as Christ Himself- as the Truth that he can know personally. Now… we have so many implications to this….
One of them- is that I can live Truth personally and know Truth personally because Truth is the person of Christ- not some far off idea or principal that I can only hope to understand- but Truth is Jesus Christ Himself- and I can personally know Him and invest time with Him.

To close … some of the questions we can consider is :

How much time am I investing in the Truth- the Word?
What Truths am I allowing to infiltrate my heart, my mind, my soul?
What lies have I allowed to infiltrate my heart, my mind, my soul?

If I am going to sincerely live the Truth of Jesus Christ in my life- I am going to have to invest enough time in the Word in order to put myself face to face with these Truths and also face to face with the lies that I may have been living in my life- I may have simply never realized the existence of these lies in my mind because I have not been able to compare it to the Holiness of the Truth.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our Call to Maturity and Laboring

One of our recurring events in our ministry is our Wednesday night dinner. We usually have some soldiers over for dinner where we either share the Gospel with them if they are non-believers or we challenge them on how they can take part in the labor that God wants us to be part of for the kingdom. I love to talk with soldiers or family members about how being a Believer in Christ means that I am also ‘drafted’ in to the labor for His kingdom in bringing people to Him or discipling young believers on how they can themselves become and grow into disciple-makers.
We just had 2 couples over for dinner last night and another single soldier and a young lady who has also been faithfully involved in the biblestudy and our ministry. I shared with them one of our driving thoughts from the Word with them about how we are called to pursue Christ and make disciples in accordance with Matthew 28:19-20.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

This is Christ’s last command to us and our job is to do this task of making disciples as well. This means me personally growing and maturing in my relationship with Christ. One of the things I shared was how Christ commanded the 12 disciples to teach others to obey ‘everything He has commanded them.’ Therefore, every subsequent generation of disciples or followers of Christ are supposed to learn and do everything that Christ had first commanded the original 12 disciples. Therefore- every believer of Christ after the disciples lives on with this ongoing command to make disciples- the command left to the original 12 disciples. As I shared this verse and this thought with our group last night- I related to them the idea of ‘Implied Tasks"- which is a military term. Implied tasks refers to the additional tasks that must also be accomplished in order to reach the first task. Our main task spiritually is to make disciples for Christ. Therefore- I, myself, must grow as a disciple. Therefore, some of the main tasks involved would be for me to invest time in doing biblestudy, personal time in the Word, personal time in prayer, and a real fellowship/discipleship relationship with someone who is objectively training me and helping as Christ did with His disciples.
Our concluding questions are:
  • How is your personal time in doing biblestudy? Are you involved in a biblestudy group where people are encouraging and challenging you in your time in the Word- your application of the Word and hiding God’s Word in your heart?
  • How is your time in prayer?
  • What is your fellowship time like? Is it just ‘hang out’ time after church? How much time are you investing in REAL fellowship relationships with others? Do you have anyone who asks you tough questions about how life is going? About how you are applying the Word? About how you are being obedient to God’s Word? About how you might be ‘dodging’ obedience to God’s Word?
  • Who is discipling you?

Obviously, these questions are not meant to pry or condemn - but simply a call to become what God wants us to become.... mature sons and daughters of the King.
And...... as Sons and Daughters of the King- the issue is for us to figure out how we are supposed to live as such....