Disciple — What, when, where, who, how

hands-comfort-640x461“My prayer is to be a container that just goes where Jesus is going, says what Jesus is saying, does what Jesus is doing, thinks what Jesus is thinking, touches what Jesus is touching, and does it how he is doing it. Who feels what Jesus is feeling, walks where Jesus is walking, or stays where Jesus is staying (not going, not walking unless he is).” That’s the last paragraph from my prayer diary of 14 Sept 2013. It’s still my prayer.

I learned Matthew 28:19-20 in Sunday School as a child. The teacher used these verses mainly to explain the work of ministers, especially missionaries:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The first disciples took that command seriously. Mark 16:20 records, “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

Signs? What signs? Signs that confirmed whatever words of Jesus they had been preaching.

Strange, but I don’t recall ever hearing that taught in Sunday School years ago. We should all be a disciple of Jesus, the teacher would tell us. Do what the Bible says, you know, be a good person, keep the Ten Commandments, that sort of thing. Ask Jesus to be your savior, then he will help you to become a disciple.  For many years I put that “ask” thing off, thinking, Christians are boring. Later. I’ll do it later.

But at age 29, I finally did ask Jesus to be my savior. Wow! What a difference he made in my life. Boring it wasn’t, at all. I wondered why I’d put it off so long! (See My Testimony Part I https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/testimony-part-one)

And then one day I wondered, just what exactly did Jesus say about being a disciple? I prayed about that.

“First, look at the ‘everything I have commanded you’ part of that verse in Matthew 28,” the Lord said to me. So I looked, and said to myself, Okay, I see that. But what had Jesus commanded them?

He had told them, “As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:7-8)

Jesus had already given them the power to do that, had showed them by example how to do it, and now he was telling them to go do the same things. Later he sent 70 others out with this same assignment; see Luke 10.

Studying the gospels, I realized that Jesus seldom did the same thing, the same way twice. Sometimes he healed with a command, sometimes with a touch, sometimes with a simple statement of fact. Sometimes it was even at a distance. Always it was whatever he heard or saw the Father do, but he himself did it.

One thing I never found. Jesus never prayed and asked God the Father to heal anyone.

Studying the book of Acts, I saw that the disciples followed the pattern of Jesus – they listened to the Holy Spirit and did whatever he said, however, he said. They didn’t pray and ask God or Jesus to heal anyone, they themselves healed the sick with a spoken command, or a touch, or a simple statement of fact.

They prayed about many other things, many other needs, situations, problems. But not this. They did what they were commanded to do.

At Lydda, Peter just made a statement of fact to the paralyzed, bedridden man Aeneas: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat. Immediately Aeneas got up.” (Acts 9:34)

At Lystra, Paul told the crippled man who had never walked, “Stand up on your feet! At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” (Acts 14:10)

Dictionary descriptions of a disciple include a learner; an adherent; a follower; an imitator.  Jesus’s descriptions include all of the above, and more. The most important one, however, is to be like the teacher. “It is enough for the disciple that he be like his master,” he said,  (Matt. 10:25) and “The disciple is not above his master, but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” (Luke 6:40)

Notice, these are present tense. Not to be like his master WAS, but IS. Right now. This moment. “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (I John 4:17 NIV) We ARE. Not will be some day in heaven, but are now, present tense, here on the earth.

And there is a big problem with that. A human will problem. A fear problem. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of looking foolish.

The bodies of Christians are inhabited by two spirits:  (1) our own human spirit that we were born with; and (2) the Holy Spirit, who came to inhabit us when we were born again.

If our own spirit is our master, then we’ll go wherever we want to, do what we want to, when we want to. We’ll do the religious thing, the easy thing, the least risky thing, and think we’ve done our part. We’ll palm off all the responsibility on God. Then if nothing changes, well it must not have been God’s will. Right? Wrong.

If the Holy Spirit is our master, we’ll give him the lead. We’ll go where he wants to, do what he wants to, how and when he wants to. And we’ll begin to see those “greater things.”

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

There are other things Jesus said about being his disciples, of course. Continue in his word. Love one another. Take up your cross and follow him. Did you notice? All of those are also present tense also. We don’t seem to have any qualms about those.

P.S. I like this quote by Randy Clark: “To beg God to heal is to assume you have more mercy than He does.”

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Joel’s warning could just as well apply to us, here, today.

(Originally published 7 July 2012. Still appropriate.)

The Old Testament book of Joel has been on my mind the last week or so, especially with the severe weather and drought conditions in the US. My thoughts are in italics following the verses.

Joel 1
New International Version (NIV)

1 The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel.  No-one knows who Joel was, or even when he lived. To me, that says God can speak to the everyday man or woman, not only to the well-known pastors or prophets.

2 Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors?  God is speaking to everyone, religious leaders and everyday people. He mentions the elders first, however. More responsibility on their shoulders?

3 Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.   Although the people and their land will suffer, obviously some people will survive. Even generations of people will survive.

locusts4 What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.   Some scholars think actual insects are meant by the word locust, although no-one is quite sure what the qualifying adjectives refer to; other scholars think foreign countries are meant. But I wonder if locust could also refer to natural disaster? Several kinds, or several stages of natural disasters? Neither insects or foreign soldiers cause drought, after all.

5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.   Has the current crop of grapes suddenly failed? New wine can’t be made without fresh grapes. Only the drinkers and drunkards would care about that failure, so far…

6 A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.   Fires started by lightning? In one day recently thousands of lightning strikes occurred and many, many fires were started, destroying dozens of homes along with thousands of acres of forest and cropland. Flames and hot ash jumped from tree-top to tree-top, starting new blazes faster than old ones could be doused.

7 It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.  Sand storms can do this. So can tornadoes and the freak hurricane strength straight-line windstorms that recently struck the northeastern United States.

8 Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth.

9 Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the Lord.  No grain and no wine means no grain or drink offerings. In today’s economy, loss of livelihood means no giving to the church.

10 The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails.  Not just grape vines and grain, but the actual dirt is damaged and the fields are ruined. Olive trees are affected, too.

11 Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.  Vines take a while to produce – despair seems to mean that the vines themselves are lost. Even for fields that have already been harvested, the grain in the silos is destroyed. Disease? Fire? Animals?

12 The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree — all the trees of the field — are dried up. Surely the people’s joy is withered away.  All the vines, all the fig trees, all the other trees are dried up. That means no food for anyone; nothing for farmers to sell, no income for the growers, no way for them to support their families.

13 Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.  Surely the religious leaders worry – will the people blame us for what is happening? Fear, grief, mourning must lead to seeking God for help.

14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.  Cry for what? I hear lots of prayers for revival, but that’s not what we need. Mercy is! Repentance for not listening to God’s warnings, like these in Joel. It will take God’s mercy and a supernatural move of His hand to restore the natural and spiritual damage we are seeing in the world today.

15 Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.  As long as His people obeyed him, God kept them aware of the enemy’s tactics, and forewarned is forearmed. When they ignored God and disobeyed him, they effectively took themselves out from under his shield of armor. There is a warfare going on for this planet. Woe comes to the unprotected who find themselves on the wrong side of this battle.

16 Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes — joy and gladness from the house of our God?

17 The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up.  Seeds already planted need water to sprout; if they don’t get it, seeds rot. Without rain, growing plants wither and die. This disaster has to go on for a long time if even the storehouses are ruined. Starving, desperate people will storm storage facilities and take everything they can.

18 How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering.

19 To you, Lord, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.

20 Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.

Sounds a lot like what is happening in America’s heartland today, 2012, doesn’t it? Just today I’ve seen sad news images of starving, thirsting animals, fish dying in the dried-up streams and rivers, and corn cobs with few or no kernels.  See my 20 July 2012 post in www.Tapister.Wordpress.com.

Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet

BePatientGirlMy friend Allyn Sawyer once created and gave me a framed cross-stitch of this. I love it! It’s so true.

Sanctification is an odd English word. It’s not a word we use every day, at home, on the job, or in conversation with friends.

It comes from the word sanctify, another odd word. Simply put it means to set something apart for one use. I’ve written about that before.

In the Bible that word means set apart for God’s use; consecrated to God; holy. The word saints means sanctified ones. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2), he addressed them as those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.

Being set apart for God’s use means God gets to use us. We get to cooperate. Simple.

I once read a book by a minister who taught that sanctification is a second work of grace that makes a Christian sinlessly perfect, an event that can happen in an instant. I have no idea what event had happened to him — every Christian I know continually strives to be sinless and I don’t know any who would say they’ve achieved that goal!

Being set apart for one particular use is quite understandable to me, however. It’s like my storing a large silver spoon in a kitchen drawer, using it only for serving food. (Not for digging in the flower bed!) It’s ongoing; as long as I serve food, that spoon will be set apart for that use.

Whatever else it is, sanctification is an ongoing process — and it’s an improvement process. We learn, and grow, and mature. We get better at hearing God’s voice and being led by his Spirit. Better at understanding the scriptures. Better at exercising faith, in praying, or in sharing a testimony with friends. Even better moms, dads, friends.

Better at becoming perfect as Jesus and the Holy Spirit go to work on us. Like sanctification, perfection is an ongoing process.

FlipWilsonGeraldine“The devil made me do it” was a hilarious skit by comedian Flip Wilson years ago, you may remember it.

“Wilson’s characters included Reverend Leroy, materialistic pastor of the ‘Church of What’s Happening Now,’ and his most popular character, Geraldine Jones, whose line ‘The devil made me do it became a national catchphrase.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_Wilson)

I remember seeing Flip do that sketch on the Ed Sullivan Show. So very funny, people adopted that phrase wholesale to excuse their bad behavior. Nothing is ever their fault! Although Flip died in 1998, the attitude lingers on.

Today there are books on the market that say many (if not all) of a Christian’s imperfections, sinful habits and weaknesses are caused by the devil — by persistent demon influences, or emotional scars from past sin or abuse done to us by evil people. Some authors offer personal deliverance or “how-to” advice on self-deliverance, for a fee (cost of the book or conference).

While I don’t believe everything in those pages is wrong, I have a problem with some of it. Where in the gospels did Jesus teach those things? Jesus performed countless healings and deliverances. He showed them how, then sent the disciples out to do likewise and they did.

We’d all like to be free from all hang-ups in a flash when we’re born again, never to sin again, but it seldom works out like that. The gospels and the epistles give us many admonitions, good things to learn and practice, because we are born again as baby believers, not as mature Christians. We have to grow up.

BeautyForAshesAnd, sometimes it does involve seeking help from mature Christians who know more than we do about overcoming certain struggles. The book “Beauty for Ashes” by Joyce Meyer helped me a lot some years ago. (http://www.joycemeyer.org) Along the way I discovered that this growing-up process isn’t automatic – it involves work, time, and lots of patience. Trial and error, too.

Consider these verses: (references from NIV unless indicated)

  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
  • His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
    For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. II Pet. 1:3-8
  • Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher (perfecter) of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 12:2 KJV
  • Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6
  • He (Christ) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. Col. 1:28
  • Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Phil. 2:12-13
  • If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Gal. 5:8, 25
  • The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23 (Fruit doesn’t appear instantly; it grows.)
  • Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Gal. 5:24

Does all that mean we have it made now? We no longer do anything wrong, foolish, or childish? Well, obviously not, because so much of Galatians chapter 5 is admonishing the believers what not to do. Even the apostle Paul struggled with this himself. (See Rom. 7:15-25)

But the Lord will enable us to “just say no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things. It takes cooperation, it takes practice, and “Practice makes perfect.” Eventually.

The Anointing

Lord, what is the anointing?

“If you need to hammer a nail, I hand you the hammer, then my hand on your hand, together we hammer the nail. My hammer, handed to you, my hand on your hand wielding the hammer – that’s the anointing.

“If you need to saw a board, I hand you a saw, then my hand on your hand, together we saw the board. My saw, handed to you, my hand on your hand wielding the saw – that’s the anointing.

“If you need to preach a sermon, I inspire in you the sermon, then my words in your voice, together we preach the sermon. My words, inspired in you, my words spoken through your voice – that’s the anointing.

“If you need to love the unlovable, I impart to you my love, then my love in your heart, together we love the unlovable. My love, imparted to you, my love flowing out of your heart – that’s the anointing.”

Oh, wow. How simple. How wonderful.

So, when the Lord gives you an assignment – hammer a nail, preach a sermon, whatever – he hands you the tools to do it and works with you as you work. Sometimes you physically feel it when the anointing of the Holy Spirit begins. It may feel like a flow of adrenaline, a fit of nerves, or the shakes.

God is handing you the tools you need. Enabling you. Don’t be afraid. Begin work. It will settle into a steady charge as you carry out your assignment.

When the job is done, the feeling may subside as he puts the equipment back in his tool box. Or it may last a while, like a “job well done” from the Holy Spirit. Don’t be sad if it goes, enjoy it if it lingers.

The Apostle Paul: “And I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who hath enabled me, in that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry…” I Timothy 1:12 KJV