Becoming a disciple: Faith in action

Scripture – James 2:19-20

You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

Observation

James is writing to the Jewish believers who were scattered around the nations.They had grown up under the Law which required them to do certain things at certain times, not to do certain things, and to do yet other things when they didn’t do the former things as well as they should have. The Law was designed to show man that they could never measure up and that they desperately needed God – that they couldn’t do it on their own. Instead, what happened was they created a religion based around who could be as close to perfect as possible – practically eliminating the desire or the need for God.

James audience was the scattered Jewish people who had accepted the Good News of the Messiah, Jesus. They believe that Jesus is God, that there is only one God, but it seems this understanding has not led to any change in attitude, heart or behavior. James explains that those just wanting to believe without any resulting action are fooling themselves (Js. 1:22). Jesus said to his followers, “if you love me, you will obey what I command.” So what did he command? Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. From these commands came the great commission, to go out into all the world, make disciples of all nations (ethnos – peoples), baptize them and teach them to obey all he commanded (love God and love your neighbor).

Application

The gospel is a mystery, and yet it has been made known to us. Living life as disciples of Jesus is fairly straightforward. We have been justified (absolved of sin and therefore saved from death) through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. Our justification has torn down the curtain that separated us from our father in heaven, and has reconciled us to him, a father-child relationship through Christ. God first loved us and we get to love him and develop a real relationship with him. This love compels us to obey him. We find all he really asks us to “do” is to love him with everything, love those around us in the same way we love ourselves, to share this good news with those who don’t know about it and to invite them to follow him.

My entire life needs to be wrapped around this truth and what this truth means to my everyday life.

Prayer

Father, I earnestly desire my entire life to be consumed with loving you, loving those around me as I love myself and sharing this profound mystery with others. Thank you for being so patient with me. Excited to love, obey and follow you all the days of my life. You are such a good father, thank you. In Jesus’ incredible name, amen.

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Becoming a disciple: you’ve got to want it

Scripture – Deuteronomy 5:32-33

So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

Observation

Discipleship. It started with God laying out all the practical applications of loving him and loving others as themselves (ten commandments and the rest of the law) within the community of Israel. It continues today with the same command to love God with everything and love others as ourselves, with the added call to add people from all nations to the community, by helping them understand that the way into the community has been paid for by Jesus, and to teach them to obey all of God’s commands (out of love for him and not from religious duty).

Application

Nothing has really changed except now all people are paid for and invited into the family of God through Christ. As sons and daughters in his family, we can practically live out our faith by making God our focus and doing unto others as we would have them do to us; to love others first, without expectation of return, because we were first loved.

Jesus boiled down the entirety of the Law and the Prophets to loving God and loving others coupled with the command to introduce people to himself, enabled by the Holy Spirit.

I want to make sure every time I give my life over to inspection, correction, encouragement and strengthening by the Word of God, I press in until I receive my practical, tangible orders for the day, even if it just to be still and rest. I passionately desire to grow as a disciple, a follower, an imitator, a son, a soldier and a priest in my relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son – and I know that by putting my faith into action is what will help me grow.

Prayer

Father, find me ready and willing to grow as a disciple. Challenge me and encourage me. Help me hear your voice more clearly tomorrow than I do today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Becoming a leader: Model praying with faith

Scripture – Luke 18:1, 27, 42-43

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Observation

Prayer works. What have I got to lose? Praying without giving up is what Jesus calls me to. Nothing is impossible for God or for those who have the faith to trust him at his word. Praying for the big hairy audacious things increases our faith and decreases our trust in ourselves and the things we like to think we can control.

When people pray and ask God in faith, incredible things can happen. When they do, and God gets the glory, other people (witnesses) praise God. That’s what it’s all about – as many people as possible praising and trusting and knowing and following Jesus.

Application

As a leader in my our life, my family’s life and the local church, Jesus is asking me to pray the bold prayers with others and encourage them to do the same. The result will be people praising God.

Prayer

Father, give me the words and the faith to pray and encourage others to believe that NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE for YOU. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Becoming a disciple: Growing a faith that can stand

Scripture – Mark 13:12-13, 26-27

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Observation

The near future is bad. Wars, rumors of more wars, doom and gloom, famines and economic disasters. Families torn apart, divorce and adultery rife. Some choosing godliness and others choosing sin.

But beyond that, in the end, Jesus the warrior is coming back with great power and great glory. Those who trust in him will be gathered together, no matter where they are and how lonely and isolated they have been made to feel. We will be one family, the sons and daughters of God, for eternity.

Application

The worse things get, the gladder we should feel. Jesus said such things must happen. There will come a point that faith will be tested and those who hold on until the very end will be saved.

We need to make disciples that have the faith to stand until the end. Cute little Bible studies and brunches don’t cut it. We need to continue to pray for the power of God to fall and consume our congregation so their faith is hardened and purified through the fire of the Holy Spirit so that when the time comes to stand, not one will be lost.

Prayer

Father, you alone are able to give us faith. I pray today for a huge increase in faith in you and in your power and glory in the heart of every person that calls this home. You were blunt and real with your disciples, help us be blunt and real with ours. You are mighty to save. Bring in those who don’t yet know you. Encounter them here. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Becoming a disciple: Learning when to shut up

Scripture – Luke 1:20

 “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Observation

Zechariah couldn’t speak for over 9 months. He couldn’t tell his wife about his encounter with the Archangel Gabriel, he couldn’t shout for joy when they found out they were pregnant, he couldn’t even repent out loud for his foolishness.

There are always consequences to our actions. Even when good things are ahead for us, we can’t skip the results of our words and deeds. James chapter 1 tells us to be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to get angry.

Especially when things seem absurd or impossible, it is best to keep schtum (mouth shut) and not say or do the thing that first comes into our head. Zechariah is a perfect example of what not to do.

Application

Zechariah was pretty cynical. Even to an angel. He was looking at what he was being told through the science-governed lens, not a faith-filled lens.

I need to continue to look at every situation with the lens of faith and hope that God is bigger, God is better and God has promised.

I want the faith and innocence of Mary, not Zechariah.

Prayer

Father, give me a pure heart and a child-like faith today. You are such a good dad. Thank you for the children you have given me – teaching me every day to be like you. I am your son, now and forever. In Jesus’ incredible name, amen.

Becoming a disciple: Faith-fullness is required

Scripture – Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.

Observation

God will let us in on things he’s going to do but we must have faith to believe and do things as a result of such faith that might look crazy or foolish to those around us. If that’s moving across the world, selling all possessions, making a radical lifestyle change, or even building a gigantic ark of gopher wood in the back yard, without faith we cannot please God.

Application

In my own life, I have seen how trusting that God is in something (like emigrating to the US, moving from CO to WA, making large anonymous gifts) is such freedom. I stand by 1 Corinthians 6:19, that my life is no longer my own, I have been bought with a price, which makes having faith a lot simpler.

I want to be a man who hears God more clearly so that I can more more faith-full more often.

Prayer

Father, speak to me in clear words today. Fill me with faith so that I might listen and act according to your word. Help me be like the great men of God. Help me be like Jesus. Let my life and my faith be pleasing to you today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Becoming a disciple: Never shrink back

Scripture – Hebrews 10:32-38

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

Observation

After someone accepts Jesus as the only one who is able to save them, life often gets hard. There are struggles and sufferings, reproach and affliction. There is usually a physical, emotional, mental, and physical plundering or recalibrating of what used to be important.

Faith is a clinging to a hope which seems like nonsense to those who do not believe. Having a steadfast confidence in the great reward is what will produce endurance.

Living by faith is a MUST, not a suggestion.

If we shrink back in our faith, it doesn’t please our Father.

Application

Each day the enemy wants to get me to throw away my confidence. Or at least to leave it in a shoe box in the closet.

There is a great reward for true confidence, never shrinking back, always enduring.

So, when I feel oppressed and reproached, and when suffering and struggles come my way – I MUST push even deeper into faith and confidence and NEVER shrink back.

Prayer

Father, thank you for the gift of faith in the promise of eternity with you. Help me never shrink back when suffering and hard times come. Let me be a man of faithfully endures til the end. In the powerful name of Jesus, amen.