Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Called to Follow Jesus

Before there was the “Dog whisperer” on television, there was the Horse whisperer. Monty Roberts was raised in the horse business. He learned that there was one way to train horses - by “breaking” them through domination and force which at times included striking the horse with whips or tying and suspending the horse’s feet and legs. The trainer would impose his will upon the animal until it reached the conclusion that total submission was the only way to survive.

In his early teen years Roberts began to study the behavior and communication patterns of wild mustangs in the badlands of Nevada. He took note of the nonverbal communication among the horses, their body language. He named this kind of horse language "Equus." Drawing on his observation and firsthand experience with horses, Roberts developed a breakthrough training technique that he called “hooking on to” rather than “breaking down” the horse’s will. This new training method was based on a concept he eventually trademarked “Join-Up.”

“Join-Up” not only stopped the “breaking” practice of traditional horse training, but it demonstrated how to cooperate with the horse’s own spirit, ways, and means of communicating as a member of the herd. His techniques laid the platform for a partnership between horse and human rather than a coexistence through domination. The personality and full potential of the horse emerge through a loving freedom and desire rather than domination and infliction. Join-Up relies on invitation rather than imposition.

The Join-Up technique invites an untamed horse that has never been ridden to willingly accept the saddle, bridle, and rider. It is a thing of beauty to watch. Monty Roberts enters a round pen with a wild horse. In as little as half an hour, he’ll be riding the horse. Roberts creates an atmosphere of mutual respect that communicates, “I’m not going to hurt you, and you don’t have to follow me if you don’t want to.”

After a brief period of introducing himself and interacting with the horse comes the moment of truth.
Roberts turns his back to the animal and walks away. At this point the horse trains her eyes on Monty with all-out intensity and attention. She is asking herself, Where is he going? and Do I want to stay by myself? The horse must choose: I want to be with you. I want to join up and follow you on the way. She quickly decides: my safe place is with you. Dropping her head (equine language for “I submit to you”) and trotting to Roberts’ side, the horse says, “I choose to follow. I want to be with you.”

That is the Jesus way. Jesus did not come into this world and command us to submit to Him. He came into this world showing us what true love is all about and inviting us to walk along side Him. The Jesus way is our cooperation with Jesus’ “Follow Me.” This is Jesus’ call to all of us.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to follow Jesus, I am working on it, but what does it mean to follow Jesus. The Greek word translated “follow” is most often rooted in the word for “road.” There is an ancient African phrase, “Will you walk with me?” It doesn’t mean a stroll or short jaunt around the corner. It means to enter another person’s world, to join his or her journey. To walk with Jesus does not mean to travel behind or in front of but beside him. To follow Jesus on the way doesn’t mean to fall in behind him in a directional sense but to be caught up in what he is doing. Discipleship is the art of being a pilgrim - the artistry of following Jesus. It is to be caught up in what God is doing in the world today.

Imagine you opened your e-mail in-box and discovered you had received an invitation from some superstar - maybe Phil Mickelson - “Come, be with me, and I will teach you everything I know about golf.” Or maybe you would get a call from someone like Bill Gates who wants you to walk with Him and learn how to become successful in business. For those of you who love to sing, what would your reaction be if you received a phone call from Celine Dion, asking, “Will you come and stay with me for a couple of years? I will teach you to sing like me”? For aspiring writers, how incredible would it be to answer a knock at the door and find Maya Angelou inquiring, “Would you like to hang out with me and learn how to write?”

Jesus Himself is calling you to follow Him and learn how to live. There seems to be a natural progression that Jesus proposed: In John 14:6 Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. To follow Jesus is to be in the right mission (the way: missional living); to follow Jesus is to be in the right relationships (the truth: relational living.)  To follow Jesus is to be in the right future (the life: incarnational living.) Step 1 is belonging, Step 2 is believing, then step 3 is behaving.

 “When Jesus summoned people into the way, he was inviting them to share a purpose or path (the way), a new set of relationships (the truth), and the beauty of community ( the life). If Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then His way must be our way, his truth must be our truth, and his life must be our life.” [Leonard Sweet]

“The Jesus way wedded to the Jesus truth brings about the Jesus life.” [Eugene Peterson]

First, we must choose to get on the journey with him—trust him as the “Way.” We realize we want to be with him, to submit to His leadership. The first followers of Jesus were known as those who belonged to “the Way.” They had a way about them. Theirs was not just a shared system of belief that included religious traditions and mystical idiosyncrasies. There were plenty of sects in Jesus’ time like that. But something was different here. These people had a way about how they went about their lives, a way of being that had not been witnessed before. There was something very different about the way these people treated one another, - both insiders and outsiders.

Dictionaries define the word “way” variously—as a habitual manner or characteristic, a method, a direction or vicinity, a passage or path. All of those definitions capture parts of the essence of following Jesus. But followers of Jesus don’t just submit to Jesus’ codes and conduct. They don’t just join him in following a certain path, live in his voice, practice a certain presence from earth to eternity. Most important, the path with Jesus leads to Jesus; the path of life leads to life.

Second, we choose to answer the question, what is truth? This was Pilate’s world-weary question to Jesus, but Pilate was staring in the face of Truth and didn’t know it. Jesus is the Truth, for truth is a Person,not a principle. This relational view of truth contrasts starkly with the world’s way of thinking and demands more than mere intellectual assent. It requires obedience. A follower of the truth is one who follows upon, who trusts and obeys One who is Truth.

Third, we begin to get a life, not a half-life, not term life, but whole life. We learn to re-frame our living based on always pilgriming and always sharing life with Jesus so that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” A wayfarer of the life is one who follows so closely that his or her life aligns with the life of the Leader. Note that this template is not only sequential but also simultaneous. We are always on the way, we are always learning more and more about the truth, and we are always gaining more and more of that abundant life Jesus talked about in John 10:10. To follow Jesus is a way - a belonging; is a truth - a believing; is a life - a behaving. It is to have a mission, to be in relationship, to live an incarnate, abundant life.

What does it take to be a Courageous Follower of Jesus:

  • The courage to assume responsibility.
  • The courage to be a servant
  • The courage to challenge.
  • The courage to participate in transformation.
  • The courage to take moral action.

Jesus is summoning you:  “Come, follow me. Come, be with me, and I will do more than teach you the way to live your one and only life. I will give you life.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Goals for Aslan Ministries

 “Mortals make elaborate plans, but GOD has the last word.”  
[Proverbs 16:1 (MSG)]

In light of Solomon’s wisdom quoted above,  I proceed - with a little trepidation - to set goals for 2018. Psychologists argue the merits of sharing your goals. There is a theory that the mere act of sharing removes the incentive to achieve. It is enough to merely speak it out. Nevertheless, I want to share the vision God has given us for Aslan Ministries, Inc. for the coming year and let you know where we are today.
For the last two years our goals have been modest. Serious health issues and our move to Oklahoma got in the way of accomplishing all that we desired. In December of this year, we completed treatment for the Staph infection which resulted in discitis and osteomyelitus. Getting off the antibiotics - I continue to get stronger, but the back remains weak.
We did publish our latest book, “Pray Like Jesus,” which has received excellent reviews and was in Amazon’s top 10 in its niche, and have improved our website, adding some audio messages and offering free books.
2018, holds some exciting opportunities. We anticipate it being a year that will bear much fruit. In keeping with that positive attitude and improved health, we have set forth an extremely aggressive set of goals. While this may seem ambitious, it is keeping with the scripture the Lord gave me;
Psalm 71:17-18 (NKJV) O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. 18 Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.

Our purpose for founding Aslan Ministries was and still is to “Encourage and equip churches and their leaders to fulfill their God-Given Purpose. It began with conducting “in-person,” classes with us and members of our board leading. We will continue to offer this as it is important to personally be in contact with churches and their leadership to best aid them. But we then limit our impact based upon our size and schedules. We can service a wider audience and have a bigger impact on leaders, ministries and churches by resourcing the church. Few leaders have the time or patience to sit through a three to five day workshop, but they will read a book, watch a video, listen to an MP3, or take a course on line where they can proceed at their own speed.
This is the direction we are heading; to provide resources; books, video, audios, and on-line courses to declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.
The following items are our goals for 2018.
Our next book which will be out in April will be the second in the series of the ministry of Jesus - it will be on healing. A third book in that series will be out in August, and the fourth will be out in time for Christmas.
All seven of our books are now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We are currently considering making all of them available for I-Pad, I-Phone, Nook, E-Book as well as Kindle, but 
On-Line Courses:
The major advance we will be making this year is to provide on-line courses. The first course - which is the one we hope to get all of the kinks out - will be on spiritual gifts and should be available on line in March. This will be followed by on-line versions of existing classes on Realizing Your God-given Purpose, Developing an Ear for God, Healing, and church renewal.
We are in the process of developing video which will be on our website and our YouTube channel:  Aslan Ministries on YouTube
Audio Downloads
Our website, currently has a monthly audio available.
 We thank you all for your love and support and pray that your lives in 2018 will be blessed and fruitful.
If you have not been to our website in a while click here Aslan MinistriesIf you would like to make a financial contribution you can go to our website and click on the “donate’ button.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Following God

Many of us are looking to the future and what lies ahead in 2018. Some make resolutions, some set goals, while others do what the always do and try to wing it. I do not make resolutions. I tried it for years but after a few weeks - or a few months if I work hard at it - the resolutions are forgotten. For the last few years I have been setting goals rather than making resolutions. This year one of my goals is to follow closer to God. Over the years our Christian walk has continued to grow deeper and stronger, but there is always room for improvement. The other day Psalm 15 provided some insight into how we can grow deeper in our walk with Christ.
Psalm 15:1-5 (NKJV) LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Living in relationship with God and under His protection does not mean everything will turn out the way we want. There is not one hero of the Bible that led a life without trial and tribulation, but there is a way to live in His will under His covering and have a close personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.  Psalm 15 asks and answers two questions, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?”
How can we abide in His tabernacle and live in His Holy hill. First I wish to dispel the concept that the psalmist is referring to going to heaven when we die. There is a tendency to spiritualize scripture which actually applies to our everyday lives. At the time the Psalms were written, eternal life and heaven was not universally accepted by the Jewish people. The Hebrew word that is translated as “Tabernacle” refers to the Holy place where God dwelt while the Jews were out in the desert. But the word has a deeper meaning as a tent or covering. While only the priests could enter the tabernacle, you and I have the opportunity to live our lives under the covering and protection of God. The Psalmist is asking the question, “Who can receive this covering and protection?” His next question is worded differently but has a similar meaning, “Who can stay on Your Holy Hill” The Hebrew word “qodesh har” refers to a sacred high place as opposed to a common or profane place. The bible refers to the holiness of God not only to the mystery of his power, but also to his character as totally good and entirely without evil. Holy objects therefore are those with no moral pollution. They are not merely dedicated, but dedicated to what is good and kept from what is evil.
So what does this mean to you and me in twenty first century America? Too many Christians have adopted the Antinomian attitude that they can do anything they want and still live under God’s protection and maintain an intimate relationship with the Lord. Many so-called Christian business people, politicians, and even clergy act in ways which are contrary to God’s will and still believe they are due God’s blessings.
Psalm 15 provides great insight into what it takes to live under God’s umbrella [tent, tabernacle, etc.] of protection and have that close personal relationship.
1.         Walk blamelessly. Whenever we sin we create a hole in the Lord’s umbrella of protection. Be careful of what you do or say so that there would be no cause for others to condemn your actions. There may be times when you are blamed for things over which you have no control, but be careful of the consequences of your actions.
2.         Do right things. It is not enough to not sin nor commit wrong acts, you must to right things. Remember, it is more important to do right than to be right. Be just in all your thoughts and actions.
3.         Speak the truth from the heart. It is easy to stretch the truth to impress someone or to cover up something we do not want others to know, but speak truth from the heart. But what if your wife asks, “Does this dress make me look too fat?” Try to avoid
4.         Do not slander. Do not tell false things about others.
5.         Do not do wrong to your neighbor. Instead always to the next right thing. Actually we are commanded to not do wrong things to others, but especially not our neighbors. Our neighbors may be anyone we know in our community.
6.         Do not make disparaging remarks about others.
7.         Despise evil, but honor those who fear the Lord.
8.         Keep your promises even when it hurts to do so.
9.         Lend money without exorbitant interest. You may collect modest interest on money you loan to others, but do not take advantage of their situation.
10.       Do not take a bribe against the innocent. There are times when it may be to our personal gain to blame someone else for something in which they are innocent. That would be taking a bribe.