mcdministries

Serving Jesus through discipleship

The Call of Christ


By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2: 3-6

These verses out of 1 John clearly identify the need for discipleship. If you don’t agree with me on that, I’ll have more on that later. For now I want to answer the question “Why did Jesus choose His disciples and start His ministry in the region of Galilee? What was it that captured his attention above all other places in Israel?

Cities in Contrast

Some of the cities in the region of Galilee are Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Jezreel, Scythopolis and others. Let’s first take a look at Scythopolis in southern Galilee. Scythopolis was a city about 15 miles from Nazareth. It was a city of temples, stadiums, theaters, and university. It was a city of wide streets, sewers and running water. Yet Jesus didn’t choose any of His disciples from here.

A first century insula

In contrast, Jesus recruited His disciples from a small fishing village in northern Galilee called Bethsaida. This is the area that Jewish religious folks lived in the first century. People that were passionate about following God. Passionate about obedience. Passionate about the text of Scripture. Bethsaida in contrast had narrow dirt roads if any streets at all, no running water, no temples, no theaters and no university. The people lived in large family units called insulas, a Latin word for island. An insula could be compared to an apartment building today. Most of the lower and middle class people lived in insulas. It was from this village that Jesus chose five of His disciples: Peter, Andrew, John, James and Phillip.

The Building Blocks of Discipleship

  • Community

There were several building blocks for discipleship in Jesus day. The first was Community. The common people of that day relied on each other. Imagine, if you can, an extended family unit (brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents, etc.) living in an insula. They ate together, worked together, played together and worshiped together. Their life with God was a community life! Coming from this type of background, it was only natural that the people wanting to be disciples would live with their rabbi in a community of disciples. But not every person living in the community was a disciple.

  • Scripture

The synagogue was a central part of the lives of the people living in Galilee in the first century. It was a community gathering place. A place to worship, a place to come and hear the rabbis teach. It was the place where the Torah (the books of the Law) and the Tanakh (the books of the prophets and the writings) were kept and taught. The Tanakh, as the Bible today, was considered the very words of God and was revered and loved on a par with God. The second building block of discipleship then is Scripture! In order to obey the law one must know the law. The better you know the law, the more likely you are to correctly apply and obey that law.

  • Beit Sefer

An important part of the synagogue was the school (beit sefer, literally, ‘house of knowledge’). This is where the children came to learn to read and write. Obviously, the text they used was the text of Scripture. So by the time that the children were 11 or twelve years old, they could recite large parts of the Torah. They had studies it, they knew how to interpret it and they knew how to apply it.

Upon finishing beit sefer, most children started working at the family business if they were boys and the girls would start learning to become a good wife and mother.

Some of the children (men typically), after finishing beit sefer, if they had the ability and the passion, would continue their scriptural education at beth midrash (literally ‘house of interpretation’). It was here that the Tanakh was learned. By the end of this part of their education, the student could recite large parts of the Tanakh. It was at this time that the really passionate could become what was called a talmid (tal MEED) or disciple. It is important to know the connotation of the word talmid. A talmid is a person who wants to be what the rabbi is! This person wants to be like the rabbi at any cost. He has an all consuming passion to be like the rabbi. He would give up everything to follow his rabbi.

The Cost of Discipleship

As a Christian, are you willing to be a talmid? Is your passion for Christ such that you are willing to give up everything to follow him? (Does this sound familiar?) I will bet that the required scriptural knowledge in most of us is severely lacking and thus preventing us from becoming a disciple.

After acquiring the building blocks of discipleship, the aspiring talmid searched for a rabbi that was willing to disciple the student. The talmid lived with the rabbi, studied under the rabbi, observed all that the rabbi did in order to become like him. Usually this required committing the entire scriptural text to memory, being able to correctly interpret and apply it. This required an unbelievable level of commitment and passion.

Most people, could not find a rabbi willing to accept them as talmid. Once you did find a rabbi willing to accept you, you could still be rejected because you did not possess the requisite level of passion.

Jesus, unlike other rabbis, chose ordinary people, fishermen, tax collectors, etc. to be His disciples. Many of the people that Jesus called were rejected by other rabbis. Many more were not willing to pay the price to become like Him. The price? Self denial, total devotion. This is what the rabbi asks of us. Have you come to know Jesus? (read 1 John 2:3-6). The only way that we can get to know Jesus is by His words. Where are His words? The Bible!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses ; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time ; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. – The Gospel of John

Advertisements

Let’s Talk Discipleship


Obey and Teach the Commandments

Obey and Teach the Commandments (Photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC)

Discipleship was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Saying that, it is not surprising that the word disciple is used more than 250 times in the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament is the story of disciples, written by disciples who wanted to make disciples. An those disciples dramatically changed their world.”

Today in western culture, the disciple making mission of Jesus and His followers is not as clear. Contemporary Christianity does not always make discipleship central to the faith. Many who call themselves Christians don’t even know what a disciple is. While we readily agree that it is essential to believe in Jesus as our Savior, we tend to treat His Lordship in our lives as a desirable option. If we don’t recognize the importance of discipleship , we tend to think that obeying God‘s commands is a worthwhile goal but less important than being saved. We view discipleship as a goal that only a few “all-star” believers can attain!

Jesus and His disciples had a very different view of discipleship. They made no distinction between “being saved” and living in obedience to God. To be saved was to be totally committed to a life of obedience – to walk as the Rabbi walked, to become like Him. They did not do this in order to be saved, they did it because they were saved. Thus the goal of the Christian community is not to make converts but to make disciples.

Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” James, the brother of Jesus and the author of the book of James, said, “… faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

Since few of us know what discipleship is, let’s examine what discipleship meant to Jesus and the apostles. In the next few posts, we will examine the practices of first century rabbis and their disciples – their love for and knowledge of Scripture and their passionate desire to give up everything in order to obey God as their rabbi did.

Points of Comparison


For some reason lately, when I read the Bible, I see America’s situation in the annals of ancient Israel. How am I like other America haters both in this country and in the world. One way I can think I am different is that rather than proclaim “Death to America” I pray for our countries repentance.

Are there good people in this country? According to Jesus, only God is good so the answer to that one is no. However, relatively speaking there are many people who try to do the right thing. One of the problems is that there are so many people of authority that are misguided and will not listen to the truth. People like the teachers. How did we get so many tenured professors that are socialists/progressives? The once great Christian institutions like Harvard and Yale, established to educate their students in the way of the truth of the Gospel, are now the leading proponents of atheism.

Yale Bowl during "The Game" between ...

Yale Bowl during “The Game” between Yale and Harvard. The Bowl was also the home of the NFL’s New York Giants from 1973–1974. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The courts that are supposed to guarantee our rights are perverting the constitution to mean something that it doesn’t say and are thereby denying Americans their freedoms.

The self serving politicians are doing nothing to stop the erosion of our freedoms. The rule of the day in Washington is compromise. There is no such thing in Washington as standing on your principles!

The media is barraging us constantly with progressive ideas and calling us haters of whatever when we stand up for what is right.

We have seen the major denominations of the Christian church cave in the these progressive pressures.

Then there is the Word of God. People misinterpret it, conveniently ignore parts of it and sometimes even try to change it; however the Word of God stands. The truth! A beacon of hope in a fallen world. To realize the hope that Scripture provides, read it, memorize it, and meditate on it. The Word of God will change your life. Then encourage your family and friends to do the same. We can, as a country, return to God; one person at a time.

Shrines of the Heart


A Shrine is defined the Encarta Dictionary as an object or place revered for its associations or history. There are other definitions as well, but this is the definition that serves for today’s discussion.

Heart is defined by the same dictionary as the source and center of emotional life, where the deepest and sincerest feelings are located and a person is most vulnerable to pain. Again there are other definitions which may apply to this discourse.

One of the many small shrines in the Imamiya S...

One of the many small shrines in the Imamiya Shrine complex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So a shrine of the heart is an object or place that is revered as the central element of our emotional life. For many that shrine is money! For others, the shrine is sex. Others may value cars, houses, boats, motorcycles, etc. In today’s political climate, some of these shrines may be abortion, so-called gay rights, women’s rights and other rights granted by the government such as welfare, humanism, etc. I think it would be safe to say that these shrines are our modern day idols. These ideas/ideals are increasingly consuming our time, talent and treasure; the resources God granted to us to do his will. Instead of dedicating these resources back to God’s work, we are chasing these vain idols.

Idolatry is nothing new! I have a theory that all sin is idolatry (think about it). The sin of Adam and Eve was putting their own pleasure before honoring God.

In Ezekiel 14:3 – 5, God again deals with idolatry in His people:

Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and have put right their faces their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?

Therefore, speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD God, Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face his stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through their idols.”

God further tells Ezekiel to tell the people of Israel to repent and quit separating themselves from Him.

Our culture is becoming farther and farther removed from God. So much so, that even the church is moving away from God and taking up idolatry. You, however can be a change agent in your local church. It only takes one to start the movement. You and I can start by examining ourselves and tearing down those shrines that we have built that are squeezing God out and asking him to be Lord of our lives. It will be hard but it is necessary. Christian, repent.

Can We Hear the Voice of God? (Part 9)


Why Is Scripture Authoritative?

Holy Scripture is God speaking. That simple but profound statement is why Christians believe that Scripture is our highest authority by which all other lesser authorities are tested. Practically, this means that lesser courts of reason, tradition, and culture are under the highest court of truth, which is divinely inspired Scripture.

By contrast, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches teach that Scripture is a part of the larger pool of revelation that the church uses in its teaching. The authority is not in the Bible itself, but in the teaching office of the church.

Others appeal to the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral:

Wesley believed that the living core if the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illuminated by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God “so far as it is necessary for our salvation.

In practice, though, the Bible often becomes just one of four major sources of authority to be balanced. Thus, when contemporary critical theories of the Bible start to be taken seriously, the Bible is often judged by other authorities.

The central development of the Protestant Reformation was the return to Scripture as supreme authority. The reformers coined the slogan sola Scriptura (sometimes prima Scriptura) to summarize this conviction. Nothing judges Scripture. It judges everything else. As followers of Jesus, we take the same stance He did and receive the Bible alone as infallible, inerrant truth from God with full authority in our lives.

English: Mural of Protestant Reformation, Mour...

English: Mural of Protestant Reformation, Mourneview A mural of the key players in the Protestant Reformation – at the shops on Mourne Road in Lurgan’s Mourneview Estate. There was a loyalist paramilitary mural here originally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible is a living book of God authoritatively speaking as a perfect Father to children He dearly loves. The Bible tells us to live Godly lives. For example, it commands us to “put away falsehood” and “speak the truth with our neighbor”, not as arbitrary rules of conduct but as church family members who are “members one of another.” It is a story of what is best in a loving family, a family we are invited to be a part of, a family leaving sin and dysfunction and growing to maturity and fulfillment. It is the story of the God of redemption rescuing us from rebellion, brokenness, sin and death. Its authority is that in these inspired words we find how to connect with the forgiving and transforming power of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Where is God?


It seems that throughout recorded Jewish history, God‘s people have been asking this question, “How long O LORD will you remain silent?” This question has been asked in many different forms. The one I read today is from Habakkuk. “How long O LORD will I call for help, and You will not hear?” I think we would do well to ask that question today.

English: Habakkuk, the Biblical prophet, water...

English: Habakkuk, the Biblical prophet, watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The answer is always the same. God will not hear us until we wholeheartedly turn to Him. What does that mean?

To wholeheartedly turn to God means serving Him even when things are going well. No, especially when things are going well. We tend to turn to God only in our darkest hour. When we lose control over our circumstances, when we’ve tried everything we know to escape the consequences of our actions, that is when we turn to God to rescue us. For you Bible readers out there, the Israelites throughout history did the same thing. They abandoned God until they found themselves on the horns of a dilemma. It was then and only then that they remembered that they were God’s chosen people. And when they did remember, they asked the question. That is where we find the children of Jacob in the opening words of the prophet Habakkuk. The people of Judah continue to sin with impunity and justice is perverted. God’s answer to Habakkuk’s question is that he is raising up the Babylonians as His rod of judgment. The Chaldeans will come against Judah swiftly, violently and completely! The coming storm form the east will be God’s answer to Judah’s crimes!

In twenty-first century America, who is God raising up to exercise His judgment. Al-Qaeda? Iran? Egypt? Venezuela? Syria? The United States of Islam?

How long O Lord, will you allow us to profane your name? How long will we be allowed to execute our children as if it were a God given right and then call it a women’s health issue? How long will You remain silent as people abandon the natural use of their bodies for the abominable pursuit of carnal pleasure? How long must the people who are called by Your name be allowed to do nothing before we are called to judgment? How long?

Remember, God’s judgment will rain upon the evil as well as the righteous. Joseph was a slave and a prisoner for years before he was exalted. I have no recollection of his pleading to God for deliverance but serving and exalting God through his suffering. All of his actions, even while in prison, honored the God he served.

We are called to serve God! It appears that we believe that God is supposed to serve us. Really?

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing


Getup Get God

Getup Get God (Photo credit: prettywar-stl)

I really can’t believe that it has been two weeks since I posted anything. I started blogging daily when I decided to record my thoughts on this blog after my morning devotions. It took a little longer to do that than I really wanted to spend but I wanted to get my thoughts down right away. So, writing for the blog became the main thing.

Is a morning quiet time supposed to be about God? Yes it is! I realized that my prayer time was really suffering because I was too busy writing. I do still identify a passage that strikes me each day, write a few short thoughts and identify a way to apply that passage of scripture to my life. My intent was to revisit that passage in the evening and then expand my thoughts. I have been remiss. I am happy to say that my time with God is more satisfying to me; and I hope, to God.

Now, again, worshipping my God is the main thing. My morning devotions are once again allowing me to focus on my creator which allows Him to work through me.

The Sinful Nature of Man


It’s everywhere! This weekend we heard of a devout Christian businessman, Dan Cathey, honestly proclaim the truth of the Bible; that God‘s idea of marriage, and his, is one man and one woman. For this proclamation of the truth, Dan has been at the center of a firestorm of controversy.

Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you probably know, Dan id the founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A. It is not secret that Chick-fil-a is run according to Christian principles. The politicians that started this controversy, apparently cannot stand that someone who lives by a set of immutable principles is a success in America. The mayors of several cities are threatening not allow Chick-fil-a to operate in their cities because of Mr. Cathey’s view. These politicians are declaring sin to be good and God’s best to be evil. I think even more they want to take over the church. That’s what politicians do when they can’t pervert God’s law from without; they attack it from within.

We see that God’s word has been undermined in at least 4 major denominations that have ordained homosexual clergy. It occurs to me that the laity of these congregations more than likely don’t read the Bible and if they do, don’t understand it. I maintain that if you are a Christian and don’t KNOW the word of God; do not feed on the word of God daily, you may be letting the enemy in through that gaping chasm. Why else would king David have said, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.”

Contemplate the words of Isaiah, “The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! Let us eat and drink, you say, for tomorrow we die! The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: ‘Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the Lord Almighty.”

We have a choice! Be a slave to sin or be a slave to God. Which do you choose?

Peter Pan Christians


Today I heard a new Term on the radio. The term? Peter Pan Christians!

This is also the name of the Sermon of Dr. David Jeremiah which I heard on his program Turning Point. The summary for this broadcast is listed below:

Have you matured from adolescence to adulthood? Or would you characterize yourself as having the “Peter Pan Syndrome,” refusing to grow up? Dr. David Jeremiah warns that the Peter Pan Syndrome can also reach into our spiritual lives as immaturity and lethargy keep us from growing in our Christian faith. As David continues his series from the book of Hebrews, he challenges us to mature in our Christian faith.

This message references: Hebrews 5:11-14

Are you a Peter Pan Christian? Find out by listening!

Burger King Christianity


What is happening to the Church that Jesus started nearly two thousand years ago? Would He recognize it as the institution whose members would live like He lived, bringing honor and glory to the Father who is in heaven? That same church today tells us that Jesus died for our sins; taking the punishment that we deserve, in order that God‘s perfect justice would be satisfied. What we don’t hear so much is that He also was an example to us of how to live a life that glorified God and that we are supposed to follow that example.

Three distinguishing marks of Jesus and the early church were: separation from the world, unconditional love and childlike obedience. Jesus was obedient to the Father and the early church was obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Separation From The World

“No one can serve two masters,” declared Jesus to his disciples (Matt. 6:24). However, Christians have spent the greater portion of the past two millenniums apparently trying to prove Jesus wrong. We have told ourselves that we can indeed have both-the things of God and the things of this world. Many of us live our lives no differently than do conservative non-Christians, except for the fact that we attend church regularly each week. We watch the same entertainment. We share the same concerns about the problems of this world. And we are frequently just as involved in the world’s commercial and materialistic pursuits. Often, our being “not of this world” exists in theory more than in practice.

But the church was not originally like that. The first Christians lived under a completely different set of principles and values than the rest of mankind. They rejected the world’s entertainment, honors, and riches. They were already citizens of another kingdom, and they listened to the voice of a different Master. This was as true of the second century church as it was of the first.

The Letter to Diognetus, the work of an unknown author, written in about 130, describes Christians to the Romans as follows: “They dwell in their own countries simply as sojourners…. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death, but [will be] restored to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich. They possess few things; yet, they abound in all. They are dishonored, but in their very dishonor are glorified…. And those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred.” The Letter to Diognetus can be found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

A Love Without Condition

Christian symbol: This symbol was used primari...

Christian symbol: This symbol was used primarily amongst Christians in early church history (1st and 2nd century A.D.) etc etc… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At no other time in the history of Christianity did love so characterize the entire church as it did in the first three centuries. And Roman society took note. Tertullian reported that the Romans would exclaim, “See how they love one another!”

Justin Martyr sketched Christian love this way: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”

Clement, describing the person who has come to know God, wrote, “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”

A Childlike Trust in God

To the early Christian, trusting God meant more than a teary-eyed testimony about “the time I came to trust the Lord.” It meant believing that even if obedience to God entailed great suffering, God was trustworthy to bring a person through it.

“A person who does not do what God has commanded shows he really does not believe God,” Clement declared. To the early Christians, to claim to trust God while refusing to obey Him was a contradiction (1 John 2:4). Their Christianity was more than verbal. As one early Christian expressed it, “We don’t speak great things—we live them!”

One distinguishing mark of the early Christians was their childlike, literal obedience to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. They didn’t feel they had to understand the reason for a commandment before they would obey it. They just trusted that God’s way was always the best way. Clement asked, “Who then is so irreverent as to disbelieve God, and to demand explanations from God as from men?”

They trusted God because they lived in awe of His majesty and wisdom. Felix, a Christian lawyer in Rome and a contemporary of Tertullian, put it this way: “God is greater than all our perceptions—He is infinite, immense. Only He truly understands His true greatness; our hearts are too limited to really understand Him. We are making a worthy estimation of Him when we say that He is beyond estimation…. Anyone who thinks he knows the magnitude of God, diminishes His greatness.”

The Church Today

Have it Your Way

Have it Your Way...

Have it Your Way… (Photo credit: Richard Elzey)


The church in America today is firmly planted in the world. Church members are only required to invest 1 to 3 hours a week “serving God”. Most church members that the work of the church should be done by the clergy and that the laity job is only to financially support that work. This attitude has become so prevalent that even the pastorate, for the most part, has bought into it.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in
common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14) If this command relayed to us by the Apostle Paul would be obeyed, we would see a stronger community of faith. As it is, the children of “Christian” parents are no more sin resistant than the children of atheist parents. More than likely, these families are Christian in name only! So their children date, and eventually marry, someone that doesn’t share their faith. As a result the faith that they have ends up becoming compromised or even abandoned.

This may be the cause of the divorce rate in the church being the same as the divorce rate in the country at large. The world says that life is ‘all about me’; what makes ‘me’ happy. The world says that if you are a Christian you should tolerate sinners, including the sin. The church is believing them. The world says that we should tolerate homosexuality. In our tolerating what God says is an abomination, the world’s agenda is to encourage this abomination. It has even gotten to the point that several major mainstream denominations have ordained homosexual clergy.

Christ taught love the sinner and hate the sin. It appears to me that we have turned it around. We hate the sinner and love the sin. If we loved the sinner we would lovingly encourage him to repent of his sin and be reconciled to God. By accepting the sinner and his sin, we are allowing the person to remain at enmity with God and damning his soul to hell.

With the plethora of denominations and several churches in each community competing for the same membership, it is no wander that there seems to be no objective standard of Christian behavior. If your behavior is incompatible with the teachings of one congregation, the congregation down the street will be more than happy to accommodate. Christ meant for His church to help reconcile people to His Father. Much of the church in America today is quite happy to allow you to be damned and will help you feel good about it; therefore beware!

In the “Sermon On The Mount”, Jesus gave us a stern warning. “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Belonging to the right church will not get you into heaven! Being born in the right family will not either. There is only one way to enjoy a favorable outcome in eternity; follow Jesus!

Post Navigation