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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Are you a believer or are you a follower?

You know when you just feel like God's trying to tell you something?

You read about it in the bible, folks mention it in passing. You just get a burden for something that you can't let go?

Well, that happened to me a few weeks back and I spoke about it at our mid-week Mitarbeiterabend (volunteers night) at the CVJM. It wasn't a warm or fluffy topic by any means but rarely does God say anything to me that is warm and fluffy. It's normally stuff that makes you sick to your stomach with nerves because you know how you might be received. It's stuff that you become so passionate about because you see how very important it is but you also realize that if what God is trying to say is true (and you know it is) then many believers in Christ are going to be offended and possibly put off. Alan sums it up by saying, "well we'll see when's the next time they let you speak again!" lol.

Anyway, whether what I said was to the right audience or not, I do not know but God does. I had hoped others would be there, folks that God had been putting on my heart for a while for various reasons but you go with what you've got and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

This morning I got confirmation that what I had on my heart was on the heart of God when the pastor at a new church we attended (actually I went for the first time last week at night alone) called Calvary chapel spoke nearly word for word what I talked about on Wednesday. Ok not word for word but same message - same illustrations. It was so eye opening for me to see God work in that way. The same thing used to happen to me when I was at Victory. I would study something and feel God was saying something to me in my quiet time and then Ken would preach on it the next Sunday. I love it when that happens. It's like God doesn't care about church boundaries or about the time or distance that separates us. What he cares about is what's in His word, the state of his (global) church and the heart of every individual.

Anyway, I am copying and pasting the text of what I spoke about on Wednesday and I will add at the bottom some other key points the pastor today spoke about that I felt were just right on. The key theme is, "are you a believer in Jesus Christ or are you a follower of Jesus Christ? I was supposed to talk about housegroups or cell groups and in a way they do tie together but well, you can read it to see...

Why Cell Groups? Why Discipleship?

I could share why you should all be involved with a cell group. I could talk about the benefits, friendships, fellowships you will experience and the fun you will have and while all of that is true I believe God is putting something else on our hearts as a church.

And this is the absolute necessity of all our work, all our ministries, events, trips, worship, preaching - everything we do to be about making disciples.

In Matthew Chapter 28:19, 20 Jesus said, “"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

It is not enough to just be a believer in Jesus Christ and what He has done. When you claim to have faith you must also commit to follow Christ. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Anything less is equal to nothing at all.

Robin Schumacher, apologist and author says, “I’m convinced that the modern day Church is pregnant with unbelievers. What’s the problem with that, you ask? There’s nothing wrong at all with unbelievers coming to church, but there’s a very real problem when they stay unbelievers. In our seeker friendly churches, unbelievers aren’t being confronted with their fallenness, need for repentance, and requirement to show fruit as proof of their conversion.”

You see, no matter what you’ve heard, there is no distinction between being a “Christian” and being a “disciple”. Being a disciple is not just for the “deeper members” or the spiritually elite, the pastor and his wife, the missionaries. Being a disciple is what Christ requires of us all. He wants us to follow him, to imitate him, to become like him in every way.

I watched a video once about evangelism that showed a bunch of people on a boat that was sinking and they were trying to tell the people on the boat that they could be saved if they would just get in the lifeboat but for one reason or another, with one excuse or another the great majority stayed on the sinking ship. It was meant to fire Christians up that we are in the end times and the boat is sinking and we need to evangelize and get folks into the lifeboat of grace offered by Christ. But the same grace that leads to salvation is the grace we need every day to continually give us the ability to do good works and to help transform us into disciples.

Salvation or justification is not the finish line! Salvation is the starting line for a lifelong journey of following Christ (sanctification). You see believing in Jesus has no meaning if we don’t follow him in discipleship. Believing without discipleship isn’t believing, it’s agreeing to a set of facts about a religious figure.**

In James 2: 19-20 it says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

So how do you tell if you are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus?  Let me ask you a few questions...

Do you care what God thinks about the things you are doing or not doing? Do you care what God’s Word says about activities or things in your life? Do you stop doing something if God’s Word says it is wrong? Do you start doing something you might not want to do or feel you have time to do because it is what Christ would do?

If we as a church want to make disciples – we need to get serious about three things according to Bill Hull:

§         Deliverance –or evangelism (Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Discipleship is not just about training Christians, it is about disciples using their spiritual gifts to reach the lost)

§         Development – “Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” – This is about your character and how do we together seek to be transformed by Christ over our lifetimes.

§         Deployment – “Go into all the nations” Disciples need to be deployed in mission where they live, work and play and sometimes they need to cross cultural barriers and be deployed around the world to make disciples.**

(**Bill Hull, The Complete book of Discipleship)

 So back to cell groups.

Kevin DeYoung says, “The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.”

Fortunately in the CVJM and in your local church there are godly, mature Christians running great cell groups that you can be a part of. These leaders will teach Gods word, they will hold you accountable, they will care if you are sick. They will notice and give you a call if you don’t come to church. They won’t be afraid to tell you the truth if they see you going down a wrong path. They will invest in your life and love you because they had people that invested in their lives and loved on them.

This is how we see the world come to know Christ. One discipleship relationship after another.

According to Bill Hull in the Complete Book of Discipleship, the four main components of discipleship are:

1. Vision –and what is our vision? ( Answer: to be like Christ and be transformed by him)

2. Accountability- (we need to in submission to at least one other person and preferably to more to live out the life Christ has called us to live)

3. Structure (we need to embrace spiritual habits and disciplines – daily reading plans of the bible are an example)

4. Relationships and community - where we feel love and trust and can be vulnerable with each other and with our struggles

Dave Hunt author of An Urgent Call To A Serious Faith says, “The choice we face is not, as many imagine, between heaven and hell. Rather, the choice is between heaven and this world. Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven; but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven.”

Are you willing to give up everything (your schedule, your wallet, your relationships, your desires) to follow Christ? Are you willing to do anything, say anything, go anywhere?

 Maybe you still think being a disciple is not for you. You love your lifestyle, your freedom, your stuff too much. In the bible, the rich young ruler went away very sad when Jesus told him to sell everything he had and follow him. It wasn’t the money.

It was his heart and his trust in Jesus that were the issue.

Please do not be deceived. There are not two levels of heaven – one for those who just believe in Jesus but live no different from the world and one for true disciples.

The devil is quite ok with you continuing to come to church on occasion, do some construction work maybe or help with the kids program, sing in the band or just sit in the back just as long as you under no circumstances become a true disciple and follower of Christ. That’s when you become dangerous. So yes, if you choose to become a true follower of Christ and not just a believer in Him then expect spiritual opposition as well as possible ridicule from friends, co-workers or family but know that if you choose this road you choose with it, life and peace and joy that lasts for eternity.

Notes from the pastor at Calvary this morning: Paul in Ephesians continues to come back to the point - are you a faithful Christian? He said, we are called to live "in" Christ. He says the difference between those who live "in" Christ and those who simply believe is the believer is in a spirit of receiving. He gladly receives grace for his sins and eternal life but he/she never truly surrenders their life. They don't give Christ the authority, all their rights, everything. They miss out on blessings in the spiritual realms as a result. Blessings that only come from being a true follower of Christ.

The actual definition of a Christian in Websters dictionary is someone who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Remember – even the demons believe and shudder.  The definition should be: disciple, sold-out follower, one who is prepared to leave everything, sell it all, follow all his commands, live in obedience. A Christian is one who by comparison to his love for Christ, HATES – yes HATES everything and everyone else. - Luke 14:26   

... So are you a believer or are you a follower?


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

England, Fasting and Websites

Strange title I know but these are the things I've been doing these last few weeks - visiting Alans family in England, starting an alternate day fasting plan with Alans sisters and brother-in-law and building our team website. 

First - England. 

Since everything in this area seemingly shuts down during the month of August, we grabbed a quick and cheap RyanAir flight and went to spend time with Alans parents for his dads 81st birthday.  His dad continues to struggle with his health finding an aneurysm in his stomach while we were there.  Right now he has cancer in the bone of his nose and in his prostate, angina, diabetes, he's missing half a lung from TB when he was younger and so many other problems we call him the walking medical miracle.  In reality though Jesus has been very good to him and we give Christ all the glory for keeping him alive to see us marry and have Chloe.  He tells us regularly that he only wants Chloe to come and visit - not us! :) Both he and Margaret adore Chloe and she adores them.

While in England I heard from Alans sisters that they were doing a two day a week fast to try to lose weight.  Willing to do nearly anything to lose weight I decided to join them and so today makes day 5 of fasting for me.  Let me tell you... I haven't lost any weight and I'm STARVING! :)  I told Alan if he doesn't start doing it with me today is my last day lol.  He says he'll fast and only eat when I'm not with him.  Some fast! lol  Basically you eat breakfast - up to approximately 500 calories and then fast the remainder of the day and you do this in alternating days.  I'm still tracking calories like a crazy person, exercising to death and the scale just stays the same.  D I S C O U R A G I N G!  Oh well, in the end it's a lesson in discipline I guess.

Now for the website...
I finished the first draft while we were in England and if you'd like to visit it and send your feedback I'd love to hear it.  Here is the link:

A couple of notes - this will not be the final web address.  I'm using the free service offered on Wix which includes ads and slow loading images until we're ready to buy our own domain and switch the website over to it.  Secondly, we want to have the website in both German and English and will be working on that translation in the next few months.  Lastly, we will add videos, podcasts, more links to the CVJM, the Birke and other locations where we serve in the next few months but this is a good starting point for us I think.  I really want to get a ton of folks coming over to work with us here and Alan and I are also planning on sending Germans out on teams starting next year.  We're investigating Eastern Europe for possibilities now and would covet your prayers for guidance as we move forward. 

This week we're focusing on getting back to work at the CVJM and we're also investigating some other opportunities to volunteer nearby with refugees.  Chloe had her one year old check-up (ok three months late is better than never! :)) and she did great.  The doctor said she was in perfect health... yah!  Alan is plastering this week trying to finish the rooms he started and I'm trying to get caught up on paperwork, receipts, emails and conference plans for InTent in October and March and the European conference that I'm helping out with at the end of April.  Sarah Lee is still here and will start back to school next week.  She'll help Alan at the CVJM this week and then join me after school next week at the Birke or University. 

Life continues to be good.  God continues to bless our marriage and our ministry here.  It's not always easy but life rolls on.  Here's praying we make the most of every moment...