Sunday, May 24, 2020

Who will Survive

When the storms of life hit us, who will survive?

We live in a world where storms continue to torment the populous. Our storms are war, disease, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts,  wildfires, etc. All impact the physical, mental, and economic health of everyone in their path. They not only kill and destroy, but they affect our minds and attitudes. Today we faced the deadly COVID 19 pandemic with no geographical boundaries in our modern mobile society.

Lets face it, we live on a dangerous planet with hazard all around us. So how do we live with a major threat hanging over us? How do we keep our sanity when walking through this minefield called life?

In 2018, the number of deaths attributed to various conditions are shown below:
  • Heart disease: 647,457.
  • Cancer: 599,108.
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936.
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201.
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404.
  • Diabetes: 83,564.
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672.

Survival formula

1. Maintain Flexibility

We lived in the state of Mississippi for many years during which we encountered dangerous tornadoes and hurricanes, including the famous names, “Betsy,” “Katrina” and “Camille.” But we survived many lesser and unnamed events. In the aftermath of these destructive storms, we gained insight on some important facts that can help us navigate the current pandemic.

Surveying the damage after the storm reveals a pattern of total destruction and repairable damage. They topple immense trees with their roots pulled right out of the ground, while nearby trees lost a few limbs and leaves. Earthquakes tear up highways and their bridges and viaducts while leaving some roads free from damage. 

What is the difference? Flexibility!

Flexible trees, roadbeds and buildings survive because they move with the wind while more rigid structures break or pull away. If we are rigid in our attitudes, lifestyles, or theologies, we are heading for a fall which could be disastrous. 

In the Old Testament, The Lord refers to the disobedient Jews as a “Stiff-necked people.” The Still-necked” are the ones who seem to receive the most trials.

In his famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle.” Mohamed Ali defeated George Foreman by using the “Rope a Dope,” technique. Rather than coming out fighting as his regular boxing plan, Ali took a defensive position, with his back against the ropes, allowing Foreman to tire himself out by landing many ineffective punches. When Foreman became tired, it was easy for Ali to land the decisive blows. When we are hit by the storms of life, a new strategy might be to take up a protective stance, ride out the storm, and then when it abates, be victorious.

In November 2010, a biopsy revealed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancerous tumor had wrapped itself around a saliva gland. A simple thirty minute outpatient surgery lasted nine hours. The doctors followed this with several months of Chemo. We took up our defensive posture. Following the advice of doctors and cancer survivors, we changed much of our lifestyle and the foods we ate. And we maintained a positive attitude about the whole process. Two years later, Dr Bobby Graham declared me cured.

Today we are in the vulnerable class. So Rita and I are “Rope a Doping.” We have taken up a defensive position at home and only go out occasionally to pick up our on-line order at Walmart, or med.’s at the local drugstore.

2. Be Teachable

Maintaining flexibility requires that we be teachable. One of the things that has frustrated the many during the current pandemic is that the rules keep changing. What the more rigid of us fail to realize is that this virus is new and even the virologists are still learning things about it.

The Old Testament prophet Jonah was running away from God’s call. He got on a ship heading in the opposite direction - to Tarsus. A terrible storm came up that threatened the entire ship - its passengers, crew, and cargo. When Jonah realized his disobedience caused the storm, he told the crew, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”[ Jonah 1:12 (NKJV)] Jonah became teachable.
After every major event, pandemic, hurricane, or other disaster there is a time for asking how did this happen, why did it happen, and how do we avoid a repeat? When you travel the coast after a major hurricane, you can see the changes being made. There are normally two distinct forms of remediation. The first is the “brute force” method which requires a redesign of buildings to withstand the forces of wind and surf expected in a hundred years. The second action which is even more effective is avoidance. Don’t build in the affected areas, and build on stilts, etc.

With COVID 19, there will be vaccines to prevent outbreaks, treatments, and social recommendations. Since all this is new, we have to remain teachable as the science develops.

3. Be Humble

Humility is a heavenly sanctuary to shield us from looking upon our accomplishments. Humility is a depth of self-effacement, which no robber can attain. Humility is a mighty tower in the face of the foe.[Climacus, John. The Ladder of Divine Ascent]

Humility is the cure for depression, judging our neighbor, undue envy, hardness of heart, lust, greed, gluttony, ill-will, hypocrisy, and stubbornness.
Stiff-necked people will not survive.

4. Trust God:

Jesus was with His disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose causing the boat to take on water and they were in danger and Jesus was asleep. They came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”[Luke 8:24-25 (NKJV)]

Trusting God does not mean that He will always keep you from harm. Faith in God means you can trust Him because of His unfailing love for us. God is love and nothing can separate us from that love. This does not mean that you will not suffer or eventually die. There is an end to our life on this Earth, but then there is resurrection. Jesus died on the cross and rose again thereby defeating death.

Our faith is believing that God exists and that He loves and cares for those who ardently seek Him.[Hebrews 11:6]

As we go through life, don’t expect it to be free of storms, but always remember what Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. [[John 16;33]

Trust Him, there is no way we can be in control of all things. We can take precautions, but cannot completely control our environment.

Who will survive?

You will if you remain flexible, teachable, humble, and you trust in God.

May the Lord bless you and protect you through this difficult time. 

Bill Johnson

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Love is a four letter word




I notice that today, people are really quick to say, "I LOVE YOU,"  but what do they mean? Do they understand what love means? 

How would you explain love?

This is a trick question, don’t even try to answer it. Whatever you say will be inadequate.

The greatest need of the human heart is for love; to be loved and to be free to love others. Giving and receiving love are the hallmarks of our humanity. In order to truly be human, we must be able to receive love and release it to others.

But, what is Love?
The word “LOVE” is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language. This simple, four-letter word can bring joy, peace, conflict, heartbreak, and disaster. What does it mean to you? That depends on your history, culture and vocabulary. Words are merely symbols - elements of language - that communicate ideas. 

 A group of psychologists delved into the meaning of love by asking a group of children aged 4 to 8 years age what “love” meant.
Their answers are truly amazing:
  • 'When my grandma got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandpa does it for her now all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love..."
  • "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouths."
  • 'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs.'
  • "Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'
  • 'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
  • "If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."
  • "Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.
  • "Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
  • "When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."
  • "You really shouldn't say ‘I LOVE YOU’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."

Writers have attempted to define love in popular songs, motion pictures, and romantic fiction and it almost always involves getting our own needs met. Love is a warm puppy, a chocolate sundae, not having to say I'm sorry. 

Many of us look at love based upon what we can get out of the relationship;
  • “I will give if I am going to get.”
  • “He makes me feel so good!”
  • “I love the way that ice cream tasted.”
  • “She is so nice to me.”

 If we are truly honest, most of us would define love in terms of getting our own needs met. Even a generous act of giving to others is often based upon an expectation of what we will receive in return. When someone offers us attention, significance, or pleasure, we eagerly give, with the expectation that we will get what we so desperately want or need. But that is not love - that is selfish and manipulative. Even eight-year-old kids have a better understanding of love. 

Love involves giving, giving beyond oneself. It means putting another's needs ahead of our own. Love is the freedom to see beyond oneself in order to see another, not to see them as an object to meet my personal needs. Love sees another as a person worthy of love.

1 John 4:8 (NKJV) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 

If God is love, our ability to understand LOVE is dependant upon our understanding of God.

Early church monastic, St John of The Ladder, examines the means of ascending to the highest degree of religious perfection by a series of thirty steps. Each step recalls a year of the life of Christ. The most holy example of religious perfection is achieved at step number thirty -”Love.”

The angels know how to discuss love, but even they are only able to do this according to their level of understanding. God is love, so the one who desires to describe this, attempts with dim eyes to weigh the sand in the sea. Love, from its very essence, is the likeness of God. As much as it possible for humans, in its action it is intoxication of the soul, and through its unique characteristic it is a spring of faith, and abyss of long-suffering, an ocean of lowliness. Love is fundamentally the exile of all opposing thoughts, for love thinks nothing evil.[1]

If you want to know love, you must first know God!







[1] The Ladder of Devine Ascent, St John Climacus

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Making the best from working from home?

While most of us are in quarantine and maintaining social distancing, many who still have jobs are working from home. Working from home has both positive and negative issues. It is a great opportunity to grow professionally and relationally, if you do it right.

Twenty-seven years ago, I began working from home and continue to this day.  As a home office veteran, I would like to share some of the things I have learned. It is great to have the freedom to set your own hours, take a break when you want, and not having the boss breathing down your neck. And you can be home with your family to share parenting duties with the “stay at home parent.”

Family dynamics:

After the first few months of working out of my home, I was curtly informed that my wife married me for better or worse, but not for lunch.

With children or without, the family dynamics change when you are home all of the time. Children and spouses have established daily rhythms and your presence in the house will disrupt that rhythm. This is a fact that you will have to understand and accept. There will be conflict over this issue. Be ready for it.

Discipline:

It is very easy to get distracted by family members going about their daily activities, cleaning, taking care of kids, and talking on the phone. You may be interested in what is going on and want to be a part of what they are doing and be distracted. It will take great discipline to avoid these distractions and focus on your work.

Environment:

Our homes have been places of refuge, places where we can forget work, and a place to kick back and relax in our own comfort space. Now that comfortable place has purposely been converted to the workplace.

Develop a Business Mindset

The first step is to reprogram your mind to believe that you are no longer in your home’s comfort space, but that you are actually at work. When I first began working from home, my home office was in a shed behind the house which made it easier to feel like a business office. But still, it was too close to the house.

In an effort to reorient myself into the business mode, I began to commute to the office. I would get up at the same time I would when I went to a real office, get dressed, eat breakfast, get in my car, drive to the post office to pick up the mail, drive back home and go directly into my office. This set my mind into the business mindset. After years of practice, when I walk into my home office I am in “business mode.”

Establish a place

It is important to set aside a specific place for you to work. If you do not have a room you can set aside for your workspace, you can use a corner of a room.
Make sure that that space is to be used exclusively for business purposes. That is not only important for your mindset, but also for the IRS when you claim a home office deduction.

Keep it clear of personal stuff that may cause a distraction.
Keep your workplace neat.

Set working hours

Set for yourself specific hours to work. While at home, you may have the luxury
of setting your own schedule but make sure that it is consistent day-to-day. You will have the freedom to make adjustments when there are important things that you will want to do. But do not let them permanently interfere with your set schedule. It is easy to let extraneous things, destroy your schedule.

Explain to family

You must explain to your family that just because you are in the house, you are not available for interruptions unless there is an emergency.

Enjoy the benefits of working at home.

Make sure that you treat this time of working from home as a benefit. Enjoy the freedom it gives to you. Enjoy the fact that you are close to your family. Be grateful that you can set your own schedule.

Most of all thank God and your organization, that you still have a job while others are being laid off or furloughed.




Saturday, March 14, 2020

Peace in the Midst of COVID-19


Why is there no toilet paper in the stores. Placed a pickup order with Walmart that included a modest two packages of TP and they were out. In the Super Wally World, there is no TP. Smart me, I went to Amazon, figured with Prime I could have some in two days. They were “out of stock.” I went to place a delivery order with Whole Foods, for two bundles of TP – they took the order, then texted me to ask if I would take a substitute. I figured they were out of my brand so told them to substitute. They delivered the order – no TP, they had substituted two roles of paper towels.

Where is the world’s supply of TP? Because of the Corona Virus panic some have become hoarders. They are acting like this is worse than Y2K, Swine Flu, E-Bola, Smallpox, Infantile paralysis, and other major epidemics.

And it appears that diarrhea is not even a symptom of the Corona Virus.

Wall Street is in a panic with the stock market falling at unprecedented rates.

If I had the money, I would be buying stocks now rather than selling. Somewhere I heard that to get rich you must buy low and sell high.

I guess I don’t understand the situation!

Or maybe I do. Yes, I realize that there is a pandemic – worse than an epidemic – but it is not the end of the world. The governments are imposing restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the virus, which will run its course in time, medical science will develop a cure, and there will be a vaccine.

Meanwhile, it seems that the effects of the virus are less intense than many previous health scares with the elderly and infirmed being the most at risk.

By the way, I am centered in that category. So why am I not in a panic?

The first half of my life was spent chasing objectives. Success was achieving the goal. Everything else, relationships, people, and personal health became secondary to the end.

Then, when it would seem that there was nothing more to strive for, I was faced with the realization that I was not in control of my life. Through a series of incidents - temporary loss of my eyesight, a bomb on the plane on which I was a passenger, and dreams of being in an airline crash – I realized how fragile our existence in this life can be.

As a result of this and other circumstances, I came to the realization that there was something more important than me. There is a God, who I am trying to serve, there is my family that I must care for, and there is the church to which I am committed.

This is not to say that I believe that I am immune from the virus or that God will protect me from catching it. I intend to do everything in my power to avoid catching the virus. We are hunkering down in our house, washing our hands,  careful to avoid crowds and being prudent. Our grandson dropped off enough TP to last until Walmart is restocked - which should not take too many days.

We are doing all that we know to do to protect ourselves and others, but we are not in control of the spread of the virus, nor are we totally in control of whether or not we contract it. We have to put our faith in the One who is in control – our Creator and Lord.

By the way, the quote we started with has been wrongfully attributed to Rudyard Kipling. What Kipling really wrote was the poem “If” which I want to share now. It reflects how we should truly live. It is worth the read, all the way to the end.

If[1]
If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
   Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
   And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

   If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!




[1] “If” a poem by Rudyard Kipling 1865 - 1936

Monday, February 24, 2020

Let's Get Wild!


And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, 
with all your soul, with all your mind, 
and with all your strength.
[Mark 12:30 (NKJV)]

 What does it mean to "Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength?

Some have tried to define it as obeying. Obedience is surely part of loving God.[John 14:23-24; John 15:9-10] However, obedience is not loving God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. You can obey someone - a superior officer, employer, or ruler - without loving them. Obeying God without a passion for Him is not love but discipline.  If discipline is all we have, it will fail in the end, while a man or woman in love will never give up. 

Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to Love God with passion, prayer, intelligence, and energy. A lukewarm, loveless version of Christianity may succeed in propagating a little religion here and there, but it will never capture the heart of a dying world.

A.W Tozer writes,
“God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm. He is delighted with all that is good and lovingly concerned about all that is wrong. He pursues His labors always in a fullness of holy zeal. No wonder the Spirit came at Pentecost as a sound of a rushing wind and sat in tongues of fire on every forehead… Whatever else happened at Pentecost, one thing that cannot be missed by the most casual observer was the sudden upsurging of moral enthusiasm. Those first disciples burned with a steady, inward fire. They were enthusiastic to the point of complete abandon."

In a vision, Jesus told John to write a letter to the Church at Laodicea and tell them:
'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." [Rev. 3:15-16]

Why is it that most Christians have lost their passion and have become lukewarm? Maybe because it's not cool! So often we are too cool to be passionate. It may be the result of rationalism and modernism. Many of the early reformers worked hard to take emotionalism out of Christianity and make religion rational.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, everyone had to have a nickname. Mine was “Wild Bill,” because I would try anything once. In the 4th Grade, Suzanne Schmitz’s mother would not let her play with me because I was too “Wild.” She was the first non-relative I ever kissed. 

Down the street from our house were three tall elm trees spaced about twenty feet apart. They were great climbing trees. We watched squirrels playing follow the leader as they went out on a branch of one tree and jumped across to a branch on an adjacent tree. The thought came to me, "That looks like fun, I’ll bet I can do that." 

There was a large branch that could hold my weight, the limb was strong enough for me to walk out and get within eight feet of a substantial limb on the next tree. So I shinnied up the first tree, stepped gingerly out on the limb. The limb was strong and supporting me. This was going to be easier than I originally thought. The branch in the opposite tree was there waiting - just a short leap away. I lept but had made a serious miscalculation and fell. As I grabbed for a large limb, all I caught were leaves and skinny branches. Holding on for dear life, I quickly fell twenty feet to the ground landing hard and breaking my tail bone. In my mind I will always want to make that leap and prove that I can do it, but the memory of the pain in my butt keeps me from making another attempt.


When we get hurt we tend to be more careful. Getting hurt makes us more cautious. If we get hurt often enough, we give up because we don't want to become vulnerable. That’s the way it is with love. When we love someone with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength we become vulnerable to the object of our love who then has the ability to hurt us. When a human being hurts us, we often transfer our distrust to God.


The Early Church was  wild, they lived in wild abandon trusting God for all their needs. They expected God to act on their behalf. They prayed and saw people healed. They raised people from the dead on a regular basis. Andrew the brother of Peter was strolling along the seashore and came upon as tragic shipwreck. The dead bodies of the sailors had washed up on the shore. Overcome with sadness and compassion, Andrew prayed and asked God to raise them from the dead. God obliged.

This wild abandonment for God lasted for a few hundred years. Then the church became more respectable as Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. As Christianity became “Safe,” the wild ones moved out to the deserts of Egypt and Arabia. 

Much of the Church has become “Functional Atheists” A “Functional Atheist” is someone who says he believes in God, but lives his life as if God did not exist. A functional atheist is afraid to commit his life to God’s leadership. He attends church but does not expect God to show up. He believes God can heal but doesn’t expect Him to act. He may have God as his co-pilot, but never allows Him to take the controls. He relies on his own logic rather than the Holy Spirit. 

These are Christians in name only. They try to live the Christian life, but their life is dull and without fire or power;

“… if the Holy Spirit were completely removed from the world today, 90% of the work of the church would go on as if nothing at all had happened.”  - [R.T. Kendell]

Every generation has a group of wild ones in the church.

My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great. [John Wesley]

“The great sin of church is not that we’ve lost the power of God, but that we’ve become content to live without it.”   - [Charles Finney]

OUR nation was founded by “Wild Ones.” Now we are apologizing for believing in the one true God.

WOULDN'T YOU LOVE TO BE FREE TO BE WILD AGAIN?

iT STARTS BY LOVING GOD WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART, SOUL MIND AND STRENGTH!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What do you want for Christmas?


What do you want for Christmas?

We spend most of the Christmas season searching for that perfect gift, the best bargain, the right decorations, and a parking space at the mall.

This year when the family all gets together, everybody will bring only one wrapped gift. It will be placed on the table for all to inspect -still wrapped. After we have gorged ourselves with turkey, dressing, dumplings, green bean casserole, and pecan pie we will draw numbers to determine the gift selection order realizing that that gift we select may be stolen by the next person in line if they take a liking to it. We have seen grown men cry when their favorite gift is taken from them.


 We are so busy that we miss the season’s true meaning. It was the same at that first Christmas in Bethlehem. Almost everyone missed it. They were too busy looking for other things. The politicians missed the first Christmas. The business community missed the first Christmas. The innkeeper missed the first Christmas. In fact, even the religious establishment missed the first Christmas, because they were looking at other things. The only people who enjoyed that very first Christmas were the people who were looking for it. 

The Angel told the shepherds "You'll find the baby ... lying in a manger."


The Shepherds said: "Let's go and see!" They found Jesus because they were searching. They were seeking Him.

Later on another group, the wise men found Jesus because they were seeking Him.

Now let me ask you, what are you going to find this Christmas?

I'll tell you what you're going to find: You will find whatever you are looking for. In our society today there's a renewed emphasis on seeking spiritual truth. Sometime back Newsweek magazine had an article titled, "The Search for the Sacred." In it the writer commented;

"Maybe it's just a critical mass of Baby Boomers in the contemplative afternoon of life. Or maybe it's anxiety over the coming millennium, or maybe it's a general dissatisfaction with the materialism of the modern world. For these reasons and more, millions of Americans are' embarking on a search for the sacred in their lives."

The bottom line of this article is that people are asking, "Is there any meaning to my life? Does my life count? Is there a God? And if there is a God, can I get to know Him?"

That's what Christmas is all about, folks! The article continued,

" A lot has changed in the past century. We've stripped away what once our ancestors saw as essential, the importance of religion in the family, and people feel they want something they've lost; they just don't remember what it is they've lost."

The loss of a faith leaves a gaping hole and that, in essence, is a seeker's quest - to fill the hole with a new source of meaning. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our existence?

Now, if you're honest with yourself, at least sometime this past year, when you slowed down long enough, you probably asked yourself these same questions. 

"Why am I here? What am I here for? Why do I exist?”

Now, where do you think those questions coming from? It is God Who is putting those questions in your mind! He is creating in you a desire and thirst to know Him. God knows all about you; He wants you to know Him.

And there's no better time than Christmas to become a seeker like the wise men were. Wise men, women, and children still seek God.

Whatever it is you are Looking for, That Is What You will Find.





Wednesday, October 30, 2019

So, you want to make disciples - Count the cost!


The Great Commission

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. [Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)]

Effectively fulfilling the Great Commission is no simple task as you have probably discovered if you have been in ministry for any length of time. Most of us - with good intentions - have been doing it wrong. The problem is in understanding what we are called to do.

Please forgive my suggested books which address the area of discipleship. They do provide help for your discipleship program if you are interested.

Go!

Step one of the Great Commission is, "To go." When we go out of the church and share God's love, God shows up and does wonderful things. St. Patrick was at home in England when a band of Irish marauders kidnapped him, took him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. Six years later he escaped and fled on a boat back to England.  A few years later, young Patrick had a vision calling him back to Ireland. Talk about getting out of his comfort zone. 
Obeying God, he went back to the nation that had enslaved him. But this time he took the message of God's love. He baptized thousands of people including some wealthy women and the sons of kings. Every day he faced imprisonment and death.

"To go," means to leave your comfort zone, to get out of the church and interact with people who are not like you. It is a mission for the Lord. Leaving our comfort zone can be very scary, but that's where we will see God in action. 

Sharing the love of God with a stranger is not easy for most people. It is especially difficult when people are radically different from us. But Jesus calls us to GO. And as we go He can work through us. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, "A small rudder can turn a big boat as long as the boat is moving. But when it is sitting still the rudder has no effect."

In the Gospel of John, Jesus was on His way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Tired and needing rest, He stopped at Jacob's well while His disciples went into Schecham to fetch food and drink. You know the story. A Samaritan woman comes along, Jesus asks her for a drink, and they dialogue for a while. Jesus knows her heart and shares the "Good News" with her in an interesting way. She believes and GOES into town to tell her story to everyone there. She left her comfort zone. The townspeople came out to meet this Jesus, and they also believe.

Make "Disciples"

Make disciples is a faulty translation of this passage. A better translation would be to "disciple all nations." So we do not make disciples, we disciple people. The word that is translated "disciple" is the Greek word "Mathetes." In ancient Greece, it was an individual that attached himself to master craftsman, teacher, or leader in order to be mentored by them. In our present world we might use the term "apprentice," the way in which electricians, plumbers, etc are accredited. 

Since becoming a disciple is a purely voluntary act it cannot be forced upon someone or made it a requirement. Postmoderns rebel at coercion. This could be the cause of the church losing its young people as soon as they get outside the influence of the church and home.

The implications of voluntary discipleship are far-reaching. First discipleship, is not programmatic, it is relational. The discipler, must have something significant that the potential disciple wants to become. 

The relationship between the discipler and disciple must be close. It must be so important that the disciple gives up other desires and reaches out to enter into the relationship.  On the other side, the discipler must be perceived as worthy of the relationship. We great resource for becoming the leader others want to follow

Second, if discipleship is voluntary, the discipler must present discipleship as important to the disciple. In other words, he must provide a solid justification and present the benefits of discipleship. 

Lastly, since discipleship is relational, it should be obvious that it is an interpersonal activity between the discipler and the disciple. The discipler has a responsibility to the relationship. If he is not willing to spend the time necessary to maintain the relationship, he will not be an effective discipler. 

Baptize

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The Christian church has a variety of understandings and practices of baptism, but Baptism is the entry into the body of Christ. In Baptism you are baptized into the community of Jesus Christ. The church proclaims that you are loved and wanted and a child of God in baptism.

Water is a symbol of purification. It is used to mark the beginning of a new life. In water baptism we are transformed from death to life, rising as a new person, born anew. Satan no longer has a hold on us. The early church included an exorcism in their baptismal rite which is continued in Orthodox Christian churches today. 

Teach

When teaching a disciple, the discipler has the responsibility to help the disciple learn. As teachers we all have our own style of teaching. However, discipling is more relational than the transfer of knowledge. Therefore it is incumbent upon the discipler to understand that people do not all learn the same way. The discipler must make allowances for the disciples learning style.


Jesus' methods of Discipling.

The first thing we notice about Jesus' methods of discipling is that He spent time
with the twelve. Each time He demonstrated something it became a teaching moment. He would use their questions about what just happened to teach a principle.

  1. Demonstrate: With the twelve standing by, Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed the storms, raised the dead. Each miracle demonstrated His mission; to destroy the works of the enemy - Satan.
  2. Explain: After demonstrating His power, Jesus explained to His disciples why He was able to accomplish the task while they were not
  3. Instruct: Then He instructed them on how to go forth and minister to the needs around the country.
  4. Send: He sent them out two by two to heal the sick. He gave them an opportunity to minister without Him standing over their shoulders.
  5. Critique: When they returned He gave them a critique of how they did and cautioned them as to what was important.

Your Cost

If you choose to take on this vital role, you must count the cost in your time, your emotions, and your freedom. But there is nothing as rewarding as seeing your efforts come to fruition as new people step into leadership and expand the Kingdom of God.

  1. You can only disciple a few people at a time.
  2. You must invest time and resources into each one.
  3. Some will drop out and cause you much pain.
  4. Do you have the time?
  5. Do you have the Patience?
  6. If so, Go!