To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

Man of God

At our recent “Men’s Breakfast”at Feltham Evangelical Church we thought about what it was to be a man of God. We focused on the following issues:

  1. Prayer. In 1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. The man of God is to be a praying man. As men we are inclined to self-sufficiency. We want to do things ourselves. Prayer is an indication that we are relying on the power of another.
  2. Service. We thought about how we are called top serve. We are naturally inclined to having others serve us, but we are to be people who serve. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mk. 10:43b-45). We are called to service and in so doing we are called to follow a Master who served. In serving we should not be thinking specifically about what we can do for others, but how we can bless others. The two can be different. This requires us to be in prayer. We should never forget the great example of our Lord Jesus who washed His disciples feet and then said I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:15).
  3. Word of God. We are to be men of the Word. This took us to 2 Timothy 3 where we thought of the Word of God which needs to be learned, passed on and lived out. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We thought how we need to know the Word, but how knowing the Word is not enough . We need to live out that Word. We also need to know the Word so that we can help others.
  4. Spirit. We need to be men of the Spirit. We need to have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Our lives should continually be pushing back into God.

The Lord First

A scripture I have had difficulty in shaking from my mind recently is they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us (2 Cor 8:5b). Paul, here, is giving commendation of the Macedonian churches as he writes to the Corinthian Christians. He is writing about the self-sacrificial giving of the Macedonian churches. When he reaches v5b he reaches the heart of the matter as points to why the Macedonians gave with such devotion. It all emanated from a commitment to trusting in the Lord. The primary thing we see is that they gave themselves to the Lord.

This applies specifically in this instance to our giving to help alleviate the plight of other believers. However, it establishes a general principle for life and that is of giving ourselves to the Lord before everything. As we enter any situation in life we should be first giving ourselves to the Lord. It is only when this is the general tenor of our lives that we will find ourselves living effective lives.

We will only have lives that really count for God when we have lives which are always pushing back into God. This connects with this post which dwelt upon how we can be part of an effective kingdom.

So I am happily having difficulty shrugging off this scripture because it helpfully means I am prompted to implement this “giving oneself to the Lord first” strategy reletlessly in my life.

The End-Point Matters.

In dealing with people and situations we so very easily get stuck on the details, the minutia and the arguments. However, what we should always focus on is the end-point of the matter. Relentlessly throughout the Old Testament the Lord, in His dealings with the nation of Israel, is fixing them upon the end-point of their actions. As an example we read the following in Deuteronomy 4. Let us consider the negative end-point first of all in Deuteronomy 4:25-28

After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time – if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and arousing his anger, I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you.  There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.

In seeking to give instruction to the nation He is going to the end point. The end-point of them failing to trust Him will be a scattering and it will not be pleasant.

On the other hand we read of the end-point of their faithfulness. Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time. (Deut. 4:39-40). The end-point of keeping with the Lord is a long good life in His beautiful place.

Similarly, such famous scriptures of the New Testament such as John 3:16 and Romans 6:23 focus on the end point.

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Here the end is eternal life or perishing.
  • The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ). Here the end is death or life.

It is good to be thoughtful of these things as we study the Bible.

But we also must be so thoughtful of these things as we study and apply proper perspectives into our own lives.  So I must analyse the things that come into my life in terms of consequences. Whats is the end pint of this? That should be a question regularly in my thinking.

This also most definitely applies as we seek to help others in their spiritual walk. In dealing with other people I must be speaking to them about the end-point of matters. I think this is so vital in our evangelism and witness. We waste so much effort in verbal and mental engagements with people when we should rather be focusing on the end-point. So very often it is simply good to focus someone’s mind, by saying “what is going to happen when you die?” This is the end-point; this focuses things.

So let us be thoughtful of the end-point in all of our dealings.

Discipling.

Discipling is an ongoing task. That is both for myself and for others. So for myself I need to be relentlessly pushing forward to know my Master better and follow Him more closely. In dealing with others it means that I can never feel that I have so ministered into their lives so as to have them as the finished article in terms of following our Lord Jesus.

Discipling of course, has everything to do with following a Master. It means learning from that person and imbibing their teachings and lifestyle. In Christian discipling it is critically important that we are not making disciples for ourselves. Our business is to labour into our own lives and into the lives of others so that each are formed in the image of Christ. Paul is speaking about discipling work when he says in Colossians 1:28 that He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

If we ever think we have made it in discipling, that is in either becoming one ourselves or striving to make disciples of others then we are very wrong. None of us will be the finished article until glory dawns. Whenever I hear someone speaking of not needing further teaching on an issue then I am a little suspicious. We always need further teaching, we all need further rebuking, further exhorting. And we all need a continually good example around us. So becoming a disciple is never done in this life.

 

How Many Books Can You Read?

Reading is very important. When we read we tap into the “university of the world”; namely books. And Christians should be reading. We should be reading good books to strengthen us in our faith so as to be more godly in living and more effective  in witness.

Nevertheless, I write to express a concern. The concern relates to when people make and publicize declarations regarding the number of books they plan to read (or have read) in a year. The number is normally very impressive.  Such declarations can be very intimidating for lesser mortals who just do not have the capacity to read and digest at such a phenomenal pace.

Moreover, it implicitly inculcates a culture of fast reading. Reading becomes a process of getting through a book so that I can tick a further one off my list. This means that slow reading is discouraged. But slow reading can be so valuable. In fact some books can only be read slowly. The meat in such books is so dense that they have to be slowly consumed and slowly digested, otherwise the benefit of the material is significantly lessened. Reading the writings of the Puritans, for example, nearly always needs a decent time for consideration, assimilation and digestion.

So I want to advertise a caution. If you are able to read lots of books that is great, but please be careful about how you present this.

Finally I want to make it clear that I am not discouraging reading. I am saying “read, read, read”; you must read for the good of your soul. But if you only read very slowly don’t be intimidated by the big readers.

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