Category Archives: Discipleship

God’s Call and My Response


Isaiah 1_8“1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. 6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. 9And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.11Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. 13But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof” (Isaiah 1:1-13).

This morning as I revisited the message of Isaiah and reflected upon the message of Isaiah where a vivid portrayal of the personal experience described by Isaiah of being lifted into the presence of God and viewing the manifestation of God’s majestic wonder. Isaiah’s account of the ascent into the presence of the holy angels declaring the glory of God describes an experience that moves beyond any finite ability to understand the Holy place of Heaven and descriptions of God in His glory in human terms and presents an  apocalyptic of the presence of God unknown to man. In the midst of the shaking of the of the foundation of the posts of the Holy of Holies in the atmosphere of worship and the smoke of the incense from the altar God there came a profound conviction, a personal cleansing, and a prophetic call that Isaiah deeply felt and expressed a response to by accepting God’s offer.

Application of the Vision

While pondering the events described and reflecting upon the events from the personal experience of Isaiah, I am impressed that at the heart of the matter that when God lifts people into His presence, the first response should be recognition of their sinful state and conviction  about their part in the condition of the world followed by heartfelt repentance in humility in the presence of the glory and majesty of God. I am challenged to consider that when God calls for a response, it really, it doesn’t really make any difference what anyone else does, thinks or says, I am only responsible for how I respond to God’s invitation to respond to His call. IT is the only thing that is important.

The Voice of God and Response to the Call

Many times while thinking about the calling of God, I have overlooked the central and most compelling component relating to the call of God resting in the attributes and character of Him who calls to service. Every day there are many things calling and demanding my full attention, but none more important than the call of God to transformation and service and to follow Jesus and live the gospel. Obviously, some of these things calling for my attention will be answered out of necessity and others will not even be heard because they are insignificant to the purpose of God. However, the call of God is revealing of the nature and desire of the person whose call to service from the heart, to a king, in a kingdom, to a way of living that transcends human reason or ability. Therefore, I recognize that I can only understand the call when I share the divine nature in measure with the one who issues the summons to service. As a result, I must not be deceived for the call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not mine or for my glory, but His alone. God providentially has woven the tapestry of His calling into my life so  I can understand and discern the nature of His call and learn to distinguish His voice from other things calling. It is the revealing of God’s voice through His word about definable concerns; therefore, it is meaningless to seek others opinions about God’s specific call. The way I process of the call of God and the direction that it takes me should be kept exclusively between He and I.

As such, I am reminded that the call of God is not a reflection of my nature or my personal desires and my temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God clearly. Nevertheless, when God brings me into the right relationship with Himself, I will be in the same condition as Isaiah on the mount of the Lord. Isaiah, who was so attuned to God because of the great crisis he had just endured and the call of God penetrated his soul with the burden to go and be a witness of the glory of God. Therefore, I am convicted and convinced that the great majority do not hear anything but echo of personal desires for existence. When we do not attune the heart to the voice of God calling, it is because we have not been brought to the place or conviction, repentance, and willingness to hear the call of God and be to be profoundly changed by the burden to go for Him.

“Lord, allow me into your presence that I may feel the convicting power of your glory. Let me be attuned to Your voice”—that is my prayer. I am willing beyond all my expression to be obedient to go as I hear you speak. May I I be your willing and obedient servant in a time of great crisis to bring truth to a dying nation and a crippled people who have lost their way.”

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Expectation Hope and Boldness in the Gospel


Gospel-CenteredLife“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Philippians 1:20).

Today I have the earnest reminder about how hard it is for me to stay on task when my life is encompassed with immeasurable odds that drain my emotional and cognitive resources below a breaking point. It is hard to be at my best and make good decisions about eternal matters when I feel the pressure of the vice tightening every day. A normal reaction is a reaction that usually is not the best response; therefore, my earnest hope and expectation is that is the things that we must go through in life that in all that I do that I will bring glory to God.

Keeping Expectations High

Paul’s aspiration was, “my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed” I am reminded today about how I will feel very much ashamed if I do not yield to Jesus the areas of my life that He requires me to yield to Him. It is as if Paul were saying, “My solitary purpose in life is to be fully committed give the very best for His glory.” Keeping expectations high and arriving at that level of resolute commitment is a matter of exercising the will, not of reasoning my way through a set of facts. Therefore, keeping expectations high requires an absolute and complete surrender of the will to the purpose of Christ. Staying on target means that today that I have to take myself out of the center of the equation and put Christ and His purpose at the center of every decision that I make.

Thinking about my needs and myself too much feeds the fleshly need to I have to be satisfied and happy at every moment and distracts my thoughts away from the primary goal of placing my thoughts, expectation, and hope on Christ in every decision. The danger within self-absorbed distraction is that I can pretend to care for others and neglect my care for Christ by ignoring the central purpose of Christ in the gospel. Keeping expectations high means that the message and purpose of the gospel must be at the center of everything that I do today. The purpose of Christ is to win the lost and disciple the believer for His glory alone.

Keeping expectations high means that grace cannot be selective; it must be available to all and must not simply result in compassion, but a challenge to life change. As I ponder God’s call seriously and what it will cost others —and if I do not obey the call of Jesus, I will lower the expectations of the gospel for myself and the people’s lives that I touch; then, we will not know what obedience to the gospel means.

Keeping expectations, high means that I must shut out every other thought and keep myself before God in the gospel of Christ alone. Therefore, I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

An Unquenchable Thirst for His Holiness

Paul says, “Whether it means life or death —it makes no difference!” Paul states that he was determined that no obstacle would deter him from doing exactly what God wanted him to complete.

However, something that I gleaned from this passage reveals that before I choose to be obedient to the gospel and follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in my life. This happens when I tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler attempts to gain my attention. He brings me to the place where He asks me to surrender to a radical faith in Jesus Christ that put’s the Gospel first above all else and then I begin to debate with Him. So, God, providentially produces a crisis that puts me in a place where I must decide for or against a life centered in the gospel of Christ.

That moment becomes a greatest crossroads in life and if you have found yourself at a crisis of faith and belief, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably that Christ might be glorified.
Father, in the scope of your sovereign power and with the touch of your grace, breathe Your precious Holy Spirit upon every person who reads these words today.—how I long to be face to face with You today. Forgive my inability to pay attention when I should, awaken me oh Lord to what is possible through the power of the gospel of Christ.

The Driving force of the Christian Life: The Gospel of Christ


The GospelHave you left everything behind for the Gospel?

“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21).

One of the particular attributes of a gospel-centered Christian is that they give of themselves sacrificially to others and find purpose in surrender by taking up our cross—mission in life by following Jesus.

This scripture is a reply to the statement of Peter by saying that the purpose surrender is “for My sake and the gospel’s” (10:29).

In contrast, surrender was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves wanted from following Jesus. There is a sound warning to be cautious about surrender motivated by personal gain or prestige. Some people believe sincerely “I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin because I want to be made holy” to draw attention to themselves. The power of the gospel delivers us from sin and makes us holy because we are right with God.

The result of being right with God is a gospel-centered life, but surrender resulting from prideful thinking is certainly not the true nature of Christianity. Our motive for surrender should not be for recognition or personal gain. Unfortunately, people are self-centered that they only go to God only for something that benefits them and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “I want to be the center piece of you grace and power to demonstrate how I am so Christian above others.

I want to enhance myself, my position, and my purpose, However, I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ‘This is what God has done for me.’” Gaining heaven and being delivered from sin and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal preference for Jesus Christ Alone.

Where does the gospel of Jesus Christ figure in when we have a concern about our earthly relationships? Many of us will abandon Him and offer an excuse—“Yes, Lord, I heard you call me, but my family needs me, and I have my own interests. I just can’t go any further” (see Luke 9:57–62). Then ” Jesus says, “you ‘cannot be My disciple’” (see Luke 14:26–33).

Indeed real surrender to the gospel will move us far beyond natural surrender to Christ. If we abdicate our human desires, God will surrender Himself to embrace our lives with His Grace. Be cautious of easy believism and stopping anywhere short of total surrender to the gospel of God. Unfortunately, many Christians only a conceptual knowledge of what surrender to the Gospel Means and have never personally experienced transformation through the gospel that brings total surrender.

O Lord, cause my intellect to glow with Your Holy Spirit’s teaching

Total Surrender to Discipleship


TransformationalDiscipleshipFB-cover

What does it mean to totally surrender to the Lord and His mission for life?
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“Come on be really honest. have you surrendered all to follow Jesus ? Then Peter  began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But, many that are first shall be last; and the last first”
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What are  we concentraing upon, the hundredfold blessing or a life of service?

While Peter was concentrating on all that he had given up to follow Jesus, he receives a stern reminder that motivation for service is far more important than sacrifice for service. Jesus replies to this self-serving statement by Peter and clarifying to him that the reason for authentic surrender to discipleship is “for My sake and the gospel’s” (10:29).

Really, Peter what have you left behind and what do you hope to gain?

The blessing of surrender was not for the advancement of how the disciple would benefit from service, but rather for the benefit of the Kingdom of Heaven. Obviously, we need to beware of spurious surrender motivated by personal gain for the follower and his purposes. For example, “I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from the weight of sin on my life, because I want to be made holy, or this will enhance my image”. The truth is that deliverance from sin and personal holiness are the result of being in a right relationship with God. However, surrender resulting from the position of personal gain reveals that this kind of thinking is certainly not the true nature of the Jesus kind of Christianity. Indeed, our motivation for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all, but to honor Christ as His servant disciple.

Self-Centered Religious Belief that Treats God like a Vending Machine

Many people have become so self-centered that they go to God only for something from Him, and not out of love and a desire to give service to Him. Really, it is like saying, “I will give you my quarter, but I really don’t want you; I just want the candy bar –to be blessed and honored. However, I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit and I want to be on display in Your showcase, so I can say, ‘Look at what God has done for me.’” Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration of gain in real surrender to God. In fact, genuine and total surrender to God is a response to a personal sovereign preference of God that places a desire in our heart for Jesus Christ Himself.

Are we Disciples or Deserters

The problem reveals itself in where Jesus Christ figures into our self-motivated concerns about our physical existence in the world. Many people will desert Christ at the drop of a hat with a simple excuse—“Yes, Lord, I heard you call me, but my family needs me and I have my own interests that are more important at the moment. Many people who are called simply say I just can’t go any further” There is a high cost to following Jesus:
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. He said to another man, “Follow me. But he replied, Lord, first let me go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family. Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

Three times,” Jesus says”, you ‘cannot be My disciple’” if you are not ready for total surrender

True surrender always goes beyond natural devotion to God, it is a choice to follow the compelling voice of the Holy Spirit who reveals a calling and a direction. If we will surrender to the calling of the Holy Spirit, God will manifest Himself to bless the work that we do with evidence of power and fruit that will last. Use caution when stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God for we may miss God’s greatest blessing that can only come in surrender to discipleship.

May our prayer be to be counted among His disciples and be truly surrendered to following Christ today wherever the road may lead?

 

What Does it Mean to be a Christian?


Carbon CopySome people may ask, “why be a Christian” and “what does it really mean to be a Christian?” An easy way to avoid the answer is to point out that it depends who you ask and dismiss the question. So, where we will get the answer from?  If people were going to be surveyed on Facebook, you might get answers about what you have to do and ideas that must be believed to be a Christian, i.e. doing something or believing things in a certain way.

However, an important place to start is by considering what Jesus says about this this life that has been labeled as Christianity.

When we carefully consider the words of Jesus in contrast to many things that you may hear a bout Christianity, “What Jesus promises is not a gimmick to give you goose bumps nor a mental attitude that has to be pumped up at pep rallies. No, Matthew 5 describes God’s radical reconstruction of the heart.”(Lucado)

If heart reconstruction is what Christianity is about; then what the the ways Christian living affects the passions and motivation for living?

In The Applause of Heaven, listen to the reflection of the words of Jesus.

“Observe the sequence. First, we recognize we are in need (we’re poor in spirit). Next, we repent of our self-sufficiency (we mourn). We quit calling the shots and surrender control to God (we’re meek). So grateful are we for his presence that we yearn for more of him (we hunger and thirst). As we grow closer to him, we become more like him. We forgive others (we’re merciful). We change our outlook (we’re pure in heart). We love others (we’re peacemakers). We endure injustice (we’re persecuted).

What reasonable observation can be made from the teaching of Jesus about transformation?

Christianity is not about doing something or necessarily ideals held in a vault somewhere that are protected from contamination, it is about a state of being.

The teaching of Jesus emphasizes citizens of the kingdom are invested in a spiritual relationship demonstrating character traits possessing an enduring effect upon life experience of the person and results in happiness, “Blessed”   People often say, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  Many people first characterize Christianity by conformity to a code of behaviors, but it is conformity to Christ that provides the identity not conformity to behaviors. Because Christian identity comes from Christ, the inner attitude demonstrating belief results in behavior. An important distinction to make reveals that Jesus advocates for a life of being resulting in characterological (enduring) traits demonstrating that a relationship with Christ has caused a transformation that is evident in the heart.

Christianity is about a developmental process and takes time.

Many people think of the things they see from from Christians as the final product and are quick to stigmatize all by a judgement made about reactions to Westboro Baptist or some other objectionable act.  However, at the same time, grace is extended to others who fail repeatedly, publicly, and do damage to others. A critical question for the individual making a claim to Christianity is whether they have really embarked on the journey of transformation.

Jesus teaches that patience precedes piosity and condemnation.  It was the religious crowd that had the wrong approach and who condemned those who did not conform to the rule and idea of religious tradition of the day.  Becoming a Christian in character is not conformity to an appearance, ritual, or culture, and becoming does not happen overnight.  Character traits are developed in a life lived against the wind in a refining and reflective process of listening to God, internalizing truth, and being changed in a process of development.

Observation: Today is a day that can begin a new process and what happened yesterday is yesterday.  Quit trying to do something, conform to someone, and be something someone else has prescribed.  Let your relationship with God shape your character and empower a life that is a sweet smelling fragrance going up before God that is a well pleasing sacrifice to God.  It is a place to start.

If you don’t know Jesus, he died for you sins, accept his gift by faith of eternal life and ask him to come into your heart and life and save you from the power of sin and He will forgive you, if you ask.  You can become a Christian today and begin the journey of faith.