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CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


Author: Dan Cartwright

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret) is the Chairman of the CMF Board of Directors. He has been active in CMF ministry for decades.


Lord of the Harvest

Lord of the Harvest

In the two previous articles in this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness and Understanding the Mission, we said that, as believers in Christ, we are living “behind enemy lines” and that as followers of Christ, it is our mission to share the Gospel and make disciples for the Kingdom of our Lord.  Now we'll see how God provides all we need to accomplish our mission by:

· Equipping the messenger,

· Preparing hearts for the message, and

· Connecting the heart to the message.

Equipping the Messenger.

“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus was moved with a deep compassion for people, comparing the multitudes without a savior to helpless sheep without a shepherd (infantry squad without a squad leader).  The Holy Spirit of God, living inside the believer, will give us the same gut-wrenching compassion for our loved ones, friends, co-workers, comrades in battle, and even those who mistreat us.   

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The Holy Spirit, who lives inside the believer, providing assurance, comfort and guidance, also provides power to be an effective witness to the gospel. Peter and John were common fishermen who hung out with Jesus for a few years, listening to His teaching. When the Holy Spirit came in power on Pentecost, the head knowledge became heart knowledge. They couldn't help but talk about what they had seen and heard!

Preparing hearts for the message.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

At the same time God is preparing messengers, He is busy preparing hearts to receive the most important message they will ever receive! It might be a family member,  friend or co-worker, or the soldier by your side in a firefight. Sometimes opportunities to share God's message come knocking loudly at your door, but more often they just  “happen.”
 I remember a lot of those ─ the medic on the SF “A” team who “happened” to be dating a Christian girl, who “happened” to be talking to him about spiritual stuff, resulting in his “happening” to ask me about the things she was saying!

Connecting the heart to the message.

There's a great story in the New Testament where we see the process at work. Acts 8:26-40 tells of Phillip, whom God had prepared as the messenger, an Ethiopian man who “happened” to be reading one of the prophets, and, a “divine” appointment. Phillip ended up sharing the good news about Jesus, and the Ethiopian received the message in his heart, was baptized in a convenient pool of water and went on his way rejoicing.

So What?

Although the story of Philip and the Ethiopian was a bit more spectacular than we see in our normal everyday life as Christians, the process is the same. There is an equipped messenger, a prepared heart, and a connecting that impacts eternity.  The architect of the process is the Holy Spirit of God.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the harvest!   He told his disciples:

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37, 38).

God has a plan and doesn’t need “Super-Christians” to make it work.  All God wants is workers.  Look in the mirror and see one of God’s harvest workers.  Now that you are available, the Lord of the Harvest will do the rest.  Remember, harvest workers are always behind enemy lines.

Understanding the Mission

Understanding the Mission

In the first part of this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness, we presented the premise that we, as Christians, are living ‘behind enemy lines.’  We are no longer citizens of this world, but we are members of God’s household, new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).  We discussed the clear teaching of Scripture that the world in which we live is hostile territory.  We then concluded with the question, “Why are we Still Here?”  Where do we go to find the answer?

Well, we can walk into just about any Christian bookstore, listen to any number of teachers, preachers, televangelists, television or radio ministries and get all sorts of answers!  We can  come away easily with the impression that the Christian life is mostly about things on an individual/personal level, such as relationships, abundant/victorious living, success in this world, receiving all of God's blessings, etc.

While the above might be ‘benefits’ of being part of the household of God and citizens of His Kingdom, are they to be the primary focus of the Christian life?  If they aren't, what is?

I submit to you that God didn’t send His own Son to die so we could have an abundant life here on earth.  Rather, He came because we are lawbreakers, born on death row, in order to save us from the certain judgment that MUST come if God is true to His word—“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

When we become believers and citizens of the Kingdom of God, we must still live here (behind enemy lines) in a world corrupted by sin, among people trapped in their sin.  We remain here by God’s design, for His purpose, as part of His strategic plan to save others from the certain judgment that is to come.

Chapter 17  of he Gospel of John records our Lord’s prayer to His Father shortly before he went to the cross to fulfill God’ plan for our salvation.  Concerning his disciples and, by extension, all believers to come, Jesus prayed:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (vv 16-21a)

Jesus asked for their protection, NOT their removal, because as he had been sent into the world for the salvation of the lost, He (Jesus) was now sending his followers into the world as part of a divine plan!

Furthermore, this ‘sending’ into the world was no secret to the disciples!  Earlier, the Lord himself told them:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)

Also, it was no secret to the disciples what they would face from the world during their ‘fruit bearing’ mission.  Read the entire chapter of John 15 for the rest of the story.  They knew they would be operating in hostile territory, but they went anyway!

The remaining piece to the puzzle is to define the ‘fruit.’  We know from the above verse that it is to be ‘fruit that will last’—eternal fruit.  So what is this eternal fruit?  There is a two-part answer here.  The first thing that should come to mind is that we are to show others the only way to escape coming judgment—the path to eternal life.  The second part of the answer is not quite so obvious. We are to help other believers grow in their faith walk so that they, in turn, will show still others the path to eternal life and help them grow!  If you aren’t convinced, listen to Jesus’ command to his disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The ‘Great Commission’ Christ gave to the disciples then and to us now is NOT about all the ‘benefits of belonging to the corporation’ mentioned at the beginning of this article, but ALL about growing the Kingdom of God on earth!  ALL about the Kingdom.

What drives this old soldier to his knees is the fact that God could save anyone he chooses, anytime he chooses, in any circumstance he chooses—and yet he has chosen mortal human beings, with all their ‘sin’ baggage to be his ambassadors!  Knowing we would mess up repeatedly, knowing that often we would  be poor examples of Christ, God has chosen us—you and me!  That, my friends is God’s master vision—His ‘strategic’ plan!

You might ask, “Isn’t this ambassador thing—preaching the Gospel and helping others grow in Christ the job of people with a special calling to full-time ministry and who have gone to Bible college or seminary?

What sort of training do you need for the task at hand?  Let’s look at a couple of guys who did some street preaching a couple thousand years ago.

When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Our Lord chose unschooled, ordinary men, not religious leaders, for the enormous task of spreading the Good News to the rest of their world.  Job qualification—just one— they had been with Jesus.  He chooses us for the same task in our world—in our homes and workplaces, in our barracks and squad rooms, on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

You and I have been ‘sent where we are,’ right now in our lives, on a mission from God!  If we ‘have been with Jesus’ we have a responsibility.  Have you accepted the challenge?

 

Living Behind Enemy Lines

Living Behind Enemy Lines

In simple terms, ‘situational awareness’ means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger 'strategic' picture.  Total situation awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior.  As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander's intent (God's strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander's intent, for a variety of reasons.  They range  from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on 'personal' growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the 'postmodern' church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver's seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our 'situational awareness' and overcome our spiritual 'nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to 'begin at the beginning' of our lives as Christians and go from there.  In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time!  When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our 'makeover' is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," Ephesians 2:6 

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been 'raised up' and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household. . ." Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state.  Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our 'legal citizenship' status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the 'heavenly realm,’ we would have been 'illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens.  Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." 1 Peter 2:11 

Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were 'aliens and foreigners' to God's household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now 'aliens and strangers' in the world in which we live!

Why is the world in which we live 'foreign territory,’ why are we 'aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, in the strictest sense, the world that God created for the crown of his creation, human beings molded in His image.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the problem of sin in the world that was brought about by willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the why), is much bigger than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God's creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Romans 8:22

All of God's creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.

Furthermore, our present world is not governed by God (although He is in complete control), but by a 'temporary landlord' ruling over the hearts of fallen man.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Ephesians 2:1-2

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new 'landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God's household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the 'god of this world.’

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines!  Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe  it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was "No way!"  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too 'friendly' with the fallen culture around them.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read the entire chapter in James, followed by Jesus' words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world.

 My friend, your opinion in this matter is between you and the Holy Spirit.  I merely encourage you to prayerfully consider the premise presented in the ramblings of an old soldier.  If you agree with the basic premise, you cannot escape the question: “Why are we still down here?”  Think about it.

Christlikeness

Christlikeness

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 1 Peter 2:21-22 (NIV)

A few days ago I was engaged in what a co-worker and friend of mine likes to call one of our “theological discussions.” He had been wrestling with the issue of “Christlikeness” and his thought process had reached a certain conclusion. A paraphrase of his reasoning could sound like this:

“Christ lived a perfect life and never sinned.”

“The Bible tells us to be like Christ, therefore God demands perfection from us.”

“Since we can’t get there from here, it’s the mother of all guilt trips.”

If we were to believe that sinless perfection in the life of a Christian is a commandment from God, then my friend is absolutely correct! If, on the other hand, we accept the premise that Christians, even after having received redemption and salvation, have a tremendous capacity to sin (and we do), God’s command for us to be imitators of His Son and to live holy lives before Him (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Pet 1:16) might have a slightly different meaning and purpose.

John Wesley's thoughts on the matter follow: “I think it was in the latter end of the year 1740 that I had a conversation with Dr. Gibson, then Bishop of London, at Whitehall. He asked me what I meant by Perfection. I told him, ‘ without any disguise or reserve.’ When I ceased speaking he said, ‘Mr. Wesley, if this be all you mean, publish it to all the world.’ I answered, ‘My Lord, I will’; and accordingly wrote and published the sermon on Perfection.

A pastor from Pennsylvania explains it this way: “That is, in all His perfections, Jesus is the standard by which we are to measure our own lives. He is the model after which we are to pattern our lives. He is the example which we are to imitate.  He is the measure of men.” (This author’s emphasis.) In the words of Saint Augustine, Patron of the Order of Canons, ‘O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.’ The Apostle Paul, writing to the early Christian church and by extension to us, also emphasizes the importance of Christ as our Example: “Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah).”  (1Cor. 11:1, AMP). Paul’s admonishment was that others would imitate him only to the extent to which he was an imitator of Christ. The imitator without disguise or reserve who rests in Christ.

Thomas A. Kempis, in Imitators of Christ said: “With vivid clarity he shows man's complete dependence on, and need of, God, and the empty futility of life lived apart from its only source of true Life and Light.”

Arvid Gradin, a Swede who was a member of the Moravians said: “Repose in the blood of Christ; a firm confidence in God, and persuasion of His favor; the highest tranquility, serenity, and peace of mind; with a deliverance from every fleshly desire, and a cessation of all, even inward sins.”

We are to be imitators of Christ. We cannot be Him, but we can be imitators of Him (provided ‘be’ means to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to empower us as credible imitators). And let me tell you, the enemy absolutely hates it when the saints become Christlike! He knows that he is a defeated enemy of God, and he knows that the same Christ that wrought his complete and utter defeat lives inside of each and every believer! Dear friends, as believers we need to know and believe the same things the enemy already knows! Arthur W. Pink, in his book entitled The Holy Spirit, said: “...ignorance of the Third Person of the Godhead is most dishonoring to Him, and highly injurious to ourselves. The late George Smeaton of Scotland said, “Wherever Christianity has been a living power…the distinctive feature of Christianity as it addresses itself to man’s experience, is the work of the Spirit, which not only elevates it far above all philosophical speculation, but also above every other form of religion.”

The Christ within us is the perfect Son of the living God, who “. . . committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” He is the One in whom Satan has no foothold, no ground, and against whom he has no hope of victory! Hear Christ Himself, speaking to His disciples after His last meal with his followers and before the Gethsemane experience:

“I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me. [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.] (John 14:30 AMP)

This same Jesus who has defeated every enemy and made impotent every foe, this is the same Jesus who lives inside each and every believer! What an unfathomable gift! “What is the supreme benefaction, the gift and treasure above all others which even God can give? He gives Christ to be in our nature forever. This is God’s supreme and final gift. . . . He makes us the repository of the nature and person of the Lord Jesus. ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’” (Col 1:19-29), A.W. Tozer, God’s Greatest Gift to Man.

It is this same Jesus, the very hope of all glory who desires to express Himself to a world enslaved by sin through those whom He redeemed! The measure of Christ expressing Himself through us in the exact measure of our Christlikeness, and truly the weapon most feared by the enemy of our soul!

In His Tool Box

In His Tool Box

Sound corny? I thought so too when the phrase popped into my head seemingly from out of nowhere. I have heard of “In His Steps,” and “In His Service” but “In His Toolbox?” I did a search of my mental directory for slogans, mottos and phrases to see if it might be stored somewhere between "An Army Of One", "Be All You Can Be", "Just Do It", or W.W.J.D..  After all, what is a toolbox anyway? It is a collection of tools stored in a common container that allows the user to perform a variety of tasks. Who uses toolboxes?  Mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, maintenance men and God—all use toolboxes. But perhaps we think of ourselves as highly trained, highly motivated and successful individuals. Who among us thinks of himself as a hammer, a pair of pliers, or a pipe wrench that can be used of God?

I have to admit that in our current American culture the idea of being a useful tool in someone else's toolbox (even God’s) certainly violates the philosophies touted by motivational speakers, success gurus and all the get rich quick promoters. Then again, I am not talking about worldly success. I'm talking about being a tool in God's toolbox.

Think about it. God, our creator and author of our salvation, is the master mechanic. His desire is that no one would perish and although He could deliver the salvation message Himself, He has chosen common folk like us to be the “tools” of His service. The mechanic at the local automobile repair shop would not be able to fix your car without tools. God has made it so His Church cannot serve without you, His tools.

As Christians serving in the military, no matter where you are stationed, no matter what your occupation, there are those around you in need of The Savior. By God's design, you represent the Savior and Lord of the universe. The Master's desire is that we allow Him to mold us into useful tools: tools are well maintained and cared for by His love; tools that are resting in the toolbox (His Sabbath Rest), ready and available for His use on every occasion. What an honor to be gently lifted out of God's toolbox and to be used to heal, nurture, and encourage the Saints or even better yet, share the Good News with those around us!

Why am I excited about being 'just a tool'? It is because of my gratitude to our Lord, knowing that He paid so dear a price for my sin. I was once separated from fellowship with Him and doomed to an eternity without Him. But now I am restored into fellowship with Him (He lives in me), and I look forward to spending eternity in His glorious presence! When I remember that My Savior and Lord one day long ago shed a drop of blood with my name on it, a crimson coin He used to purchase me out of the marketplace of sin—how could I not serve Him? One of my favorite gospel songs puts it this way:

“Well... He chose me when I could not choose Him,
Well... He loved me long before I knew Him,
And He died for me on Calvary long before my life began -
The least I can do is live for Him!”

I am deliriously happy to be 'just a tool' in the Masters toolbox! I endeavor to keep myself well oiled and ready for the His use. Oh, to be so valued by God! Are you a deliriously happy tool of the Master?

What's in Your Eternity

In a recent Sunday School lesson in 1 Peter, the question was asked: “When you hear someone say, “The end of the world is near” how do you respond, and why?”

I could say, “Why do you ask?” Knowing why the comment was made just might help guide the conversation along it’s path, especially if your desire is to steer it toward the message of the gospel.

Given that the topic is the end of the world, I could get straight to the point and ask, “What’s in YOUR eternity?”

First, phrasing it more like a credit card commercial might elicit a more positive response than just asking “Where’s your soul going when you die?” like the sidewalk Christian evangelist downtown handing out tracts. I could claim just about any religion and ask my question. Without being overly blunt, my question assumes that, like a credit card, everyone has an ‘eternity’. Every major religion believes we will eventually spend eternity somewhere. My goal is to present the Christian view of eternity in a loving manner, using the Bible as my source document.

The Bible tells us that there is something about ‘eternity’ in each and every one of us:

“He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11) (Emphasis mine)

John MacArthur says of this passage:

“God. put eternity into man’s heart.  God made men for his eternal purpose, and nothing in post-fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.”

Our innate sense of eternity comes from knowing something of God, the eternal creator. Concerning this knowledge of God, there is perhaps no clearer verse in all of scripture than Romans 1:19, in which the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (men), because God has shown it to them.”

We all know something about God and eternity, although what we know is limited. I believe this knowledge is part of the ‘imago dei’, the image of God, in which we were created. God IS eternal, and although our bodies will one day die, we have an innate interest in life after death.

Here’s where the conversation can get a bit more challenging. You see, along with being told that we all know that God IS, we are also told something about those who try and deny the existence of God. Immediately before Romans 1:19 we are told:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

So what’s this about “The wrath of God”? We can turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and Jesus’ teaching about His second coming and the final judgment of all men.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-34 & 41-46)

In the above verses, there are two groups of people, the ones on Jesus’ right, and the ones on Jesus’ left. The ones on Jesus’ right represent those who knew and loved Him in this life and those on Jesus’ left represent those who denied Him in this life. Those on the right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s beginning. Those on the left will experience eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.

SO WHAT?

  1. There are two groups of people inhabiting this world; those who have received the truth of God and the ones who suppress the truth of God; the ones who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel and the ones who have rejected Christ.
  2. There is an eternal destiny for every human being who ever lived or is living today; eternal life or eternal death.
  3. What’s in YOUR eternity, my friend?

Dicipleship Training Objectives

Dicipleship Training Objectives

Discipleship Training Objectives

A basic tenet of the Christian Military Fellowship is that God has chosen the Bible as His primary means of communicating with us -it is His Word! In the words of the Apostle Paul, therefore:

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Why? Because as he also said:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Key to a vibrant, robust, fruitful relationship with God is our attitude toward His Word (see Joshua 1:8; Psalms 1, 19 and 119; John 14:21, 23; Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 2:1-3 and many others!).

These" Discipleship Training Objectives" (DTO’s) are intended to get us into the Bible, studying for ourselves. They can be used for personal study, one-to-one discipleship/mentoring, and in small groups.

Each lesson is a self-contained unit that discusses a specific topic, beginning with ‘Salvation’. Each lesson contains passages relevant to its topic. Each lesson has a simple and challenging study guide that helps you explore the lesson topic. Each lesson also has a study form that teaches you how to study ANY passage of scripture!

If you are asking if they really help you grow spiritually, I can tell you they really helped this old soldier grow! The first time I worked through them (30+ years ago while in Special Forces) it was just me, the DTOs, and a Bible. Maybe that’s why I STILL use them and recommend them to anyone and everyone who is serious about growing in their faith.

So if you’re up for a growth challenge, you owe it to yourself to check them out. They can be found at the CMD Web site here.

If you’re up for the challenge and/or want to talk about them, contact me.

Is That a Bible Verse?

“Is that a Bible verse?”

If I ever write the book ‘Colombo Evangelism’ (some of you will get it), one chapter will have the above title and will discuss what can be called ‘meme theology’.

We’ve all seen them. They have a cute short statement designed to express a Biblical truth. Some do contain truth, but you can’t really ascertain the original author’s intent. I read one like that yesterday morning about this time (5:15AM) while I was likewise engaged in a morning indoor 20 miles of cycle training. It was a post by a long time friend from back in my military days in Berlin. It said:

“God has a better plan for my life than I do.”

Now that is quite true! And as usual, I wanted to ask what it was supposed to mean, as the original author intended. Since it was a repost, I couldn’t do that. Did it speak of God’s provision for our lives in meeting all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), or was it intended to mean that God has a bigger ‘dream destiny’ for us than we do (Joel Osteen, et al.). After all, it seems there are more sermons/teachings out there these days about the latter than the former, if television evangelists and a lot of Christian bookstores are indicators.

Thankfully, when I asked my friend (Tony) “Is that a Bible verse?”, he talked about trusting in God for all of his temporal needs, although he suspected it wasn’t actually a Bible verse. That’s a good thing. At least I was able to find out what the meme meant to Tony.

So now instead of getting upset with all of these low theology memes, I think I’ll just ask a simple question and wait for return comments!

Feed My Sheep

Feed My Sheep

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.  John 21:15-17 (ESV)

We know with the story:

Seven of Jesus’ Disciples had returned to their previous occupation of fishing (for real fish instead of men), had fished all night and caught nothing. A man (Jesus) on the shore and called out to them and told them to toss their net on the right side of the boat instead of the left, which had not resulted in a single minnow, much less any fish. They obeyed and had such a haul they couldn’t get all the fish into their boat.

Once ashore, the man who had called out to them already had a good breakfast going and invited them to join him. It was then that they recognized their Lord. After a hearty breakfast Jesus took the opportunity to Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Naturally Peter answered in the affirmative all three times, and even might have wondered why Jesus asked so many times! We are not told. We are given Jesus’ direction to Peter after each answer:

“Feed my lambs.”

“Tend my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

You might say that Jesus told Peter to become a sheep herder! He told him to take care of sheep, young ones and older ones. Has that ever happened to you? Read a story many times and suddenly something literally jumps out at you?

First of all Jesus said “Feed MY sheep. Those needing care and nurture belong to Christ, not to Peter, not a particular group of believers, but to Jesus himself! Pastors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, you are to care for JESUS property! That knowledge should give you great pause, should it not?

Secondly, Jesus told Peter to “Feed my SHEEP, tending them and nurturing them to maturity. That should tell us in no uncertain terms the purpose of the church, Christ’s church, not yours. The mission of the church is the care and feeding of the sheep of God. Should ‘goats’ be invited and welcome in our churches? By all means! The main reason the church exists however, is for the ‘sheep of God’, not the’ goats of the world’.

I listened to one popular megachurch pastor tell his congregation one Sunday morning “This is the last Sunday this church is about YOU!” No kidding. While most of today’s so called ‘pastors’ won’t go quite that far, they ‘manage’ their churches with the same mindset, offering all sorts of ‘worldly’ enticements to make following Jesus a really cool/hip thing to do. But listen to what Jesus said to his disciples near the very end of his earthly ministry:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

The ‘world’ in Jesus’ time hated him and the world in our time will hate us when we stand for the true gospel that Christ came to save men from their sin, not to fulfill their wildest dreams.

Then we have the Apostle Paul who, by his own admission, preached nothing but Christ crucified for the sins of men:

“For we (gospel messengers) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor: 15-16)

In other words, the aroma of Christ is sweet to the ‘sheep of God’ but that same aroma of Christ smells like death and destruction to the ‘goats of the world’.

So why do we do what we do? We try to make Christ and his gospel smell sweet to the stony hearted unbeliever to get them through the doors and then tell them that Christ died for their self-fulfillment rather than for their sin. After all, we know that if we start talking about sin the ‘bait and switch’ will be on and oh so obvious to the goats you lured through the church doors. Unless God is doing a supernatural ‘heart work’, they’re walking and they ain’t coming back any time soon!

What’s the answer to this mess? Whether it’s a church setting or personal evangelism, it’s really quite simple.

1. Pray that God open hearts to hear the true gospel.

2. Preach the true gospel.

3. Leave the ‘saving’ to God.

Sharing Jesus Part 5

The Response

So far we have discussed with our friend ‘Pat’ the problem of evil in the world and the source of that problem in Adam’s sin against God.  We discovered that the root cause of the evil deeds of men is also called sin and that it’s a problem we all have, again thanks to Adam rebelling against God.  We also discovered that God presented a solution to the problem of the human sinful nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, his own Son, whom he sent to die on behalf of those who would repent of their sin and believe the message of the gospel—that Christ died for the sins of men.  The message of the gospel requires a response.

Understand that as you approach the need for responding to the gospel, you and Pat are standing on ‘Holy Ground’.  Approach the moment with much prayer—prayer that the Holy Spirit will let you know when the moment has arrived, and prayer that God will continue his supernatural work of drawing Pat to the foot of the Cross.

Be gentle, and don’t apply any pressure.  Don’t ‘push’ for a response. That means forget emotional appeals. Let God do HIS work.  It’s entirely possible that in the course of your conversation Pat might have privately trusted in Christ for salvation but just not told you.  You might have to part ways before getting to a response. Don’t fret.  God began the work in Pat and will bring it to pass. 

With that in mind, and as one pastor (Allistair Begg) suggests, a couple of simple questions for your friend might be appropriate:

  1. Based on what we’ve been talking about have you personally trusted Christ or are you still on the way?

    If God has already brought Pat to a place of repentance and belief, you will find out and you can rejoice together.  If you hear something like “I guess I’m still on the way.”   You might ask:
     
  2. How far along the way are you?

    It’s a simple question that will require some thought to answer. Maximum sensitivity is needed here! (Satan hates this and will try and disrupt things.)  Real difficulties in peoples’ lives sometimes surface. Your friend might want to go and think about it.  Don’t push. Say something like “If you must leave, that’s fine.”  Continue the conversation!
     
  3. If you hear “I’m pretty far along the way, you can something like:

    “Would you like to become a real Christian and be sure of it?  Remember, you are standing on holy ground at that moment.  When the answer is “yes”, you need to add one more thing to the conversation before leading in a prayer of response.

The last part of the conversation before a response should be about cost of becoming a Christian.  Very few ‘methods’ ever talk about this all important subject.  With the goal of obtaining a ‘decision’ for Christ, many of us charge right ahead without even mentioning it.  However, obtaining decisions isn’t our goal. Our only goal is that a lost sinner repents of sin and genuinely trusts in Christ for salvation.

You can say something like “The moment you become a Christian, you MUST become a Christian. Are you ready for a revolution?  To say no to sin, self, and secrecy?”

If God has done His work, the answer will still be ‘yes’.  You might be asked to explain what the ‘revolution’ would look like.  Be ready to lovingly share passages of scripture that talk about some of the ‘challenges’ facing the Christian who is open about his/her faith ((Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).  Be familiar with , which talks about the attitude of the world system toward Christians.  The one whom God, not your clever speech, has brought to the Cross of Christ will be inwardly readya for the challenge.

It’s then that you can lead in a serious and solemn prayer:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit that I’m a helpless sinner before you.  I’ve tried to clean up my act so many times and failed.  I believe that the Bible is true when it says that you are the savior for my sin.  I’ve considered the revolution that will come.  I ask you to come forgive me of my sin and enable me to turn from sin and turn in faith to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit.  Give me a desire for your Word and to share the good news with others.  Number me among those who are your own.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Be mindful that a prayer like the above example is not part of a ‘formula’ for or ‘method’ of evangelism.  Such a prayer is a response to a message that by nature demands a response.  Such a prayer summarizes the conversation that has been going on for days, or weeks, or perhaps months. Therefore the content of the prayer is what’s important. It restates the problem (sin), the solution to the problem (Christ’s substitutionary death), and contains a personal plea for mercy and forgiveness, trusting that God will make good on his offer of salvation.

Also remember that the ‘Amen’ at the end of the prayer is just the beginning for the one who has now cast himself/herself upon the mercy of God and believed in Christ for salvation. There is now new life in a new creation in Christ, for the Bible tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

And finally, be ready to walk with a new believer and help him/her grow!

 


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