A Profound Discipleship

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Today, through the marvel of modern medicine, we can do heart bypasses, heart transplants and install artificial hearts.

But no one can make an unclean heart clean once it becomes dirty. We cannot fix it to live in eternity with a infinitely holy God. It is through the process of biblical discipleship that you and I are being prepared for living with Him.

Discipleship is the methodology God has ordained for us to change our hearts. But because discipleship is so challenging and so demanding, we’re tempted to avoid the Gospel’s call. Sometimes it seems like there are many believers and just a few disciples.

Nothing but discipleship is an acceptable response to His sacrifice on the cross for me.

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1) A true disciple will love Jesus Christ above all.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:37

“It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about cost when you are in love with Him is an insult.”

–Oswald Chambers

2) A true disciple must deny himself.

 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

3) A true disciple, intentionally and deliberately, embraces the cross.

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:38

“The cross of discipleship is that I daily and hourly delight to tell my human nature that I an not my own; I no longer claim right to myself.”

–Oswald Chambers

4) A true disciple is close to Jesus and follows Him.

 “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

John 12:26

5) A true disciple will love other disciples.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:7

It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants, They spare nothing. Their first legislator [Jesus] has put it in their hearts that they are brethren.”

–Lucian, Greek writer (120-200 A.D.)

6) A true disciple abides (continues) in the teaching of the Lord.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

John 8:31 (John 15:8-9)

7) A true disciple lives to follow the words and teaching of the Lord Jesus.

“Jesus said to him, “’No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

Luke 9:62

A word about joy. The Holy Spirit turns all the hard things of discipleship into sweetness. Perhaps the difficult part is found in the first few minutes of the decision to follow in a specific matter. But the peaceful presence soon follows and your life will be flooded with light. There is incredible joy in this life of discipleship.

A word about obedience. The Holy Spirit rushes in to touch the weakest act of obedience. He understands our feeble and cowardly hearts and promises to help us to obey Him.

A word about becoming unique. The disciple is a rarity among the world (and even the Church). Following Him in your walk may set you apart as odd and peculiar. If you will follow it will mean you will die to what people think. You should love them anyway. You may be persecuted and spoken evil of. Forgive them, they won’t understand.

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Words

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Let me tell you one of the perils of writing a post. I know what I want to say, but I am seldom happy about the end product.  I suppose it comes as part of the job description and, yet it chafes me to no end.

And, if the truth be told, many others experience the same thing. We really do strive for clarity but end up terribly misunderstood. (I am fairly certain there are those who know this frustration even as they read this.)

Proverbs blares out a desperate warnings to our souls. We must listen to them.

We’re all communicators by nature; some do a bang-up job of it, others, not so much. Being misunderstood is the norm of many, and the strange occupational hazard of the believer.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Proverbs 16:24

The book of Proverbs speaks directly to this dilemma. Healthy words smash through our issues bringing light and hope to others. It’s clear God wants our words to matter. We learn to share things by His Spirit. How exciting though! To speak love and grace to those who need it most is a rare gift these days.

Then there are those who cause death by words.  We can ‘slice and dice’ people we love. Isn’t it any wonder why people around us struggle so? Many understand the power of evil words and even use them intentionally. (Sometimes I flinch inside when I hear a mother berate her young son in the grocery store.)

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 12:18

Here in Proverbs we read of people whose rash words are compared to a bloody sword thrust. They jab, slash and cut. They are malicious and hurtful. We can cause far too much pain. God forgive us. Satan gets his glory by things we say. Lord, have mercy.

Others have the opposite outcome. Their words bring healing. I have known people like this. They have an aura about them–a special superpower. They say profoundly simple things of wisdom. Healing seems to follow them around. (Yet I also have seen other believers stall, because they couldn’t control their mouth.)

When will we understand that words are powerful; they pierce or they can heal? It’s your choice. Between you and me, I want to say and write that which has a lasting and a healing effect on others.

I must remember that I’m the custodian of the words I speak. My tongue speaks only what is going on in in my heart.

Give me a true heart, O God. I want to carry healing to others. Help me to bridle my tongue. Amen.

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To Be Brave and Full of Faith

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In the book Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis writes of Reepicheep. He is a mouse of exceptional courage and with a strong faith. People seem to always misunderstand a talking mouse, especially one who dresses like a swashbuckler.

He is determined to reach the utter east and join the Lion, Aslan (a type of Christ), Reepicheep is heard to say,

“While I may, I will sail in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I will row in my coracle. When that sinks, I shall paddle east with my four paws. Then, when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, there I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.”

Compare this to the Apostle Paul’s testimony:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14

Paul transmitted an example to his generation of Christians. He put himself as a model of what is to motivate a believer. The apostle Paul pressed into what the Holy Spirit had for him. Both Paul, and Reepicheep are great examples, they would rather die than to miss their calling.

Everything depends on what God allows of course. But I believe He makes a special place at His side to those who mix their faith with authentic desire like Reepicheep of Narnia and Paul of Tarsus.

God may be making you brave and full of faith. Deep down, this is exactly what your soul is really wanting. Give Him permission to do this work in your heart. Then stand back and see what happens.

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‘Heaven Practice’ Begins Now

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We will burst into heaven shouting to everyone, “It was grace that saved us!”

The last few days I’ve been a bit homesick for heaven I suppose. I wonder a lot about what it’s going to be like. I also think about dying. What is going to happen? Will it be painful? Can I opt out?

I also  believe that each will stand there exclusively by God’s grace, and everyone present will all know it.

For many, not understanding this leads to terror. Death for these poor souls is a horrifying idea, and it certainly must be avoided at all costs. But death should not be a fearful thing. I suppose it is like a doorway that leads from one room to the next, but in the next room we will meet Jesus. the Savior of our souls.

Some Christian traditions believe that the angel Michael has been chosen to escort every believer into heaven. Apparently Satan’s attacks intensify at that moment and an archangel is needed for our transition. (I suppose that Satan takes a last chance to try to destroy us.)

I am consoled by the extent of God’s mercy on me. You see, I’ve got this propensity to bollocks up everything I get involved in. It’s highly doubtful my death will be any different. I have to believe that at that moment all will be well; that I will know His ‘super attentiveness.’ God loves me far too much to let me face that moment alone.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

1 Corinthians 15:55

The strong issues of death can’t touch me. I believe there is enough grace to hold on to us while dying. I’m confident and sure of this. I am no longer afraid.

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –CS Lewis

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

Psalm 116:15

“The death of one that belongs to the Lord is precious in his sight.”

Psalm 116:15, NCV

 

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Seeing the Chariots

The king of Aram is perplexed. He has come up against an authentic man of God whose name is Elisha. This prophet of God knows exactly where the Aramean army is planning to ambush the army of Israel. Elisha communicates what he knows to the king of Israel who escapes. Aram has now lost the element of surprise.

The enemy realizes that unless Elisha is captured this ‘strategic shell game’ will only continue. To conquer Israel the Syrian army must first neutralize Elisha the man of God.

“Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”

And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.

2 Kings 6:13-14

Elisha has become the enemy of the king of Aram. Men and chariots have been quickly dispatched to stop him. God’s hand of supernatural protection of Israel hangs in the balance. Aram intends to destroy Elisha and ruin God’s people.

But there are other chariots. 

The next morning Elisha’s servant is the first to see the enemy’s presence. He is afraid.

 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”

(vv. 16-17)

God has triumphed over the enemy of Israel. Vision is given and the superior reality of the Spirit is grasped. Elisha’s servant now understands. He now sees the Lord’s overwhelming power.

God’s chariots trump the enemies. This is the reality of the spiritual landscape. This is the heritage of every Christian believer.

Are you convinced of God’s decisive victory over the darkness? Do you know exactly His care for your soul? Are you afraid?

Pray for the faith to see it for yourself. Let Him open your eyes to see the real world. See the very definite effort He makes on behalf of His own. The blood that Jesus shed for your soul destroys every plan of the enemy. You can now go free

 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14

“Father, let those who praise you never find satisfaction in the camp of the enemy. Help us be a people of boldness who see what exactly what and who is surounding us. We patiently wait on you. Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Does Depression Become Sin?

The Bible is plumb full of commentary on depression. King David experienced intermittent times of intense depression.  He was a man who had to work through a great deal of it, and we can see that he succeeded in breaking through into freedom.

Would David today be treated with antidepressants?  Could he have been treated at a mental hospital? (I honestly think the answer is “yes” to these questions.  He was definitely devastated by depression at certain times.)

There is no question he experienced both spiritual and physical depression.  But I believe that David teaches us that depression has a spiritual component in our fallenness.  It has to be treated holistically, covering both the physical and the spiritual.  It’s like having two hands injured but only treating just one of them.

We need to discern the difference between:

  • depression caused by guilt (sin)
  • depression caused by a medical issue (organic)
  • depression as a reaction to a trauma or loss (reaction)

This is key. These all can be working at the same time (and very often do).  But there will only be a partial release if there is only a partial solution. The three can overlap each other. Any of the three can be the predominant kind of depression.

The points below deal primarily with “guilt” or “sin depression.” (I’m not qualified to speak out on the othe1) Confession of sin may free us from certain issues of depression.r two.)

 13″If you don’t confess your sins, you will be a failure.  But God will be merciful if you confess your sins and give them up.” Proverbs 28:13   (CEV)

 2)  The story of Cain and Abel reveals the issue of “angry depression” taking over a person’s actions.

“6The LORD said to Cain:

 What’s wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling.  But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don’t let it!”  

Genesis 4:6-7  

3)  David was depressed until he confessed his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.

3“When I refused to confess my sin,
      my body wasted away,
      and I groaned all day long.
 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
      My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” Psalm 32:3-4 (NLT)

4)  The way out of depression caused by guilt is confession and seeking God’s forgiveness. 

 5 “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
      and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
   I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

  1 Oh, what joy for those
      whose disobedience is forgiven,
      whose sin is put out of sight!
 2 Yes, what joy for those
      whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
      whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” 

Psalm 32:5 , 1-2

5) If you are a Christian and are experiencing “moderate-to-heavy” depression, I would encourage you to seek out medical help.  Medication may be helpful to get through this rough time, and talk therapy can be a life-saver.  If your depression is caused from guilt, it will NOT get better, until you deal with it in the presence of God.

RedcrossNow I’m not a physician, nor is this post medical advice. If you are experiencing thoughts of depression and suicide seek out help immediately. Call 911 right now.

Your regular doctor can guide you to a good psychiatrist which may help.

 

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When Eagles Go Bad

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“I am coming soon. Continue strong in your faith so no one will take away your crown.”

Rev. 3:11, NCV

Some of you know I have lived in Alaska for almost 30 years.  It is always so beautiful, even in places you don’t expect. Admittedly it does have an “edge” as well. It can get very cold, and we can have snow piled up waist high in just a few hours. The winter nights can be excruciating long and dark. (Bad news for depressives like me.)

But my freezer is full of salmon, halibut, caribou and of course, moose meat. We pick berries in the summer, with a wary eye for bear.  We kayak, ski and snow machine for fun. My son snowboards. We get chased by moose.

I have always had a connection with eagles. You can find them throughout most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico. About half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska.  And that is a lot.  You can see them everyday here if you want. (And you never let your small dog out, he can become dinner for the eagle. Seriously.)

I’ve been thinking about eagles. When I went to the dump recently I saw several of them working the trash heaps.  I don’t know, but it really bothered me.  They had the form of an eagle; the wing span and the aloofness, but they were pathetic.  Their feathers were matted down, and they looked completely disheveled.  They were scrounging for scraps, competing with the crows. The dump here is like a “crack house” for eagles.

A hard day’s night

And perhaps the saddest thing was they were losing their distinctive white heads. They had given it up for dump food.  This is a big problem in many towns here in Alaska.  Their heads turn in color to a dark grey.  You have to look a little closer to see that they are still bald eagles.

In the Bible, God is identified with being an eagle. But so are Christians. There is something quite unsettling and tragic to encounter a believer addicted and controlled by their appetites. Soon they will change, as they grow more pathetic and disheveled.  They give up soaring and become wretched souls, without joy or purpose.

Those of us who struggle can’t live out of a landfill.  We don’t belong, and it isn’t who we are. You see, we were meant to soar, strong and free.  No matter who you are– addictions, compulsions, or mental illness. We can still become eagle Christians.

But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again.
    They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; 
       they will run and not need rest; 
       they will walk and not become tired.

Isaiah 40:21, NCV

I often struggle with debilitating depression and and nasty paranoia.  But I never want to surrender to it.  I resist living out of the dumps.  It is a heavy struggle at times, but we were re-created to soar.  Please, never forget that.

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