Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Discipleship and Gardening

Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. Genesis 2:8

After God created the first man He placed him in the garden. Isn't it interesting that God made the first man a gardener. I am convinced that God has an important reason why. That’s because much of life is like gardening.

God’s intent was man would learn how to live life as he tended the garden. It was His way of teaching man – the very first “discipleship program”, if you may.

Like gardening the idea of discipleship relationships involves many different factors and is not quite as simple as transferring information. It requires checking the condition of the soil (heart). Some soils are just not ready and require a period of waiting. Others need to be prepared, plowed and fertilized.

The there’s the matter of the right seed planted in the right season, the changing weather conditions, the nurturing and care of young plants, the removing of weeds, bugs and a host of other considerations. The considerations are too many that even after you’ve done everything you can, you still need God.

Similarly discipleship relationships require patience, certain skills, training and the right attitude and timing. After all the Bible does say that people are like plants, more accurate like trees. In the end the task of disciple making is very much like gardening.

We prepare the soil, we sow the seed, water it, watch, nurture and care, but in the end God is the only one who can make it grow. In the next few weeks I will be posting insights on discipleship and gardening. It is my prayer and hope that these writings will inspire you to go to be a disciple who goes and makes disciples.

How to Overcome Distractions When Praying

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Discipleship and Jaguar

This is the last in a series of 7 posts on discipleship and cars.

I can still recall the day I opened the front door of our home and found a man standing beside a Jaguar XJ. There in the midday sun this classic racing green colored car glistened, it was no ordinary Jag, it was in mint condition, the kind collector’s drool over.

Then the man said something like: “My boss sent me here to give you this car.” You can just imagine how baffled I was about the whole thing. How often does someone send a car to your home, let alone a Jaguar?

As we talked I realized that a generous church member was donating it for our church building project. I called my wife, got in the car, prayed and thanked God for His provision through this man and his family.

Here’s the discipleship relationship interface in this story. The man who gave the car was a disciple. He was someone who was deeply involved in the life of the church.

How did that happen? He was in a discipleship relationship with several men who helped him with his walk with God. Eventually he gave his life to the Lord. Today his wife and 3 children are all disciples of Jesus.

But the story does not end there. His wife leads small groups that reach out to women (young and old) while he reaches out to business associates and friends. His children do the same and one of his sons has become a pastor.

Like cars disciples come in different shapes, sizes, models and colors. And like cars they have a purpose and a function. Disciples are there to go and make disciples.

They do that by reaching out to others with the love of God and by serving in various church ministries. I have also found that disciples who know what the Church is all about are some of the most generous people you will find.

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. Matthew 21:6

Prayer and Sailing

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Discipleship and BMW

A few months ago I was riding in the brand new 7 series BMW of a friend. The minute I got in you just knew this was not your everyday fare of a car. Everything about it was a demonstration of opulence and luxury. The seats, the smell, the sounds, the ride, unbelievable!

When my friend told me how much money he paid for his car it all made sense. You don’t get that kind of luxury for the price of peanuts. In short you don’t get something of value for nothing.

As the title of this blog goes and many of my previous posts have expressed - discipleship is relationship. Christians often say that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. And this is true. Discipleship is a relationship primarily with God and with the Body of Christ and with the lost world so they can be reconciled to God.

Like my friend's car these valuable relationships don’t come free and the cost is significant and is detailed for us in Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Becoming a disciple is costly. Whether that’s relating with God, His people or reaching out to the world, it requires that we pick up our cross and follow Him. Picking up our crosses simply means letting go of our comforts and conveniences and embracing whatever it takes to follow Jesus, to walk in step with other believers and to reach out to those who still don’t know Him.

Needless to say the cost of discipleship is high. But when you relate the immeasurable value of being God’s friend, the quality of relationships we enjoy with other Christians and the joy of leading others to God, the cost is nothing. It would be like buying my friends BMW for the price of a Kia.

Here’s your discipleship take away: Discipleship will cost you, but the value you get far outweighs whatever price you pay.

Come back here in a few days to link to Steve Murrell's Podcast on: Carrying Your Cross.

Prayer and Laughter

Monday, October 13, 2008

Discipleship and Honda

When Honda was launched in the United States it was an instant hit. The simple secret was they built a quality car backed with world-class service and warranties.

But that’s not the point of this post. Rather this post is about how Honda started the Japanese assault on the luxury car market by introducing the Acura.

Back in the 1960’s Japanese carmakers focused their efforts on building good quality cars that we’re price sensitive (another way of saying cheap). Toyota, Nissan and Honda all succeeded by pursuing this strategy.

After over 20 years of success, Honda decided it was time to take on the luxury car market. In 1986 Honda launched the Acura in the United States designed to compete with American and European luxury cars. It was well received.

In time Toyota and Nissan followed Honda’s footsteps by introducing the Lexus and Infiniti (Toyota’s and Nissan’s version of luxury). Today all three brands are well respected luxury car brands.

Here’s the discipleship is relationship interface with this story. Like these car manufacturers we need to think “and” and not just “or”. How many times have we heard of Christians say things like: “It’s either you do it our denominations way or……” One example is in the way we worship God. Our insistence to worship God with a certain kind of music has prevented us from reaching other segments of society.

Sometimes our own narrow view prevents us from reaching other segments of society because we have insisted on our old proven ways. For instance who says you can’t preach to young people in a bar?

Like Honda we need to excellently do what we have always done while being open to other ways of doing things. Who knows we just might succeed and in so doing inspire other denominations to follow suit?

See also: One Dangerous Prayer

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Discipleship and Volvo

This is a 4th post on a series on discipleship and cars.

The first Volvos were built as far back as 1927. In Europe, however Volvos were not taken seriously by would be car owners.

There are several reasons why, for one Volvos were made in Sweden. And in those early years Sweden was not a country known for cars. Considering the competition – England (Rolls Royce, Jaguar among others), Germany (Mercedes Benz, BMW among others) Italy (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and others) and even the French had their fair share (Renault, Peugeot and Citroen) Swedish cars were no where near being a contender.

Today Volvos are not only popular but is as respected as it's other European counterparts. What did they do that allowed them to inch closer to their counterparts? For years Volvo focused on just one thing, safety. Here is a short list of Volvo’s string of significant developments to ensure that it is the car of choice when it comes to safety:

Laminated Glass Windshield (1944) to prevent broken glass from injuring passengers.
Padded Dashboards (1956) the first time ever done to cushion the impact in case of collision.
Patented Three-Point Safety Belt (1958) which is today the standard seat belt used by most cars.
Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) (1995) which channeled the force of a side impact away from the doors and into the safety cage.
The Head Protecting Airbag (1998) today a standard in most cars.

These form a short list of Volvo’s attention and commitment to one thing: Safety. Needless to say when someone considers buying a car and safety is a concern – they’ll be looking at Volvos. These small initiatives have not only been approved by regulators but have become the standard for most cars.

Here’s where the discipleship relationship interface is: there is so much detail to deliver the one thing that people expect from us as Jesus' Church. If Volvo’s focus is safety, the Christian Church is called upon to deliver one thing, that is discipleship. The task of teaching people how to be life long followers of Christ.

So the next time you consider doing something new and running around doing new activities, take a seat and write down the many little things that you need to do in order to make disciples. You’ll be amazed at how many things need your attention.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 1Thessalonians 2:4

Monday, September 29, 2008

Discipleship and Ferrari

In the late 1990’s a survey was made of the world’s most recognizable brands. Among the top three was Ferrari together with IBM and Coca-Cola.

The world of business was stunned at these findings because while the other 2 brands have spent billions of dollars on advertising Ferrari never had an advertising budget (not until 1993).

How could a company that sells less cars than most car manufacturers be more recognizable and that popular? The simple answer to this phenomenon is that while not everyone can afford or own a Ferrari, most everyone wants one.

The bigger question is how did Ferrari get the world to love it so much considering it did not advertise? And considering most people can’t even afford it. The answer was it kept its focus on running races and winning them.

More significantly it dominated the world of Formula 1 racing, the World’s most popular race. Viewed by millions Ferrari became a constant winner and set the standard for construction and performance.

Here’s the discipleship relationship interface. Though you may not think anyone is watching, people are. Though you think people are not impressed for now – just keep winning the race of life and in time they will want to know how you do it. Finally, don’t forget that just like the Ferrari we are made from the best craftsmanship, created to do great things – and are set to run a race that was prepared in advance for us.

In short keep being a disciple it will always result in making others disciples.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Discipleship and Volkswagen

At the end of World War II defeated Germany was in shambles. The Allies (mainly Great Britain and the United States) were working hard to figure out what to do with some of Germany’s industries that needed serious rehabilitation. One of those companies was Volkswagen.

By 1948 Henry Ford II and some of Ford’s executives from all over Europe were debating on whether to take over Volkswagen’s factories. The conclusion was summarized in the words of Ernest Breech, then Chairman of Ford: “I don’t think what we are being offered here is worth a damn.”

As history would have it, Ford walked away and Volkswagen fell into the hands of a ragtag team of German businessmen. What no one foresaw was two decades later Volkswagen would sell more than 12 million units of the Beetle, many of which in the US and made it one of the most successful companies in Europe then.

Why did Ford walk away? Several reasons. Volkswagen was politically incorrect at the time, they were from a losing country and their bitter enemy. They weren’t shaped right, a beetle? The engine was in the wrong place – at the rear of the car. And a host of other reasons that just did not seem right.

This is where discipleship is relationship interfaces with this story. Often we walk away from ministry opportunities that could bring millions to Christ just because the things we see don’t look familiar or are up to our cultural, political or even religious upbringing. Sometimes we think there is only one way to do things.

What the executives for Ford failed to realize was that the Volkswagen was the dream of one of Europe’s greatest car designers – Ferdinand Porsche. After designing and building some of the fastest cars of his time he dreamed of building a small car for everyman – “the people’s car”. Everything in the Volkswagen was designed to do was just that. A car that could be produced cheaply and required less parts and did not need much maintenance.

As disciple makers we need to realize that God has designed the Gospel for all mankind. It’s not whether it is politically, culturally or economically correct and is not even about our religious preferences. All it needs is a ragtag team of men and women who passionately believe the original vision of its designer.

Rom. 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Prayer and Pyrotechnics

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Discipleship and Toyota

In my last thread I wrote on discipleship and small creatures. This is new thread is about cars. We’ll see how far it goes. For starters I am writing about Toyota -reputed to be one of the most popular and dependable car makers in the world.

The first time I heard about Toyota was in the late 1960’s. A family friend was showing my father his new Toyopet, an early edition of Toyota cars. In those days people were wary of Toyota. Cars brands then were Mercedes Benz, Ford, Chrysler and Volkswagen.

For some reason the Toyota name just did not sound right. In sounded like some kind of soy sauce. In fact Toyota struggled to get a foothold of the market. In time however, Toyotas became very popular and are some of the World’s most sought after cars. How did that happen, through proven performance and dependability.

By sheer word of mouth friends, relatives and neighbors tried, used and validated Toyota’s dependability. News about it spread and more and more people started to buy it, use it and talk about it. In time Toyotas became attractive and the rest is history.

Herein lies the discipleship relationship interface. It is not our brand name -“Christianity” that attracts others rather it is the example of our lives that people see day in and day out that makes them take stock of our Christianity.

It is when people see how our lives hold together in the midst of bumpy roads, bad weather and the usual wear and tear of life that they become interested in the brand and not the other way around.
Finally, just like the Toyota we can expect our lives to have a good run because of the one who made us.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ Acts 17:28a

Monday, August 11, 2008

Discipleship and Lizards

This is the final post in the 5 part series on Discipleship and Small Creatures.

“Four things on earth are small,yet they are extremely wise: Proverbs 30:24

a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces. Proverbs 30:28

Like the three other creatures featured in this series of posts on discipleship – trying to imagine why lizards are a source of wisdom can be challenging.

However, the verse above does explain why we can find wisdom in the ordinary lizard. That’s because they can find their way in king’s palaces.

True discipleship does not limit the area or the type of people who need to be reached with the Gospel and be made into disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even kings (present day CEO’s, political leaders, celebrities and the like) need to be reached, trained and deployed in the kingdom of God.

What I love about the business of making disciples is that it chooses no man. Everyone deserves to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. But the fact is reaching kings is not a simple matter. For one, they live in palaces that are secured by moats (layers of secretaries and assistants) and sentinels (bodyguards and cronies).

So how does one get to these great men and women of influence. The answer: do the lizard. What on earth does that mean?

One reason lizards can get into palaces is because they are small. Small is the key to getting the big. Secondly, they have a simple service they provide and that is to munch on bothersome insects in your house. In short they serve a purpose while at the same time since they are small they require little attention or overhead.

The church that I pastor has several celebrities. As such I often hear the comment “I guess you have a lot of stars that’s why they can reach each other stars.”

In some ways that statement is true but in many ways it is also incorrect. Off the top of my head I know many of these celebrities who were not reached by other stars but by friends, relatives and you will not believe it when I say many of them are reached by make-up artists, dentists and are you ready for this – hair dressers.

Like the lizard these individuals come across as small, feeble, harmless creatures that are there to simply serve their needs. And like the lizard they go undetected against the radar screens that are set to spring the security measures against intruders.

The verse above not only holds true to royalty “likes” but even to real royalties. Today even the children of wealthy kings and princes in various parts of the world are being reached through nannies and household servants who go unnoticed. If one is willing to serve and be small in the eyes of men - they position themselves to be great disciple makers of kings and princes.

So go and do as the lizard and make disciples!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Discipleship and Locusts

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Proverbs 30:24

Proverbs 30:27
locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks;

here is the 3rd installment of my 5 part series of things that are small but are extremely wise.

Locust is the Biblical word for the grasshopper, another creature that is not known for its wisdom. Grasshoppers belong to the family of insects and are not exactly known for being wise.

But the writer of Proverbs says we can learn from them. While they have no king or commander yet they advance together in ranks.

How you wish Christians could do what locusts can do. First of all they advance. They do not focus on the periphery and differences but rather consciously fix their eyes on devouring all that they see.

Discipleship means advancing and not getting stuck. Like the locust our job is to disciple everyone we meet and come into contact with. Needless to say there are times when the people we meet are not ready with the Gospel or even with moving forward as a disciple of Christ. It is in times like these that we need to advance forward to the next person without necessarily giving up on the other person that means we pray for them.

Secondly, locusts are wise because they not only advance but they do it together.

All too often Christians get entangled on differences. Some put too much emphasis on areas of theological differences. Most of the time these differences are more a question of focus rather than outright heresy or serious disagreement.

Like the wise locust we should instead look at the places of commonality and appreciate other Christians for their uniqueness. One common objective we should all have is what Jesus commanded all of us to do: “Go and make disciples…”

Finally, locusts are wise because though they don’t have a visible king they march in ranks making them very effective at what they do.

This is something we can learn from them. While our King Jesus is not visible we must align ourselves in local congregations that have godly leaders in order to be effective in the task of making disciples.

Working alone is not exactly the smartest thing to when it comes to disciple making. Marching together in ranks like locusts is far more effective.

see also: Prayer and Independence

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Discipleship and Coneys

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Proverbs 30:24

coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; Proverbs 30:26

This is the third in a series of small things that are extremely wise. Of the 4 creatures listed in Proverbs 30 explaining the Coney seems to be the most challenging.

What could really be learned from them? Coney is an old English word for wild rabbits. And that makes it even harder to explain why they are extremely wise. Rabbits are not exactly known for their smarts rather for their cuteness.

But Solomon the author of the Proverb has observed something about this creature that made him conclude that they are deserving full status in this list of small yet extremely wise creatures.

He explains first of all that they have little power. Rabbits are often the prey of eagles, wolves and even snakes. What qualifies them in this list is the way they build their homes. They build them in the crags.

A crag is a steep or rugged cliff or rock face. Building in this kind of terrain requires wisdom. You may ask if they were so wise why won’t they build their homes in less challenging terrain. The answer is because they have little power.

Settling in open terrain makes them easier prey for their predators. Building in crags allows them to have safe dwellings that are hard to access. Needless to say that building on crags is not quite as easy or convenient. It is laborious and time consuming. But once built it becomes a safe refuge.

Here’s where discipleship relationship interfaces. Making disciples is much like building in the crags. They may be inaccessible, time consuming and labor intensive. But through little encounters with one moment at a time we can build men and women into disciples.

The kind that will not easily fall prey to the devil:
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1Peter 5:8b

Like the Coney we need to build wisely. In this way what we build are lives that will not be easily prone to the devil's attacks.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Discipleship and Ants

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer..... Proverbs 30:24-25

Ants are so tiny and frail and yet the Bible says they are extremely wise. The primary reason for their wisdom is because they store food in summer.

This morning I heard of a story of man who won an ipod video in a raffle. Realizing he did not have any need for it he sold it and took the money. Instead of saving the money he used it to upgrade his home entertainment system.

A few weeks later he was in need of money to pay bills and did not have any to do so. Why because instead of storing the money he used it.

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. Proverbs 21:20

The man was obviously the later and not the former. Not wise but a fool. Which one are you?

Now here’s the discipleship is relationship interface. One of the wisest things we can do is to be good stewards of our finances and resources. Discipleship is taken to greater heights of effectiveness when we display a life of wisdom to people we encounter and not just do Bible studies. So be wise and store, don’t be a fool devouring all that you have. In doing so you will be an example, will gain credibility and be more effective in making disciples.

Discipleship and Small Creatures

It has been a while since I have posted in this blog site. You can see how busy things have been if you visit my Just Me site. But I’m ready to write now. My last series of posts was a thread on Discipleship and the Zoo. This is a short run series based on Proverbs 30 verses 24 to 28:

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise:
Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces."

The verses above speak of wisdom. More importantly it speaks not just of wisdom but the verse says extreme wisdom. The Bible tells us to observe nature around us and hopefully as we pay attention we can learn a truth that can help us.

Successful ministry involves 3 things: wisdom, commitment and spirit (power). Sometimes we focus too much on commitment and power we end up doing things with very little wisdom.

Over the next 4 posts I will using the verses on to glean insights on how we can be extremely wise in our discipleship making endeavors. So watch out for the this short series on Discipleship and Small Creatures.