Who’s Discipleship is it?

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I had an interesting and important realization this morning about discipleship. This one truth can have a major effect on how we live our lives.

You are responsible for your own discipleship.

Your rabbi, or teacher, or preacher will pour into you, but if you reject it then it’s your responsibility.

To illustrate this point I’m going to take you a few thousand years back into history, which, when you think about it, is not that far back (only 40ish generations). We’re going to talk about a man named Gehazi.

But first, we need some context.

There was a man named Elijah, one of the great prophets of his day. Elijah spent his life doing the things which God had told him, traveling all throughout the country of Israel and beyond. He did some powerful works and lived a life that was uncomfortable to say the least. When he was exhausted and it was time to train up his replacement, he went up behind a man plowing a field and put his coat upon him. This man’s name was Elisha.

Elisha left what he was doing, said goodbye to his father, and followed Elijah for the rest of Elijah’s days. Everywhere where Elijah went, so too did Elisha and Elisha was known as his assistant. When the day came that Elijah was taken up to be with the Lord, Elisha inherited his spirit and his position as prophet over Israel. From then on, he continued to practice the ministry of the Lord as his master had done, performing many great miracles.

Now we come to Gehazi. From this point on, we are subject to my interpretation of what happened in scripture.

Gehazi was known as Elisha’s assistant. This would indicate that he was following the same path as Elisha had with Elijah. Everywhere one went, so too did the other. Gehazi was likely on track to become the next prophet of Israel. Then enters a man named Naaman who was a commanding warrior from Syria to the north, known throughout the land for his many military victories. Unfortunately, Naaman was afflicted with Leprosy which was detestable and many would have cast him aside as unclean. One day his king sent him down to Israel because he had heard there was a man there to could heal Naaman, his prized warrior.

Naaman brought with him many pounds of silver and gold and other gifts to be given as a reward once his healing was complete. As it turns out, Naaman was healed at the instruction of Elisha. But, when it was time to give the reward to Elisha, it was refused. Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” and he sent Naaman on his way.

Now Gehazi thought his master foolish for refusing the gifts and became greedy. He chased after Naaman and told him a lie in order that he might receive a small portion of the gifts that Naaman had brought. Upon arrival at Elisha’s home, after the gifts had been hidden, Gehazi was confronted about where he had been. Elisha knew what he had done and cursed him and his descendants with the same leprosy that Naaman had been cleansed of.

Though scripture indicates that Gehazi remained Elisha’s assistant, he would have been ostracized hence forth. After Elisha died, Gehazi would be forced to live among the beggars at the city gates, forever unclean and untouchable. He who could have been the next prophet of Israel would fall from his place of honor in history to a nobody. All of this for one act of greed, for one act where he set aside his discipleship in order to gain riches.

This is your life, you are the disciple. You are responsible for your action and you are the one who must follow your leader. It’s your discipleship.

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A Mountain Called Wormwood

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It’s hard not to wonder about the end times in scripture as we continue to see increasing natural disasters and phenomena. As one who studies and believes the bible it’s not hard to see a connection to the events of today. We see tsunamis, megaquakes, hurricanes merging with blizzards, nuclear meltdown and potential nuclear war, pollution that threatens our oceans, seasons that are too intense or not in their proper place, meteors, wars and genocide, collapsing global economies, relaxation of moral codes, and so forth. It’s the things which we look upon and fill us with bitterness.

We know that these things must happen and on increasing scale and frequency before the end comes. What we don’t know is whether these events are only the beginning, a hint of what’s to come, or if we are already a significant way into God’s closing plans. Scientist and scholars across the globe insist that if we do not change, we are poised to collapse as a total population. Yet we do not change. Christians across the world cry out, “make yourself aware, the glory of the Lord is coming!” yet, we continue on, absorbed in our own lives fortunate and unfortunate alike.

These men and women who speak out are not prophets. They are not predicting a future that has not already been laid out for us. What they are is a reminder. We who cannot hope to save ourselves must make haste to prepare for the Lord who is to come. When he comes, there will be three kinds of people that he finds.

The first are the ones who knew he was coming and prepared themselves so that they would be ready to go with him because his time was not announced.

The second are the ones who knew he was coming and did not prepare, thinking that he was still a long way off. When suddenly he is here, even though they knew he was on his way, they will not be able to go with him because they are not ready.

The third are the ones who did not know or did not hear of his coming. He will arrive and they will not be allowed to go with him because the aren’t even looking for him. When he arrives, they will know he has come, but they will not have had the chance to do anything and will not be able to come.

I do not claim to know the nature of a man’s heart nor do I claim to know when the Lord is to come. But, the signs are out and the trumpets are announcing that we must get ready. The bible says that just as in the days of Noah and the great flood, the world will continue without a care right up until it is time and the destruction comes. Then, only those who have made ready will be saved. I hope that is you and I intend it to be me or else there will be a mountain of bitterness to swallow. A mountain called Wormwood.

Cooperation Corporation

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One thing that I’ve been finding lately is that the more I know, the less I know. If you look around you, you’ll see a lot of things you know about. Now, take a moment and think about what you actually know about all that stuff. I can think of a hundred different examples that would work for this so I’ll stick with a pair of shoes.

Questions about your shoes:

What’s their function? is it style, protection, comfort?

Are they for hunting, biking, walking, running, working?

What are they made of? is it all one material, or many? What are those?

Why is that the shape they were made? was there a specific purpose to it or did the maker just say…”that looks good.”

How many miles are on the shoes already? How many more can they go?

Are there holes in them? What caused those?

There are a lot more questions that could be asked about the shoes, so many that you could not answer them all yourself. Here you were thinking that they were just a pair of shoes too. The same line of questions can be applied to anything in your house, your yard, your city, your planet, you solar system and we could only hope to know just a fraction of a percent of the whole. When we look at the picture of the universe, somehow the size of it all this doesn’t stop us from trying to grasp it with our small minds.

When you start to walk down this path for knowledge, you come up short by yourself. We look up at the universe and realize that it is too big for us to imagine. How then can we hope to imagine the One who is bigger than the universe? How can we comprehend that the very being who is master and creator of it all also wants know us intimately and personally? Even now he hears the cry of your heart and knows the make up of each one of your cells.

What’s amazing is that we can begin to comprehend Him. We recognize his presence. We ache when we are not near to him. Even still, we experience this all the greater when we are together. Just as we can piece together a picture of the universe with our collective minds, so too can we piece together a more complete picture of the Sovereign Lord when we act as a single body, as a church. The Church (christians as a whole) is the method by which we grow as individuals. We advance in the knowledge of Holy when we work together in cooperation as a corporation.

I was curious today about the words cooperation and corporation. They are subtly different in spelling and a their application is a lot different. Cooperation is working together, with an emphasis on submission to another’s will. A corporation is an entity made up of many people that acts as one and is legally recognized as an individual. Though the Church is made of many (soon all tribes and tongues) it is one, it is corporate. This corporation can not hold together though if it has no cooperation, just as a body cannot survive if its pieces decide that they don’t want to work together. When this happens, that body is sick. It is diseased. But, when the parts work together through submission then the whole is healthy. What’s more, no part of the body is greater than the next. That is why, though the CEO may be glorified, he is nothing without the rest of the corporation. If the brain tried to live without the rest of the body… that would be gross and it wouldn’t last long before something ate it. The same is true for the hand or the foot. But, with all parts working in conjunction, the whole body would be able to fight off the beast.

When we act as a corporation in cooperation, then we benefit as a whole and individuals. This is how God has intended us to be. And what’s more, this corporation legally recognizable as a single person will one day become the bride to the One who came to save. At that time, this corporation will then join up and make a conglomerate with the Holy and we will truly be fulfilled.

Mishaps and Wonder

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Hello All,

I hope this post turns out to be more story telling than complaining. This has been quite the adventure and it is at least worth the tell.

5:00 AM

Wake-up time. My fiance and I spent the night at her aunts house in a sleepy little town called Calico Rock. We decided it would be a great idea to wake early and catch the sunrise, so I got up and ran myself through the shower before waking up sleeping beauty. Around 5:40 once we were properly washed and caffeinated we grabbed a camera and went to City Rock Bluff where we watched the sun slowly peak his perky little head up over the city off in the distance as the twinkly street lights started to make their way to bed. The White River wandered into town as the cattle yammered on and the roosters exclaimed the return of day once again. What a beautiful time to reflect as the hawks swooped off their roosts over the waters and played in the thermals. What a wonderful day.

7:00 AM

We came back to the house and asked my fiance’s aunt to breakfast at the town diner and enjoyed a morning of pancakes, bacon, sausage, egg, tortilla, peppers, and hash browns. While we ate we talked over such things as the town stories and what sort of advice her aunt wanted to give to two young’ns thinking about the future. When the last traces of breakfast disappeared off the plates, we headed out for some errands.

10:00 AM

After a few small purchases, the bags were packed, the trunk was loaded and we made off into the day for more adventure. Up, over, down into the valley we went. Traveling along the Ozarks we graced many a small town with a brief glimpse of a silver car that was most certainly not from around these parts. Rather, it probably fit in more than most vehicles that passed through and therefor went unnoticed.

12:00 PM

The great Buffalo River comes into view along with a brief tour of an abandoned biker’s paradise/convention center. Just beyond the Buffalo was Horseshoe Canyon, our midday, midway destination. As we crested the rim of this remote utopia we saw what can only be described as an amalgamation of Old West and Modern Hippie, though I can’t quite figure out where zip-line fits into that description. The canyon opened up onto a goat and horse ranch with rock slabs supporting the sides of the massive horseshoe outcropping. Of course, we were only there for one thing. The rock climbing. This unknown little treasure held some of the best rock climbing in all of Arkansas with a spread all the way from “beginner” to “advanced but not quite professional.”

As we toured this valley, the sun beat down on us as the waves of an ocean beat against the rocks and we had no choice but to abandon the exploration attempt for a future date. After hydrating at the local all-purpose outdoor shop we decided that this little hole in the Ozarks will definitely be a vacation/adventure spot for the early summer or mid fall when the grass is not so crunchy and the rocks don’t sweat. Then we jumped back into the adventure wagon and trundled back up the slope and out of Jasper towards home. Whichever direction that was…

2:00-ish

After asking direction from a few local tourist shops we managed to find a clear path home pointed the vehicle in that direction.

4:00 PM

As the heatwaves shimmered about the blacktop, something small came into my view. While we approached it, I remember thinking to myself, “That looks like a rock… I should probably try to avoid it.” Apparently I didn’t try hard enough. This rock had no idea we were coming and by the time it realized it was in the way, it was all out of options.  I hit it with the full force of a 2000 Nissan Altima “Luxury” Sedan and broke off its cute little face. Unfortunately it also tore 2 silver dollar sized holes in my sidewall and bent the edge of my rim. “Not to worry!” I say to my fearless fiance, “I’ve got a spare!”

Well

Little did I know, when you purchase a used car, you should always check to make sure that the spare matches the vehicle. After a short while some of the locals made it out to help us and we tried every spare tire we could find. Not one would fit on the oddly unique and troublesome little adventure wagon. We managed to get ahold of one of the towing companies in a town not far from where we were planning to end the adventure and they came alookin. It took them until 7:30pm to find us so during the wait period my fiance made friends with the family that was helping us and got to play with their beautiful little puppies. I got to go greet one named Bulldozer and immediately fell in love with it. We, unfortunately, decided that neither of us would be able to support raising a dog with the way our work and class schedules were so we opted to leave the fluffy balls of sunshine with their family. The tow truck loaded up the mishap wagon and we headed off into the hills again. We arrived back at the apartment around 10:30pm and took showers to wash away the grime of the day and made our way to our rooms for bed. Never have I had such a mixture of wonder and mishap all in one day.

How often do we get a mixed bag of good and bad events and wary ourselves with the bad events? Just writing this story makes me feel a lot better about the events of yesterday.

The words to say

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I’ve been thinking about writing a post for some time and it always comes to a point where I’m about to sit down and do it when something comes up. I had planned recently to write about what I was learning in Jeremiah but as I was heading to the computer lab at my apartment complex I found out they lock it up on Sundays. Who knew?

Now, as I review things that I’ve written down as notes along the way this year to think about opening up to the world, I sit and stare blankly at them wondering not at their significance but at how on earth I can possibly expand them to be of any use to anyone but myself. It reminds me of what one of my pastors said once, “Not everything the Lord tells you is meant for you to go and share with the world. Sometimes his words are for you and you alone.”

Is it possible that I could have gone an entire season of my life without having a single word from God that is intended for anyone but myself?

it is.

I did learn one specific thing from the book of Jeremiah that I feel is worth the sharing. For much of the book we watch as Jeremiah is wrecked with grief because the people of the Lord have chosen to close their ears to Him. The prophets and priests speak deceptive words to the people to appease them. They shout things that are far from what the Lord is saying, fallacies meant to placate the people and reassure them that they are not living against the Lord’s will. Jeremiah speaks out against these false prophets and leaders warning the people to not consume the bread of lies. He weeps bitterly as his words seem to have no effect on the children of the Lord. He weeps bitterly as he sees their fate revealed to him. He cries out for their salvation and yet the people refuse to turn back to the God of Jacob. Later we read that the misleading priests and prophets and teachers of the “word” are the first to be destroyed.

So what did I learn? I learned that it is better to wait and listen for God’s words than to try to spread your own beliefs and predictions for the future. It is better to be silent than to lie by saying something is from the Lord when it is not. Jeremiah taught me that you can hear form the Lord frequently and you can pretend to hear from him just as often. Jeremiah taught me that when you don’t have the words to say, it is best not to say them at all. Rather, it is better to wait and listen than to say what the people are demanding you to say. Once, when challenged to bring a word from the Lord to the people, Jeremiah waited ten DAYS just to hear what Abba had to say. Guess what, it was the exact opposite of what the people were demanding and hoping he would hear from the Lord.

It seems to me that if you don’t have the words to say it may be better to wait until you do.

How to be a fruit bearer

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Support among brothers

Faith

Love

2nd Peter 3: 5 … make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For 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. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

 

We often wonder what we should do as Christians to advance in our faith and spread the kingdom. I know that I have often looked at my life and wondered, where’s my fruit? What is it that God is doing through me that he considers fruitful? 2Peter 5:9 gives us a short list of things to accomplish as Christians to become fruitful so I’ve broken it down to make it easier to understand.

 

The Criteria:

 

–          Faith

–          Knowledge

–          Self-control

–          Perseverance

–          Godliness

–          Mutual Affection

–          Love

 

So you start with Faith. Every believer has nothing if they have no faith in the Lord.

 

Faith = the branch

 

But faith is not enough to be fruitful. It’s good and we must build our foundation upon it so that we cannot be shaken. The Lord is God, Jesus did reclaim us, Holy Spirit has come, and We are his. Faith.

 

Next you must add knowledge upon your faith.

 

Faith + Knowledge = the node where buds form

 

Without knowledge of the Holy, how can you understand what you have faith in? We should seek to always increase our knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven because we do not have enough. With knowledge of God comes understanding and more faith is gained.

 

Faith + Knowledge + Self-control = budding flowers

 

After knowledge is Self-control. Now that Faith and Knowledge are secured, they must lead to action. Controlling oneself comes after knowledge simply because you didn’t know what was expected before. Self-control is exercising faith in the Father based upon the knowledge you have received. Self-control is also more than keeping yourself from doing what is wrong; it is also doing that which is right. Paul once said that he “beat his body” so that he could run the race and run it well. Runners prepare for races not only by avoiding things that will hinder them but also by doing things that will make them stronger, even if it hurts or is uncomfortable.

 

Faith + Knowledge + Self-control + Perseverance = Full grown flowers

 

To continue with the running metaphor, runners not only do things that are uncomfortable (training), they also do it a lot. The conditioning of one’s body is a long process and in order to achieve success, you must persevere. You must continue training all the way until a race in order for your training to be effective and to have the greatest ability strength when the time comes to run. So, Christian, continue seeking the knowledge of God and becoming a master over your mind and body. By doing this you will be transformed into a champion, sure of God, understanding Him, and pleasing to His eye. But there is still yet more to becoming fruitful.

 

Faith + Knowledge + Self-control + Perseverance + Godliness = Pollination

 

Now that the body has been mastered and the faith is unshakable, the life is transformed and the mind begins to understand the creator. After all that, you must seek to add Godliness. Our example of Godliness is easily found in Jesus, and then followed by Paul, John, Peter and the rest of the apostles and disciples. These men fed the hungry, healed the sick, mended the broken, taught the good news of Christ, and altogether lived godly lives. They acted in a way that was no longer only inward growth but had also become outward growth. They showed people what it was like to be a follower of the Living God. They pursued the Lord and persevered in it. They lived through the trials and pain and reaped the first harvest for the Lord.

 

Faith + Knowledge + Self-control + Perseverance + Godliness + Mutual Affection = Growing Fruit

 

Now we reach probably one of the most rewarding parts of this whole process. Perhaps one of the greatest things we seek is to be loved by others. In all my years, I have never experienced anything better than knowing that I was wanted, that others cared weather I showed up, or that I was feeling well. I have never experienced a time better than when I could live and laugh and love with others. The best part is that this becomes even better when everyone is adding unto themselves all of the previously mentioned attributes. Soon they begin to have one heart after the Lord, seeking his face, knowing his love, and expressing it amongst themselves. Indeed, Mutual Affection is essential in the Kingdom. One of the hardest times in my life was when I lived in Charlotte, my community was in Clemson, and I could commit to neither. This kept me from loving others effectively as well as receiving love from them.

 

Now at this point, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep each of the criteria separate and we must add the final ingredient to bearing true fruit for the kingdom.

 

Faith + Knowledge +Self-control + Perseverance + Godliness+ Mutual Affection + Love = Full Grown, Ripe Fruit

 

Now that all has been done and everything achieved we add love. This gives us the ability to do and share life with fellow Christians and to share life with those who have not yet believed. When we add love, we cannot help but to bear fruit. With love all that was previously turned within can be poured out so that we can then raise up those who come after us. Paul said that if we have not love, we have nothing. Indeed we are but clanging cymbals. Love is the standard by which we can measure our motives and we love because he first loved us.

An Engaging Adventure

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This is a short narrative of how I became engaged to the most wonderful woman I know.
I bought the ring back in June with some idea that I was going to propose before years end but with little clue as to when would be “the right time.” One day I accidentally let Nicole know that I had purchased a ring… my bad. Anyway, I knew at that point that we were not ready for such a commitment so I hid it away and tried not to mention it. Then one day she found it and I’m thinking, “I can’t keep any secrets can I.” But she didn’t look at it then and I knew it was still not time. After that point I moved the ring to a different location and a new box. Guess what… She found it again! This time was on accident and she opened it up not realizing what it was. She threw the ring back into my glove box (great hiding place right?) and began to cry because she felt like she ruined the surprise. I pulled the car over, got out and hugged her, gently assuring her that she had ruined nothing. Eventually, I found a successful hiding place (that or she stopped looking) and that’s when I began plotting the event. I wanted to wait till I was ready and that I felt she was ready. That point of assurance came about 2 weeks before thanksgiving break and I began sharing with select individuals that it would be soon. I packed the ring away in my stuff as I prepared for the trip down to florence and then made no mention of it except to my parents. I think I was able to surprise her because I didn’t have a clue when I was going to propose other than that I knew it was going to be over break. There was, however, one thing that I needed to happen before I popped the question.

We had to go kayaking.

Back when we were still brand new, our first official date was kayaking at her grandparents house. I knew that I wanted to repeat this for our engagement so whenever we were going to go kayaking was when I was going to ask. It turns out that day was thanksgiving day so I brought the ring with me and hid it as best I could in the folds of my hoodie (romantic garb right?). I wanted her mom to know what was going down so when nicole was out of the room I said to her mom, “Before we come back in…” and flashed the ring box to her. Now, fortunately she had been handling onions so it was easy to cover the tears up as the onion getting to her. Then my girlfriend and I were off to what seemed to Nicole as just a relaxing afternoon on the lake.

We spent about a half hour on the water and I did my best to be just as smooth as the water and not even raise a hint of suspicion. But, I can’t hide everything. When we got back to the dock I gave Nicole a hug and she said to me, “Your heart is going really fast.”
“Why do you think that is?” I said
“I don’t know, maybe it’s because I almost fell into the water a moment ago.”
Changing the subject, I said, “We should probably head back up to the house.”

So we walked up off the dock and I was about a step behind her. And I said, “Nicole.” as she turned around, I knelt down on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?” As she turned and saw me kneeling, I heard her repeating to herself over and over, “OhmyGod, OhmyGod, OhmyGod,” and she held my face in her hands. She didn’t answer at first but I had no doubt that she would soon enough.

Now, just to give you a little bit more back story. I have taken up wood carving and become fairly good at it. Some time ago, I carved a wooden heart just small enough to fit inside an old ring box. Back to the story…

I pulled out a box, still waiting upon her answer, and said, “will you accept my heart?” and I opened the box containing the wooden heart I had carved. Just when she was about to give up hope that this was an actual proposal, I pulled out the real ring and stood up and she said yes. And I put it on her finger, all the while her sister was sneaking around behind us taking pictures.

Now, We are engaged!

The beauty of this adventure is that it is the continuation of an old adventure, one in and of itself, and the beginning of an altogether new one. I cannot wait to see what great things come.

Adam

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