Carl Medearis gets this right…awesome!

1Carl Medearis is one of my fav people in the world.  Never met him but have watched his videos and read his books…they have all been uplifting, challenging and informative.  On his blog today he featured a conversation he had with Dr. Ken Bailey before Ken died earlier this year.  You can read about Dr. Bailey HERE (New Testament Scholar).  I found this blog post encouraging today – I think you will too!

“…I asked one last question. I think I surprised him with this one. I simply said “Dr. Bailey, what do you think is the key to everything? Success? Purpose? Everything? What’s the key?”

Shockingly, he said “Oh that’s easy, it’s to experience God’s love.”

What? He’d been so careful to answer all my other questions and yet this one, the biggest of all, the answer burst out of him, almost without a thought. As if he knew. He went on….

“You see, to experience God’s love, and note that I said ‘experience’ his love, means to be secure. When you’re secure you make wise decisions. If you have not experienced, his love, then you’re insecure. And when you’re insecure, you make bad decisions. That’s the key to everything.”

Oh my. And of course, he’s right. It is the key to everything. This eminent Jesus-Scholar just spoke the most profound words I’ve heard in a long time. And of course, that’s what Jesus does – he shows us God’s love. He demonstrates God’s love. He is God’s love manifest.

If we want to know what God is like (and God is love), we look at Jesus. When we experience Jesus, we experience God’s love. Jesus is the exact representation of God. Jesus demonstrated his love for us by coming to earth and humbly living among us. By teaching and showing us a better way to live. By dying for us. By rising again and constantly interceding for us.  And ultimately, by spending the rest of his life with us. Amazing love.

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Thoughts from the day…

gratitude

There’s a verse in the New Testament letter of Thessalonians – Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in…” Now stop!  Look up the verse – 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  Once you read it, fill in this blank.  How many circumstances are we supposed rejoice in? ______________________.  Remember, as Paul writes, “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. “Did you get that?  A small exercise, a short, little verse in the New Testament can challenge and change your entire perspective on life.

There was this Pastor of a large church in California.  He was speaking one Sunday morning and he was actually hearing grumbling going on in the sanctuary.  He asked someone at the beginning of his message what was going on and someone spoke up, “everyone got blank bulletins this week, what’s up?”  This is how the pastor responded,

“Well, I’m glad you noticed because RIGHT NOW we’re going to train everyone in this place to embrace a spirit of gratitude.  So right now, it is time to start. I’m glad you noticed when you came in and got a bulletin that it’s blank! Did anybody complain about that and wonder what that crazy Pastor was up to now? Here’s your instructions – this was all done for a purpose –  open that bulletin up now if you would, and get out a pen or pencil. This is deliberate. We’re going to try an exercise in this sermon, because sometimes during a sermon your mind will drift. Today the idea is to let your mind drift toward gratitude, and write down on this sheet what you’re grateful for. Then you can take this with you through the week. You can start right now. I’ll give you a few categories. Maybe there are individuals God will bring to your mind: a family member, or a coworker, or a teacher. You just want to write their names down. Or an experience: getting to go to school, or work, or travel. Or a time when you were suffering and God comforted you. Maybe you think of just a small gift: an encouraging word from somebody, a phone call, a text, a good night’s sleep, food you love to eat. Maybe it’s life-changing gifts: our faith, the Bible, the death of Jesus on the cross so I can be forgiven, the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide me, spiritual gifts, a community like the church. Through the message, God will nudge you with something you’re grateful for. When he does, just keep that pen out and write it down. By the end of this message you’ll have wonderful words to look at, and we’ll talk to God about it.”

As you can imagine, that message had quite an impact.  The pastor, John, began his message with a hypothesis…in fact, it was a great experiment.  HE BELIEVED THAT THE MORE GRATITUDE WILL NOT COME FROM MORE ACQUISITIONS AND MORE STUFF, BUT FROM MORE AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE AND GOD’S GOODNESS. Friends, there are therapeutic benefits to gratitude. There are a lot of them. They’re good things.  Trust me on this, people’s lives have been changed by one small emotional and spiritual choice – “I’m moving away from complaining and I’m moving toward being thankful.”  Being grateful, being thankful is not only an encouragement from Jesus himself through the scripture it is a gift Jesus can give to you!  HOW?  Right now, stop for a few moments and ask yourself what you are thankful for that is a specific gift from Jesus?  If you said, “his love, grace, mercy, sacrifice for me, gift of new life, promise of resurrection, hope, joy, or any other positive gift that you think of when thinking of Jesus, that is a good place to start.  Thanking Jesus every day at the beginning of the day sets your heart on gratitude rather than complaint.  Have you ever wondered why some days simply go badly?  For many people, myself included, it starts NOT with something catastrophic but rather simple – a simple grumbling spirit…a small complaint, a negative perspective and soon our “vision” for the day is set in stone and we are on the lookout for life’s disappointments.  Why not reverse that trend?

I believe with all my heart that we all have something to contribute to the Kingdom of God… no matter what our income, our age, our situation in life, our past failures, our limitations. Having a grateful heart, practicing an attitude of gratitude can not only change you but every person around you!  Gratitude is contagious.  If you wondered if Paul was being unrealistic in the verse above…when he said to be thankful in all circumstances he was not only being profound but speaking a life-changing truth.  A grateful heart is a happy heart.  A thankful disposition is a contagious disposition.  If you practice gratitude, it might be the greatest gift that you can give not only to yourself, Jesus but to every other person you encounter today and every day.  Give THANKS in all circumstances!

Discipleship…can’t have enough encouragement to live that life!

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer from The Cost of Discipleship, pgs. 45-47.

discipleship-tree

 

A Disciple of Jesus is a reflection of God in the world. When Jesus talked about discipleship, it was an “I’m all-in” challenge. Discipleship must have been challenging but it was also inspiring…can you imagine what it would have been like to actually physically follow Jesus?

Imagine the wonder, the questions, those “I can’t believe what I just saw” moments, the times of frustration, all the things that those early disciples must have experienced. We do know that being a disciple wasn’t something that happened overnight. Just because you choose to follow Jesus does not mean that instantly you know everything about what it means to follow him in all aspects of your life. Then when Jesus says to “go, make disciples,” if you are like me, you say to yourself, “ME?” “Are you talking to me?” “How do I do that?” Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters– yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.‘” — Luke 14:25-30

Well, here are a few things about discipleship that you need to know: We don’t have to be perfect to be Jesus’ disciple, but we do have to know what we are signing up for and be willing to submit all areas of life to God. As Jesus discipled people, he expected that their discipleship would touch all aspects of their life, relationships, and even society as a whole. Jesus paid it all…Jesus did it all…Jesus saves us all through His grace…Jesus asks for all! Every disciple needs to count the cost because Jesus isn’t going to stop in convenient places in your life.

As Bob Logan says in the Discipleship Difference book, “we can’t be a 2/3 disciple – picking and choosing our preferred areas of growth.” Only when we have been fully trained can we be like our teacher. A real disciple needs to embrace and be growing in all the dimensions of discipleship. True discipleship is holistic: we can’t be content to be growing in some areas and lacking in other areas. Jesus never approached every disciple in the same way. Every person was cherished and every individual was discipled differently – from the Roman Soldier who stepped out in faith to the rich young ruler who would not yield his most precious possessions…Jesus approached every one uniquely.

Philippians 1:6 says that God is going to keep at it…working His Spirit’s intention in our hearts and lives and actions. He is NOT going to give up just as we will never “make it.” There isn’t a finish line when it comes to spiritual maturity or discipleship (at least in this life). Just as the Apostle Paul exclaims, “I press on toward the goal of the upward call of Jesus.”

That’s our call as well! In the book, Bob outlines 10 key principles of reflect on how Jesus made disciples – as you read them, not only reflect but pray!

1. Principle 1 – Jesus made disciples of ordinary people – not superstars.

2. Principle 2 – Jesus started with unbelievers and made disciples outside of the community of faith.

3. Principle 3 – Jesus expected his disciples to make MORE disciples.

4. Principle 4 – Jesus’ context for making disciples was relationships.

5. Principle 5 – Jesus intentionally made discipleship all about the practical vs. the academic.

6. Principle 6 – Jesus started with his disciples where they were at in their lives.

7. Principle 7 – Jesus dealt uniquely with each individual disciple.

8. Principle 8 – Jesus recognized and accepted that discipleship was a process, complete with setbacks.

9. Principle 9 – Jesus assumed that discipleship would touch and transform every area of life.

10.  Principle 10 – Jesus intended disicplemaking to continue through the generations.

Look again at the diagram above…it was created to represent 8 dimensions of being and growing as a disciple. As Jesus became incarnate and lived among us, these are the ways we see him living. Take a look at the diagram and categories. Then evaluate your own life. Allow others to speak into your life as well: we never travel alone on the journey of allowing God to work in our lives. These are the areas we will be reviewing over the coming weeks. If you want a “taste” of some of the subjects these devotionals will cover, surf over to Peace @ Monroe’s website – click on Disciple Training and then scroll down to Dimensions of Discipleship. More to come next week – the best is yet to come! Stop NOW and pray. Take a special vow to follow Jesus – to love him, others and to live in obedience to him…to live a lifestyle of worship, relationship and mission. Hey, stop now. Don’t let this moment go by!