Monday, February 26, 2007

Discipleship and Fire Hydrants

When I was much younger and ill experienced at the task of disciple making I had a tendency to overwhelm the people I was in contact with. How I wish I knew then what I know now.

One example was when a friend wanted to know about my faith in Jesus Christ. Immediately I blasted him with everything I knew about the Bible and all the good stuff that I thought I needed to download on him.

Without let up I kept coming with verse, illustration, testimony and story. I did not know then but my friend was being smothered. More accurately he was being sprayed by my words (sometimes saliva).

My zeal and desire to testify to him about Jesus was driving him away from me instead of drawing him closer.

The truth was all he wanted was a glass of water. Instead I blasted him with my hose attached to a fire hydrant. By the time I was done the poor guy had water in his nostrils, ears, eyes, mouth and his clothes were wet. The last thing he wanted was to see me again.

I think as Christians we sometimes overdo things because we think the whole world is on fire. As such we neeed to hose it down. Whatever happened to the words "God is in control!".

We've all fallen for the story of the guy who needed to hear the Gospel today but we were too busy for him. That evening he died and now we're riddled with guilt. To that my answer is "God is Sovereign".

On the other side of the guilt trip what about the people who don't want to have anything to do with God because we so turned them off by our over zealousness. My answer remains the same - "God is Sovereign".

The key is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading. From experience what most people need and want is a glass of water. Ocassionally they genuinely need a fire hose and a hydrant. More often though people are reached one glass of water at a time.

Fact is discipleship is relationship and that takes time. Always remember when it comes to relationships "slow is fast". The faster you go the slower things get. The slower you go the faster things become.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, James 1:19

See also my other post:

Prayer & Shampoo

Friday, February 23, 2007

Discipleship and Whiskey

In my book “The Mystery of the Empty Stomach” I made reference to a verse in Ephesians 5:18:

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

I explained that this verse is like a contrast between being addicted to liquor versus being addicted to the Spirit of God. Isn’t it amazing that the purveyors of liquor usually advertise: “wines and spirits”. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

Have you ever seen an alcoholic? He would readily forego eating just so he can enjoy his “poison”. Isn’t that like a perverted form of fasting?

Not only will he not eat but he will go to the deepest, darkest, most dangerous and inconvenient places in search of his “spirits”. Doesn’t that sound like missions?

Then he willingly loses sleep so he can relish every minute of his “spiritual high”. Isn’t that a lot like long suffering?

Then with no food in his stomach no rest to his body he will spend the rest of his energies and party the night away – Doesn’t that remind you of praise and worship?

He does not tithe but worships his addictions with everything he has.

In contrast Christians spend 90 minutes on a Sunday as long as it does not interfere with afternoon football. Many will go where it is air-conditioned and can conveniently access the nearest restaurant where they can feed on their real addiction - food.

Is it any wonder that the world is not easily convinced? In their minds they are probably asking: “Do these guys love their Spirit as much as I love my sin?”

But probably the most glaring part of all is how addicts naturally convert others to receive their “spirits”. Addicts produce other addicts without even trying. Their lifestyle of radical abandon speaks so loudly it convinces others that what they have must be worth having.

On top of that they are not somber but look like they are enjoying it.

Keep in mind that when the Holy Spirit first dessended on the disciples at Pentecost the people made fun of them because they thought they had too much wine (Acts 2:13). Peter had to explain to the crowds that they were not drunk since it was only 9 AM (Acts 2:15).

Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defined the word addict was:

“To devote time and attention by customary or constant practice; sometimes in a good sense. They have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. (1 Corinthians 20)”

Addiction is about devotion. Devotion is about relationship. In order to exude a radical abandon and a lifestyle that enjoys Christianity, we need to be devoted to a relationship with the Holy Spirit!

Prayer & Drowning

Eighth Post: Top 10 Romantic Movies for Men

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Discipleship and Philippine Adobo

The Philippine Adobo is the standard Filipino comfort food. Wherever you find Filipinos (and they are everywhere) be it in New York, London, Rome or Tokyo, you will find the adobo. It can be prepared with chicken, pork or chicken and pork combined.

This delicious Filipino staple can be made in many ways. People from Manila like it soupy. The Visayan version is drier. South of Luzon can be slightly sweeter. And the variations are as endless as the Japanese “gyoza” with recipes handed down through the generations.

While there are different kinds of adobo, there are essential ingredients that are found in all types. There's vinegar (suka), soy sauce (toyo), and garlic (bawang). The proportions might change, and other ingredients may be added (laurel leaves, black peppercorns, potatoes, onions, etc), but these three must always be present.

It is here that discipleship is like adobo, in that there are so many ways to do it!

A hair dresser I know shares as she cuts. A nurse serves and then shares. A teacher teaches and then shares. Some reach out in coffeee shops others at the PTA, still others at the soccer field. One is not necessarily better than the others they just happen to cater to their tastes.

But just like adobo, there are key ingredients in making disciples:

1. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This simply means acknowledging one’s faith which is placed solely on God. In short, making disciples is about leading people into making a decision to choose to live one’s life in pursuit of God.

2. Teaching them to obey God’s commands. Discipleship is about helping people live
their lives according to God’s Word in every sphere and area of life.

3. Finally, remind them that this is all about a relationship with a God who promised,
"I am with you always to the very end of the age."

Discipleship, like adobo, must be enjoyed! Enjoy the process! Experiment with different variations. Don't get stuck in a rut; find what works best for you and the people you're reaching.

Just make sure you don’t leave out the key ingredients and it will be another heart-warming masterpiece!

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 28:19-20

(credit goes to my son Joseph who gave me the idea for this blog)

See my latest posts from other sites:

Busy & Crazy

Seventh Post: Top 10 Romantic Movies for Men

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Discipleship and Lego

I have 3 boys who grew up on Lego, the amazing block toys manufactured by the Danish company of the same name.

What makes Lego incredible is it is capable of building just about anything.

In August last year I was in Downtown Disney World (in Orlando) with my son David. We strayed into the Lego shop there. It had everything from skyscrapers, dinosaurs, life sized super heroes and even a giant dragon nestled in waters of the nearby lake. It was awesome.

There’s something interesting about Lego. One is they are mostly box shaped and yet when put together they can form just about anything. Also, Lego blocks come in different colors – blue, red, green, black, white, yellow and others.

In and by themselves Lego blocks don’t mean much. Connected they are capable of becoming something incredible.

But what makes Lego blocks work is they have what the company calls a “protruding interlocking ‘stud’ mechanism”. It is this “stud(s)” that allow Lego blocks to connect with one another.

Like people lego blocks are not born equal in that some pieces have a single stud, some have 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 even 12.

However regardless of their color, size, shape or number studs all Lego blocks have one function – to get connected. Only when they are connected will they fulfill their true purpose.

That’s what discipleship is all about. It is not about color, shape or even numbers. It is about being connected, first to Jesus then to one another.

Just like Lego blocks some are made with studs that can connect with 4, 6, or 12. Others can connect just 1. It doesn’t matter how many you connect, what matters is that you are connected to Jesus and others are connected to you.

When we connect with Jesus and with one another we will be amazed at what we can accomplish.

you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5

See also my latest posts from other sites:

Sixth Post: Top 10 Romantic Movies for Men

Prayer & Grape Juice

More on Lego

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Discipleship and 7 Eleven

The most preposterous thing that modern Christianity has invented is the idea that church only happens every Sunday, even worse is the practice of making sure it lasts only 90 minutes.

Imagine a business that operates one day a week for 90 minutes. That business is headed for certain disaster. Sadly that’s the way modern day Christians operate the business of their God.

I can only guess why churches behave this way. One possible reason is they are not taking their “Father’s business” seriously. The other reason is they lack the “smarts” that the world has. One reason why Jesus said:

For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. Luke 16:8b

Could it be that Jesus was telling us we can learn from some of shrewd practices of the people of this world. One of those is 7 Eleven Food Stores.

Unlike churches, 7 Eleven has mastered the art of doing business 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They are open for business to anyone who wants to transact with them.

In order to function like 7 Eleven churches need to think discipleship and not Sunday service. Making disciples who live in the world allows the business to be open anytime and anywhere.

By making disciples we empower people to minister in offices, homes, parks, restaurants, schools, hospitals, parties, shanties, malls, planes and everywhere else. Just like 7 Eleven we would be expanding our Father's business in multiple locations operating everyday 24 hours a day.

See Other Posts:

Prayer and Plasmodium Falciparum

Joey Bonifacio - Just Me!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Disicpleship and Military Orders

Last Friday I had lunch with Colonel Dennis Isleta. Dennis and his wife Meg are members of our congregation at Fort Bonifacio. Dennis is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and is a sharp man.

I asked him about a term the military calls “Commander’s Intent” (CI) a technique that the army has adapted in the 1980’s.

Here was his explanation: CI is a simple concept that the army uses. It shows up at the top of every order. It is the result that the commanding officer wishes. CI’s are usually kept short, simple and straight to the point.

What’s unique about CI is it does not specify a lot of detail as to how an operation is to be undertaken. The army has long since realized that many plans made by officers in an office don’t really work as well in the battlefield.

CI’s allow every enlisted man to be on the same page. At the same time they can be flexible in the field specially when their officers are out of commission. All they need to be sure of is that they accomplish the commander’s intent. The plan may change but the intent must remain the same.

Jesus knew this concept way ahead of the military. He gave us a CI: “Go and make disciples of all nations….” He never told us the details, specifics of how, where or even when. All He gave was the Commander’s Intent – “Go and make disciples”.

He trusted us to be flexible. He kept His CI short so that there was no possible way to misunderstand it. He made it simple so we can all be on the same page. He was straight to the point so there is no dilly-dallying. Christian leaders would do well to follow His example.

He gives us room to be creative for as long as we make sure we accomplish our Commander’s Intent – “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Thank you Dennis for your insight.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Discipleship and Sushi King

While I was in Kuala Lumpur this week we stopped by a mall to have dinner. As we were walking to the car to make our way to the hotel I saw this sign pictured here.

The sign resembles the historical Christian symbol at the height of the Church's persecution. The idea behind this was when believers met each other one would draw an arch on the ground or carve it on a table top the other person then is expected draw the lower arch to form the fish.

This was the way they knew who were believers. This allowed them to fellowship with one another without fear of being betrayed. In those days this sign served the purpose of determining who was a real disciple and who was not. Today this sign does not mean much. Anyone can have a sticker and yet not be a true disciple of Jesus.

The declaration at Sushi King is not "Jesus is Lord!" instead what you will hear is "Irassaimase". There is a better sign to determine who the true disciples are. Jesus told us how to know who the real disciples were:

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

According to Jesus the real sign that will make people know that we are Jesus' disciples is when they see how we love each other. Having stickers and symbols is much simpler and easier. However real discipleship is about opening our lives and building lasting relationships with one another.

In the words of theologian Francis Schaeffer: "Our relationship with each other is the critereon the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful- Christian community is the final apologetic."

Doctrine, good theology, a deep appreciation for Christian history and legacy are essentials and must never be taken for granted but the ultimate sign of discipleship is how we love one another. In my own words "discipleship is relatonship".

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Discipleship and Deadlines

I am a true believer of the Westminster Catechism's statement that "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The chief end of man is to enjoy God not work for Him. While I espouse this I also believe that life cannot be lived nonchalantly without deadlines.

Deadlines are important, without them very few things get accomplished. Without deadlines we will end up sitting around doing nothing. Ever noticed how quickly we accomplish things when we have to travel. All of a sudden the letter you should have written last week gets done in 20 minutes.

What took days to do is suddenly accomplished in a matter of minutes. How did you do it? What changed? Nothing, other than now you have a clear deadline. Our problem with deadlines stems from the idea that life does not have any. Big mistake life has deadlines. The most obvious is our limited time on this earth.

The length of our days is seventy years — or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10

How does this apply to our discussion of discipleship?

Simply this, while it is true that discipleship is relationship we cannot flippantly use it as an excuse to sit around and wait for things to happen. Making disciples by building relationships is not a passive wish “hope it happens” attitude, rather it is an active, deliberate well thought of priority. Disicpleship requires extensive planning and an unrelenting passion to see people reached and trained. Life has deadlines!

Read: Prayer Power in the Gobi

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Discipleship and General Electric

In 1981 the legendary Jack Welch took the helm of General Electric. At the time the company had a 90 year history and had a market capitalization of $12 billion. The company had the 11th best stock in the New York Stock Exchange at $4 per share.

Welch assessed the business and found approximately 348 businesses and product lines. It was then that he set out to identify which ones were the real priorities. Which ones had the most potential, highest value and the greatest impact.

By the time Welch was done GE stock was trading at $80 per share and had $250 billion in market capitalization and was regarded as the number 1 most admired company by Fortune Magazine readers.

The key was to identify what the real priorities were. The application of this principle to our subject of discipleship (particularly in church leadership) is this:

1. Discipleship has the most potential because you are investing in people and churches are not buildings but are made up of people.

2. Discipleship has the highest value because it gives the best Return On Investment (ROI) when it comes to time, energy and resources. Disciples will go the distance and produce more disciples.

3. Finally discipleship has the greatest impact in changing society. It starts with individual lives which affects families, churches, institutions and then society.

The bottom line is this: Many church leaders think they can have itall. Fact is you can’t have it all. Focus your time and energies on making disciples. That is what will make the difference.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Discipleship and Priorities

Last night I spoke at the VictoryBiz Seminar. My message was about priorities, its importance and value. I shared three principles in order to have the right priorities.

Principle No. 1: “The Good is the Enemy of the Best.” Got this one from John Maxwell’s book – “Developing the Leader Within You.”

The story I am about to recount is true but will keep the names anonymous. This story captures the importance of discerning the best from what is good. Here is the story:

A man was offered to head a department at the head office. The offer included career advancement and a hundred thousand dollar salary increase (annual).

That meant that he would have to relocate and uproot his family. His wife was native to the city they were in, which was a good situation for his family. The children had great schools. Moving meant losing all of that. More significantly his wife, children and himself were growing spiritually because of the church they went to.

He decided not to go. Some time later the company came back to him and offered the same job. This time they decided they would move the entire department to his city. And they did, complete with the promotion and salary increase. Decisions based on priorities is about recognizing what is best from the many that are good.

How does this apply to discipleship? There are many good things that we can do in church, many activities that we can champion, many ways to serve, but the best thing to do is go and make disciples. Why? Disciples make disciples who make disciples.

In the end when you make disciples you will have more than enough people to do other things in church that need to be done. Pastors and church leaders need to prioritize the task of making disciples.

To Jesus mentoring and instructing disciples was the priority. It came before preaching and teaching. Sadly many leaders think preaching and teaching is discipleship. Hence they end up prioritizing it and not making disciples.

After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. Matthew 11:1