Recent Tweets

If you don’t subscribe to Twitter or read this online you might not be aware that I tweet three or four quotes each week – here are the latest offerings:

“The Christian ideal has not been found tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.” GK Chesterton

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“In the spiritual life only one thing produces genuine joy and that is obedience.” Richard Foster

“Amongst Christians, there can be found much of that spirit that wants to give as little as possible to the Lord, and yet to get as much as possible from Him.” Watchman Nee

Jesus, Matt 28:18-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

“The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.” Kevin DeYoung

“The best measure of a spiritual life is not its ecstasies but its obedience.” Oswald Chambers

Self service discipleship

What should a disciple of Jesus do – what do they look like, what are the characteristics of their life? Surely if you don’t do what he commanded you are not much of a disciple, if you can even be called a disciple at all.

I would suggest that Jesus taught self denial and confession of sins as integral to being a disciple. However it would appear that many of the 2,930 American Protestant churchgoers questioned in reserach for the book Transformational Discipleship might disagree. (The diagram opposite was originally posted here.)

Before thinking I have misinterpreted the figures make sure you look closely at the diagram. When asked about self denial as part of serving christ only 36% of churchgoers strongly agreed – 28% somewhat agreed and 19% disagreed.

In case you are wondering if this is important then read the words of Jesus below and ask yourself if you need a complex hermeneutic to understand them or if obedience might be a better, simpler, option. (Matt. 16:24-26; Mark 8:34-37; Luke 9:23-27, all from The Message)

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “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. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “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. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “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. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

Ambitious like king Saul

There are times that I read passages in a book and a shiver runs down my spine (don’t worry I don’t read horror genre books.) But at times the writer seems to have passed from the realm of being an author to being a prophet. Gene Edwards in A Tale of Three Kings does it regularly. Below is an extract from chapter 15,

What kind of man was [king] Saul? Anointed of God. Deliverer of Israel. And yet remembered mostly for his madness.

Saul was one the greatest figures of human history. He was a farm boy, a country kid who made good. He was tall, good-looking, and well-liked.

He was baptized into the Spirit of God.

He also came from a good family. In his lineage were some of the greatest historical figures of all humanity. Abraham, Jacob, Moses – these were his ancestors…It was Saul who took these people and welded them into a united kingdom.

Saul united a people and founded a kingdom…He created an army out of thin air. He won battles in the power of God, defeated the enemy again and again, as few men have ever done…Furthermore, he was a prophet. The Spirit came on him in power and authority. He did and said unprecedented things, and it was all by the power of the Spirit resting on him.

He has everything people today are seeking to be…empowered with the Holy Spirit…able to do the impossible…for God. A leader, chosen by God with power from God.

Saul was given authority that is God’s alone. He was God’s anointed, and God treated him that way.

He was also eaten with jealousy, filled with self-importance, and willing to live in spiritual darkness.

Remember, God sometimes gives power to people for unseen reasons. A person can be living in the grossest of sin, and the outer gift will still be working perfectly. The gifts of God, once given, cannot be recalled.

If you are young and have never seen such things, you may be certain that sometime in the next forty years you will see. Highly gifted and very powerful men and women…reputed to be leaders in the kingdom of God, do some very dark and ugly deeds.

What does this world need: gifted men and women, outwardly empowered? Or individuals who are broken, inwardly transformed?

Keep in mind that some who have been given the very power of God have raised armies, defeated the enemy, brought forth mighty works of God, preached and prophesied with unparalleled power and eloquence . . .

And thrown spears,

And hated other people,

And attacked others,

And plotted to kill,

And prophesied naked,

And even consulted witches.

My most frequent prayer is “Purify my heart O Lord.” For me this is based upon Psalm 51 (where David was praying after his adultery with Bathsheba), I know my greatest need in every area of my life is that my heart might be pure so that i might seek, and dwell in, God’s presence all the days of my life.

Obsessed by Jesus

Disciples of Jesus should be rightly obsessed by him. There should be nothing, no one, to compare with him in our hearts – he should be the greatest treasure we can imagine or hope for.

Frank Viola is probably my favourite author on the subject of Jesus. Here he speaks about Jesus, and for me, he calls me once again to the love of God in Christ Jesus and to utter heartfelt devotion to Him.

The full message can be accessed here.

Stupid as a cabbage

I don’t laugh out loud a lot whilst reading but I did when I read this from Dallas Willard:

“We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt.”

Whilst I am at it here are a few more quotes from Dallas Willard:

“What is truly profound is thought to be stupid and trivial, or worse, boring, while what is actually stupid and trivial is thought to be profound. That is what it means to fly upside down.”

“Few people arise in the morning as hungry for God as they are for cornflakes or toast and eggs.”

“Our most serious failure today is the inability to provide effective practical guidance as to how to live the life of Jesus. And I believe that is due to this very real loss of biblical realism for our lives”

If God is for us…

Some time ago Matt Chandler was diagnosed with a brain tumor which was operated on and from what I read and see he is recovering (I don’t honestly know what the position is now.) The video is simply a way of stating a confident trust in the sovereignty of God – a doctrine that does not encourage stupidity and recklessness, but that does enable us to confidently say, “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

At the heart of discipleship is an assurance that we can be confident in the goodness of God – to know that come what may our God is working out his perfect plan and we his people can trust him, his Spirit in us, and his Word to us. There is much in life, in this sin stained world, that might make us question the goodness of the Sovereign Lord, yet repeatedly the scriptures assure us that our God is good and we can trust him each moment of each day.

What then shall we say to these things?If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare his own Son butgave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God,who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more thanconquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Finally a word from AWT,

When he says magnify the Lord, he doesn’t mean that you are to make God big, but you are to see Him big. When we take a telescope and look at a star, we don’t make the star bigger, we only see it big. Likewise you cannot make God bigger, but you are only to see Him bigger….

My brethren, God calls us to magnify Him, to see Him big. A meeting is not big because a lot of people are present. A meeting is big because a number of people see a big God in the meeting. And the bigger God is seen, the greater the meeting. A friend of mine has a little saying, ‘I would rather have a big, little meeting than a little, big meeting.’ There are a lot of big meetings that are little because the God in them is a small God. And there are a lot of little meetings that are big because God is big in the midst of them….

That is the first thing—magnify God. Your ministry will be little, and you will live and die little unless you have a bigger God.

Are you broken yet?

I am presently reading A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards – in fact a friend and me are reading it to discuss together. It is the best book on brokenness and humility that I have ever read and is one of the few books I reread regularly.

Edwards dramatises a conversation between Joab (future commander of David’s armies) and David just after David had had the opportunity to kill Saul whilst in a cave at Engedi (see 1 Samuel 24).

Joab began to speak, “Many times Saul almost speared you to death in his palace and I watched with my own eyes. Finally, you ran away. For years now you’ve been nothing but a rabbit for him to chase and the whole world believes the lies he tells about you. He, the king himself, hunting every cave, pit, and hole on earth to find you and kill you like a dog, yet tonight you had him at the end of his own spear and you did nothing!!

Less than an hour ago you could have freed us all, yes we could all be free, right now!! Free! And Israel, too. She would be free. Why, David? Why did you not end these years misery?”

David very slowly replied, “Because once a long time ago he was not a mad king. He was young. He was great. Great in the eyes of God and men and it was God who made him king GOD not men.

Joab blasted back, “But now he is mad!! And God is no longer with him and David he will kill you!”

David again slow to reply said, “Better he kill me than I learn his ways. Better, he kill me than I become as he is. I shall not practice the ways that cause kings to go mad. I will not throw spears, nor will I allow hatred to grow in my heart. I will not avenge. I will not destroy the Lord’s anointed, not now not ever!”

How many times do you jump to your own defence? How often do you speak on your own behalf? How often when you are wronged do you go on the attack?

Remember David is called (in spite of all his sins), “a man after Gods own heart,” will you follow his example and crucify your flesh?

How do you pray?

For disciples it is important to know how to pray. On a number of occasions we are told to pray “in the name of Jesus,”

Jn 14:13 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

Jn 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Jn 16:23 “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

Jn 16:26, 27 “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God”

So what does that mean? Here are a few quick pointers to help you pray effectively in the name of Jesus.

  • It must be in line with the character of Jesus. Jesus supremely modelled the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), these attributes describe his essential character – love joy, patience, kindness, goodness should thus characterise our  prayer
  • It must be in accordance with the will of Jesus. In the Lord’s prayer we pray your will be done on earth… The simple question what would Jesus do? is a good help in approaching situations. Whilst the Psalms contain some fairly violent prayers (smash the teeth of my enemies etc.) such requests and actions are rare in the life of Jesus.
  • Finally, it should be coming to God in the authority of Jesus. We have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus, our sins have been forgiven and we stand in His righteousness.

Undergirding all of these points has to be the essential call of a disciple – to walk each day in the Word and Spirit of God. So as you pray make sure you are full of both the Word of God (which has a lot to tell you about God’s will, plans and purposes), and be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) that you might walk in the anointing and power of the Living God each day.

A testimony from Francis Frangipane

My friend Eileen Moore drew my attention to this article on Facebook. It encouraged me and so I post it here to encourage those who are downcast or disheartened, feeling that God is not as close as they would like him to be. Our walk as disciples is not always easy, but God is always with us, teaching and training us so that we might know and love him more deeply.

LOVE ME WHERE YOU’RE AT
I have discovered that as we seek the Lord, our most difficult periods can be transformed into wonderful breakthroughs into God’s love. For me, one such season occurred during the years 1979 to1981. The association of churches with which I was aligned had fallen under spiritual deception. Not only were its core doctrines increasingly seeded with New Age influences, but immorality crept in, and key leaders began leaving their wives for other women. I could no longer remain silent. As a result, in 1979 I left my congregation in Detroit, Michigan, where I had served as pastor, and traveled to the organization’s regional headquarters in Iowa. I came to plead for repentance. However, after meeting with the senior leaders, I was asked to leave the group.

So here we were—we had left our church, we had no money, and we had four little children; we couldn’t even afford basic housing. Desperate for anything, we finally found an old farmhouse in rural Washington, Iowa. The home was over a hundred years old, but it actually looked much older. After negotiating with the landlord, we were given a year of free rent provided I did basic repairs to the house, such as cleaning and painting.

Even so, the house needed more than I could provide. The furnace did not work well, so we installed a wood burner stove in the kitchen. That first winter, it turned out, was one of the coldest in Iowa’s history. Frost formed on the inside walls, spreading a foot or two around each window; wind chills dropped to 60 below, and even colder on several occasions.

To keep warm each night, the whole family cuddled tightly on one large mattress on the dining room floor, about 18 feet from the wood burner in the kitchen. A fan behind the stove nudged warm air in our direction. My nightly project, of course, was to build enough heat in the stove to keep us warm until morning.

While I worked the fire, I also would pray and seek God. The wood burner became a kind of altar to me, for each night as I prayed, I offered to God my unfulfilled dreams and the pain of my spiritual isolation. Yes, I knew the Lord was aware of our situation. Though we had virtually nothing, He showed Himself to us in dozens of little ways. I just didn’t know what He wanted of me.

As the seasons came and went, another child was born, and then we fostered a young girl from Vietnam, giving us six children. Still, as the family grew, the little area around the wood burner became a hallowed place to me. Even in the summer, I would sit on the chair next to the stove and pray and worship.

I would like to say I found the joy of the Lord during this time, but in truth, though I gradually adjusted to my situation, I felt an abiding misery in my soul. Our deep poverty was an issue (I barely made $6,000 a year), but more than that, I felt like I had missed the Lord. My continual prayer was, “Lord, what do You want of me?”

Three years of seeking God passed, and I still carried an emptiness inside. What was God’s will for me? I had started a couple Bible studies and spoken a few times in churches, but I so identified with being a pastor that, until I was engaged again in full-time ministry, I feared I had lost touch with God’s call on my life.

In spite of this inner emptiness concerning ministry, I actually was growing spiritually, especially in areas that were previously untilled. I went through the Gospels, hungry to study and obey the words of Christ. Previously, I had unconsciously defined a successful ministry as something born of my performance. During this time, however, the Lord reduced me to simply being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, a number of things I thought were biblical I discovered were really just religious traditions. The Lord desired that I take inventory of my heart and examine those few truths for which I would be willing to die. He said the truths for which I would die, for these I should live.

Frankly, things like the timing of the rapture or nuances about worship style or spiritual gifts dropped in their priority, though I still considered them important. Rising to the top of my focus was a passion to be a true follower of Jesus Christ—to obey His teachings and approach life not merely as a critic but more as an encourager. I also found myself increasingly free to enjoy and learn from Christians from other streams and perspectives.

Yet, these changes, though deep and lasting, occurred slowly, almost imperceptibly. They were happening quietly in my heart, and only in hindsight did I see what the Lord had done. Throughout this time, I was preoccupied with feelings of detachment from God’s will. My prayer to know the Lord’s plan for me continued daily.

The Breakthrough
One day, as I stood in the kitchen pantry, I repeated again my abiding prayer: “Lord, what do You want of me?” In a sudden flash of illumination, the Lord answered. Speaking directly to my heart, He said, “Love Me where you’re at.”

In this time and season, remember, I was not a pastor or minister. I was a television repairman doing odd jobs on the side to provide for my family. I hated what I was doing. In my previous church I taught against TV, and now I was “laying hands” on television sets and raising them from the dead! The Lord’s answer cut straight to my heart. I was awed at its simplicity! I asked, “Love You where I am at? Lord, is that all You want of me?” To this He responded, “This is all I will ever require of you.”

In that eternal moment, peace flooded my soul and I was released from the false expectation of ministry-driven service. God was not looking at what I did for Him, but who I became to Him in love. The issue in His heart was not whether I pastored but whether I loved Him. To love the Lord in whatever station I found myself—even as a television repairman—this I could do!

A deep and remarkable transformation occurred in me. My identity was no longer in being a pastor but rather in becoming a true lover of God. Having settled my priorities, amazingly, just a couple days later I was invited to pastor a church in Marion, Iowa. In spite of all my previous anxiety about returning to ministry, I did not jump at the opportunity. For I had found what the Lord truly desired of me. Though I eventually accepted this call, my focus was not merely on leading a church but on loving God.

What God Seeks
More than one’s ministry, God seeks our love. His great commandment is that we love Him, ultimately, with all our mind, all our heart, and all our soul and strength. If we love Him, we will fulfill all He requires of us (John 14:15). And it is as we love Him that He orchestrates all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28).

Beloved, loving God is not hard. We can fulfill any assignment—auto mechanic or housewife, doctor or college student—and still give great pleasure to our heavenly Father. We do not need ministry titles to love the Lord. Indeed, God measures the value of our lives by the depth of our love. This is what He requires of all true God-seekers: to love Him where we are at.

Lord Jesus, the revelation of Your love has swept me off my feet. Lord, You have drawn me and I run after You. Master, even in the mundane things of life, I shall express my love for You. Consume me in Your love.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis’ book, And I Will Be Found By You Published by Arrow Publications and available at www.arrowbookstore.com

Time for a trade

Being a sinful man I need hope, I need the power and promises of God to take hold of. I found those in this famous quote from Martin Luther (originally read here):

“Faith . . . unites the soul with Christ, as a bride is united with her bridegroom.  From such a marriage, as St. Paul says, it follows that Christ and the soul become one body, so that they hold all things in common, whether for better or worse.  This means that what Christ possesses belongs to the believing soul, and what the soul possesses belongs to Christ.  Thus Christ possesses all good things and holiness; these now belong to the soul.  The soul possesses lots of vices and sin; these now belong to Christ. . . . Now is not this a happy business?  Christ, the rich, noble and holy bridegroom, takes in marriage this poor, contemptible and sinful little prostitute, takes away all her evil and bestows all his goodness upon her!  It is no longer possible for sin to overwhelm her, for she is now found in Christ.”

Martin Luther, quoted in Alister E. McGrath, Christian Spirituality: An Introduction(Oxford, 1999), pages 158-159.

Monday morning is a good to time to take hold of this blessed exchange. In faith today take hold of the closing words, “It is no longer possible for sin to overwhelm her, for she is found in Christ.”

This day your identity is not found in your sin but in the righteous act of Christ crucified and raised from the dead. Today you are a new man or woman in Christ – the old has gone and the new is come (2 Cor 5:17).