Disciple Up Episode 7 is Online!

Episode 7

Episode 7 of Disciple Up is online and ready to go! This might not sound like a thrilling topic but if you understand it properly it can be a real source of power, comfort and faith.

You can check out what the New Testament teaches about responding to the Gospel here.

 

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Disciple Up Episode 7 is Online!

Disciple Up Low Down On Deciding What’s God’s Will

Episode 5

[Here’s another Disciple Up Low Down, this script is taken from episode 5. Hope you enjoy it.]

We’ve been discussing God’s will in this edition of Disciple Up but there’s one aspect we haven’t addressed yet and that’s who is it that gets to say what is and isn’t God’s will for me? Most of us probably have more than a few people vying for that authority. Whether it’s parents or children, a spouse or a boss or a Pastor or someone in your Bible Study, or maybe someone you just ran into at the supermarket – the world is full of people who love to play prophet and tell others what the Will of God is for them.

Look at this passage from Paul: 12  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15  See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16  Rejoice always, 17  pray without ceasing, 18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19  Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not despise prophecies, 21  but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22  Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (ESV)

Note that Paul was talking to a church community who had experienced some difficulty and division. So as he wraps up his letter he’s giving them some quick exhortations to help them move forward in the right direction. He tells them to respect their leaders and be at peace among themselves. Then he says they ought to urge the lazy to get to work while helping the weak and being patient with them.

Then he starts spitting out short commands like machinegun bullets. Do good, rejoice always because that’s God’s will, pray, don’t quench the Spirit and don’t despise prophecy, BUT don’t just accept them either. Instead test everything and hold on to what is good while avoiding all evil.

You might be wondering what all of that has to do with deciding what God’s will is, but I assure you it’s in there. For while I respect my leaders and listen carefully to what they say, I don’t allow them – or anyone else – to make my decision for me.

Even when someone comes to you and says “The Lord told me you should do this, or shouldn’t do that…” You should, never – EVER – just accept that as a message to you from God.  And if they push you to do so then you should really treat what they said with a great deal of skepticism because that’s not what God teaches us!

No, Paul says we are to TEST EVERYTHING, and that includes advice from respected elders and any so-called messages from God to you or anyone else. Test it to make sure that it’s rational and Biblical. Think it through carefully. God’s not in a hurry and if someone is trying to hurry you then that’s pretty good evidence they aren’t speaking for God.

The truth is that the Bible teaches us that we are responsible for everything we say and do. I cannot blame others, God holds me accountable and responsible for what I do. Therefore I’m the only one who, as an adult, can decide what God’s will is for me.

I’ll listen to what other people have to say. I’ll think about it, pray about, but ultimately I’m the only one who can make that decision. And I’m the one who will have to live with it as well.

A little over eight years ago I had just such an experience. I felt like God was leading me to leave the church I was serving and go elsewhere. I had no idea where but after over 20 years there I felt like it was time to move on. I gathered about 5 of my friends in that church and talked to them about it. We prayed and I began sending out resumes, and we met several times.

They all expressed skepticism about my leaving and said they didn’t want me to go. While I respected each of them I finally decided to knock and see if the door opened. After more than a year of knocking through resumes to other churches one finally came through and I accepted the call.

Three years later I was fired after church on Sunday with no warning and in the end the new ministry I tried starting failed, I sold my house with a huge loss and ended up in Phoenix jumping between my two sisters homes unemployed.

The church I left was in a crisis and asked me to fill their pulpit, and in the end called me back here. And here I am today. I fully intend to finish my Pastoral career here at CCR as well.

So was I wrong about moving on? I’d say there’s about a 99.99% chance that the answer to that question is yes. I wish I hadn’t done it, shouldn’t have done it, but I did and have paid for it in full. Unfortunately so have a lot of other people and two churches as well.

So yeah, I should have listened. But in the end it was my call to make. I made it to the best of my ability and by God’s grace have learned a few things in the messy aftermath. I thank God so much that he led me back home again and that He’s blessed me with great people to work with as well.

But in the final analysis you are the only one who make those kind of choices for yourself. Not on else can or should, just remember not to complain too much if you make a bad choice like I did. It was your choice and if made in faith you can be assured God will bring good out of it, and all the evil men can do, in the end.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Who Gets To Decide What’s God’s Will Is For Me.

[If you enjoyed that you’ll really like the entire episode which you can listen to right here.]

Disciple Up Low Down On Deciding What’s God’s Will

The Disciple Up Low Down On Testing Myself

disciple-up-300X300[The following is taken from the 4th Episode of Disciple Up. I like to include a “Disciple Up Low Down” in each episode as sort of a closing editorial related to that show’s topic. Enjoy!]

We’ve talked a lot in today’s show about testing. At this point I hope it’s clear to everyone that we are not just encouraged to test but commanded too. It is absolutely vital that we test everything and this of course includes not just what other say and do, but our thoughts and opinions as well.

Yes, what I think, feel and say isn’t beyond testing. In fact it’s even more necessary that I test myself not only because I am accountable to God for what I say and do but because of the damage I might to do to others if I don’t.

There’s a problem however when it comes to testing myself. And that problem is that I cannot see myself with anywhere near the objectivity needed to make a fair and just test. I’m hopelessly subjective when it comes to myself no matter how hard I try to be objective. I can never get completely outside myself and thus cannot see myself accurately.

The writers of the Bible knew this to be true, as does anyone who really thinks about it.  Happily for us they found a solution to this otherwise insoluble problem. What is it? It’s quite simple really, we must call upon God to test us and to give us the courage to face the results of that test.

Here’s just a few examples:

2  Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2 (ESV)

2  Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; Psalm 26:2 (NIV)

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

That last verse is probably the best known of the bunch. I quoted the other two just to show you that there’s more than one place in the Bible where someone calls upon God to test or judge him. And this awareness of our need for God’s clear and perfect test is not limited to the Old Testament either.

3  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)

I love how Paul knows that in the end the only opinion that counts is God’s opinion. Just because everyone thinks we’re wonderful and we tend to agree means nothing. It’s God’s opinion that matters for he alone is the King of the Universe and the only right and just judge. He sees all things clearly and therefore we are answerable to him.

It is before him that we stand or fall as Paul says in Romans chapter 14: 4  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 (ESV)

He goes even further a few verses later when he writes: 7  For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10  Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11  for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:7-11 (ESV)

So this ingrained testing that I’ve been talking about must apply to myself before it applies to anyone else. But I must be honest enough with myself to know the depth of my bias and the understand that without God’s searching test and judgement I will surely fail.

One of the greatest goals in life is not to live a life of self-delusion. I must face the facts about myself no matter how awful they might be. But I need God’s help to do so. I also need other people to help me face facts and to know how to go about changing what needs to be changed in my life. Then God can continue his great work of transforming me into the likeness of Christ. But he can’t do that if I don’t first see myself as I really am, repent of that, and then seek his Spirit’s power to change.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Testing Myself.

[If you enjoyed that you’ll really like the entire episode which you can listen to right here.]

The Disciple Up Low Down On Testing Myself

The Disciple Up Low Down On Accountability

Episode 3

Welcome to the Disciple Up Low Down on Accountability.

Accountability is, like a lot of other topics in life, more enjoyable to talk about or have others do than it is to do yourself. Everyone agrees accountability is important and that everyone should be accountable.

Well they do right up until the moment when they are called to be accountable and then you hear a lot of squealing about rights and privacy and legalism and grace. Holding others accountable can be fun, being held accountable rarely is, although it can be if it’s done right.

Just about every organization I know of has some kind of accountability structure. The larger the organization the more complex it tends to be. Most churches and ministries, especially the small ones, usually nod to accountability but don’t actually do it except for the paid staff. Then it ranges from a very loose structure to something that at times can be brutal.

Of course neither of those options is good. It turns out that accountability is difficult to put into practice because writing a brief simple set of rules that covers the nearly endless possibilities that happen in life is impossible.

Which brings me to the dirty little secret of accountability. It’s something I heard a long time ago and since then the truth of this statement has been proven to me over and over again. Here it is:

To really be held accountable you must want to be held accountable.

If you think about that for a few seconds you’ll probably agree this is true. The reason most large organizations have such complex accountability structures is because they are trying to make people be accountable who don’t want to be.

So you’ve got all kinds of people out spending vast amounts of time either trying to construct a system that can’t be gamed or they are seeking to game those very systems. And because any system can be gamed if you try hard enough they usually succeed for a while at the very least.

Because you can game the system accountability often ends up as a terrible car crash with people being fired after finally be called to account for all sorts of bad acts. Then there’s lots of bad blood, hurt feelings and broken relationships scattered around. It’s really sad because none of this had to happen, but nearly all of it was bound to happen as long as you are trying to force accountability on someone who doesn’t want it.

For the disciple of Jesus it’s really pretty simple. If I am following Jesus then I’m going to see the need for this, see the example of accountability that Jesus holds up for us, and let the Spirit change my heart so that I want and cooperate with being accountable.

When I want to be accountable it turns a drudgery into an opportunity to not only deepen my relationships with those who I answer too, but it also helps me to grow spiritually and to become more like the One I am following – Jesus.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Accountability.

If you enjoyed reading this then I think you’ll love the entire podcast it came from. Just click here to listen and to check out the shown notes. Thanks and God bless!

The Disciple Up Low Down On Accountability

The Disciple Up Low Down on Self-Condemnation

Episode 2

Welcome to the Disciple Up Low Down on self-condemnation. I’m betting that some of you, maybe a lot of you, have interpreted what I’ve been saying in this episode about being selfless and not focusing on yourself to mean that you should be really hard on yourself and condemn yourself every time you make a mistake. This is the perception that most people have of old fashioned religion or fundamentalism and I’ll bet a of people will think that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Well if you been thinking that let me say two things to you. 1) I’m amazed you are still listening – so good on you for that! 2) Congratulations because not only have you entirely missed my point, but you’ve arrived at pretty much the exact opposite of what I’ve been saying!

Now don’t put yourself down for that! After all it could be my fault at doing a poor job of communicating, now couldn’t it?

So what’s wrong with condemning yourself? If you ask most Christians that they’ll probably quote Romans 8:1-2 to you. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. So far so good, but there’s also a larger reason why disciples of Jesus should never condemn themselves for being self-centered.

Here it is are you ready?  Putting yourself down is just as selfish as looking to yourself for meaning, purpose and power because you are still focusing on yourself!  Both self aggrandizement and self deprecation come directly from your ego because both are as self-centered as you can get.

See how subtle the human ego really is? The problem isn’t whether you are being positive or negative (terms you don’t see in the Bible now do you?). No, the problem is whether or not you looking AWAY to Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). Looking away from what? This world and everything in it. And guess what’s front and center in your world?

You got it – you are!

So I don’t want anyone to beat themselves up for their sins and failures. God wants us to see our sin, admit and confess our sins, receive forgiveness from our sins and then repent – turn away from – our sin and forward in our lives and keep on following Jesus!

Admit the sin, turn away from it, accept Christ’s forgiveness for it – which does away with all guilt and condemnation – and then stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on Jesus and others and His call upon your life.

So there you go. Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t about yourself – or myself – at all! It’s all about Him.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down for this edition of Disciple Up!

If you enjoyed this then you’ll love the episode of Disciple Up I wrote it for. Just got to discipleup, click play and enjoy the show. And if you haven’t done so already please subscribe to the show. Thanks.

 

The Disciple Up Low Down on Self-Condemnation

The Disciple Up Low Down on the Christian Ghetto

disciple-up-300X300When it comes to engaging culture as a Disciple or followers of Jesus there’s several errors that we see over and over again in church history. You can sum them up in three words – Capitulation, Isolation, Communication.

Capitulation

This is probably the most common response of the church to culture. It’s common because it’s unconscious. We are so absorbed by our culture that we don’t even see how we are surrendering the Gospel to the culture. You can see this in the church of the south that taught slavery for blacks was God’s will. You can see it in the churches in Germany who supported Hitler. Today we see this in churches that almost automatically accept and seek to advance whatever the cause of the moment is. From women’s lib to ecology all the way to gay marriage it’s most common in theologically liberal churches but can be seen everywhere as well.

Isolation

Isolation is the exact opposite of Capitulation. This occurred quickly in church history. All the monks and people who fled into the desert to live alone or in a small community are examples of this.  All of the pole sitting monks – like Simon the Stylite (now a saint in the Catholic church) who lived on top of a pole for decades. They were known as Pillar Saints and were deemed holy because they disengaged from their culture as much as possible. Ironically in so doing they created their own culture of asceticism. Links on this in the show notes on Discipleup.org.

Isolation comes in degrees of course. There aren’t many people who can completely disengage and live in a monastery.  But we can create a subculture within our own and that’s exactly what we do. We have Christian versions of just about any business you can think of. From Christian music, books and movies, to Christian stores, people are pressured to only partake of those and shun all the bad stuff the world is putting out.

Steve Taylor captured this brilliantly in his song, “Guilty By Association” on his Meltdown album way back in 1984 – when they still made albums by the way! Take a listen…[play excerpt].

“Only drink milk from a Christian Cow”… what else can I say to that but halle-moooo-yah! Links to Steve’s music are in the show notes at discipleup.org.

My name for this is the Christian Ghetto. By cutting ourselves off from the culture we make it all but impossible to obey Christ’s commands to “make disciples.” Now you might respond, “Hey if we build it they will come.” I say not only is that unscriptural but it’s been tried for centuries and has failed for centuries as well!

And then there’s communication.

This of course is what we’re supposed to be doing. Being in the world but not of it. Engaging our culture, understand and taking part in it when and where we can with a clear conscience. Being light in the ever increasing darkness instead of hiding our light under a basket that’s hidden inside our little Christian Ghetto.

Communication is rare because it’s hard and complicated. We won’t always agree with each other about what we should be doing. How do we show our world that God loves them but does not approve of what they do?

We must engage and engage with them in way that they find meaningful. If that makes us feel uncomfortable then that’s the price we must pay to really love the world that way Jesus does. The incarnation and redemption on the cross was anything but comfortable or acceptable for that matter.

If we really are followers of Jesus then we must be willing to go to any length to, in the words of an old hymn, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.”

In the end engaging the culture isn’t about the culture or you and me at all. It’s all about them, those outside of Christ. They are ones we must bring to Jesus. Their souls are what’s at stake. We cannot and will not be able to do that if we choose to remain safe, sound and comfortable in our little Christian Ghettos.

So disciple – are you willing to Disciple Up, what are you willing to do to rescue the perishing?

And that’s my Disciple Up Low Down on the Christian Ghetto.

If you liked what you just read then head over to Discipleup.org and listen to all of episode one! Let me know what you think by e-mailing me at louie@discipleup.org.

The Disciple Up Low Down on the Christian Ghetto