Tag Archives: discipleship

STUCK! Chapter Four: Who Should I Impact?

A Personal Story
I got saved as a teenager, but I don’t remember anyone “discipling” me. The closest I got to being discipled was with an elder in our church, Mr. Smith, an old itinerant preacher originally from Ireland. I met with him a couple of times to talk about the Christian life and I think he might have prayed with me. Once. He was a great man of God with a heart for sharing the gospel with the lost.

But I don’t recall his sharing his life with me or making any effort to consistently help me advance in my walk with Jesus.

The only other memory I have of Mr. Smith was when my brand new bride and I asked the elders’ blessing to go to Germany as missionaries. Mr. Smith withheld his approval, saying that if we weren’t doing door-to-door evangelism here in the States, why would we travel overseas to do it? It was a painful experience, but eventually he gave us his blessing. I regret not pursuing deeper conversations with Mr. Smith.

I also regret growing up in a church environment that taught that simply being in the meetings, simply “being under the sound of the Word,” was good enough. It was a kind of discipleship by osmosis. Excellent church attendance would lead to Christlikeness. The truth is that most of my teenaged friends — some who had perfect attendance pins that reached the floor — abandoned their faith when they went to college.

Our Default Setting
For many of us our default setting is our own personal comfort. We naturally look after the me-myself-and-mine life that we have. Of course we should care for our own families — and for our own lives. But getting unstuck involves getting some of our vision off ourselves!

Looking outwardly, intentionally asking whose life I might impact for the kingdom, does not come naturally to us. It is a God-given passion to help others in their walk with Christ. It involves opening up our homes, clearing our calendars, limiting our hobbies so that we might influence others for the Lord.

In-Your-Face Verses
God’s Word is clear that my love for Christ must spill over to loving His children. If I love Him, I will take Jesus’ challenge to Peter and apply it to my life: “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.” (Jn. 21:15-18). Bringing spiritual nourishment to others is so critical that Jesus repeats Himself so that Peter gets the message.

Where in Scripture are we challenged to disciple others? If “disciple” means “learner,” then whatever knowledge I possess as a mature believer must be shared with those who are younger in the faith. We are to “teach the word” (Acts 18:11). We are challenged in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to communicate the message: “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

We are to train younger believers about false teachers who will not spare the flock (Acts 20). Timothy is commanded by the Apostle Paul: “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (2 Tim. 2:14).

Discipling others will often lead us into recognizing we are not where we need to be in our own Christian walk. We read the following of the believers in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Heb. 5:12)

Playing with Praying
Can we talk? In the churches that still have mid-week prayer meetings, most of the prayers I hear prayed have to do with health conditions. One church I know has a prayer list on which most of the items are about upcoming surgeries, members’ fighting Covid, and information about hospital visits. The one who writes the prayer letter is a medical professional (a dentist) and he doesn’t hesitate to go into such medical specifics that I sometimes feel it’s as if I’m looking over the shoulder of the attending physician and reading the patient’s medical chart. (I want to cry out, “HOLY HIPPA!”)

If one asks how the Apostle Paul prayed for his co-workers and their health, we have only a few statements like: “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (I Tim. 5:23 KJV). In 2 Timothy 4 Paul sends greetings to various fellow workers: “19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. 21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.” (KJV). Paul obviously didn’t apply the truth of prosperity theology for he failed to command Trophimus to name and claim his healing in Jesus!

So, if I’m not to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy praying for the physical well-being of the saints, for what am I to pray?

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a men’s retreat and I chose as my topic “Several Crucial Questions for REAL Men!” I led the men through Colossians 1:9-14 which reads —

I asked them two questions, “Are you man enough to ask others to pray for you? And do you ask them to pray for the things that are really important?”

I then listed seven items in Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers:
1. that they would lead a worthy life (v. 10);
2. that they would have a desire to please the Lord (v. 10);
3. that they would be fruit-bearing (v. 10);
4. that they would be spiritually growing (v. 10);
5. that they would have the strength to endure (v. 11);
6. that they would be joyfully thankful (v. 12);
7. that they would rejoice in their rescue (vv. 13-14).

Are you praying for anyone like that? My concern for others, if it is not where it ought to be, will be increased as I spend time praying for them. And praying for their life — not just their health!

Three Levels of Disciples
I cannot say from my own life that I have followed the advice I’m going to give you now. But it is still important and worth listening to! I believe each of us needs three kinds of friends in our lives.

Each of us needs a Paul. We need an older believer (it’s getting harder for me to find older believers at my ripe old age of 72!) who can help us in our walk with Christ. Each of us also needs a Barnabas, a co-worker, a fellow-laborer, an equal. And each of us also needs a Timothy. A younger believer into whose life we can pour ours.

1. Drop to your knees (if you are able) and ask the Lord to forgive you for not discipling younger believers. And while you’re down there, ask Him to burden your heart with one specific individual you could befriend, pray for, and disciple.

2. Write out a prayer like the one we looked at in Colossians 1 for a younger believer.

3. Pray about starting an online Bible reading group like we discussed in our second chapter.

4. Suggest to your church leaders (your elders especially) the idea that they should set the example and disciple at least one young person every six months.

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Posted by on July 22, 2022 in 2 Corinthians 10, STUCK!


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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 11)

The interrogation of the man born blind decidedly goes downhill from this point on. He has referred to Jesus as “a prophet” (i.e. a man of God) and has declined the expert opinion of Israel’s religious leaders that Jesus is “a sinner.” But the story continues.

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

Hurling Insults: The Pharisees lose it when the man born blind says to them, “Surely you don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?” (v. 27). That was the last thing these Pharisees wanted! So they engage in hurling insults against the man. Verse 28 reads 28 ἐλοιδόρησαν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπον· Σὺ μαθητὴς εἶ ἐκείνου, ἡμεῖς δὲ τοῦ Μωϋσέως ἐσμὲν μαθηταί. (Literally, “They insulted him and said, ‘You are a disciple of that one, but we are disciples of Moses.'”)

This verb loidorēō is used only four times in the New Testament. Here in John 9 it can be translated “scoffed.” In Acts 23:4 it is translated as “insult.” In I Corinthians 4:12 Paul is speaking of the Apostles’ response to persecution and says, “When reviled, we bless.” And in I Peter 2:23 we read of the Lord Jesus: “When he was insulted, he did not respond with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten . . .” People resort to insult when logic and reasoning fail them — and they feel threatened!

Knowledge and Ignorance:  The Pharisees protest that they are disciples of Moses. They declare, “we know that God spoke to Moses . . .” Their knowledge was certain and sure — and they were convinced that they were in the right.

It is interesting that Jesus says in John 5:46- “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. These Pharisees admit their ignorance about Jesus when they say, “but as for this fellow we don’t even know where he comes from.” (v. 29).

Here these religious leaders of Israel have the opportunity to learn about Jesus from someone who has been the recipient of one of His miracles. But they argue for their complete loyalty to Moses, failing to realize Jesus was, in a real sense, the new Moses.

Today’s Challenge: In a sense, everyone is a disciple, a follower, of someone, even if that someone is . . . themselves. As disciples of Jesus, we need to speak the truth about Who He is and why He should be followed. And we do that with our words and our behavior.



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Posted by on September 7, 2021 in focus


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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (The Fine Print)

What’s the “fine print” in our presentation of the gospel to others? Do we understate the absolute demands of the divine Son of God on their lives IF they trust Him as their Savior? Are we guilty of a kind of spiritual “bait and switch”? Jesus didn’t hesitate to challenge listeners to “count the cost” of following Him. Shouldn’t we?

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Posted by on November 6, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes


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The Great Invitation (A Study of Matthew 11:28-30) Part 9

Friends: I consider it a great privilege to work on my blog every day. And for the next few posts I’ll be examining one of my favorite passages, Matthew 11:28-30. This is a text worthy of memorization (which I’m very bad at). I want to slowly go through these verses with you and see as much as we can, with the Holy Spirit’s help. Let’s look at that famous text once again:

We’ve seen the context of this incredible invitation, noticing some of the Koiné Greek and its implications. We began to outline the passage, observing that Jesus’ invitation is a qualified one, inviting not all, but all who are weary and burdened.

I. The Great Invitation (v. 28): “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened . . .”

We then saw the second major truth in this text: Jesus’ promise!

II. The Great Promise (v. 28): “and I will give you rest.”

Christ’s great command is here in verse 29.

III. The Great Command (v. 29): “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”

     A. We are to WORK!

          and —

     B. We are to LEARN!

We are to study as believers — and our curriculum is CHRIST! He is gentle and humble.  And such study produces a much sought-after result —

IV. A Second Great Promise — of Soul-Rest (v. 29)

Jesus promises to those who work with Him and learn from Him a commodity most pursued by human beings — soul-rest! What is meant by “soul-rest”? It is certainly deeper than mere physical rest. This is a spiritual benefit of being right with God — and being active in working and learning. We are not inanimate objects who simply allow God’s truths to passively wash over us. We pursue. We study. And we will be rewarded.

Today’s Challenge: What does someone who has Christ’s soul-rest look like? I’d very much like your reflection on this question! Please feel free to describe yourself or someone else you believe has (even momentary) soul-rest!

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Posted by on August 7, 2020 in Matthew 11


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“Get Behind Me, Satan!” (a short video clip from John Ortberg

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Posted by on October 19, 2019 in following Jesus


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Colossal Truths from the Letter to the Colossians! Spiritual Maturation! (1:28-29)

Of the many, many blessings in my life is my friend Frank. We’ve been friends for decades and even though he lives in the pagan land of New Jersey, he seeks to be a shining light in a dark place. [I live in the pagan land of South Carolina, but at least we talk slower, say nice things to strangers, and drink sweet tea]. Frank and I have been doing a kind of online Bible study with each other — and we’ve recently been going through the incredible letter to the Colossians.

There are a number of prominent themes in this four-chapter epistle. The next theme we want to notice is Paul’s commitment to spiritual maturation. We read in Chapter one:

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Ch. 1)

Notice Paul’s goal in life: to present everyone fully mature in Christ! Please notice the key to spiritual maturation: the Person of the Lord Jesus! “He is the one we proclaim.” Notice Paul’s commitment to encouraging spiritual maturation in everyone: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” We are not to sit idly by and watch each other stagnate in spiritual infancy!

What efforts, my friend, are you taking to admonish and teach others to grow in God’s grace? Are you striving to present everyone over whom you have some influence fully mature in Christ? Do you see such a mission as a battle — a strenuous contention to allow Christ’s power to work through you?

A challenge: what younger believer comes to your mind who could greatly benefit from a kind of informal mentoring relationship with you?


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Posted by on May 25, 2019 in spiritual maturation


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Habits of Holiness: #4- Making Disciples?

“Yes, we can book you in to see the dentist in six months,” said the young lady on the phone. Dr. Molar was the most popular dentist in town. People purposely got cavities just to go see him. “Six months?!”, I said. “I only have six months. That’s too late!” “Michele” promised to call me if someone cancelled their appointment, but, she said, “That would be very unusual. We’ve never had anyone cancel an appointment with the Doc!”

What if I, what if you, had only six months to live? How would your life be different over the next 180 days?

We’re suggesting that there are several holy habits which ought to mark each of us if we are followers of Jesus. We must spend time in His Word; we must take prayer much more seriously than we do; and we must follow Jesus’ example and be a friend of sinners!

What else? I grew up as a young believer thinking that my most important duty as a believer was to make more . . . believers! To share the gospel with others so they would make a “decision” to trust Christ.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m firmly convinced that I should be looking for opportunities to share the gospel with others. But the Great Commission is the following: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28). Disciple-making (not merely creating converts) is the emphasis here.

But before one can become a disciple, one must be converted! Liberal churches miss this clear biblical point, teaching that we are all children of God and must learn to live as children of God.

What am I doing in the disciple-making business? I want to be open to mentoring, discipling, several young men before my six months are up! How about you? Are you open to meeting on a regular basis with a younger believer to encourage him or her in their Christian lives?

Would you pray about one other person that you might possibly disciple? After spending some time praying about this ministry, what would be your NEXT STEP?





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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in making disciples


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FOLLOW NO ONE? (Time for a Great Commercial)

Here’s the script:

“To be nobody but yourself
In a world which is doing its best to make you everybody else
Means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop
Does this sound dismal?
It isn’t.
It’s the most wonderful life on earth.”

Then the screen reads: FOLLOW NO ONE!

But Jesus said, “Follow me!”

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Posted by on March 20, 2019 in discipleship


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What Did Jesus Pray About? (Part 6)

The Lord Jesus was a man of prayer.  The Son of God, the Second Member of the Trinity, needed to pray!  He became fully human and humans need to pray!  Some of His prayers were for the benefit of others.  Just before He raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, we read, 41 “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (Jn. 11).  Allowing others to eavesdrop on His pray was important to the Lord Jesus — it was so “they may believe that you sent me.”

Here in John 17, Jesus is alone with His Father.  And His prayer is rich and personal.  But His requests are for His disciples.  Let’s notice this section one more time —

6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

What does He pray for concerning His disciples?  First of all, He gives thanks that His followers have obeyed God’s Word and have accepted the words Jesus gave them (vv. 6-7).  Second, they believed that the Father sent the Son (v. 8).  Third, Jesus states that “glory has come to me through them” (v. 10).  Wow.  Embarrassment, certainly.  But glory?  Fourth, He prays for His disciples who will remain in the world and continue His work (v. 11).  We will look a bit at the believer in the world in our next post.  Today?  Bring glory to the Lord Jesus!  (to be continued)

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Posted by on October 21, 2017 in prayer


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UNLIKE JESUS: One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 19)

Can we talk?  We who want to follow Jesus have our successes and our failures.  We’re focusing in this series of posts on the fact that many Jesus-followers don’t imitate the Lord in His connection with sinners.  Matthew 11 is clear that He was “a friend of sinners.”  Can the same be said of us?  Of me?  Of you?

He spent time with the least, the lost, and the last.  We suggested in our previous post that many of us need a refresher course on basic friendship.  If one were to study every social occasion in which Jesus spent time with sinners, one would learn that —

1. He listened to them (Zacchaeus in Luke 19).

2.  He ate and drank with them (the feeding of the 4000 and of the 5000 in Mark 8).

3.  He was not afraid to meet with them publicly (the story of the man born blind in John 9).

Perhaps that third aspect of Jesus’ friendship with sinners merits some discussion.  Are we Jesus-followers afraid of being a friend of sinners because we fear criticism — from the family of God?!

Jesus told the three stories of lostness (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son) in Luke 15 because of the criticism from the religious leaders.  The text reads, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”  Notice that there was something attractive in Jesus that drew the tax collectors and sinners to Him.  And His response was to “welcome” them.  And to eat with them!

But He also ate with the religious leaders!  In Luke 7 Jesus was invited to have dinner with one of the Pharisees.  A sinful woman in that town came into that Pharisee’s home and anointed His feet with perfume, wetting His feet with her tears (presumably, of repentance).  The Pharisee who had invited Jesus said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”  But the truth was He was already with a sinner — the Pharisee!  And was eating with him!

Jesus was an equal-opportunity friend.  He could dine with the religious and defend the repentant sinner.  Criticism did not curtail His mission or harden His heart.

The movie director Mel Brooks was once asked by an interviewer what he thought of critics.  He said, “Well, when you’re camping in the woods, they can be very noisy at night and will keep you from sleeping.”  “No,” said the interview, “not crickets, CRITICS!”  “Oh,” said Brooks.  “They are even worse.  They can’t even rub their back legs together to make music!”  Don’t let the religious critics keep you from being more like your Lord! (to be continued)

























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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in discipleship


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