Saturday, January 16, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day 16- Integrity in small things

Jess Bousa relates a great story about golfer Bobby Jones losing a major tournament when he assessed himself one penalty stroke for touching his golf ball. He displayed rare integrity in what might seem like a small thing. But small lapses in integrity signal larger ones down the road.

"And He said to him, 'Well done, good servant, because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities." Luke 19:17

If a person cannot be trusted with a small thing, who would trust them with a large thing?

Discipleship Dare Day 15- Determined mercy

Jess Bousa makes a distinction in today's dare between feeling compassion and showing compassion. The earthquake ravaged people of Haiti will not have their suffering alleviated by our sense of pity for them. They will only be helped and God glorified by a compassion which moves us to action.

Recently I volunteered to teach a Bible study at a local juvenile detention center when I discovered that the boys had absolutely no spiritual encouragement at all. There was no chaplain, no church services, nothing. I was horrified, felt mercy and vowed to help them. At our first sesssion we had 12 boys, but at the next few sessions it was a struggle to get even 6 to attend. I felt that a spiritual battle was going on and heard this in my heart, "the enemy will back away from a well-armed, determined foe." I was and am determined to continue the study even if it only feeds one boy. It is that kind of determination that can only come from God.

There are some things that will kill mercy for others as it rises up in us. We get stifled before we get the chance to act on the compassion we feel. Distractions can kill mercy, or selfishness, or a sense that someone else will take care of it, or that the benefit is not worth the cost. The world needs a determined, Christ-originated mercy that will not be waylaid.

"I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me." Matthew 25:36

Friday, January 15, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day 14- Are you content?

You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat. Matthew 5:6 (MSG)

Contentment is a state of mind and heart. I know this because there are folks who live in what we would consider abject poverty who are perfectly happy. I have seen children with Down's syndrome laughing hysterically. I was greeted yesterday in Walmart by a young man with cerebral palsy and a big smile on his face. What a great gift to be satisfied because therein is peace.
An unsatisfied soul makes everyone miserable. It really is a state of mind and heart. It signals internal corruption when all we can do is complain.

God fulfilled His righteousness in Jesus and as the body of Christ we are called to not only seek righteousness, but to pursue it. In this way we will find satisfaction- as we help transform the culture and glorify His name.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day 13- Wanting what God wants

"The righteousness of God is counter-cultural", Jess Bousa says in todays Dare entry. If that is true, and of course it is, then the church has to be much less concerned with blending with culture and much more concerned with redeeming culture.

Hating what God hates is important, but only when led by the love of what is good as rooted in a God-relationship. Sometimes we become narrowly focused on condemning the mere acts of evil we see in society, and lose the very heart of God. We can alienate those we long to reach with the good news by a self-righteous attitude and by using a flamethrower on the "enemies of God".

We are called to hunger and thirst for righteousness. That means wanting God to set all things right. We should participate in what God is doing to set the world right. That means having right relationships, insomuch as it is in our power, recognizing that some things are beyond our control. We should jump in with both feet, but leave the heavy lifting to the KING!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Discipleship dare Day 12- The meekness ethic

In this world might often equals right. Whoever can wield the greatest power wins the right of control. This is true in military affairs, politics, business and many other places.

Jesus never used His power to control, though He could have, but He influenced by love. Healing, teaching, dying meekly the death of a servant.

Is the meekness ethic of Jesus lost in our church culture today? Where can we see it in action? How could we exercise it more readily?

Thy will move me, Thy will use me

You lay your crushing hand, your mighty hand

On me gently

You know my name, wound me

You know my frame, heal me

You lay your crushing hand

Your mighty hand on me gently

Do what You must and save me

I'm in the dust now raise me

Lord I believe, help my unbelief

Go gently

Terry Taylor

Monday, January 11, 2010

Discipleship dare Day 11- Comfort

"God uses your character to restore the world" Jess Bousa shares on Day 11. If Christians are crushed by their circumstances and lose hope, how can the world find comfort in that? If Jesus is our source and our hope, then we can have hope even in the midst of intense conflict or pain.

Jesus makes this possible by promising to always be with us. In the midst of the mission, we must keep our eye on the prize.

Discipleship Dare day 10- The Kingdom of Heaven

I love what Jess Bousa says on day 10 of the Discipleship Dare, "In the Kingdom of God all earthly values are reversed. The first shall be last, the last shall be first. The greatest people in the kingdom shall be servants. The kingdom particularly belongs to the poor, the hungry and the mourning. The rich will find it almost impossible to enter."
This reversal of what we have known all our lives will be transformational. We see this now as it happens in part, but when the kingdom comes in fulness there will be no opposition. There will really be "peace on earth."
In the meantime we are sent as ambassadors of this Kingdom of God to implore all who will hear us to come and be a part of it. "So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you."

Discipleship Dare Day 9- Poverty of spirit

Jesus said the poor in spirit are blessed, but I don't know if we really act we like understand what that means, or believe it.
So much of what we do in our western church culture is assertive, aggressive and a reflection of the consumerist culture we are embedded within. This can produce a pride and selfishness of spirit that can hinder what God wants to do through us, and limit the glory we are willing to give Him.
There is an old saying that we should "pray like everything depends upon God and work like everything depends upon us." There is a lot of truth in that, but I think we mostly err on the side of things depending upon us.
The opposite of poverty of spirit is wealth of spirit. Those who are wealthy in spirit have little need for outside help- they can handle anything on their own.

'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked-- Revelation 3:17 (NKJV)

Those poor in spirit are blessed because their humility allows them to readily accept the rulership of Jesus as Messiah and king of their own lives. "--theirs is the kingdom of heaven".

"Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up."

Friday, January 08, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day 8- Accountability means growth in character.

In today's devotional from the Discipleship Dare Jess Bousa raises the issue of our character. We should all think intently about whether our own character measures up to the example Jesus set. It is easy to find people around us who we feel superior in character to, but we must not allow this to assuage our need to strive for Christlikeness.

Jess stresses the fact that character is developed best in community. This is true because accountability has a tremendous effect upon our development. Just as most things would never get done without deadlines, we tend to drift without the accountability provided in community. We need to love each other enough to hold one another's feet to the fire when necessary. This is true in school, at work, in the military, in sports, in the church and in the family- it is universal.

How would your church be different if every member felt responsible to help every other member develop in character?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day 7 Hand to the plow

"Although Peter cannot achieve his own conversion, he can leave his nets." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Once we place our hands on the plow and agree to make furrows and plant the seed of the Gospel for Jesus we can never go back to what we were doing before and be happy or in the will of God. Plowing requires determination and total concentration. There may be relationships, positions, situations or other circumstanmces that must be left behind as Peter left his nets.

Responsibility, Sacrifice, Training are the key words Jess stresses in today's entry in the Discipleship Dare. The challenge is to keep moving forward no matter what and not get pulled back into a lifestyle that does not allow us to be fully engaged in the mission of Jesus.

Discipleship Dare Day 6 Care...really care

Today's dare is about caring, caring about someone enough to change their world. There are many ways to do that, and it is exciting because no two situations are alike-- no two people have the same story. A wealthy person needs caring as much as a needy person, but they do not need the same things.

Our church is in an old coal mining town. The heyday of Shamokin is only a distant memory. The young people can't even imagine that the town was once bustling and thriving. We have lots of opportunities to care and help. Our church has been getting at least ten phone calls a week from people needing oil, food, rent $ or a bill paid because they got a shutoff notice.

I used to get so frustrated because there were so many calls, but our resources to meet their needs were far too slim, and I had nowhere to send them for help. I have a new strategy. I spend time asking them questions, and even if I can't meet their big immediate need, I usually find one that I can meet, even if it's just to listen. I have learned the value of just providing a caring ear, and it has brought many to ask questions about my Savior Jesus and join us for church. Would the Lord send them to me for no reason? He knows about our resources. I must have something they need- a caring ear.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day Five- Love God

The world offers many seductions. The enemy of our souls does not care how he keeps us from God. To him it is immaterial. Wealth or poverty, success or failure, it matters not, they can each serve the purpose.

The Message Bible puts it this way: "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world- wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important- has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him." I John 2:15-16

There is good reason for Jesus defining the greatest commandment as love for the Father with all our being. Second place is no place at all.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day Four

Today's dare challenged me to divest of possession or "loves" for the purpose of removing hindrances in my relationship with God. God is jealous and will not tolerate any other gods before Him.

I have struggled with clutter for a long time. I have found that when I get rid of things I feel freed up, and when the house gets too cluttered I am prone to worry and can become distracted. There is peace in an orderly and uncluttered home. I am afraid I am losing the battle on the home front. My home office is a mess due to it serving many purposes: Ebay store, Pastor's Study, Home Banking Center, clothes closet and memorabilia collection bin.

Help me Lord to order my world in such a way that none of this gets in the way of my love or work for you.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day Three- Openly Christian

Today's commitment dare is to live openly as a Christian before the world. Doing so invites criticism and the scrutiny of those looking for flaws in my lifestyle. One option is to simply become hardened to criticism and shun the critics. The harder path is to do as Jesus did on His cross and forgive those hurling insults and crying out for His blood.

Self- sacrifice is a brother to self-denial. When I deny myself I choose to reject comforts, pleasures or preferences in order to draw closer to Jesus. Self-sacrifice, as I understand it, involves giving of my time talent and treasure for the sake of others. My life must be lived in self-sacrificial partnership with the mission of Jesus in order to be truly Christian.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Discipleship Dare Day Two

"say no to the god who is me" Jess Bousa

I continue to be impressed at how this dare speaks to me after 30 years as a follower of Jesus. The theme of self-denial can get lost in our consumeristic and tech savvy culture, and when we have been Christians for a long time we can start to feel a sense of entitlement- as if our period of self-denial is a phase we have gotten over. Self- denial is not just for starters!

If we are to finish the journey well we should travel light. Removing items from our baggage can be painful, but will make the trip better and ensure our safe arrival.

Jess says that "the way you understand Jesus' call will be the way you live it out." This is why we should be patient with each other. Not everyone has my view of what following Jesus means. Those in a more traditional church culture may have been taught quite differently what discipleship is. What great fodder for dialogue as we make the scriptures our standard.

"Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I'll show you how." Mark 8:34 Message