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Want to Be a Disciple?

Discipleship involved two principles. First, it meant that the disciples had fellowship with their teacher. They lived with him as Jesus’ disciples lived with Him. Second, the disciples carried on the tradition of their teacher. After he died they taught the same things that he did. Disciples were the main means of perpetuating teaching in the ancient world, since many great teachers wrote no books.

Receiving the truth should always accompany learning the truth. It is one thing to learn a truth, but quite another to receive it inwardly and make it a part of our inner person. Facts in the head are not enough; we must also have truths in the heart, then practice it. “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.” (James 1:22)

This verb practice or “do” is the key word in James, for to hear truth and not to do it is to delude oneself.

Practice (prasso) refers to repetition or continuous action. Practice is a habit. The present imperative is used, thus commanding believers to continually practice these things as their normal way of life.

Our English word “practice” has a similar connotation. We speak of a doctor as having a practice, because his profession maintains a normal routine. Christians are to make it their practice to lead godly, obedient lives.

As far as we can know Mahatma Gandhi never became a Christian, but he made a statement that we who follow Jesus would do well to ponder. When asked to put his message into one short sentence, he replied “My life is my message.” He practiced what he believed, so must we.

The requirement is for you to trust God in all things. The result will be contentment. How many truly content people do you know? Would you describe yourself as a content person? If not, you can learn to be content.

It is as though our Lord is saying, “Show me your faith by resolving to learn from the things I allow in your life and I will give you contentment.”

“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”  (Isaiah 26:3)

This formula works: Trust = Perfect peace.

There is a counter reality: No trust = No peace.

Basically: No Jesus = No peace. The alternative is, Know Jesus = Know peace.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

What Me Worry?

Remember the character Alfred E. Newman and his famous line, “What me worry?” Do you?

Has it ever occurred to you that worrying is the only sin about which we brag? Tag lines are: “I worried so much I couldn’t sleep,” and “I worried so much I couldn’t eat.”

Studies show the folly of worry. Some years ago a professor at a leading American university studied the things people worry about. His research showed: 

40% of things people worry about never happen

30% concerns the past

l7% are needless worries about health

l0% are about petty issues

8% are legitimate concerns

That means that 92% of our worry time is wasted energy. Scripture notes that we are not to ever worry about the 8%. Why is that? Because when we worry we’re really saying that God can’t take care of us, that our problems are bigger than His promises. R.H. Mounce once said, “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.” Rick Warren writes, “Worry is the warning light that God is not really first in my life at this particular moment because worry says that God is not big enough to handle my troubles.”

Worry is projecting negative thoughts on future events. It is pulling tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine.

Years ago the late Georgia Senator Talmage told me, “Never climb a tree until you get to it.” It was his sage way of saying wait and deal with issues when it is time to deal with them.

There are two things about which a person should never worry, only two.

Never worry about something that needs changing, and you can’t change. Worry will not change it, so it is a waste of time to worry.

Second, never worry about anything that needs changing that you can change. Do it. Don’t waste time worrying about it and delay the accomplishment along with a sense of fulfillment.  

Some things need changing. Group them into one of these four categories: 

Things you can’t change.

Things someone else can change.

Things no one can change.

Things only God can change.

There is an antidote for worry called faith. Even it doesn’t work unless its object is worthy. Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives….”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Comply with that standard and then you will be able to say, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”  (Psalm 94:19)

A Work In Progress

Along a busy highway I saw a sign reading: WORK IN PROGRESS.

I thought, “that’s me!” That actually is us, all of us.

Have you stopped part way in your spiritual pilgrimage?  Don’t stop half-way. Let our Lord finish the work He began in you the moment of salvation. Let Him free you from spiritual enslavement.

To carry your salvation to its logical conclusion God is willing to help. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2: 13)

Pray for Him to reveal His will to you, knowing He will, once He sees in you the will to do it. Pray:

“Lord guide me, the sea is so big and my boat is so small.”

Often God guides through long and uncertain pathways. However, if we will follow, He will guide.

“It is God who works in you both to will and to do…”  The same Greek word is translated “works” and “to do.” It is ENERGEIN.  In it we can hear our word for energy. This word is only used in the New Testament as a reference to action of God. It is effective action because it is action of God. His actions are not to remain half-finished.

We of our will must be willing to say, “Thy will be done.”  When we do, it is done by His enabling grace.

Without your consenting help even the actions of God are not completed. 

He enlightens and empowers us. He reveals His will and He gives resources for doing it. Therefore, don’t argue with God: “Do all without murmuring and disputing” (Philippians 2:14).

Instead of arguing with God, work with the conviction that the promises of God are true.

That depicts our biggest problem as Christians. We evidence an unwillingness to give up control of our lives, to abandon them in faith to become Christ-like. We give the impression that our lives can’t be good unless we control them. Our trust of Christ must bring us to the point where we are willing to be poured out as a sacrifice knowing the future belongs to God.

Don’t downgrade your responsibility as some do.  Some believers see themselves as passive objects, such as clay or branches, forgetting the Bible also calls us ambassadors, soldiers, servants, watchmen, and children of God.

God works IN us so that we can work OUT what He does inside us. Christianity isn’t a matter of ups and downs, but ins and outs.

It all begins with a thought and ends with a destiny. When inspired and aware of His will, do it. Your destiny is at risk.

Does God Judge Nations?

The question is often asked, does God judge nations? Let’s let the Bible answer this question.

Nahum was God’s oracle to write of His anger against Nineveh and illustrate it. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. One hundred years earlier the prophet Jonah had been sent by God to appeal to the people of Nineveh to repent. They responded positively and God blessed them. His blessings were abundant and they prospered. Soon their devotion evolved from gratitude to the One blessing them to the blessings and materialism set in again, followed by promiscuity and corruption. They once again evolved into a carnal city.

Nahum wrote to warn them of the result. Doing so was a “burden” for him. It wasn’t a feel-good message. Studying the book, though timely and expedient, isn’t a joyous study.

“Burden” translates the Hebrew word “massa” which can also be translated “load.” This is a weighty message.

The fact the message is for the city of Nineveh and the country of Assyria indicates God not only judges individuals, but nations. Three prophets wrote of three cultures God judged.

Nahum against Assyria, Obadiah against Edom, Habakkuk against Babylon.

Ezekiel Chapters 25 – 28 forms a compendium of nations God had judged to date. The Philistines are noted as an example: “I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I lay My vengeance upon them.”

It should be noted and God’s anger and judgment understood in light of a pattern observable in God’s judgement of nations.

God warns. They are without excuse.

God waits. Time to respond is always allowed so the people are again without excuse. The book opens with a revelation of the character of the God who will judge them.  “The Lord is slow to anger…” (vs. 3)

His wrath. If the response is not one of contrition, confession, and commitment then, and only then, God shows His wrath. 

Samuel warned that failure to respond positively to the Lord has serious consequences: “If you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”  (II Samuel 12:15)

The admirable response of God to those who repentantly turn to Him is found in II Chronicle 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Let’s pray America accepts this shield from judgment and discipline.

The Practicality of Patience

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father…encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”    (II Thess. 2:16-17)

This speaks of strength to face life in the good times and bad. There are hidden heroes and heroines who, by His strength, are facing suffering victoriously. Every day holds new agony and every night new torturous trials. At the end of life awaits dying grace. Others enjoy the bounty of life with a strong workable faith.

Encouragement follows strength as heat does fire.

There are people who would have been overwhelmed were it not for the strength supplied by the Lord. Some have had enough grief to overwhelm ten persons, but have been sustained by His strength.

Strength is found in being patient. Isaiah 40:31 verifies this.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

Are you ever confronted by a situation that demands patience? The next time it occurs, think of it as an occasion in which our Lord is offering to strengthen you.  The capacity to relax and wait on the Lord should be thought of as a state of being you can access at any moment, and not just something reserved for later on. You can relax now.

According to 1 Samuel “lack of patience can cause you to miss blessings.” 

Being more relaxed involves training yourself to respond differently to the dramas of life. In doing so you turn your melodramas into mellow-dramas. You have trained yourself to respond like you do presently. Now you can engage in re-orientation and retrain yourself.

Consider life a classroom and patience the course of study.  Consider this process of developing patience.  Set aside a thirty minute period of time and say to yourself in advance, “During this time I won’t let anything bother me, I will be patient and wait on the Lord for solutions for everything that comes up in this thirty minutes.”  This will strengthen your ability to be patient.  This process is one where success feeds on success.  The more successful you are in stringing thirty minute periods of time together, the more successful you will be in exercising patience. You will develop strength through the Lord.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)